What Abuse Survivors Don’t Know: Ten Life-Changing Truths to Embrace on the Healing Journey

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The journey to healing from emotional and/or physical abuse requires us to revolutionize our thinking about relationships, self-love, self-respect and self-compassion. Abusive relationships often serve as the catalyst for incredible change and have the potential to motivate us towards empowerment and strength, should we take advantage of our new agency.

Here are ten life-changing truths abuse survivors must embrace along this journey, though it may appear challenging to do so.

1. It was not your fault. Victim-blaming is rampant both in society and even within the mental landscapes of abuse survivors themselves. Recently, the victim-blaming and the mythical “ease” of leaving an abusive relationship has been challenged in the public discourse. Accepting  that the pathology of another person and the abuse he or she inflicted upon you is not under your control can be quite challenging when you’ve been told otherwise,  by the abuser, the public and even by those close to you who don’t know any better.

Abuse survivors are used to being blamed for not being good enough and the mistreatment they’ve suffered convinces them they are not enough. The truth is, the abuser is the person who is not enough. Only a dysfunctional person would deliberately harm another. You, on the other hand, are enough. Unlike your abuser, you don’t have to abuse anyone else to feel superior or complete. You are already whole, and perfect, in your own imperfect ways.

2. Your love cannot inspire the abuser to change. There was nothing you could have done differently to change the abuser. Repeat this to yourself. Nothing. Abusers have a distorted perspective of the world and their interactions with people are intrinsically disordered. Giving more love and subjugating yourself to the abuser out of fear and out of the hope that he or she would change would’ve only enabled the abuser’s power. You did the right thing (or you will) by stepping away and no longer allowing someone to treat you in such an inhumane manner.

3. Healthy relationships are your birthright and you can achieve them. It is your right to have a healthy, safe, and respectful relationship. It is your right to be free from bodily harm and psychological abuse. It is your right to pursue people who are worthy of your time and energy. Never settle for less than someone who respects you and is considerate towards you. Every human being has this right and you do too. If you are someone who has the ability to respect others and are capable of empathy, you are not any less deserving than anyone else of a relationship that makes you happy.

4. You are not forever damaged by this. Healing and recovery is a challenging process, but it is not an impossible one. You may suffer for a long time from intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and other symptoms as a result of the abuse. You may even enter other unhealthy relationships or reenter the same one. Still, you are not “damaged goods.” You are not forever scarred, although there are scars that may still remain. You are a healer, a warrior, a survivor. You do have choices and agency. You can apply No Contact with your ex-partner, seek counseling, create a stronger support network,  engage in better self-care, and you can have better relationships in the future. All hope is not lost.

5.  You don’t have to justify to anyone the reasons you didn’t leave right away. The fear, isolation and manipulation that the abuser imposed upon us is legitimate and valid. Studies have proven that trauma can produce changes the brain and can also manifest in PTSD or acute stress disorder. Stockholm syndrome is a syndrome that tethers survivors of trauma and abuse to their abusers in order to survive. Trauma bonds, which are bonds that are formed with another person during intense emotional experiences, can leave us paradoxically seeking support from the source of the abuse.

The connection we have to the abuser is like an addiction to the vicious cycle of hot and cold, of sweet talk and apologies, of wounds and harsh words. Our sense of learned helplessness, a feeling that we are unable to escape the situation, is potent in an abusive situation. So is our cognitive dissonance about who the abuser truly is. Due to the shame we feel about the abuse, we may withdraw from our support network altogether or be forced by our abuser to not interact with others.

This can all interfere with our motivation and means to leave the relationship. Therefore, you never have to justify to anyone why you did not leave right away or blame yourself for not doing so. Someone else’s invalidation should not take away your experience of fear, confusion, shame, numbing and hypervigilance that occurred when and after the abuse took place.

6. Forgiveness of the abuser is a personal choice, not a necessity. Some may tell you that you have to forgive the abuser to move on. Truly, that is a personal choice and not a necessity. You might feel forgiveness of the abuser is necessary in order to move forward, but that does not mean you have to. Survivors may have also experienced physical and sexual abuse in addition to the psychological manipulation. You may have gone through so much trauma that it feels impossible to forgive, and that’s okay.

It is not our job to cater to the abuser’s needs or wants. It’s not our duty to reconcile or forgive with someone who has deliberately and maliciously harmed us. Our duty lies in taking care of ourselves on the road to healing.

7. Forgiveness towards yourself is necessary to move forward. Self-forgiveness is a different matter. You do have to demonstrate compassion towards yourself and forgive yourself for not leaving the relationship sooner, for not taking care of yourself better, and for not looking out for your safety and best interests. These are all things survivors tend to struggle with in the aftermath of an abusive relationship and it can take a while to get to this point.

Remember: You didn’t know what you know now about how the abuser would never change. Even if you had, you were in a situation where many psychological factors made it difficult to leave.

8. You are not the crazy one. During the abusive relationship, you were gaslighted and told that you were the pathological one, that your version of events was untrue, that your feelings were invalid, that you were too sensitive when you reacted to his or her mistreatment of you. You may have even endured a vicious smear campaign in which the charming abuser told everyone else you were “losing it.”

Losing it actually meant that you were tired of being kicked around, tired of being cursed at and debased. Losing it actually meant that you were finally starting to stand up for yourself. The abuser saw that you were recognizing the abuse and wanted to keep you in your place by treating you to cold silence, harsh words, and condescending rumor mongering.

