The Exhaustion of Living with a Narcissist (and craving peace afterwards)
You’re not a thrill seeker, are you? Not an adrenalin junkie? You don’t skydive, bungee jump or even enjoy zoomy rides at the State Fair, do you? Of course not! Who would after years, decades, a lifetime of the adrenalin-sodden life of living with a narcissist!?! So, wherever you are now, huddled under a quilt, curled up in an overstuffed chair or soaking in a hot bath, this article is for you.
After a few years of living narc-free, it can be beneficial to look back. Yes, it’s painful but nothing makes you “count your blessings” more than a spot of retrospection. Juxtaposing your new life against your old one.
When I look back after six years absence from living with narcissists, what strikes me most is how relaxed life is now (when I remember that I’m safe now and I remember to relax.) Back then, the stress started the moment you and I awoke (if not during the insomniac wakeful watches of the night) and lasted ’til we finally somehow managed to drift off to the Land of Nod in a fitful slumber.
Back then, there was no cutting corners. We knew if we skipped brushing our teeth before breakfast, for example, the narcissist would probably let us know about it in no uncertain terms. It’s simple things like that that are so nice now. Of course, we haven’t turned into slobs…but no one lectures or harangues us if we’re not the perfect housemate, the perfect citizen 100% of the time.
We had to be on our toes, watchful, defensive back then. We deliberated every action obsessively before we did it. We had our “dukes up” and our defense clearly outlined for every choice and every action, just in case we got criticized. Yeah, you know what I mean cause you did it too!! To this day, we agonize about something as simple as taking the wash off the clothesline now…or two hours hence. Simple stuff that doesn’t require any thought was nitpicked back then.
And it started the moment we awoke. At least in my household, there was no wandering around, scratching and yawning, waiting for the coffee to perk. No slow waking up period. No luxurious second cup of coffee over the newspaper. Heck no! As soon as I awoke, I had to be “on” and protecting myself, in every way. I bet you did too.
On weekdays, a written list awaited me on the breakfast table. Some suggestions. Some criticisms. Some ideas. Some plans for what I would be doing. Some praise. It might run one, two or even three pages. And I wasn’t the only one to receive a handwritten list each morning. The narcissists ran a tight-ship in Bristol fashion.
On weekends, the list was verbal criticisms. Every Saturday morning over breakfast. All the things we were doing wrong. All the things we were s’posed to change, improve. No living with panache, with abandon, with freedom. Heck no! Tighten up! Any sign that I was actually living in the house seemed to be a problem, including laundry. Invisibility seemed to be the only solution!
And that’s just the weekend stuff! Weekdays were their own nightmare. Did your narcissist demand that you text to let them know where you were at all times? Did they read your received emails and sent emails? Demand to have a list of all your usernames and passwords, including for financial institutions? Hold your snail mail up to the sunny window? Go through your browser history? Look through your dresser drawers? Reorganize your furniture while you were away? Ask “whatcha eating” every time they saw you with a plate? Oh yes! Mine too!
Did they ask you how much shampoo you were using? Towels? Hot water? Baby wipes? Toilet paper!?! Mine too! The monthly “yelling at” always followed.
Oh…and screw spontaneity! “What’s your strategy?” was always the question I encountered when I wanted to go somewhere, do something. “What’s your route? How will you get there? We want to see your strategy. Failure to plan is a plan to fail!” How often I wanted to say, “How about I just wing it!” But I never did. Instead, I simply stayed home, choosing Stockholm Syndrome rather than pander to their ego by allowing them to control me or give me “permission.”
After a lifetime of this, it’s no wonder you and I hate adrenalin, despise stress, loathe getting worked up. We don’t like fairs, Midways and rides nor scary movies, haunted houses and knocks on our front door. If adrenal fatigues is a real condition (there’s debate, but I sure feel it!), we definitely have it. Our lives have been one long adrenalin rush and now we crave peace like a man craving water in a desert.
Let that word sink in. Can you feel it?
The muscles under your eyes relax. Your mouth drops open slightly. Your perpetual “please don’t hate me” smile droops at the corners. You inhale and sigh deeply, your face blank, expressionless at last.
Feels good, doesn’t it? That’s just the start of peace.
When the narcissists finally allowed me to leave their lair six years ago, I craved peace just as desperately as you do. At first, I could not believe I was free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I still lived like I was “supposed” to live. Doing anything else felt like sinful hedonism. But slowly, I gave in to the pleasure of creamy coffee, hot baths and embracing my inner hedgehog (nocturnal.)
But that’s just on the outside. The real trick is to stop trudging the well-worn mental pathways. Overthinking every decision. Always having your defense ready. Over-planning. Over-working. Apologizing constantly. Clairvoyantly anticipating every possible criticism. Worrying that you’re not working hard enough, the house isn’t clean enough, the bedspread is lumpy, the toilet has rust stains, there’s dirty dishes in the sink, your bangs are too long, your heel callouses need pumicing…and you are going to “get it” sooner or later for being imperfect!
Relax. Well, try anyways.
No one has the right to criticize you for being a normal, imperfect, flawed human being in your own home.
It may take a few years, but give it time. In time, you’ll bounce back. Your body will heal and pretty soon, you’ll start taking an interest in life again. Appreciate the world around you. Pick up a hobby or two, maybe even a friend.
But “peace” will always be your mantra.
Thompson, L. (2017). The Exhaustion of Living with a Narcissist (and craving peace afterwards). Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2017/10/the-exhaustion-of-living-with-a-narcissist-and-craving-peace-afterwards/