Understanding the Cheating Narcissist: Breakdown, Breakthrough and Breaking Free
If you don’t initially wish your cheating Narcissist ill will after they’ve left you for another, you are probably among the minority. A lot of us struggle with the betrayal and the hurt. Persistent images of the two of them together are normal and so too, is the fear that they will be happy together and that you will be the one, who is left all alone, wallowing in misery and despair.
To want justice is normal. We want to know that there is some Universal Force out there, that knows all, that will exact some sort of cosmic justice, revenge or Karma on our behalf. We want fairness. We’re outraged that they got off scot free after committing the most horrific relationship crimes, while we are still trying to understand what happened and put the pieces back together.
Author and Buddhist Monk Pema Chodron is my absolute favorite author for dealing with this kind of trauma. Her book, When Things Fall Apart, was literally handed to me, long before Oprah fell in love with her. She teaches that the medicine is in the pain. That there is no way around the pain but through it, that we have to sit with it and become comfortable with it. As we do that, as we get closer to pain and fear, it loses its power over us. We’re no longer afraid of it, afraid of being abandoned, afraid of not being strong enough to get through it. When we move closer to fear and pain we realize that it cannot defeat us, that we are stronger than our pain and stronger than our fear. A feeling of invincibility arises in us. A strength that we didn’t even know we possessed rises up and leads us out of despair and into a much better place, full of spirituality, depth and meaning.
So let yourself fall apart. Allow yourself to cry, to be sad – to feel whatever you are feeling and then sit with it. Marinate in it for a while and know that this breakdown will lead you to a breakthrough. Be mindful and aware as you just let yourself feel. Trust in the stories of those who have gone through it before. The pain and discomfort are temporary. The most important thing to remember in this phase is to remain in no contact.
You will have those disturbing thoughts of your ex and his new partner. It’s inevitable, so don’t beat yourself up for that. It’s not weakness. I described it at the time that I was experiencing it, as a monkey swinging around my brain that I couldn’t control and the more I tried to put a leash on its movements, the more it showed me who was really in control. I would have these flash visions of them together – making love and being happy. It would drive me crazy.
When this happens and those thoughts come, gently bring another thought to your mind and let yourself focus on something else. They will come back, so you will mindfully have to nudge them out every time they appear. The more you do this, the less frequently they will show up and eventually it will stop altogether.
The Monster Inside
Couples stay together through the tough times in life because of loyalty, connection, commitment, love and integrity. A Narcissist isn’t encumbered with these things. To them these words have no meaning. I remember struggling to understand how my partner could do this to me. Where was the loyalty? Where was the compassion, the love, the commitment? How could these things mean nothing? How could I mean nothing? Why didn’t I know that he was pretending?
I asked myself all of these questions over and over again. When I finally realized that he was not dealing with the same emotional deck that I was, it all started to make sense. Everyone that studies Narcissists knows that their primary objective is to seek out Narcissistic Supply. It is their drug and without it they are weak, depressed, full of doubts, insecurity, anxiety and they become withdrawn and miserable – much of the same symptoms a drug addict experiences going through a withdrawal. All supply will eventually lose its potency though and the Narcissist will always have to seek out other sources. This is an exhausting job and why the Narcissist likes to retain relationships with former supply.
Feeding this monster is all consuming. It’s all they think about and all they care about. It is the main focus of their lives and it always will be – it’s always there and it’s always hungry. Gaining supply is the only way Narcissists feel their brand of normal.
The pieces are interchangeable. You, me, the woman, or man down the street – we are all just pawns in the Narcissist’s game. Hurting you was likely not something they wished to do, but you are unfortunately collateral damage on their quest for more and more supply. Are they aware that they are hurting you? – Yes. Do they know it’s wrong? – Yes. But they don’t care. This monster needs to be fed – and feeding it takes precedence over everything else. It’s importance is so great that they will lie, cheat, manipulate and con their way to get it. They create elaborate defense mechanisms to justify what they’re doing and to make their behavior all your fault. This helps them to alleviate any anxiety about being perceived as the bad guy.
Part of going through this process is understanding that there is nothing that you could have done differently. It wasn’t your fault. Accepting this is the breakthrough that this realization will give you. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have work to do yourself, but it gives you a glimpse of the bigger picture of what really happened.