It’s time to get back to reality: you were not the unstable one. The unstable one was the person who was constantly belittling you, controlling your every move, subjecting you to angry outbursts, and using you as an emotional (and even physical) punching bag.

Who are you? You were the person who wanted a good relationship. The one who strove to please your abuser, even at the cost of your mental and physical health. You were the one whose boundaries were broken, whose values were ridiculed, whose strengths were made to look like weaknesses. You attempted to teach a grown person how to behave with respect – often fruitlessly. You were the one who deserved so much better.

9. You do deserve better. No matter what the abuser told you about yourself, there are people out there in healthy relationships. These people are cherished, respected and appreciated on a consistent basis. There is trust in the relationship, not toxic triangulation. There are genuine apologies for mistakes, not hoovering for attention or quick reconciliation.

Consider this: aside from the experience of trauma, these people in healthier relationships are not drastically different from you. In many ways, they are just like you – flawed, imperfect, but worthy of love and respect. There are billions of people in this world, and yes, you can bet there are plenty out there who will treat you better than the way you’ve been treated before. There are people out there who will see your wonderful strengths, talents, and who will love your quirks. These people wouldn’t dream of intentionally hurting you or provoking you. You will find these people – in friendships and in future relationships. Perhaps you already have.

10. It may have seemed this relationship was like a “waste of time” but in changing your perspective, it can also be an incredible learning experience. You now have the agency to create stronger boundaries and learn more about your values as a result of this experience. As a survivor, you’ve seen the dark side of humanity and what people are capable of. You’ve recognized the value of using your time wisely after you’ve exhausted it with someone unworthy. With this newfound knowledge, you are no longer naive to the fact that there are emotional predators out there. Most importantly, you can share your story to help and empower other survivors. I know I did, and you can too.

Copyright © 2015 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. No part of this entry may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, please see my book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care available in Kindle and in Print.

The ideas in this blog entry have been adapted from a chapter of this book and are copyrighted by law.


About the Author

UntitledShahida Arabi is a graduate student at Columbia University and the author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care, a bestselling Kindle book also available in print. She graduated summa cum laude from NYU, where she studied Psychology and English Literature. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. You can check out her new blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, order my #1 Amazon bestselling book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself.

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You can also pre-order my new book, POWER: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse:

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41 thoughts on “What Abuse Survivors Don’t Know: Ten Life-Changing Truths to Embrace on the Healing Journey

  1. 35 year marriage to a narcissist always shutting me down, blocking my efforts to make a better life, always shaming me. He was the charming one, the super hero fire fighter/paramedic that helped everyone except for his own family…If I would have known I was a Highly Sensitive Empath things might have been different, I wouldn’t have been dependent on medication to get me through the day, medication to help me sleep. After half a century of thinking something was wrong with me I am now trying to figure out how I can make an impact helping to identify and help empower other HSPs and Empaths before they become fodder for narcissists and sociopaths❤

    1. lilaosborne, thank you for commenting and sharing your story. I am so sorry you went through this ordeal for 35 years! Many abusers are very charming and are sometimes seen as the pillars of their community. It’s how they convince others that the stories of the abuse victim are false. Being empaths makes us quite vulnerable to rationalizing/justifying the abuse because we tend to feel emotions so strongly that we may fall into the trap of sympathizing with the abuser or even believing in the abuser’s gaslighting claims that we are too “sensitive.” Of course, coming out of the nightmare, we recognize how that harmed us more than helped us, and that our emotions to the abuse were in fact valid.

      You are already making an impact by sharing your story. I encourage you to share your story with other survivors and wish you the best of luck on your journey to healing.❤

  2. Well, I was always pretty good at leaving anyone who was abusive. But then, my abuser incited systemic abuse. I didn’t really know who was abusing me any more exactly and I didn’t have proof. But I do now. Some women leave abusers and land right in the abusive hands of the people who are supposed to protect them. You see, if you go to police for help and they decide to have some fun with you, they can smear you and put you on the defensive for the rest of your life if you don’t have the means to push back with proof and money for a lawyer. They can cripple your ability to work by smearing you to your professional circles, and chances are, nobody will dare tell you but you find yourself unable to get work and shunned. Then you can go look for work in other professions and find the same thing happens there. You wonder what the heck is going on. You haven’t done anything wrong to anyone. Your finances unravel and you lose your home. You lose sleep, you are bewildered and nobody believes that you can’t simply leave and stop the harassment. Your car gets vandalized, your house gets vandalized and broken into, and police are dismissive. When you insist they attend they say you are crazy and treat you with contempt. You complain to their overseeing managers and they dismiss you as well. They won’t listen. They won’t provide services. You talk to a lawyer but they don;t seem to believe you either and you don’t really have money any more for a lawyer any way. You stumble along until years have rolled by and your life is in ruins. You finally get a hint from someone that you should request your police files. “But I don’t have a criminal record – I’ve never committed a crime except speeding'” you say. And yet you go get your records.

    And that’s when your world unravels. You realize that from day one, the police had your abusers back. Not yours. They never even wrote down what this abuser did. They never investigated him. You fled town and they laughed at your back as you had to abandon everything YOU worked for. You were the big earner in the marriage not him. But police assumed it was the other way around didn’t they. Because they are gender bigots. And to protect this man they say you made false allegations about, they make up lies about you, thinking you deserve it for making up lies about their “bro”.

    But you didn’t make up any lies at all. Other people get influenced by police to think the lies they made up are true so they shun you as well. And people don’t believe cops are that bad to a helpless woman so they look at you sideways and don’t believe you. And the same goes for your doctor, whom you later find out, police talked to and told not to help you.

