“When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.” – Pema Chodron
For most of my life I’ve kept people at an emotional distance. Not so much friends, but romantic partners. Subconsciously, I believed that if I didn’t let myself get too close to someone then it wouldn’t hurt me when they left. If I didn’t let them get too close to me then they would never really know me, so when they did reject me, it wasn’t really me they were rejecting, because they never even knew me. People that were generally interested in me were to be avoided, because they would want to get too close and that I just couldn’t risk, even though all along this was the type of relationship I said I wanted all along.
This way of thinking is common among codependents because it is something we had to learn early in childhood to protect ourselves. We knew deep down, even in our immature emotional development, that something wasn’t right with how our primary caregivers were making us feel. We learned how to interact with the world through our interactions with them and if we couldn’t trust our parents fully, then we couldn’t trust anyone fully. We learned that it was safer for us to keep people at arm’s length, because the more someone meant to us the more power they had to hurt us, so it was better, safer, to care from behind our emotional shield of protection. That was our coping mechanism , our strategy for dealing with intimacy – that it was safer for us not to ever let anyone get too close.
During my youth and early twenties I believed that I was truly caring and had a big heart, capable of giving enormous amounts of love. I thought that I wasn’t the one with the problem in my relationships, that I was normal, but the truth was that I would choose partners that were selfish and had issues so that the focus would always be on them and what was wrong with them, so that I didn’t have to feel the uncomfortable spotlight on me and what ailed me. Dealing with my own fear of intimacy was never even something I considered as one of my issues, but the more I searched the more proof I found. This fear is a huge obstacle and it’s what keeps people making the same relationship choices.
Early this morning I got a text message from one of the Narcissists that I counsel. He’s been dating someone he met online for less than two weeks and he is a ball of insecurity. He is constantly complaining that she wasn’t giving him enough attention and that she wasn’t showing him how much she cared about him. She showed him a text message on her phone that she got from a friend that was funny and he could see that she had two other text messages that she hadn’t read yet. He was incensed that she didn’t show him those two messages that he believed to be from other guys.
I had to say to him, “You are a stranger to her. She barely knows you. You’ve gone out what two or three times? She doesn’t owe you anything. You’re not exclusive. She’s still making up her mind about you and she’s allowed to. For all you know the texts could have been from her mom, or her sister, or her best friend and they are really none of your business. She shouldn’t be falling all over you. Healthy people take the time to get to know someone before they open themselves up – they don’t leap without looking where their heart is concerned. This is exactly the time where you scare them away, because you can’t handle not being their everything and you can’t be their everything less than two weeks in.”
I’ve watched this same narcissist run for the hills when someone liked him too much, too soon. I’ve watched him blow cold when someone, he initially chased, was getting too close. I’ve seen him sabotage a relationship that for all intents and purposes looked like it was developing into something good. When it comes to intimacy he is a ball of uncertainty and anxiety. He has no clue what to do, how to act, or even how to control his emotions.
This fear of intimacy is something that narcissists and codependents share. It’s what makes them such good dance partners because their inclinations toward intimacy lean the same way.
I’ve found that people who fear intimacy share a lot of the same types of behaviors. They include:
- You gravitate towards other people that like to keep you at arm’s length or blow hot and cold
- You don’t mind long distance relationships
- You turn away from people that seem genuinely interested in you
- You have a hard time trusting people when it comes to love
- You feel uncomfortable when you feel like you are under a microscope
- You engage in relationships that soar and crash
- You battle a desperate need to be loved and a need to be alone where it’s safe
- You feel flawed and unlovable and uncomfortable in your own skin
- You believe that no one has ever truly loved you
- You feel unlovable
- You fear someone will see your flaws and judge you to be lacking in some way
- You sabotage your relationships when you feel someone is getting too close
- You like to be alone a lot
- You never let any romantic partner truly in to get to know the real you
The good thing about a fear of intimacy is that it can be overcome. It is a coping mechanism, something you learned to protect yourself. The key is understanding that you no longer have a use for it in your adult relationships. A little insecurity is normal when we enter into the unknown of a new relationship, but it should never be so intense that it keeps you from letting someone in.
Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable was a luxury that many of us couldn’t afford in childhood, so we instead learned to shut that part of us down. Being able to love and be loved fully means allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. That means that we have to battle our instincts to keep ourselves protected. It means taking the right steps in new relationships – taking things slowly, getting to know someone before allowing yourself to get emotionally or physically attached, it’s paying attention to and being on the lookout for red flags and acting appropriately to things that cause concern, it’s watching how your potential partner reacts to your boundaries, it’s about being okay with you, warts and all, it’s about paying attention to your feelings, your needs and your wants and always making them a priority, it’s about trusting your instincts and then when all of those T’s are crossed, it’s about opening up and slowly letting someone in. The more they prove that they are trustworthy, the more you can begin to trust them.
I find that the more you begin to love yourself the easier it becomes to let someone in, because you stop fearing the rejection so much and you’re less concerned with what other people think of you. When you love yourself you stop being afraid to let people see the real you, because you’ve already figured out that the real you is pretty damn fantastic and you’re eager to say, “Hey come look at me I’m freakin awesome.”
Letting someone in is a great risk, there will always be that chance that you might get hurt, but when it’s right, the rewards far outweigh the risk.
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I wish my ex narc would see a therapist asap. She needs help. This is her life existence. So sad.
This was such an interesting post to read.
Your right Savannah me and the ex narc both feared intamacy. When I asked him why he didn’t share intamacy with me he replied I don’t with anyone. When I asked why he said long story and that was it.
No matter how hard I try I still can’t learn to love myslef. I feel unlovable, unworthy and fear rejection so much that I’m actually scared of getting involved with some one.
I feel like cinderella waiting for the other shoe to drop off.
Even though I’ve gone No Contact I still think about him rejecting me, making me feel like I wasn’t good enough and for some reason I’m finding this hard to ignore.
I guess being with him felt comfortable as there was no love, no intamacy and it was what I was use to and I guess he confirmed my beliefs.
Sorry, I guess the post wasn’t really a question. I just think that sometimes liking to be alone can be a very good thing. I guess I understand that it becomes a problem in the relationship when it becomesa block to true intimacy. Since I cannot be intimate with anyone at this time, choosing alone time until I’ve had my fill to work ion ke and heal, is a good thing. All about balance.
Quick question with the ‘like to be alone.’ I’ve acknowledged that I have alot of anxiety in intimate relationships and that emotionally unavailable seeks emotionally unavailable. I enjoy my alone time and there is often a struggle to balance space and intimacy. I’m the people pleaser, the ex a narc. I dumped him because he engaged all the toxic and manipulative behavior and I realized I’d rather be alone than in a dysfunctional relationship because you gotta break the rebound pattern if you want to be healthy. Of course, less than a month later, he’s already onto the next for supply obviously. He fought me so hard and passive aggressively for space and distance in the relationship and I reflected the same reactions. Couldn’t understand why he needed so much more space; that I willingly gave him, because I like mine; then he’d be shitty w me when I got home cause I gave him exactly what he asked for. Well, got some bs about how he’s mister lone wolf, Jeremiah Johnson of the forest who would be alone for the rest of his life if I ever left him- how much he enjoys his alone time. asked him to move out 3 times, after he threatened to kill my cats, wasn’t paying his bills even though he was a workaholic, and I realized how fast we commited b4 really getting to know eachother, (we had both just gotten out of marriages w unfaithful spouses so naturally we were vulnerable and felt the validation we gave eachother.) I never set my boundaries w this one and want honest w myself or him that I wasnt ready for another relationship but he swept me off my feet and went with the flow until the mask slipped and the I hate you, don’t leave me behavior started and kept getting worse. I waited over a year for him to start paying his bills while I fell for excuses. He railroaded my boundaries but expected me to be at his beck amd call. Managed down expectations and would rage at me as soon as I started to set my boundaries and statred to have healthy expectations like him paying his bills or cleaning up after himself. He jad me hooked. I loved him so much that I wanted him to see his own worth to want to improve rather than resigning to being a damaged asshole and that’s just what I was supposed to accept (Jeckyll and Hyde. He actually called it Evan and Kevin and normalized the emotional abuse.) His actions continually said he didn’t really value me or want to make effort to be with me and only used me for convenience. So I gave us both the gift of being single. I gave hom exactly what his actions told me what he wanted and fullfilled my own need of being single to become healthy, build my self esteem and still morn the loss of my failed marriage w a kid who’s now from a broken home. Of course, I am the bitch and the disloyal one. I am genuinely trying to better myself and break free of patterns. I definitely have trust issues so it’s important that I don’t hurt anyone because I am still