Living on the Bright Side

For every entry I write regarding emotional abuse and identifying the tactics narcissists use to maintain control over your life, I feel the need to write a second entry regarding life after freeing yourself from the crazy-making cycle. (Yes – life after does exist! Not only does it exist, but it is also beautiful and bright and wonderful!)

So you have left the toxicity behind, most likely after many failed attempts. Without the constant ups and downs and drama and heartache, you find yourself with all this time on your hands. The time you once spent worrying and trying to do damage control is now all yours – so what the hell do you do with it? You grow, that’s what you do!

Spend this time redefining your life – everything from rekindling interests you had given up while enmeshed in the life-sucking toxicity to reintroducing yourself to who you really are deep in your soul. Don’t worry – you are still in there somewhere, and you are every bit as beautiful and wonderful as you were when you slowly began to lose yourself.

Spoil yourself. Take time to heal. Learn to love yourself again.

During this transitional period, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to go absolutely no contact with the ex-narcissist. They will see you are not only surviving but also thriving in their absence (how dare you!!!) and they will do everything in their power to bring you back down. Remember that you are the one in control now. BLOCK THEM FROM ALL ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE.

Moving on and finding that the beauty of the world still exists all around you is not going to happen overnight. It took me nearly two years before I felt “healed”. The path to happiness is not straight or smooth, but every bump and twist in the road is another lesson, another triumph, another test you can ace if you put your mind to it. And every baby step is worth the struggle, because what awaits you at the end of the path is AMAZING. It is freedom. It is happiness. It is love. It is peace. And, most importantly, it is all yours.

Go get it, because you deserve it.

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The One-Track Mind

The majority of decent (dare I say “normal”) human beings are driven by a complex mixture of emotion and necessity. We do the things we do for the good of not only ourselves, but of those we love. We work because we need to support our children/families and want to contribute to society. We play because we need balance and want to see the smiles on our kids faces. We love because we crave emotional intimacy and have a responsibility to teach our children compassion, empathy, and acceptance. These things all come naturally to us – we do not do them because we have a hidden agenda or ulterior motives. We aren’t calculating some master plan here – we are genuinely living and loving because it feels right.

Bring on the narcissists…. Narcissists lack the ability to feel true emotions and are therefore driven by the need for power and control. Whether it’s in the workplace or their own home, their decisions are based on what is best for them – how they can achieve status over those around them. And when their master plans backfire (as they often do when their masks slip and they are seen for what they really are), things can get ugly. When this happens, it will be the fault of everyone around them, of course.

Over six years ago, my ex took a job out of state. In a matter of weeks, it was as if he had developed amnesia, completely forgetting he had left a wife and three children behind. He stopped visiting, stopped calling, stopped caring altogether – his only focus was impressing his boss, climbing that ladder at work, making the big money. Troubles at home? He couldn’t be bothered to pull his head out of his boss’s ass long enough to help resolve them. The kids missed their dad? Well, he couldn’t take a week off to see them or he may not get that supervisor position. His only concern was work and putting in the hours to prove he was the best worker, to achieve a higher status than his coworkers, to be the most valuable to his boss.

In the meantime, I was doing everything myself. I was taking care of three kids, a big house and it’s maintenance, doing the yard work, the grocery shopping, making sure the bills were paid, helping the kids with their homework and meeting with their teachers, making sure everyone was happy and healthy, while writing my first novel. I was even wasting my time trying to defend his actions, assuring the kids their dad still loved them, he just had other “obligations”. I think that was the most exhausting part of it all – convincing them of something I myself no longer believed.

After four years of this nonsense, I was over it. He had proven to me that we were no longer a priority and we would never be able to compete with the power-trip he got from being a “boss”. The minute I told him I’d had enough, the switch flipped. Me leaving him??? No way, that couldn’t happen. Not because he loved me and wanted to save our marriage, but because he had no idea how to proceed in life without controlling my every move and decision. In an instant, his focus switched from his job (where he had already established his power) to me (where he was losing his power).

When narcissists feel you are slipping through their fingers and are no longer willing to be their puppets, they employ a little tactic known as “love-bombing.” They will send relentless messages proclaiming their “love” for you, full of insincere (nauseatingly fake) apologies, begging you to give them another chance. And another. And another…. My ex has been in the love-bombing stage for so long that it is almost laughable. All those words and not a hint of action to back them up. Thankfully, I’m a fairly intelligent individual and I see what he is doing for what it really is – trying to regain control. Not happening.

While he has been so encompassed in trying to get me back under his thumb, he has seemed to completely forget about the three things he should be focusing on – the children. While he drunk-texts me almost daily in a pathetic attempt to reel me back in, he hasn’t seen his own kids in nearly six months. He has been “too busy”. He will give every excuse in the book for why he has so sickeningly neglected his parenting duties, but what it boils down to is this – they are pawns, and at this point in the game they can’t help him win. Several months ago, I made it clear to him that he was more than welcome to come home (to what is now my home) and spend time with the children, but I would not be present. I would be staying with friends in the event he were under my roof. In his mind, spending time with his kids no longer meant weaseling his way back into my life – it meant giving me a few days of freedom to do as I pleased without the responsibility of Mom-ing. If he came to see the kids, he would have no control over what I did during that time. And to him, it wasn’t worth it.