    You get hired, people like you, and then suddenly one day you see cops at your place of work and then a few days later you get fired. This happens a handful of times over a period of a decade. You are bewildered, frightened and exhausted. You have nowhere to go. No family. Just friends who are starting to think you are crazy. But you know you aren’t. And you have a child watching all this and so you struggle on for her.

    And then one by one, you get records from police, doctors, employers and…to your horror you see that behind your back you’ve been pushed around, hunted, defamed so nobody likes or believes you or helps you…and you realize you are very very fucking angry that cops have this much power and a good person like you seems to have none.

    Then you try to get a lawyer to help you and they have already heard the smears about you so they won’t help you either – anyway you can’t afford one.

    So you start studying law. Because filing a case against so many abusers over such a long period of time is no easy task and you know you have to use their own words to accuse them, not yours, because your credibility has been destroyed by their smears on your mental health. Yes, it’s a set up. That’s how they “make” victims. By smearing your mental health as if they are qualified.

    And if you survive the intense and intimidating harassment from them while you persistently gather evidence across the so called “helping professions” that were influenced to assault, betray, deny services and lie about you…by cops no less…you eventually build up the nerve to sue. After 10 years of feeling so ounumbered and overwhelmed, confidence is a scarce commodity. And you’re all alone. Even the women’s shelters don’t seem to believe you. And one day a kind womens shelter tells you that all the shelters and assault lines and crisis lines are aligned with the cops. And that explains why they didn’t help you either. That explains why they kept acting like they didn’t believe you or the situation was hopeless or you should go back to the cops (your abuser) and tell them what’s going on and ask for help – which is how this trouble all started.

    Meanwhile the tax man wants money you don’t have, to pay the people who broke your career into pieces, and destroyed you financially, to pay with your tax money, these same creeps.

    That’s systemic abuse. And yes it happened to me. And no, it’s not over as of today Sep 16 2014. I’m waiting for records that have been withheld for months in an effort to protect an abusive boss who fired and smeared you, because cops told him smears and he assumed cops don’t lie (yes they do) and those cops were abusing you on behalf of the original abuser, who was a broke ass loser you generously rescued from poverty, whom police protected, because they are gender bigots who assumed, with no evidence other than you gender, that he was the earner and you were a gold digger making false accusations.

    This is real for many women but I don’t know anyone it’s been quite this vicious with. I guess I was fun prey. Well we will see who has fun once this story gets out.

    And of course there seem to be way more people who are responsible for giving you records within 30 days per the Privacy Act who are interested in protecting abusers than you, the victim. Because cops have the strings to pull to influence anyone and everyone against you.

    Don’t they. On your tax dime. Why do this? Because bro’s before ho’s and because so many men (and some women too) love to cnut hunt. Especially a pretty and rich one like me.

    That’s all this is about.

    Am I traumatized? Am I broke after earning a high paid career they ripped out of my hands. Is my child terrified to speak up on my behalf? Did she try before and get dismissed several times???

    What do you think. Of course.

    This is male supremacy. That’s all it is. Men assuming (and some women too) that women are lower than men and more likely to lie than they are, because they assume women are needy and will lie about men for money, when in fact, it’s the other way around. Predators lie about their victims. Don’t they. So you won’t help them. To isolate them from assistance and destroy their credibility.

    This is more common than people realize.

    1. Dear Andrea. In so many ways you tell my story. What continues to shock me is that people in general are so dismissive when you tell your story. As though we are capable of making all of this up. As though we would want to? My ex paid off officers at our local police station, he paid off a prosecutor and even a judge. I had more than enough evidence, witnesses and hospital reports but still he walked off scott free. Can you believe, the judge even apologized to him, saying that it was a terrible shame that this matter even went to trial. My daughter had to be a witness and I died a little inside as the ex defended himself against her testimony. He refered to her as “girl” (she is 21) and told her not to lie under oath. In the end I realised that only I could help me. My lawyer was useless, she had no idea how to deal with someone so completely outside of the law. The ex even had me arrested 3x, each one in retaliation to a request in the divorce proceedings ( a mere request to stick to the anti-nuptial contract that we both signed ). But amazingly I am still alive and healing and getting better each day. The journey back is hard and long and even tough I have made huge strides I still need support. I am always open to new and other methods of 1. breaking the trauma bond, 2. healing from the trauma bond, 3. dealing with CPTSD (Complicated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and especially 4. how to co-parent with a NPD ex who is also a psychopath. I do not want my children to suffer anymore than they already have. I have 4 beautiful children and I am doing the best I can. As my youngest reminds me: “Mommy, everyday day in every way you are getting better and better”. Love and strength and courage to all those in similar situations.

      1. Sabine, thank you for sharing your story and for supporting other survivors. I am sorry to hear you were in a similar situation and were re-victimized by the very people who were supposed to help you.

