Have you noticed how the narcissist is perpetually expectant that you be there, available to them whenever and wherever they might be, regardless of what is going on in your life? But it’s rare that they are ever just as readily available for you? Or worse yet, they leave you feeling you’re, at best, a meager secondary option in their busy life, fortunate to be graced with even the smallest crumbs of their invaluable time that you so eagerly wait to be doled out, hoping to at least slightly slack your thirst and satiate your hunger for their love and attention? This is just another form of narcissistic manipulation. And it only gets worse.
I’ll never forget one day, after about a month of no contact with Julia, my narcissist, she texted me. I vividly recall it was a Sunday in April, about 11:15 in the morning. The text simply read, “Would you care to join me on the Riverwalk at 3:00 today?” At this point, it had been a little over a year since we first met. I honestly didn’t know how to respond. I was still so hurt over her walking away and out of my life, again, just as she had already done several times before. But I also missed her very much. I pondered over how to reply, or if I should reply at all. I finally replied with a simple, “Yes.” We met, we walked, we talked (and oddly enough, we actually passed Veronika, Julia’s arch-nemesis, whom I’ve mentioned briefly in the two previous blog entries What Happens When a Narcissist Falls for a Narcissist and The Prophecy is Fulfilled).
As dusk grew near, and we were heading back to our vehicles, she wanted to stop and sit for a moment on one of the benches that line the walkway. She said, “I really can’t promise to always be available for you. Nursing school is taking up so much of my time. I know I’m an absent partner but that’s about the best I can be, right now.” At the moment, I honestly felt like she was being sincere and genuinely making an effort. Though, in retrospect, I can see she was merely continuing her practice of making excuses; however, the prospect that we could be together again, even if it was in the form of crumbs of her time, was enough to give me cause to believe it might work if I would just be more patient and understanding – and I was so hungry for her love.
Does that sound like a familiar dynamic? An excuse is fabricated to justify the narcissist’s lackluster involvement in the relationship, but if they call you, suddenly and unexpectedly available and seemingly eager to see you, they expect you to drop what you’re doing? And if you can’t, or don’t, they then throw the burden of blame on you with something analogous to, “You said you wanted to see me, I’ve been so busy all week, and now that I make time for you, for us, you won’t do the same?” Do you see how, once again, the narcissist manipulates the situation and shirks responsibility and culpability so that the relationship is suffering because of you?
I will freely admit that nursing school is a sadistically reprehensible experience. For two grueling years, I helped her with care plans that, even though I’ve taught numerous classes on Microsoft Office, were still an absolutely abysmal formatting nightmare resulting in us both pulling more than one all-nighter to complete them before they were due for her 8:00 AM class the next day. For those two long years, we studied together, we suffered together, we passed tests together (although she did all the real work). So, yes. I did see, firsthand, just how brutal nursing school is. She studied hard and sacrificed to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing with an insane grade of 98%. One of her professors told her that, in over 20 years of teaching, she’s never had a student like Julia and that she wished she had more. That same professor even went so far as to handwrite a comment on Julia’s record that she was the best student she’d ever had. I must admit, my narcissist is probably one of the most intelligent people, if not the most intelligent person, I have ever met. But I digress.
It’s interesting how my narcissist rarely had time for us to spend together but, if a friend of hers called needing to be driven to, or picked up from, the airport, she was only too happy to take a few hours out of her “busy” morning to oblige. (This actually happened more than once.) Or she could take a break from studying for the rest of the evening to have Paulina over for dinner and a movie. On her birthday, and with a heavy heart, she told me we weren’t going to be able to celebrate together – I was more than disappointed but studying for nursing school calls. Only after I was at work was she suddenly available at the last minute. But instead of her reaching out and telling me so, and us celebrating her birthday together, she went on a day-long hike with Dr. P., the same man who had confessed his 2-year long obsession with her and professed his undying love for her. The same Dr. P. with whom she moved in and lived for 3 months after she and I had a remarkably minor disagreement. Dr. P. was yet another of the many men in her reverse harem where she would consistently turn when she needed an extra boost of narcissistic supply or just wanted to stir the pot, as it were, and further foster feelings of insecurity in our relationship.
