I went to my counselor this week to find help for what I can only describe as an episode of PTSD. I witnessed my husband ask my daughter a question, not listen to her answer and immediately after she responded, ask her the same question again as if that hadn’t been what they were talking about, all the while looking her right in the eyes and nodding. When she stood up and said, “You’re not listening right now, so we can talk about this later,” he protested, “No, no, you misunderstood my question. I was simply asking (insert specific point, which was absolutely NOT what he had asked).”
It sent me into a 24-hour tail spin of headaches, feelings of intense fear and flashing back to the past 27 years of this kind of mind-game. This is the very thing that caused me to question my grip on reality and warped me into a very different person than the one who entered into this marriage. So even though I wasn’t the one having the conversation, I went down that road and lost a day as a result.
Apparently this is common for those who live with a narcissist. Unfortunately, my counselor didn’t get it, because she doesn’t know that my husband is a narcissist. She has met him, and he presented very well, as covert narcissists do. So she gave me the advice that would apply to a normal marriage with someone who is perhaps a little given to ADHD but otherwise quite sane.
And there is plenty of truth in what she said, so I don’t discount that. Except that she just didn’t GET it. If you haven’t lived with a narcissist, you don’t. If you have, you get it without hearing even half of the explanations I gave the counselor.
So I thanked her and took her words to heart but realized that for this particular problem, I was going to need to look elsewhere. A year and a half ago, I had my world shattered by the diagnosis of my husband as a narcissist from an online counselor. She has been there, done that, so she knows. So I paid the $50 fee and emailed her again.
She emailed me back the next day. Oh, wow. Oh, dang.
She read my mail. I mean, metaphorically, not just literally. She pointed out that I was, in the name of keeping the peace, allowing my husband to get away with his narc behaviors without being challenged. And she pointed out (cringe) that I was an accessory to the lie if I didn’t challenge it when he lied. And that (cringe again) before God, I had a responsibility to tell the truth. And that (double-cringe) I was setting a really bad example to my children, who were seeing this happen. Even though I claimed I was doing this for their sake so that we could all continue to live together, for stability and finance’s sake.
So that gave me a lot of food for thought. What if my desire to “keep the peace” is actually causing all these chronic ailments I struggle with? AND the ones my kids struggle with too? What if my desire to “keep stability” for my youngest son, who deals with anxiety, is actually making him worse? What if my letting my husband get away with his behaviors is actually grieving God almighty and not the effective tool for survival I’ve been calling it? What if I have a moral responsibility to tell the truth? What if my efforts to avoid conflict are actually a sign that I’m not trusting God to take care of me when the backlash happens to my truth-telling?
It’s not like I’m always right. But when someone lies, right in front of you, and you don’t say anything… that’s not right. When someone tries make your daughter feel bad for something she didn’t actually do, and you just raise your eyebrows and roll your eyes to let her know you saw it, but don’t call it out? That’s not survival. That’s letting someone get away with something he should never be allowed to get away with.
So that gave me a lot to chew on. But then the counselor wrote, “You need to pray to God and ask HIM to guide you as to how long you have to stay in that marriage.”
And I went, “Doh!”
Because *I* was the one who told God, last year, that my plan was to stay in the marriage for 2-5 years, until I finish my degree and can support myself, and that I would see how things were at that point and make my decision to stay or go then, but I never ONCE asked Him what HE wanted me to do.
I obviously have some praying to do.