        For trauma bonds, CPTSD and co-parenting, here are some resources that might interest you:

        The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D (www.amazon.com/gp/product/1558745262)
        The Gray Rock Method: http://www.lovefraud.com/2012/02/10/the-gray-rock-method-of-dealing-with-psychopaths/
        Trauma Bonding: http://www.healing-arts.org/healing_trauma_therapy/traumabonding-traumaticbonds.htm
        CPTSD Treatment: http://outofthefog.net/CommonNonBehaviors/CPTSD.html#CPTSDTreatment

        I also recommend visiting a forum for survivors who co-parent with their abusers, like this one, if you haven’t already: https://www.psychopathfree.com/forumdisplay.php?23-Families-and-Parenting

        I hope these prove useful to you in some way. Blessings to you and your children on your healing journey.❤

    2. Andrea, thank you for sharing your story and for adding another layer to this issue. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this. It’s very true that even when you do try to leave, you may face institutional barriers and corruption in the legal system itself that invalidates your experience. The smear campaigns of abusers can be very destructive, and very powerful. I can’t imagine what a struggle it has been when the people who are meant to help you re-victimize you. Sending hugs and blessings to you and your daughter.❤

    3. I have just come out of a 20 year relationship with a NPD. My daughter was only 6yo when I met him. She saw it all. She has a law degree and is now a policewoman. I live in Australia but just want to say not all cops are the same. I believe she went into law “because” she saw the injustice of it all. I have just been through 4 years of court and I can honestly say that the court system has no idea. Even the Judges, as big as they are and who have the last say, would likely be Narc’s themselves. But not all cops lack empathy. You mentioned the cops quite often and I needed to stand up for my beautiful daughter who has come so far and who has seen so much and who I believe is making an impact in what she does. We need more empaths out there in the right careers to help victims of Narcissistic abuse. Please don’t bag all cops. They have a hard job as it is.
      I remember when my Narc husband was in the witness stand being questioned by my Barrister, my Narc’s Solicitor was squirming in his seat. Yes even though the truth was coming out his Solicitor couldn’t even accept right from wrong let alone the Judge. My Narc’s daughter who is a Narc herself is in the social media now appealing to MS sufferers and taking their money. I obtained legal advice about the lies she is telling and the advice was to leave it well alone as I could be charged with defamation and would it all be worth it………..
      Even going through the right channels with all the evidence, one can lose.
      My favourite saying and even my daughter the cop agrees with me. “The law is an ass”. It is archaic and there should be more psychologists and psychiatrists involved in court cases. People who can weed out psychopaths and sociopaths.

  3. I wish I would have seen this blog before. My husband convinced me two years ago to quit my job, leave my daughter and family and move to the East Coast. He secluded me and made me believe everything was my fault, gave me the silent treatment and made me think I was loosing it because I heard everything wrong and would tell me he never said that. It was so bad I started recording our conversations. He was hot and cold with me and I never knew what I had done wrong. He kept a list for the last eight years of everything he ever did for me and would use it against me, blasted me on Facebook on many occasions, told me about how he almost went home with other women, flirted in front of me and my family with other women and so much more. Everyone thinks he is this great successful guy with a charming personality.He still writes me and tells me he has met so many professional, beautiful women that he can’t keep up with them and his schedule, then he tells me he is sorry and realizes all he did wrong and if I come back it would be so different. How is it that he always sucks me back in to his world and makes me believe that things would be different and then the next day does something so mean and hurtful to me. I really believed it was all me and I had the problem. Now that I am back around family and church family and three thousand miles from him, I am starting to feel like myself again, find my joy and start the healing process. Thank you for your post, look forward to reading more.

    1. Kristina, thank you for commenting and sharing your story with us. I am very sorry you went through this but happy to hear that you are now back with your support system, far far away from your abuser.

      The triangulation with other women, the gaslighting, the smear campaigns via full blast on Facebook, the silent treatment, the superficial charm, and the post-breakup hoovering techniques seem all too eerily familiar to me.

      From your description alone, your husband seems to have many of the qualities of a narcissistic abuser. You can see my post on narcissistic abusers here: https://selfcarehaven.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/five-powerful-ways-abusive-narcissists-get-inside-your-head/.

      Narcissistic abusers cannot be changed and they do not have empathy for others. They seek power and control over others as a way of preserving their false self and egos. I recommend going Full No Contact – which means blocking him from all social networking sites and e-mail. If he writes you through regular mail, I recommend discarding these letters immediately without reading them.

      This will take away his ability to provoke you, which he is able to do by talking about these other women. Any interaction you have with him – even if you don’t respond – will stand between you and full recovery.

      If you need more tips on how to initiate and maintain No Contact, see my post here: https://selfcarehaven.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/the-smart-girls-guide-to-no-contact-and-detaching-from-toxic-relationships/

      Let me know if you need any other resources. Wishing you the best on your journey to healing.❤

  4. Thank you very much for the links to resources. Gray Rock works like a charm and I am aware of the method. In fact I have read most of the material you suggest. The area in which I need the most help now is Children. My need to learn and manage is twofold: 1. Co-parenting our 2 younger boys and 2. Recognising and dealing with the damage done to my older children – now 22 and 19. Both are in denial. I can quite clearly see how they have been affected and how this manifests in their actions and personality. Also they are both still being manipulated by their Narc father ( it’s not too bad though). However they both think that I am taking this whole issue FAR too seriously and that I should lighten up. I see a counsellor at the Parent Center who is helping me deal with 4 children who are all “not well” and ‘acting out” but the advise she gives me is not particular to Narc abuse. Can you help?

