For years, the minute my feet hit the floor in the morning, I thought, “How can I survive today? What can I do to make Shane (a narcissist) happy?” That marriage thankfully ended, and now I am a single mom of a 15-year-old man-child. I still do my best to manage my propensity to put everyone else first, including the dogs. Why in the world do I do this?
Well, the answer is simple yet complicated. Because as empaths (yes, I am an empath), we tend to put everyone else first. We have a rare ability to feel others’ feelings and the unfortunate need to fix what’s wrong. Trouble happens, however, when we need to take care of ourselves so we can be strong for others. For example, flight attendants advise if an aircraft loses pressure, put your mask on first then place one on your child. That way you don’t pass out before helping your precious one next to you.
I am a work in progress here, and I must say, it feels good to put myself first more. It used to take all my energy to get my son out the door for school each morning. Now, Carson is making his breakfast and folding his laundry, leaving me time to read my devotional and start my day off in peace.
My life didn’t always look like this. I was raised by a narcissistic mother then married a narcissist even more manipulative and sinister. I was attracted to narcissists because earning their conditional love was my goal and my default. My childhood was spent trying to meet Mom’s impossible standards so she would be happy. During my adulthood, I walked on eggshells and felt “stressed out” for 16 years, trying to make a narcissistic partner content. Nothing worked, of course. It was exhausting.
For example, my days began early when I was married to Shane. I would get up at 5 AM to go to the gym. It seemed like the only thing that would help me get through that stressful marriage unless I chose to turn to alcohol and drugs. Thank goodness I knew myself better than that, after seeing friends go down that rabbit hole.
Shane didn’t like that I worked out (I needed to be available for morning sex), but he did like the results. Shane was all about how everything looked like most narcissists are. Fortunately, Shane snored as loud as a freight train’s whistle, so I would use that as an excuse to sleep on the sofa, where freedom awaited me for my early alarm.
After burning off the stress of my life, I would shower then wake my son up. I would feed and dress that precious toddler then drive him to preschool.
Meanwhile, Shane would get up, still in his pajamas or underwear, and move straight into the office to email colleagues and talk to his buddies on the phone. My phone would typically ring before I left the driveway, then throughout the day, with Shane giving me instructions on what to pick up for dinner or just to see what I was doing.
Shane had a job, but he didn’t work very hard at it. He felt entitled to the big paycheck while doing the smallest amount of work. Some days I would come home after work, and he would still be in his pajamas or mowing the yard. I felt like both the husband and wife in this situation. I was expected to bring home a paycheck, yet do all the duties like childcare, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and more.
The fun started at the end of the day when I was exhausted from work. I never knew what I was walking into. Would it be happy with Shane taking off for an evening motorcycle ride, leaving Connor and me in peace? Or would I meet an angry Shane who would rant about something inconsequential? Either way, as an empath, I tried to placate.
It might be that Shane balanced the checkbook, and he saw that I spent $40 at the grocery store. He would ask to see the receipt and review what I bought. I used to love chocolate-covered peanuts, and one day Shane told me those weren’t in the budget at $3.99. Near the end of our marriage, I threw a bag of peanuts at him, and they scattered across the kitchen. (It was not my best moment.) All I wanted was chocolate, and Shane wanted to control my dietary choices, among everything else. I was livid.
Some days, I would ask him to pick up our son from preschool if I had a late appointment. The school closed at 6:30 PM. On those days, Connor was the last one to be picked up right before the school locked the doors. That child would look at me and ask, “Why didn’t you pick me up, Mommy? Daddy is always late.”
Some nights I would make dinner and Shane would complain or say something passive-aggressive like, “This is a new recipe. It’s okay, but I don’t want to have it often.” There was no “thank you”, no compliments, no washing dishes to help.
Once a week was “date night”, which should’ve been labeled “fight night.” I would spend an hour doing my hair, putting on makeup, and choosing an outfit I thought he would like. We would arrive at the restaurant, and within minutes Shane would pick a fight, mostly about our sex life or our finances. Each evening ended in a silent car ride home. I was left feeling like nothing I did measured up. Ever.
This worked for Shane because the perfect storm happens when the narcissist meets the empath. The narcissist thinks, “I’ve hit the jackpot!” Narcissists see that empaths are givers not takers. They recognize that empaths will put everything else first, including the narcissist, before doing something for themselves. And who wouldn’t want that?
As Dr. Carter and I prepare for next week’s webinar on “The Empath and the Narcissist”, we are building a plan for you to follow so that our fellow empaths can recognize when someone is a narcissist. If you are involved with one, we want to teach you how to protect your empathetic heart.
Something that resonates with me that we will cover relates to the physical symptoms empaths feel when involved with a narcissist. Empaths experience:
- Increased anxiety, heightened insecurity. Second-guessing oneself.
- Withdrawal from former friends, allies. Feeling depleted.
- Becoming prone toward non-productive arguments, feeling squashed virtually every time.
This is just a preview of what we will discuss next Tuesday, April 6th, at 1 PM CST. I hope you can join us for the live version or the recorded version that will be emailed to all who register. We want to help you lead a peaceful, productive life, where your needs are met, just like you meet those of the narcissist. You can sign up HERE