So, here we are. Six months of no contact with his children. I’m curious as to how he is going to try to turn this into my fault when he finally comes to the realization that those divorce papers were real and he has no chance of ever regaining an inch of control over me. I know the kids are going to be his next love-bombing victims. Maybe if he can somehow regain control over them, it will trickle down to me in some way? (I can guarantee it won’t!)

The point of this rambling post is this: when dealing with a narcissist (or, more importantly, when attempting to break free from one) it is sooooo very important to educate yourself in order to be immune to their games and realize what their true intentions are. Know that “I love you” means “I need to be your puppet master,” and decide if you’re willing to play that part. Find the courage to leave them in the dust, wallowing in their own self-created misery that is not your responsibility to fix.

Be your own person. Create your own happiness. Live and love and work and play because you are driven by healthy emotions and the desire to achieve your goals. Never be a puppet. Cut the strings and do your own dance. You are more than worth it.

The Summer I Stopped Waiting

Eight summers ago, my girls were only a couple of months old. My outings basically consisted of diaper-runs to Target and well-baby checks at the clinic, with a couple of family get-togethers here and there. Being the sleep-deprived Mom-zombie that I was that summer, I wasn’t concerned. The girls would be older the next summer, I kept reminding myself. Once they were able to walk, I could go places again without having to lug around two infant seats anymore. Once they weren’t nursing, I would be able to venture out for longer than an hour or two without needing to feed them or be a breast-pump-slave.

But then the next summer rolled around, and with that came new challenges. I was no less exhausted with one-year-old twins than I was with newborns. A trip to the park still took more time to prepare for than the actual event itself. My social life had become nonexistent, other than friends checking in here and there to make sure I was still alive. Don’t get me wrong – I love(d) being a mom. But I was becoming way too secluded and it wasn’t healthy for me.

By summer #3, I was ready. The kids were all finally old enough that I could travel with them, or take them camping for a weekend, or drive to the cities and go to the zoo. However, by this time my husband was working out of state and on the rare occasions where he was home, he didn’t want to do any of these things. He wanted to take his days off to relax. And taking the kids to do all these things by myself wasn’t much fun for me – fun outings equaled hard work. And so I waited for something to give. I mean, something had to give eventually, right? Either the husband would come around and start participating in family-fun-time, or the kids would get older and things would get easier to do on my own. And so I waited…

The last three summers have been fun, in general. The kids are older and we gave up on waiting for my husband to engage. I’ve become a master at family road trips and keeping the head-count at Valleyfair. We spend every sunny day we can at the beach, or the park, or visiting friends. By the time I finally decided it was time to get divorced, I had the single-Mom thing perfected to a science. And I loved it.

It wasn’t until this year that I came to a stark realization: after the years of learning how to be a single mom, I still hadn’t learned how to be a single woman. I had been so busy making sure that the kids were healthy and thriving, I had neglected to check in on myself. Yes, I had written and published a book and my writing career was finally taking off. But other than that, I hadn’t done a single damn thing for myself for as long as I could remember.

So, this summer, I decided to stop waiting. It started with little things, like getting my hair done on a regular basis and exercising daily. If I saw a dress I liked, I would buy it and not feel guilty. But I was still spending every second of my free time doing whatever the kids wanted to do. As of today, they haven’t seen their dad in almost half a year – if I didn’t make up for the time he should be investing in them, wouldn’t that make me a horrible parent, too?

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I am one person. Yes, their dad isn’t around, but as one person I can still only do so much. I can’t give them all the time and love they should be receiving from two people. It’s okay to do everything that I can for them, and still take the time I need to be me.

So I stopped waiting. I’ve began buying the tickets for those concerts I’ve been waiting to see. I’ve met amazing new friends and made great memories. I’ve become a whole person again, with an identity outside of “Mom”. I’ve learned to have fun and trust that it isn’t necessary to feel guilty. A happy mom is a healthy mom, and I haven’t felt this happy or healthy in years.

My advice to anyone out there waiting – stop. Start living. Leaving your kids with a babysitter whom you trust for two nights a month does not make you a bad parent – it makes you a normal person. With a life. That involves adult conversations and time with friends. Being a single mom creates this atmosphere where it becomes much too easy to lose your identity. Find yourself again, and love yourself enough to know that having fun and enjoying time away is not something to feel guilty about. It is something to celebrate.

Because you’re totally worth it ❤️❤️❤️

SAY HELLO!!!

When I started my blog a few weeks ago, I intended for it to be a type of therapeutic journal that may have a couple of followers who are going through similar situations, most likely people I know from Minnesota. I never thought it would be reaching people in Sweden, India, Japan, Australia, Greece…this is so cool!!!

If you are reading this, where are you from? How did you come across my blog? Say hello!