  5. Hi,

    I hope you will be so kind to let me share my story and experiences as I am a man who has been emotionally abused. I went through a period of emotional abuse last year when I was tricked into believing I was in a relationship with someone who had absolutely no intention of being in a relationship with me. One aspect of this is that I had been friends with this man for two years and he knew of my six weeks spent in psychiatric hospital the prior year due to 18 months of bullying and harassment which ultimately led me to schedule myself. I think I was potentially an easy target as a kind and fragile soul. I though I had enjoyed two years of warm friendship with this predator. After I realised the deception, my mental illness was used to blame me for what had happened. I don’t want to go into further details, but I did end up on a further mental health plan as a result of this. One lesson I did not realise as soon as I should have is that I was entitled to feel hurt and betrayed. In my case, my abuser tried to demonstrate how hurt he was at me being hurt like it was a competition and any form of me being hurt made me the bad guy and that it was just because “part of [me] had gone awry”. I guess what I am trying to say is that regardless of how much an abuser/predator wishes to invalidate your feelings, the one who has been abused is still totally entitled to feel hurt and betrayed. That is a normal response, don’t let anyone steal that from you too. But also remember that you are so much bigger than your hurt, whether you feel it or not. Fortunately I have moved well past being an emotional wreck, but while I have not totally forgotten this person and what happened, whenever I notice my brain trying to work out how it happened, I can recognise that and know it doesn’t need to make sense, he was just a predator.

    Kudos to everyone who has lived through this and is fighting (in the good way) to get on with their lives.

    Kind Regards,

    John

    1. Hi John, thanks for sharing your story with us. My heart goes out to you – it is especially devastating to be targeted when we are at a vulnerable point in our lives. Those who exploit that vulnerability to deliberately harm someone are nothing short of toxic and dangerous.

      I agree wholeheartedly that we should validate any feelings we experienced during the abuse as well as after the ending of the relationship. Doing so is one of the first and crucial steps to healing. Yet you are right also in saying that we are bigger than the experience. We can transcend that suffering and channel it into sharing our stories, helping others who going through similar experiences and reconnecting with our authentic selves. Sending blessings to you on your journey!🙂

  6. Hello,
    Well, just sitting here in the doldrums of the aftermath. I dated one of these classic narcissist types (without knowing it) for a year and a half. He was a leader-type, extremely charming, friendly, brilliant and impressive, particularly when going after things like jobs, or the house he bought while we were together. There were a few angry outbursts during the time we dated, but I thought, ‘Well, every person comes with their own things you find difficult, and that’s normal, and that’s what comes with him. I’m not perfect, either, and bring issues, too.’
    I’d never been with a man who became angry at me before, so it was new and unusual, but he’d always apologize, profusely, after an episode. I was impressed by his ability (then) to take responsibility for his own actions. I’d apologize, too, when I did something. This period was mostly full of romance, passion, plans and a forward-feeling momentum in the relationship. He said he loved me, daily, and there was lots of attentiveness. He told me I was his “ideal woman”.
    When he proposed, he said it “would make him the happiest man in the world if I would marry him.” Three days after I did just that, while on our honeymoon, while we were having lunch I responded to something he’d said about part of a book we’d both read. “Actually, I took such and such to mean something different.” He chilled at that, stopped talking to me, paid the bill and we walked out in silence. I’d experienced this ‘shut down’ a few times before, and switched my focus to trying to find out what was wrong.
    I asked him, and he became angry. My comment was ‘the reason’. It “showed I wasn’t listening to him.” And “Didn’t have interest in or respect for his thoughts.” He was very worked up, and loud. I was stunned, because there we were on our honeymoon, standing on a busy sidewalk in a cute, small town, and he was cold, angry and yelling at me. I said I needed to walk away, because I couldn’t take it, which was true. (I’m the quiet, sensitive type.)
    I returned to our hotel later and he was so worked up he began screaming at me. I was “defective” and “in need of therapy”. And he “wanted the marriage annulled.” He began packing. When I tried to speak, he turned on the TV, and turned the volume to high. We were in a very expensive place, and I felt embarrassed, of course, at the inconsideration this showed to the other guests and I turned it down. He turned it back up. So, I pulled out the plug. At which point he became even more enraged. He said if I “didn’t agree to fix my ‘disability'” he would leave right then and there. I said ‘OK’ I would go to therapy, the reason being that I couldn’t handle what was happening, did not want him to leave and annul the marriage. I wanted things to return to peace. This was a very big mistake.
    We stayed married for 6 months. During this time, the verbal and emotional abuse was intense, and frequent, and cyclical. I moved out once, for a few weeks, during which he said he would “seek anger mangement therapy.” I moved back. It all started again. I “didn’t close the cabinets right.” I “didn’t load the dishwasher correctly.” I didn’t “do the laundry right.” He kept lists around the house, detailing what he found wrong with me. He took these in to the counselor he insisted we see. There were up sides though, too. After each angry outburst, there’d be flowers. I got a lot of flowers. There were a couple times I had to call the police. He never hit me, or laid a finger on me, but his rages were often violent and once involved his smashing in a locked door and shouting hatred at me, and I was scared. He turned into someone I did not recognize at these times; a completely out-of-control and frightening man. I sort of feel like I never really accepted, or believed, or even thought that that man was him, because he was so completely different from the one I’d dated.
    I’d never been in any kind of abuse relationship before, so felt, the whole time, very confused about what was going on. Why had the nice, loving man I’d dated turned into this unstable, monster? He said it was my fault. I “made him angry.” I learned I could not fight back or stand up for myself; it would just make it worse, so I would try to stay quiet and do/say what he wanted me to.
    He divorced me and left me with nothing, which was another shock because before we’d married, he’d told me that if it didn’t work out, he would make sure I was OK. I never asked for that; he offered. And I thought it very gentlemanly. None of the things he promised in this way, ended up being things he did. He didn’t seem to care, at all, about the circumstances I was left in.
    Here’s the worst part of the whole story: For the 4 years after our divorce, we kept in contact and engaged in an incredibly unhealthy and dysfunctional ‘relationship.’ We seemed to both stay emotionally connected in some way and he said he wanted to reconcile, but I would have to “realize how badly I’d treated him and promise it would stop.” I bent my brain around his perspective, and many weekends we’d get together and I’d go through, one by one, the ‘ways in which I’d been hurtful to him.’ This always seemed to make him feel good, and we’d have a nice dinner after that.
    There was never an analagous conversation. He never showed interest in the ways in which his behaviors had hurt me, or the whole experience ad consequences of our failed marriage; how that had been, for me. It was all about how “awful” an experience it was for him. My calling the police the night he smashed in the door was “crazy behavior.” We’d get together on occasion and many evenings ended when I expressed an opinion he didn’t share, or something like that. He called that ‘provocative’ and would shut down, become angry, and say, “You need to leave now.” I’d quietly pick up my keys and go.
    I feel stunned, confused and embarrassed about how long I stayed in this. I knew it was terrible for me, but I felt locked in and unable to break it. Even though, things just got worse and worse. More and more, he’d tell me my ideas, beliefs and such were “wrong”, my feelings “unreasonable”. Any and all positive comments, from him, were gone. He said I was “delusional”, “not connected to reality”, “was so damaged I probably didn’t even know it,” I “needed help”, things like that. Nobody else in my life says that; friends, family, or even the therapist I went to because he said I needed it.
    I never, ever said things like that to him; ever. He blamed me for the failure of our marriage. “It was 99% because of your awful behavior.” Throughout this whole time, however, he always said he wanted to see if we could spend time together again. He hoped we could reconcile. I always kept in my head, that lovely man I had dated, who said he loved me, found me “remarkable” and his “ideal woman”. I thought that since he felt like that once, he could and would again.
    Six weeks ago he said, “Please do not contact me anymore, unless you realize, and are willing to talk about how bad your behavior has been, and promise that it will stop.” I responded that that is not something I would want to get together to talk about. It’s not what would draw me back into a relationship. I referenced the kind of relationship I wanted again, and the only one I could do, which is “how we were together while we dated, before we married.” I noted there were problems, brought on by both of us, but overall it felt rooted in love, consideration and positive things.
    He went completely cold and silent after that, and 3 days ago said, “You will never be the right person for me and it’s best we have no more contact.” I found, online, a song he wrote and it’s about a woman. He “loves her with all his heart”.
    I feel awful. I don’t even understand what happened. The heart-break is so intense, though. Thank you for hearing my story.

