The 2-1/2 years since my divorce from a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have been a process of discovery. The longer I am removed from the situation, the more clearly I am able to see just how unhealthy it was for both myself and my children. While I was entrenched in the madness and the mind games I had become so numbed to the abuse that I viewed much of it as normal. "All couples fight," I thought. "It could be so much worse," I told myself over and over again. And since my ex was so masterful at manipulating reality and confounding my thought processes, I truly believed that much of what was happening to me was my own fault.
In order to protect my family from the scrutiny of outsiders, I became extremely adept at telling little lies. I had learned from the best, after all. I would sometimes lie to people who asked, "how's your marriage?" or "are you okay?", but mostly I learned to lie to myself. I learned to justify every 'off' behavior, to excuse every damaging word, to cover up every sign of physical and emotional abuse, until both the abuse and the lies became just another normal everyday part of our existence…until I hardly recognized them at all.
I recently devoured a book by Liane Moriarty titled Big Little Lies. It's a work of fiction about the interconnected lives of three mothers of kindergartners. Besides hilariously depicting elementary school politics, Moriarty gives a very true-to-life account of the lies we tell to protect our families and ourselves. One of the main characters, Celeste, finds herself, much like I did, justifying the abuse she endures. Without spoiling the book for you, Celeste grapples with whether the good in her marriage outweighs the bad: is it worth destroying the family – namely the lives of the children – to expose what truly goes on behind closed doors. If you have the time, I highly suggest reading it. Or you could do like I did and download the audiobook. But be forewarned: once you pick it up, it will be near impossible to put it back down.
Reading Celeste's story sparked my own personal revelation about how I still find myself – albeit subconsciously – protecting and justifying the behaviors of my ex-husband and throwing myself under the bus for allowing it to continue as long as it did. You see, I've been fearful that fully exposing their NPD father will create a horrific backlash on the lives of my children. While I was able to divorce him, they were not – he still exerts manipulative control over them, poisoning their minds in reprehensible ways. And they are still too young to understand what the truth of the matter is (hell, I'm 44 and I'm still struggling to understand which of the thoughts rattling around in my head are true and which are fabrications planted there by a pathological narcissist!) But one thing I know for certain is that it is my responsibility to protect them and I can't let my fears stand in the way of fighting for the physical and emotional well-being of my children.
Friends, if you are in a situation where you find yourself lying to cover up a potentially abusive relationship; if you find yourself justifying the bad behaviors because they aren't as frequent as the good; if you are suffering in silence, or worse, allowing your children to suffer because you are afraid that the suffering will get worse if you stand up against it – don't hesitate any longer! Reach out to someone: a therapist, a doctor, an attorney, or anyone who is removed from the situation. Tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what is happening in your home. While it's important to have the support of friends and family, often they unknowingly impress on you obligations and guilt, and through their well-meaning can talk you into staying in a toxic relationship. You need black and white counsel from someone without knowledge of the gray areas. Most importantly, stop making excuses. Stop accepting the unacceptable. Stop the circle of lies.
P.S. To read more about my story, see my other blog posts in the series entitled The Subtle Slave, or click here.