Bygones Will Never Be Bygones

Remember that time seven years ago when you said hello to your ex-boyfriend at the grocery store? Or that time you lied about your whereabouts because you wanted to go to your friend’s bachelorette party but knew your partner would never allow it? How about the time at the very beginning of your relationship when he ghosted you for weeks so you assumed your relationship was nonexistent and went on a date with somebody else?

Of course you remember, because a narcissist will never let you forget.

Narcissists are impossible to hold accountable or responsible for their own actions and will always turn the tables on their victims. For example, you find out your husband of eight years has been seeing the receptionist at his work. You confront him and he reminds you of every single thing you have done wrong since 1994. Pretty soon you find yourself apologizing for decades-past transgressions (that you have most likely already apologized a thousand times for) and what he has done/is doing is out of the spotlight, ignored, nonexistent.

Narcissists do not forgive and forget. They hold onto every little perceived transgression and will use it against you when it comes in handy to them. They cheated on you? Well, what about the time you tried to break up with them six years ago? Remember that? Aren’t you still sorry for how that made them feel? I mean, if you hadn’t done that horrible thing all those years ago, they never would have done whatever it is they just did. Your past actions caused this, is what they will tell you. And you will believe them, until you don’t.

When most people make mistakes, they will feel bad about it, confess, and apologize. The person they have hurt will either accept the apology or decide to move on. Narcissists do not accept apologies, they use them as ammunition against you in future arguments to defend their behavior. Sometimes they will even stay in a relationship just to punish the person who has wronged them. They will pretend to accept the apology, yet bring up the issue or incident every day to make you feel bad. They won’t get over anything you have done to them, and they won’t let you get over it or forget it, either.

Find a healthy relationship where you are both allowed to make mistakes, are both able to learn from problems that may arise, and you grow together from what you learn. You don’t deserve to be punished for the rest of your life if you make a mistake and learn from it. You deserve better.

Almost Got Had

Well, today pretty much sucked. Even after all the lessons I’ve learned the hard way and vows to never play my ex’s mind-games again, I fell for it. Slap me, somebody.

This is a little long and complicated – bare with me.

So, the house my children and I live in is in my husband and his father’s names. My husband hasn’t made a mortgage payment since I first consulted a divorce attorney in February. A letter was sent to our address from a law firm regarding the past-due house payments. After a few unanswered messages to my ex, I put the letter in his parents mailbox. (Since I am not on the loan, the mortgage company isn’t allowed to discuss anything with me – I have tried to call and set up a payment plan, with no success.)

Last night at around 9:30 my ex sent me a text saying he and his dad had talked and figured out what to do about the house. Of course, I asked what they decided – it would be nice to know if I need to start packing and looking for a new place. He didn’t answer me, because he likes to keep me guessing on pins and needles. Needless to say, his plan worked and I lost almost an entire night of sleep worrying about where the kids and I will live.

Then this morning rolls around and he finally decides to answer me ( he had gone to drink with his buddies that live downstairs from him last night, which is why he says he didn’t answer me – priorities, right?).

Well, this is what he and his dad “figured out” – his dad will catch up our house payments, but he wants to know what the status is of our relationship first. Also, he wants my ex to move back in with us and find a job in our hometown. Not only that, but he wants my ex to come back now. Like, today. He offered to take care of our bills until my ex finds work.

If you’re having trouble getting this straight like I was at first, let me lay it out for you like my best friend did for me: they are basically using my home as blackmail to get me to throw out the divorce papers. If I stay and let my ex move back in and give it yet another try, the kids get to keep the home they’ve grown up in. If I say no, they will most likely put it on the market.

Is this real life?!?!?!?

I spent my entire day in a total panic. After all the years I begged him to move back, he wants to do it now??? He’s going to just up and quit his job, so if I leave he won’t have to pay child support???

And then something occurred to me – I was being played. Again. So I decided to test him. I sent him a text saying his dad was right, and not only that but there’s an emergency with his oldest son so he should definitely come home as soon as he possibly can.

His response? He can’t come home – they start a huge job on Saturday that will last until fall and he has too much to do to come home before it starts. So there’s that. Acting like things are going to change so he can suck me back in, just to take back everything he had said only hours later. So he was telling me everything he thought I wanted to hear (I’m going to move home, I’m going to see the kids more, blah, blah) and the minute I actually held him to what he was saying, he backtracked. And then he stopped talking to me.

Narcissists don’t care what kind of attention they’re getting, as long as they’re getting it. They will do and say just about anything to sneak back into your life.

Whatever happens, I plan to start looking for a place that will belong to just me. And the kids, of course. You can’t give a narcissist anything they can use to hold over your head, or they will use it against you.

Another lesson learned, I guess. He will go as low as using blackmail to get me to stay, even using his parents in his game now. Just when I think he can’t go any lower, he always surprises me.

Today was crap, but now I know what I need to do.

Never underestimate a narcissist – when they appear to be helping, they more than likely have an ulterior motive. Always be aware.