    1. aclairson, Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. My heart goes out to you. Your story is similar to that of many abuse survivors and it proves that leaving is not an “easy” or simple process. When we’re in the midst of the abuse, we’re so entrenched in the mind games, gaslighting, invalidation and psychological trauma that we paradoxically look to the source of the abuse for validation, support, reconciliation and are hopeful, so hopeful for the “switch” back to the kindness, adoration and love they showered us with in the idealization phase.

      We don’t want to believe that there are people out there who would want to deliberately harm us, especially not the person we’ve put our trust in. This is one of the factors that keeps us feeling trapped and helpless, unable to leave, because we remember who we thought they were and not who they really ARE. We’re not sure whether it’s that we’re too “sensitive” or that the abuser is really an abuser. We see little storms before the big tempest (as you saw with your abuser, who showed red flags, but didn’t quite have full outbursts until after marriage) that warn us, but we deny and minimize them.

      You’re not alone in this; many abuse survivors have done it. It’s in our nature to try to look on the bright side, to work through problems, to forgive others for their flaws. Don’t blame yourself for this – it is one of your best traits in a HEALTHY relationship with a healthy person. Unfortunately, it will be exploited in a relationship with an abuser.

      In the aftermath, there can be much cognitive dissonance, doubt, even regret. We can ruminate and obsess over the hot-and-cold antics, the rage attacks, the critical remarks, the idealization vs. the devaluation, the eventual discard and of course, the “other” new victim who he seems to treat better to the point of no tomorrow.

      Remember this: your abuser is most likely not capable of loving anyone, at least not in a healthy way. When we’re abused, we tend to think that we’re alone in our abuse, that no other person who comes after us will suffer the same abuse. Wrong. From personal experience and from hearing stories of other survivors, I know that abusers usually leave a trail of victims. Do not be saddened by the new victim (I know it’s easier said than done) – feel compassion and pity instead. What you went through is not exclusive to you. If you haven’t yet read my blog post on the Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head, I highly recommend it: http://wp.me/p4wuhS-7g

      I have confidence and faith that you will reach the day where you will no longer see this person as a loss. You will also see “him,” the one you dated before you got married, as an illusion. Abusers mask their abuse with a charming demeanor and extreme attentiveness to get us to love and believe in them. The person you mourn does not really exist. The abusive side is the true self exposed. You deserve better than a facade. You deserve the real thing.

