“Ah, this takes me back,” Howard commented on The Big Bang Theory. “…I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love your new stuff, but once in a while it’s nice to hear the hits.” And it’s the “hits,” the “classics,” the basics of narcissism we’re revisiting this month in Narcissism Meets Normalcy.
What I didn’t expect was for Fate to put me through a hoover/discard scenario with a real-life narcissist over the weekend. It was amazing how fast it all happened! At warp speed, I was hoovered, love-bombed, manipulated, shamed, preached at and discarded, all within a space of about forty-eight hours. It was a wild ride, an amazing education in how narcissists behave.
Five years ago, I left a narcissistic cult-like family and three months later bonded with a narcissistic, cult-like friend. I know, I know! I’m not proud of my choices. But it was amazingly comfortable. The best friendship I’d ever had. Our connection was amazing. We grew very close, very fast and were inseparable for about three years.
Two months after becoming friends, I discovered narcissism and embarked on the white water rapids ride of recovery. While I embraced recovery, she remained mired in her über-controlling cultish family, empathized with my abusers, thumping a Bible I doubt she’s ever peeked inside. But it wasn’t until the past year or two that I began to notice how viciously she gossiped, how narcissistically she behaved towards her husband, disrespect so outrageous it got its own article: The Narcissistic Wife and her Henpecked Husband. Some readers found it too painful to read, triggering memories of their mothers, grandmothers or (ex)wives.
After years of her in-your-face insults about fat people, depressed people and white collar people (e.g. me), a year ago she said something so cruel I decided to drift away. No drama. No “line in the sand.” No angry discard. Just a pleasant, silent drift away. I told myself we ‘d simply grown apart.
In December (?), she got wind that was some akwardness between their family and ours, and two months later sent a smarmy letter apologizing for she-had-no-idea-what, dripping with “love,” but also listing all the services she wants from us, including the use of a machine she knows is broken! A letter that irritated me so much, it got its own article, Help! My Narcissist Wants Me Back!
I spent hours drafting letter after letter, but never sent them figuring no response was better than an angry response. Her letter said her husband would be calling us, so I figured it was prudent to wait for his side of the story. Gave me time to cool off. I didn’t even know if he knew he’d been volunteered to call us. In the meantime, I kinda forgot all about responding. Oops, my bad.
A month after her letter, she invited us over for dinner. And it all hit the fan.
Invite or Order?
When a narcissist issues an invitation, I’ve noticed that it’s not an option or a choice. It’s an Order. Like a Command Performance. You just don’t turn it down. But I did – without giving a reason. I left a message on her machine, thanking her cordially for the invite but saying “we’re gonna pass.”
Ah, reasons. They are fraught with landmines, aren’t they? If you give a real reason, the narcissist assumes you’re lying. If you lie, the narcissist assumes you’re lying (and you feel like shit about lying.) For me, it’s been a personal triumph over my damn codependence to never give reasons anymore. It may not be nicey-nice-nice, but being nicey-nice-nice is kinda my biggest problem and the reason I’ve tolerated narcissists for my entire thirty-eight years!
Within the next forty-eight hours of her invitation being declined, my friend had gone through the whole Hoover/Discard cycle at warp speed, fueled by her own imagination, freaked out by “rejection,” making the assumption she was our only friend and we we’re always home, at her beck-and-call. When the halo didn’t work, she whipped out her pitchfork.
The first message was the long awaited (and nearly forgotten) call from her husband, who is a heck of a nice, long-suffering guy. With her nearly in tears in the background, he apologized humbly for anything they’ve done to make us not want to be friends. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Yeah, it might’ve been a mistake to not respond to that letter, because he’s a great guy and Michael and I both want to be friends with him.
The second message came about five hours later from his wife, my narcissistic friend who’d whipped herself into an emotional lather. “I can’t handle this anymore,” she blubbered, sobbing uncontrollably. “I want to make it right, but I don’t know how. How am I supposed to make this right? I can’t get a hold of you. I love you guys even if you don’t love me back.”
It sounds sweet and tears usually melt me into a little puddle of codependent goo, but not this time. This time I cringed, embarrassed for her, wishing she’d get a little dignity, digging in my heels refusing to be manipulated! It reminded me of my family’s tear-streaked dramas. And the last line, “even if you don’t love me back” smacked of the same manipulation in her smarmy letter, plus ye olde guilt trip. That was some beautiful victim playing!
The Guilt Trip, The Shaming, The Discard
Her final message came twenty-four hours after her sobbing message. She’d obviously written it down and read it off like a script, with only a hint of tears in her voice:
“I’m still hoping and praying for a continuing friendship but it looks as though you aren’t willing, as you REFUSE to answer the phone. Or anything in any form or way. Of all the friends we’ve had over the years, I’d always taken you to be true friends.
True friends are forgiving, right?
Of them all, I’d least expected the silent treatment of you. But I guess I must have been way off my mark in everything as I firmly believe that if our friendship meant anything to you, you’d forgive us or at least talk to us.
Have you’s never done anybody wrong in your life? I guess if not, you ARE perfect and we’re FAR from it.”
With that load of shame, she basically said goodbye for good, kicking us to the curb.
It takes a lot to piss off my husband. You have to really work and work hard at it. He’s like the human equivalent of a Japanese serenity garden. But he was triggered and went all Knight in Shining Armor all over the place. (I didn’t mind!) Here’s the conclusion I posted for my Facebook friends, who have been great about giving their unique viewpoints on this situation (i.e. “she’s trying to frame you as the villain and herself as the victim”):
GOOD NEWS and Friendship Update: Michael, that most diplomatic of husbands, dragged himself and his O2 tank out to my friend’s husband’s business this afternoon for a chat. Their man-to-man talk went amazingly well. They both reaffirmed their friendship, mutual support and talked through the few points of pain, which were mostly mere misunderstandings. Michael also told [my friend’s] Husband the cruel thing his wife said to me a year ago (her husband agreed it should never have been said,) alluded to many other things she’s said that I’ve bore silently and explained how she’s behaving like my ex-family, which is triggering me and causing pain and anger….The men parted cordially, happy to still be friends, with a nice firm handshake….If anyone wants World Peace, Michael-the-Diplomatic is available to broker the deal! 😉
I’m kinda glad it happened in the way it did. Without playing into my (ex)friend’s victim-playing, I’m finally free to go No Contact without losing her husband’s friendship. Like all run-ins with narcissists, this experience has been a fantastic education. A Refresher Course in the basics of narcissistic hoovering/discard conducted at warp speed!