This tactic of using a third person to incite feelings of jealousy, and illicit fears of being replaced, is called triangulation. It’s simply another form of manipulation, a skill the narcissist has honed to perfection. And that’s truly all any relationship is when it’s with a narcissist – an incessant series of deceptions and manipulation. Whether it’s only being available when it suits the narcissist’s schedule and needs, or it’s seeking, developing, and cultivating inappropriate relationships with other people (generally candidates intended for the narcissist’s [reverse-]harem) whose primary intent is to facilitate, nurture, and exploit feelings of insecurity and jealousy in you. The secondary goal is to have a veritable cornucopia of people to choose, one of which to promote to the new primary source of narcissistic supply, essentially replacing you when your relationship is over. In the end, it all boils down to how the narcissist can most effectively and efficiently manipulate you.
During the 4-½ year span I spent shackled to my narcissist, I lost track of the number of times something would happen and she would storm off, angry over some imagined slight, only for her to return at some point, albeit 2-weeks or 2-months later, apologizing, saying she was willing to do whatever it took to make things work between us. And, every time, for those first 1-2 weeks we were back together, she actually made a seemingly legitimate effort where she did and said all the right things – she was actually trying…or so it seemed. The level of effort and commitment was quite overwhelming in a very wonderful way, but it was neither genuine nor sincere and, as such, could not be maintained as it was all an illusion. This is what’s called the hoovering phase, named after the Hoover vacuum cleaners. The hoovering phase is where the narcissist returns and tries to “suck” you back into the relationship, once again re-establishing their control over you, by doing pretty much anything and everything, promising whatever it takes to make the relationship work (remember, it’s all about sustained, effective manipulation). However, since the narcissist’s efforts are not born of legitimate affection and love, the heightened level of emotional and physical availability simply cannot be maintained and very quickly the narcissist’s facade falls apart. This is why my narcissist could never continue perpetuating the falsehood of being amorous, affectionate, attentive or loving for more than 1-2 weeks before reverting back to who and what she truly is.
I never fully realized, until well after I had walked away this last time, that, for all of my narcissist’s apologies, none of them were ever truly sincere. After all, the only true apology is changed behavior. However, since the narcissist knows no other way to be than manipulative and self-absorbed, any positive change is always only temporary. I recall I once commented to my narcissist, “It’s not difficult for a leopard to change its spots. The hard part is not changing back.” At the time, I was referring to someone else, but the words were (are) so very appropriate for not just my narcissist, but I suspect for your narcissist and all the other narcissists out there, as well. And this destructive dynamic will continue, ad infinitum, until you are nothing more than an empty husk with which the narcissist has finished draining of any and all goodness. At that point, the narcissist will simply discard you; however, unlike all the other discard phases before, this will be the final discard. Everything has a last time. And this will be yours. You are going to have to be the one that finds the courage to end this destructive, controlling, abusive, and manipulative relationship with someone who, at one point, meant the world to you. And, let’s be honest, they probably still do. So how do you let go of someone and something that, aside from the many flaws and fallacies, feels like home?
The best place to begin is by simply going no contact. I say, “simply,” not to dilute the gravity of the decision or belittle the level of emotional and psychological upheaval this will cause you. To the contrary, I say, “simply,” so you know that your long and painful journey of healing, like any sojourn, begins with a single step. And that first step is to block your narcissist on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest – all social media – and most especially at the cellular provider level (both Verizon and AT&T offer a blocking feature via their web interface).
You’re hurt. You’re hurting. And the narcissist knows this. They will use your pain and vulnerability as a portal to try and hoover you back in. You can’t be trusted to be strong, at least not right now, because, let’s face it, the narcissist is our kryptonite. I blocked my narcissist on every single level I could except for YouYube. She had shared video links from my YouTube channel, to her Facebook, where she was singing one Christmas. Many of her friends were still enjoying and commenting on the videos, via Facebook, even a year later. So I decided not to be a tool and refrained from blocking her on YouTube. But I did turn off commenting so she couldn’t reach me there.
As painful as it is to block any and all communication with your narcissist, it’s absolutely critical you do so. The fact of the matter is: you cannot heal if the wound is repeatedly ripped open. With the repeated cycles of discard/hoovering, discard/hoovering, you’re never going to be able to truly heal. You need to stop fighting for someone who isn’t willing to fight for you and doesn’t care if they lose you. Because, in the end, you should never have qualms ending any relationship with anyone who allows you to fall asleep at nights wondering if you matter to them. Period.