* After reading these two brilliant pieces: Narcissistic Harem’s In A Nutshell – Why it’s time to stop envying the ex and various hanger-on’s ; The Narcissist and His Harem: Why You Should Decline Membership - I picked my jaw from the floor and felt compelled to share:
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Let me start by saying that although my tag line states that I’m in recovery from narcissism, the term is a very tongue-in-cheek way of saying I’m a recovering addict.
Addicts are narcissists in our own delightful way – in that when we’re using – it’s all about us. Hopefully, after we pull our heads out of our ass, this darling trait dissipates and a much more level-headed, compassionate and thoughtful person emerges.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the purpose of this post isn’t to gab about my addiction or recovery from drugs. I’d like to shed some light on something I’ve been working through after a recent personal heart-wrenching experience I really brought on myself. Again. Familiar heartache induced by my own denial that somehow, if I were enough – my prince charming would change.
As I alluded to in yesterday’s post, thoughts of: I’m old enough to know better! creep in whenever I trip myself up, having not learned the valuable lessons the universe keeps trying to teach me. I can’t seem to get a clue. Or worse, I know exactly what I’m getting into (when I relapse, date the wrong man…), but my “fuck it” switch is on – and I don’t care how much pain I’m serving myself on the back end.
You don’t need to be an addict to date the wrong person. We’ve all been there. Maybe the chemistry is too strong, they’re so much fun, or they live right up the street and it’s too convenient NOT to date them. Whatever the reason, we dive head first.
Fast forward to the moment we realize – somewhere between the snorting laughter and multiple orgasms, we’ve lost ourselves. Our world is smaller. We become obsessed. Every thought, action and daydream is about how we can serve our love. Our friends tread lightly, showing us the obvious red flags, but they know we’re in too deep.
Not every person we’ve dated who was clearly wrong for us is a narcissist, but check out these basic characteristics and see if any ring true:
1. Extremely confident.
2. Charming beyond compare.
3. Has many friends of the same sex (a “harem”) – most, if not all are previous lovers.
4. Requires excessive admiration [regularly fishes for compliments, and is highly susceptible to flattery].
5. Plays on sympathy – “All I am is me”
6. Is the life of the party. Always “on” – a “people person.”
This list sums up just about every man I’ve ever been involved with.
There’s a catch-22 with dating a narcissist - they are so much fun and charismatic, it’s hard to see underneath it all – that they are manipulating our hearts to serve their hungry ego.
To be fair – the last man I dated isn’t a monster. If anything, we’re so much alike in terms of our personal history and struggles. He used to tell me I was the female version of him and I beamed with pride. The issue isn’t how much of an asshole a narcissist is (my guy was actually quite dear), it’s that they don’t realize what pain their behaviour causes because they are so wrapped up in their own turmoil.
Narcissists aren’t evil. Like every human being, they have a story. They didn’t wake up one day and decide to manipulate, lie to and cheat on the people they are closest to. They’re protecting themselves against what they fear the most – intimacy, abandonment, heartache. Reasons aren’t excuses, though – so even when knowing our partner doesn’t mean to - doesn’t make our staying with them okay. At some point, we need to take personal responsibility and move on.
I remember early in our relationship, my ex-lover invited me to meet he and his friends for drinks. When I arrived, I met them - all female – and already knew he had a sexual history (and current status) with at least two of them. I held my cool, and at the end of the night as he walked me to my car, I hugged him and told him I wasn’t going to be part of his harem.
On the drive home, I felt proud. I finally held my ground and stood up for myself with a man I was dating.
Three days later he was in my bed.
As much as I knew deep down I was in for heartache, I listened to his confessions of love and adoration over and over again, trying to ignore the constant texts from numerous women at all hours. I knew he was still meeting women via on-line dating sites, sleeping with others. I still stayed.
So why, after knowing all of this did I fall from my self-esteem soap box? It’s easy, when you’re co-dependent and struggle with feeling ‘not enough’. We think “If I’m pretty, skinny, sexy, funny, smart enough – more than any of the others – he will pick me.”
After a few months, my insides began to rot. I finally had enough. After meeting a lovely women he invited to join us for drinks, I got the last wake up call I needed. When he left for the mens room, his new lady friend asked if he and I were dating and she was floored to learn we were still lovers. She was me, six months ago.
It’s been a few weeks since having any contact with my ex. I don’t harbor any resentment or blame with him, and I hope we can circle back and reconnect one day. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t miss him – but what I don’t miss is the feeling of being in a competition with his other harem members. I don’t miss the needy, insecure person I was turning into, who I’ve fought so hard – for so many years to change (I’m still fighting).
For some, standing up for ourselves and never settling for disrespect is natural (when your lover shows his friends naughty pics of you on his phone, that’s NOT respect). Then there are people like me, who are still learning to believe we are worth so much more than what we’ve ever allowed ourselves to feel.
Sometimes holding on give us strength. But when it comes to dating a narcissist, we only get stronger when finally letting go.