hurt. Mr. Loner, I’ll never love again has a new one. Pretty sure it’s the live in nanny he hired for his kids, which he told me she’s too expensive so I know he’s using his charm to get free nanny and cleaning service. My friends met her and said the poor girl has no idea, is boring, exudes brokenness and sadness and seems like she could be easily manipulated and dominated which is perfect for a man who refuses to see his own faults. I’m on my own and although the break up hurts, all the uncomfortable emotions and epiphanies are very good for growth and choosing a different path. He did reach out once (I’m sure for narc supply, to make sure I’d still reply, which I knowingly fell for,) but he actually admitted that he thought he was psychotic, systematically destroyed everything, there are two of him, he’s his own enemy and one personality acts like he’s not sabotaging everything and puts on an act. Perhaps a moment of clarity. He asked me if I thought he needed a therapist. I have compassion for him because the poor guy craves transperancy and intimacy but can’t. I told him there are benefits to having a confidante and being vulnerable to someone as a way to encourage him to get help rather than shame him. That was the last I heard and have gone no contact since. I will pray, because in forgiving ourselves, we find compassion for others. I thought being alone was what was needed but we chose different paths and perhaps there is something he has to learn from his current relationship. I’m just thankful I dodged a bullet and stopped validating shady behavior by staying. I feel bad for leaving him and rejecting the friend card because he told me was his only friend, which I told him wasn’t healthy and there are lots of people who want to be his friend if he helps cultivate the relationship. That was a trigger that threw him into rage. How could I be friends w a guy who never even treated me like a friend? How can I opt out of being a player in a game that I nolonger wanted to play? I know it hurt him to cut contact but I had to stop thinking about his drama and start thinking about protecting myself and my kid. My kid is the one who deserves a healthy, stable mom and would most benefit from my love and energy. Every day a little better and good lessons being learned.
Another great article!!!! Seriously who is not afraid of intimacy after being narcissitically abused? Everytime my ex and I got closer he found a way to put distance between us and the more I accepted our differences he would change what he liked or verbally assault me for what was previously fantastic. I never put up with this from anyone I previously dated my N/P told me for years I was cold for how I got those people out of my life, no not cold just not dealing with lying and cheating. Yet he was in a new relationship just one week after I finally had enough and kicked him out, even had to nerve to brag about it to our kids. After all the raging screaming yelling punching walls etc that he did in our home.
My ex was so good at hiding his lies, even lied about me behind my back to family and friends I can’t believe I was married for over 20 years thinking it was different.
Lola we went to couples counseling and our first visit she looked at my Ex and said you need additional therapy outside of this. He kept interrupting placing blame, it got us nowhere except for him to learn some new terms and manipulation tactics only 1% of these Ns will ever truly want change, the rest its just a game and a tool for manipulating others—just my opinion and statistics I learned. Savannah I know these people are anxious or depressed I lived with it for years and very tormented souls, I tried so many different ways of explaining different human interaction and what was ok and not ok and not telling someone you just met private information. Most of them just don’t get it!!!! The statement made to me was I will just get different friends I have done that my whole life but, they think they can just treat people anyway they want. Manipulating, lying, cheating, stealing creating trauma bonds, I never knew such evil exisited in a charming package. Sorry got off on a rant really a great article!!!
I’ve become much more closed off ever since I left my Narc and toxic friends and had all of these realizations. … and dare I say that I think this is a good thing, at least in my case and for my life.
When I dated Narcs, especially when I was in my 20s, I actually overshared with them and was much too vulnerable early on. In fact, I REALLY wanted someone to get to know me, especially someone I was dating. I did this because: They shared something with me/were vulnerable with me early on to create a “connection” and I fell for their game and reciprocated; I was repeating childhood issues with them.
My mother is a Narc so I grew up without a voice. I dated men who had her personality qualities — not only because I was used to being treated poorly, but now I think that I subconsciously tried to get all of these Narcs that I dated to “hear” me. And that if they heard me, understood me and “got” me, that somehow by proxy it meant that I was loveable and it would make up for all the years of feeling like I was talking to a brick wall when I spoke to my mother.
I know it makes absolutely no sense, and I wasn’t aware at the time that this is what I was doing.
I must say, the more that I’ve learned to keep things to myself — especially problems and difficult things that I am feeling and going through — that I have become a much stronger person. I used to be that person – like you mentioned in a previous post – that had to make decisions by committee or vent if I felt wronged because I needed validation, approval and didn’t trust my own feelings and opinions. Now that I don’t discuss such things with others, I feel much more confident, make decisions and stand by them.