      I hope this post has helped to empower you in some way. I wish you all the best in your healing. Feel free to keep us updated on your progress and thank you again for sharing your story. I know there are many who will find it resonates with them. It certainly did with me. Sending blessings your way.❤

  7. i read the stories and it as if most if not all of your reflect mine in some way…I only recently learn of NPD, and it has explained a lot of what was done too me and why nothing I did could stop the abuse and why I was always wrong. I was mostly verbally abused, the things this person did/said too me would literally make my heart stop beating in my chest…never knew someone could have that kind of power over you. the 11 years we were together were amazing up until the last 3…she was or lead me too believe, she was my soulmate, my best friend, never felt closer too anyone nor have I had someone love me as she did, the promises, the attention, the praise, the promise of a family I never had growing up, she was so beautiful, smart, funny,…we never fought for the first 8years…NEVER…was like a Disney movie. Then that all changed with one lie…then another, and so on,,,i’m very empathic and someone who studies body language, which makes its very hard to lie too me…esp. if I am in a intimate relationship with you, but yet she continued to lie and get caught in her web of deceit over and over again, because she was so honest for so long she made a horrible liar. The change was sudden and into someone I never knew lived inside her, she was cold-blooded, methodical, who fabricated reality in her mind to justify what she would do and say too me.. eventually “i’m sorry” became “im not sorry, I’m just sorry for how it made you feel”. ive never been so depressed or depressed for so long in my life. she either took or sold or destroyed everything I owned. I had no family/friends to turn too for help…she lied to people I thought were my friends and told them I abused her and choked her. I do not believe in violence against women, outside the bedroom,.<–lol attempting to regain my sense of humor. I stayed for 4 years because I couldn't not explain why the change and I thought that the love she professed for me for so long was still inside her. Plus, i was told that she held the same ideals about marriage and that it was for life. do what it takes to make it work., but i was informed that's just how she felt at the time. You would think that with us both being almost 40 years of age and our first marriage that she would know who she was and what her morals are. She asked me to marry her and her idea to get tattoo wedding rings. OK well the reason i am sharing this story is because i lived on the streets of Southern California for almost 2 years and turn to drugs. I have very lil in my life and am just starting too pick up the pieces. I have very limited resources and no family to turn too for help. As i stated earlier, i have just recently learned that what has happen to me is NOT my fault, but still hard to truly accept that im not at fault, I do not have money for meds or therapy, i think bout suicide at least couple or more times a day and have for a long time, i feel i will never heal or feel normal(at least normal for me, been so long i forgot who i am or how too act. does anyone know where i can receive aid in getting the help i need to start my recovery, Im not sure that i can keep up the fight alone anymore…anyways found this site on another one of my sleepless nights. please feel free t edit my post for spelling errors and punctuation..i apologize but i am writing this on a laptop in very low light, and haven't slept more than 6 hours in last 2 days….ive read your stories and they all sound as bad as mine…events and players involved are different but how it has made you feel is the same. ive never been or felt so broken, and not sure there is help or that someone would believe what was done too me, but my heart pounding in my chest, hands shaking, nightmares, and poor eating habits have taken its toll..i live in Houston, TX currently ..i welcome any and all advice., please help me and if you knew me you would know that's its very hard to ask for help.. ive taken care of myself since i was 16 and this is something i cant seem too shake off and recover…thank you for your time ((((((((HUGS)))))))) for all who have been thru this… a hug is the one thing i miss a lot these days

  8. I am a therapist living in Dublin, Ireland, and I work with victims of narcissistic abuse. I just want to congratulate you on your site, and to say what a topping article this is (unfortunately I don’t see who the author of this article is). It is full of accurate information for giving hope to what can seem like a hopeless situation when you are a victim of narcissistic abuse. Of course, not all narcissist abuse is the same, it comes in varying degrees, and is on a continuum. It is made up of what Criminologists call “The Dark Triad” (Narcissism, Machiavellianism, & Psychopathy)……….. where each one can overlap into the other. In therapy we call these three types of perpetrators the Narcissist, the Malignant Narcissist, and the Psychopath, all have some similarities, and yet all are different. For those still going through recovery, please remember that there truly is life after narcissist abuse, and that the healing is a process that takes you some time to complete. The key to recovery (as far as I am concerned) is information and validation, because without awareness we are blind. I write about The Dark Triad in my up-coming book The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse. The book is due to be published in Spring 2015. I have also have posted a range of Information Articles on my website: narcissisticbehavior.net

    1. Hi Christine, I cannot believe I missed this comment! Well, better late than never. I love your website and cannot wait for your book. I am honored that you have read my blog. Thank you for all that you do.❤ Blessings, Shahida

  9. Great, great article.. I’ve never seen the aftermath thoughts of Narcissitic abuse articulated this well in a list, so thank you. I do want to add – this doesn’t just affect us from Narcissistic individuals but groups as well. And my recent experience with this – hope that it heeds others is the Mormon Church, otherwise known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A very selfish cult, that exploits and shames on its members for money, service and to grow out its corporation. It parallels so much w/ my own family of origin, Narcissistic parents… So wanted to forewarn others of this cult. There are definitely Narcissistic companies, Org’s and religions. It’s a scary world, we always have to keep viligant.

  10. I’m not a blogger and I only created this account to let you know how much reading this has meant to me. I was 19 when I was in an abusive relationship and finally got the courage to walk away after he hit me and put me in the hospital. I stayed for as long as I did because he had never hurt me physically before and I didn’t consider what was going on abuse. Deep down I knew something was wrong and I still stayed. I’m turning 21 now and this article explains most of what I’m feeling. I testify in court next week and a friend asked me if I had forgiven him yet. I said I haven’t nor will I ever, but then she asked me if I forgave myself and the answer was no. I still hold myself responsible not for him hurting me but for me but realising what he did before that was abuse and that I needed to walk away. It’s been over a year and I still can’t believe that I fell victim to what he did to me. You hear about it in school and you know that what they explain is abuse but when it happens to you you don’t see it because that sort of stuff always happens to someone else. Reading this article though has me looking at things a little differently. Thank you for showing me that people understand and know it’s not my fault.