Breaking Free – We Just Have to Focus on Our Game
It’s my favorite time of year – hockey playoff season. All good athletes have their sports clichés that they diligently spout off to reporters. One of my favorites is, “We can’t worry about what the other team is doing. We just have to focus on our game.”
When we’ve gone through the phases of having an emotional breakdown, it’s then usually followed by an emotional breakthrough, which then hopefully leads us to emotionally breaking free.
Do I still think of my ex Narcissist? Sure, once in a blue moon he’ll pop into my head. I know that he married the woman that he cheated on me with, that they both betrayed their partners, that they had a child and bought a house together.
Does it bother me? – No, not even remotely. Here’s why: The man that he was, with me, was awful. My life with him was awful. He was emotionally fragile, constantly needed to be puffed up and taken care of, always looking for people to tell him how good looking, talented, and brilliant he was. It was exhausting. He was looking for a mother in his woman – he wanted to be fawned over- babied – that kind of man repulses me. He was a parasite and his mom, a doctor, always had to bail him out financially. Everything was always all about him. The way his mother gushed all over him was nauseating. He was lazy, insecure and always needed to be the center of attention. It was pathetic. That man was not the man of my dreams. He was/is definitely not the one for me. Being with him was indicative of my emotional state at the time. If a man like that walked into my life now, it would so repulse me that I would probably start dry heaving.
I can imagine that my ex’s two step children from his wife’s previous marriage were/are a constant source of irritation for him. They would be rivals for their mother’s attention/supply and I can just imagine the temper tantrums that my ex Narcissist would throw, the awful position that would put her in and how her children must feel. I remember the way he tried to control me – to isolate me from my family and my friends, how he would make me choose, how he would insult me and make me feel worthless, in an attempt to erode my self-esteem. Do I envy her – no – no and then I said no some more.
Do I think he’s a different guy with her? – Not on your life. The only thing that I said to this woman was, “I can’t wait until everything is all your fault.” Now it is. Now he’s her problem. I got to walk away and be free of him. She inherited this dysfunctional mess of a man. She probably laughed and felt pretty good about herself in the beginning. She probably isn’t feeling that way now.
It’s been a long time – I’m sure her supply has long since lost its potency and I’m sure he is always in search of other sources. As Shakira says in her song Don’t Bother, “The ring you gave to her will lose it’s shine.” And I’m sure it has. At this stage of my journey knowing that doesn’t bring me any joy. There are innocent children in the center of his dysfunctional mess and I actually hope he has become a better person for their sake, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
There will come a point where you have to focus on your game and not worry about the other team. Even if your ex and his new partner look happy – you weren’t. The two of you were not a good fit for whatever reason and that’s all that really matters. Hopefully you will get to a stage where you can wish them well, but in the interim, take your thoughts off of them and place them on your life, your goals and your dreams.
You were given a gift. All journeys lead us to a better understanding and to lessons we were meant to learn. This pain you’ve experienced is actually your catalyst to this lesson. It’s why we’re here. It’s what makes us better, stronger and brings us closer to our true selves. I got to go on this journey of self-discovery – my ex Narcissist never will and that’s just sad. He’s stuck and will forever be.
I’ll leave you with a gorgeous poem. It was written by an Esteemology reader, who goes by the handle Hurtin Cowboy:
If we could hold you in our arms,
If we can fold you into our prayers
The one who hurt you – cannot help you.
Your voice cries out
And the near one, damaged, indifferent, unkind – cannot hear
Or chooses not to.
Though far away,
Whose names you mostly will never know –
We hear you.
We really do.
We too have felt like you,
Thinking “it’s too much, I am wild in this pain, I am writhing like an exposed nerve. I can’t take it anymore.”
Or “I will hurt him (or her) make him feel the raw pain I have endured, make him suffer as I have.”
Like you we will never do it.
But we have thought it, from inside our cage of searing pain.
Write it down.
Get it out.
Get the closure you so badly need
But get it here, with us.
You cannot get it from the one who hurt you,
There is nothing there but an empty echo of your own loss and grief.
Come with us,
And we will all heal
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Image Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net