This is going to sound negative, but last fall I was going through something very difficult and I shared my feelings with a long-term friend, because she pressed and asked me what was wrong (out of genuine concern). I told her, and once the words left my lips I instantly regretted it. She asked ALL the wrong questions and said all the wrong things in response (not her fault, most of us say the wrong things to comfort others when tragedy strikes, especially when it’s a tragedy we have not experienced ourselves) and I found myself feeling a million times worse AFTER sharing it.
I’ve found it much healthier (for me) to deal with this on my own and only talk about it with a friend who has experienced the exact same thing. Much like how I am finding solace and healing in getting over my Narc and childhood through this blog and community because we all understand each other and have all been through it. I’ve made the mistake of sharing with people close to me that my mother is a Narc and what it was like to grow up, and they just CANNOT understand, so the conversation turns out to be a frustrating, hurtful experience for me.
As for turning away from people that seem interested in you, I want to say that I’ve actually found it to be a HUGE red flag when I’ve met someone – even in a platonic sense – who seemed to REALLY like me and REALLY wanted to hang out when they knew nothing about me. I had a co-worker praise me and chase my friendship, and associates that I’ve met tell me how highly they thought of me and “respected” me when in fact they knew nothing about me or my life. And you know what? Once I got to know these people and gave them my time, they turned out to be extremely high-maintenance, selfish and toxic.
Anyway, for me at least, I think it’s much better to be guarded and really selective about who I let in. Because I’ve wasted so much time and energy letting the WRONG people in.
NR When you are healing it is important to keep yourself closed up. It’s like a wound healing. You want that skin to grow over and protect the inside while it gets better. I would suggest doing that to everybody going through this stage. Please don’t mistake what I mean by intimacy for letting every Tom, Dick or Harry waltz into your life unencumbered. I’ve written a lot about how we should be discerning about who is in our circle, who we share with and who we trust. What I’m talking about this week is that when you are at the place where you trust yourself and you are ready to get back out there and start dating again that after you’ve crossed all your dating t’s, slowly start to let someone in. It doesn’t mean share what you don’t want to share. It doesn’t me tell all your secrets and let people run amuk all over your emotions. What it means is that if someone is showing you through their actions that they are trustworthy then allow yourself to throw them a little trust rope. Let it out a little at a time as they provide consistent proof of their trustworthiness. It’s not healthy to close yourself off from the world while it may feel safe (and it is something you should do while you’re healing) but there will come a time on the road to healthy when you need to learn how to trust others. And again this doesn’t mean to stop being discerning and vigilant but it means letting yourself be vulnerable. You can’t have a healthy relationship without trust or without being vulnerable sometimes.
NR, great post! It’s like reading about myself. This is a great community for sharing and healing. I have had those cringe worthy moments also (I”m borrowing Savannah’s terminology) because of the empath part of me that wishes to merge with others on an authentic level, sharing things too personal, too quickly, before they have earned the right to hear my shame story, only to then immediately regret it. It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn again and again.
I, too, have been acquiring the art of keeping things to myself, and feel stronger for it. Although, the stuff leaks out in my music, but that’s ok. There’s really no way to make good music unless it’s authentic.
Often I have wondered if I am a narcissist, because I understand the “hiding” part, the concealment of the softer side under the stone encasement, and have struggled with the paradox of being equal parts tough, yet, fragile.
For me, because of my nurturing side, what I think I was doing in a couple of toxic relationships with narcs was trying to vicariously heal myself by nurturing their wounds. I am in my early 40’s now. I sure am glad I’m figuring this stuff out. I’d like to say I wish I had worked out all my junk earlier, but it’s all ok. This last round about with a narc REALLY provoked some DEEP pain, but ALSO, some deep insight, and was the catapult to my biggest stretch of healing thus far. It brought me here. 🙂
First of all, I love your site – thank you for all of your invaluable information and advice! My comment has 2 parts. First, I had a fear of intimacy as part of my codependency. I spent years in therapy. Then I met El Diablo, my covert/vulnerable narc ex and guess what happened? Every time I started seeing or sensing red flags, causing me the familiar anxious and insecure feelings that make me want to bolt, I talked myself out of it telling myself it was my fear of intimacy and I need to learn to trust. He, of course, encouraged this. He would tell me that he loved me, that he would never hurt me and that I needed “to stop going to the bad place” every time we had a minor disagreement or he delayed in responding to a message. 8 months after we met, 3 months after he moved in, I found out he was cheating on me – apparently all along – so I kicked him out. In processing everything that happened now that there has been time and distance, I realize that once we moved in together, he stopped asking me about me. And he never would open up about himself – he had so many secrets. Our relationship stopped growing. And unconsciously, I began withdrawing in self-protection mode. I am much better now, almost 5 months later, though I still have bad days. I’m starting to think about dating again, but now I am worried that this relationship set me back. I finally learned to open up and trust and my worst fears came true. I feel like I either will hold back too much in fear or I will trust too soon again. How do you know when you’ve got it right?