  11. I wrote out as much of mine as I could remember on here: https://hlgdiary.wordpress.com/
    I’ve managed to heal a lot since everything happened but a few things still really get to me. One being the disbelief and victim blaming from his girlfriend who had been a best friend of mine for several years. The other being that this was my first sexual relationship. I’d been sexually assaulted as a child but I’d still considered myself a virgin because rape isn’t sex since it lacks consent. But I can’t say that now because I had consensual sex with him and then he raped me later in the relationship. It gets to me because if I’m ever asked about my first time I have no choice now but to mention at least one of the people who raped me.

  12. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW. How many times do I say that reflecting on the years of trying over and over why this man could be so stone cold hearted. He charmed the pants off me as many before me had happen. A very pretty man with a very beautiful smile. He knew exactly how to shyly seduce anyone and say what we wanted to hear and do those things, open doors, kiss hands, bring roses and wine, but never ever was there an act of spontaneous kindness, well, unless of course an audience was looking. When we first met a friend warned me. He has an oversized ego, be careful. Of course he does, he’s fabulous. But after six months there was blatant un-remorseful cheating. Lying, but of course he claimed it wasn’t lying, because silence is not lying. Hateful letters form an ex stating how selfish and mean he was. Of course I supported his “she’s crazy” verdict. The poor wife of almost 30 years was bad mouthed as insane and an alchoholic. He never made contact after signing the divorce papers. Ten years later the poor thing died homeless and penniless all alone in a laundromat. She crawled in a bottle after trying to death to please him. He put the cork in the bottle. Not once did he ever mention him trying to get her help while they were married and the problem began. Narcissists do not do problems. They go hide. He stopped by to visit his son one morning who was passed out cold on the floor, an hour later he phoned me, we were on one of his shun-breaks, but I answered the phone. He said his son was out cold an hour ago and he stopped again and he was having convulsions. I said hang up the phone immediately and call 911!!! He was incapable of seeing someone in distress, that needed help. If he had called for the ambulance an hour earlier there may not have been the stroke damage that his son suffered. It all made sense. Whenever I got down about something, lost work, bad, day, any thing that a normal person would have been there for you, he ran and hid and was unreachable. It all made sense. One day I told ,myself you do not deserve this. You have given 500% and he took it all. I left him. Of course a few weeks later he was madly involve with an acquaintance, calling me bragging how he was going to change and be so good. He even managed to suck me back in. Of course saying everything I wanted to hear including how he shouldn’t have gone out with the massage therapist so quickly. Put her down saying she was too high maintaince and such, implying he wasn’t seeing her. But, of course he was. He had double supply going on, and always had a backup. It all makes sense. But when I discovered the cheating, again, I informed the woman of his cheating and as narcissists do, they seek revenge for the truth being exposed. He told her I was crazy, told his family members I was stalking him, he went so far as to threaten to have me arrested for I’m not sure what, but I’d seen his extremely violent revenge temper before and thought it is best to sever all ties and communication with him. Best thing I ever did. Oh, sure he drives by my home and every month or so there is this pathetic phone message saying maybe someday we will reunite or how he’s so proud of me and how great I look. I know he is desperatly wishing I will break my silence. But they say you cannot be friends with a narcissist. I know. It all makes sense. It was difficult, at first to see him pretend he was so involve with the new woman. I know he isn’t. He has zero compassion. He plays a role of the charmer to the T and I will never go back. I’ve learned a very tough lesson in life. It all makes sense. I am not crazy, I am a very good person who tried too hard to make an impossible situation work. And I am grateful for all the info that everyone shares. Thank you everyone.

  13. I just got out of a year long relationship. Typical story – he was charming and romantic and gentle the first 6 months of our relationship, talked a lot about his father being physically abusive to him as a child. Then he became very possessive and controlling, it started with him holding me down, holding my eyes open uncomfortably if I wouldn’t look at him, punching my arm “playfully,” not letting me leave (physically blocking my way) etc to full blown body slamming me, joking about driving us off of the road in my car to hurt us, slapping me, yanking me by my hair – to actually closing his fists and hitting me in the gut. There was also a night that I’m not sure I’d call consensual but it’s all really blurred in my head and I don’t want to throw out the R word carelessly. But the thing is that instead of just getting out of the relationship, I would fight back. I wouldn’t ever hit him, but I would push him or slap him on the face, kick him or bite him. Often to make him let go of me, though I would often instigate the fights at this point and I don’t know why. I have NEVER wanted to physically hurt ANYONE before dating him. Yet suddenly this is who I was. I ended it for the 1000th and final time recently. But I don’t know where this leaves me. Did I just become abusive as well? What do I do now? I hate who I have become.

  14. Forgive yourself? For what? I have trouble with that whole idea when the receiver of narcissistic abuse did NOTHING wrong except believe lies they didn’t know were lies, until it was too late. They were trapped in a situation of power over by another sick individual. Do you free the caged animal and let him run? or tell him he’s got to forgive himself for getting trapped? Forget forgiving yourself!!! Pat yourself on the back for having the audacity to realize you need to get away from people like that and the courage to leave them in the face of knowing they will attempt to ruin you.

    1. Many survivors struggle with self-blame, which is a symptom of Complex PTSD, after the abuse. The idea of self-forgiveness was noted to combat the idea of any self-blame, absolve the abuse victim of any fault, and return the blame to the perpetrator. So yes, I agree with you completely that survivors deserve to take pride in their bravery and courage.

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