I remember when I first heard this song, Evanescence’s Missing, the lyrics just struck me to my core. All I’d ever wanted was for my narcissist to actually care if she lost me. To care that I was there. To care about what we had. All I ever really wanted was for her to just…care. And therein is the crux of the matter. I wanted someone, who was the most important and cherished adult person in my life, to actually care about me, about us, our future, our present, our relationship – our life together! But she didn’t and she never would because it’s not within the narcissist’s ability to genuinely care.
Expecting someone with no conscience or genuine sense of commitment to care about you or the relationship is, unfortunately, an unreasonable expectation. Without exaggeration, you will literally spend your entire life waiting for them to wake up and realize what they have in and with you. “But [my narcissist] keeps coming back and says they want to make it work!” Believe me. I know they do. Mine did, too. To the tune of over 15 times – yes, you read that right. Over the course of the 4-½ years we dated (really more off than on), she walked away from our relationship more than 15 times. And each time, she came back with promises of change, of a renewed willingness to do anything and everything to make it work between us, with assurances that, this time, it was going to work because she’d go to counseling, therapy, whatever it took. And for the first one, perhaps two weeks, she did make a (seemingly) legitimate effort. But that drive to be a better, less absent partner, a more compassionate companion, a more attentive mate, waned quickly and it was another one-to-three months of relationship hell or, as I came to call it, a “ride on the Russian rollercoaster.”
Being involved with her was a veritable toxic series of ups, downs, inside-out loops, twists, and turns. Does that destructive dynamic sound familiar? If you’re involved with a narcissist, or have ever been, then I’m sure it does. And since the narcissist uses trauma bonding to ensure that you’ll stay hooked for as long as (in)humanly possible, you’re stuck in this downward spiraling, cyclic loop of ethereal highs and hellacious lows. After a while, you honestly don’t know whether you’re coming or going. And then, just like all the times before, something remarkably insignificant happens and the childish and immature narcissist basically takes their ball, storms off, and goes home so no one can play. You text, call, e-Mail but…nothing. This is what’s called the discard phase and it can be an absolutely abysmal place in which to exist. As an empath, you find yourself questioning what you did to upset them so deeply, what you could have done differently so they wouldn’t have left, what you can do so they’ll come back. But then something magical takes place. You slowly start to rediscover yourself and your sanity begins seeping back into your everyday life. You find yourself actually being happy again and realizing that the narcissist was indeed a toxic presence in your life. Finally, deliverance!
But then it happens. One small thing: a commercial on television, a song on the radio, you drive by a special place you and the narcissist shared a very warm and dear memory – something – and you relapse. You find yourself romanticizing, reflecting fondly on memories with them and wishing they were there beside you, again. In a sullen and somber state, you text them one last time and tell them you miss them or wish they cared for you the way you care for them. And then, there it is! A reply from them saying they miss you, too, or that they do still love you and would love to see you. Your heart leaps, you mind races, your pulse quickens, and you think, “Yes! S/He still cares.” Not so fast, kemosabe. What you perceive, and the truth of the matter, are so far from each other, it makes the planet Pluto (yes, I said, “planet“) seem like a next-door neighbor from whom you can borrow a cup of sugar. Here’s what actually happened.
When that inconsequential and insignificant event occurred where the narcissist packed his or her bags and left, most likely it really wasn’t anything you did or didn’t do, so you can stop beating yourself up over that one. Nine times out of ten, when this happens, the narcissist’s fragile and egg-shell delicate ego was somehow barely bruised. Remember, the narcissist has a very unstable and childish psyche that’s just one innocuous comment or trivial mishap away from teetering over the edge of the precipice of despair because their sense of ego, of self, their self-esteem rests solely in the hands of others via the external validation they perpetually seek to reinforce their ever-eroding sense of value. So they leave…and they seeth, they stew, they simmer and vent to their friends and almost always tearfully confide and lament to their secondary sources of narcissistic supply (SSNS) how you hurt them. They rant, rave, and rage over whatever imagined atrocity you committed that was unfathomable (naturally making sure to cast you in the darkest of lights whilst propelling themselves into the role of hero(ine) and underdog). One ubiquitous truth to remember – we are all the villain in someone’s story.
After some time, when there has been no contact betwixt you, the narcissist begins to think that you are no longer pining over them and that their primary source of narcissistic supply has dried up, so they begin cultivating and nurturing these secondary sources more fervently, perhaps even promoting a secondary source to a primary source (e.g. the narcissist starts dating “a friend”). But, when you texted, called, or e-Mailed, stating that you still love them and missed them? That little trigger got pulled. The narcissist realized that you are indeed still a very valid and viable form of supply and they come crashing back into your life with a renewed vigor and fervor, promising to make you, the relationship – everything that you are and the two of you share – a top priority and they’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. This is called hoovering because the narcissist almost literally sucks you up and back into the toxic relationship. But their hollow promises to change and be a better, more loving, and present partner, are shortlived because those are not efforts born of genuinely loving emotions. No one ever truly gets tired of loving, actually loving. But people do grow weary of keeping up a façade. And that’s exactly what loving is for the narcissist – a façade, an exercise in fakery, duplicity, and deception. And the whole toxic cycle repeats, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, until you finally say, “I’ve had enough!” and break the cycle of abuse. Take solace in the knowledge that for everything, there is a last time. There is an end to the dichotomy of wonderfully miserable series of highs and lows the narcissist subjects you to on an almost daily basis. And with the narcissist, it honestly can’t happen soon enough for you and your emotional and physical sanity to begin healing.
So when the narcissist comes back with promises of changes and changed behavior, with praise for what a wonderful person you are to forgive them for hurting you so, and they will, just remember that this cycle will continue until you drive a proverbial stake into the heart of this emotional vampire who is quite literally sucking the life out of you. Believe it or not, my beautiful, dear, wounded friend, you do actually have the power to take back your life and your happiness, more power than you can possibly imagine.