The second part is, like Lorie above, I was surprised to learn you treat people with NPD because I thought they rarely seek treatment and if they do, they rarely make any progress because of their inability to see and be honest with themselves. I am pretty certain my ex knows he has NPD and has received at least some treatment (more hindsight memories of things he said). My questions are 1) what makes them seek treatment? and 2) have you ever treated someone with NPD to the point where you think they are capable of maintaining a long-term, healthy relationship?
El D’s Ex I should clarify when I say I treat Narcissists. I am not a therapist. I do do hypnotherapy which is where I encountered one of the Narcissists, one I dated, the other is someone I’ve know for years. They all come to me pretty much every week looking for answers or wanting to talk. They are unhappy people and I spend my time trying to help them come to their own conclusions and giving them advice and showing them different behaviors they might utilize to get better results. I make suggestions and I even give them homework. I appreciate their candor with me because it gives me keen insight into what really goes on inside of them. They don’t try to impress me and feel comfortable being completely honest. I think if this was a formal setting none of them would engage in it. They know about my website, my upcoming book and what I do, how much I’ve studied and they trust me which isn’t an easy place to get to with a Narcissist. To answer your question I’ll tell you one of these men I have know since I was 12 – he hasn’t changed one tiny bit. He has 4 children with 3 different women and only sees one of them because he wants the mother back. He has been in and out of relationships his whole life and I believe will continue to do just that for the rest of his life. I interact with them to a) help them and b) to give me insight into what it’s like to be inside their heads for awhile so that I can write about it. Some of the things out of their mouths are pretty shocking and I’ll share that next week.
Every…single…word…I identify with. I get it. I’ve written about this in my own journey, created metaphors for this kind of cage, this glass display that allows me to be very close, and out of touch at the same time. It’s in my music, and you just made a connection with me because of what you wrote. Just recently I was telling one of my best friends, who, ironically, I have never met, that I’ve been in a figurative type of “hiding” in my youth…because I was wounded and didn’t trust. The people who were supposed to be there and protect me weren’t and didn’t. So I saw the underbelly of life, and internalized that for some time, thinking I was somehow set apart from things like having love and good relationships. We are phone friends, she and I, and have been for 8 years. We tell each other things we wouldn’t normally share. There’s a safety in the dynamic. Sometimes I have wondered if I am a narcissist – because of my solitude, even in a crowd. I have a line in one of my songs that says “I stand alone in a crowd of faces, I’ve run with the wolves, howled at tasted, bitter tears…been down and wasted…all those years, and I can’t replace it.” I’m rambling, sorry. I know that I am NOT a narcissist, though, because of how empathetic I am. It’s just that I’ve had a lot of practice at taking care of myself from a very early age, with no emotional or financial support back then. All of my struggles have become assets, however, and I am pleased to say that I woke up a couple months ago and it all just stopped; The memory, the feelings associated with the memory of my ex narc, any residual longing I might have had to reconcile, gone!!! This article is spot on!!! Thank you so much, again, for your generosity in sharing this stuff. Honestly, though, I have spent way more time OUT of relationships than IN them, and it’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve always gone for the “uncatchable” ones when I DID decide to be vulnerable, the narcissists. I’m getting my house in order though. I’ve confronted my codependency, and I’m figuring things out. The BEST relationship I have currently is the one with myself, with my writing and my guitar!!!!
Thanks, Savannah!! <3
Nice again. My ex-husband did get counseling for about a year, and he is able to a little bit take the feelings of others into account, something he never did in the past. It has made it better for our daughter and better for me, but that is the dangerous thing: he has changed but only a little bit and in my gut I know that he will gradually revert to his former behavior if I step closer to him. At any rate, I don’t want to risk it. He hurt me too much. “Oh, but I have changed,” he says, and it a tiny way it is true, but that does not mean that I could have a good relationship with him.
Spot on. Spot on.
I’m confused… you counseled a narcissist?
So, are you trying to help him “learn” how to be empathetic, not lie or cheat or manipulate, have true feelings like compassion, love, and be caring towards others in way that respects the other as an individual, not his “property”. Please enlighten me as everything I’ve learned about the pathology of the narcissist is they have dark hearts and will eventually die this way. They are who they are and won’t ever change. I am very curious as to what you feel his magical breakthrough will be.
Lorie I counsel several narcissists and I must tell you they have been an incredible fountain of information for me. This morning I had an interaction with the one I refer to in this blog that would blow your mind. It was so enlightening I should discuss it in next weeks blog. What I try to do with them is to make them aware of their behavior. I try to show them healthier ways to cope and behave and I try to get them in the habit of taking other people’s feelings into account. I’ve noticed that all of them have trouble controlling their thoughts and impulses and we work on learning how to do that more effectively. I force them to look inward and to come up with answers as to why they do what they do which is not always easy for them. In some cases they suffer other things too like depression and anxiety and sometimes I will encourage them to take medication which will help stabilize their moods. Their NPD won’t ever go away but by being aware they can make small changes to their behaviors which will help them function better in society.
This is something I am interested in as well. After I discovered the mountain of lies by my ‘friendship’ N, sort of as a means of trying to sweet talk me back, he told me he was seeing a therapist but also ‘warned’ me that many are con artists. (Ha, coming from him. Makes me wonder if he was just devaluing those who might have noticed these traits in him.) I do know that my friendship N denies that he is an N, so I do wonder if any therapist could even see this or can they be such smooth talkers that they can even fool you as the therapist?
I can see an N going to therapy not nec. b/c they think they’re ‘wrong’ (since they never want to admit it) but moreso due to their own feelings of emptiness and depression and wanting to found some way to fix that void in them. Do these N’s you counsel know they are N’s or do you sometimes know and not tell them? Maybe you’ll answer this in next week’s post, but these are just some things I’ve wondered myself.
Really enjoyed this!! Helpful and loaded with good information to help us avoid so many of the dating pitfalls. Thanks!
Wow! You speak the truth, sister. What a blessing to actually understand oneself. Thanks for the wisdom.
This article came at the right time for me. Thank you.
Good to read what is going on in the mind of someone who first the push-pull from a therapist treating them. These behaviors are confusing and nerve racking for those on the receiving end.
You hit it on the head again, Savannah.
I have just started treatment for PTSD, several months after the gruesome end of a rebound relationship — he was dishonest about how long it had been since his marriage ended. Mere weeks. He was a mess but because of it being long distance, I didn’t see to what degree.
I stepped out of it when he confessed he’d had a night with his ex and eventually confessed it to me.
He’d been leaning on me to talk him through the stress of his life until that point, making huge promises.
This is the second time my co-dependency has been picked up by a toxic person, and the second time I’ve been preyed on since the end of my abusive marriage almost four years ago.
This last time has been incredibly hard because he is known for being a “good guy.” The other two are narcissists, one diagnosed as such.
I’m in the process of addressing this pattern and trying to forgive myself and him. I thought I was getting through my earlier problems in a healthy way until this relapse, this time with this man.
I’m working on my self-esteem, but after my breakdown this spring it has been coming in baby steps. I’m on edge and seething still.
The one good thing was that I was able to express many of my feelings clearing the last time I spoke to him.
Anyway, thank you. You’re one of my touchstones.
LOL, when my ex-husband did go to therapy for about a year (in an attempt to get me back), he bragged about how UNIQUE his therapist must think he is. OMG, it was so classical narcissistic from where I stood. His therapist made an analogy that he was a sea lamprey trying to get his nourishment from me, a lake trout. That was as close as he got to understanding. He told me, “I don’t want to be a sea lamprey.” No, he doesn’t want to be, but he knows no other way and has been able to learn no other way. He needs the adoration of others. He is also so much like you described, the center of attention, the light of the couple, and there was me, the silent partner. In his shadows. He liked kids, and my daughter’s classmates thought he was fantastic. Of course, he thrived on that. When my daughter became a teenager and, like a typical teenager, no longer worshiped her dad, he cut her off. Since I cut him off and threw him out of the house, his relationship with her has gotten better, and I am thankful for that for her, but she, also, is ever wary.