Lessons Learned, Life Back.
I am not a psychologist. Everything I’m writing here is from my own personal experience with a narcissist. Below I discuss some lessons I have taken from a traumatic period of my life, but by no means am I claiming that I am a victim. I have a great life with lovely friends, and a wonderful family.
I got dumped a little while back and it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Yes, it was awful for some time. Looking back now, the person I was with for two years was incredibly toxic. My only regret now is not getting out when I started to realize that she was emotionally immature, a serial liar, a narcissist, and (possibly) a sociopath. My advice to anyone reading this who may be with a partner who has a history of lying to you is get out now. This person will slowly but surely sap you of all your energy and bring out the worst in you.
It’s wild to think that I stayed in that relationship for so long. I wanted to break up several times. But I kept thinking I could somehow fix things. Looking back, that was never going to happen. When someone has already decided that looking good is more important than honest communication with a partner, there isn’t anything to fix. It’s beyond you. Not your job.
Every few weeks she would say something that completely contradicted something she’d said before. Without going into details, the lies were almost all to do with her past. They can all be categorized as lies that have the purpose of making herself look good.
This is fundamentally narcissistic behavior, and I believe this is a form of emotional abuse. It seriously degrades your trust in someone, and at the same time it makes you question your own sense of reality.
I cannot understate the psychological toll this takes. When your loved one lies to you over and over, it puts your understanding of them in a permanent state of flux. You’re constantly having to catch up to reality.
For people who haven’t experienced this firsthand, the closest thing I can relate it to is dealing with a consistently passive-aggressive person. Both are behaviors that avoid direct and honest conversation, they both come from a place of insecurity, and both mess with your head, leaving you wondering where you stand.
Serial lying is, of course, far more damaging than passive aggression typically is, because you can’t spot it in the moment. The lie already happened without you realizing it, time goes by, and at some point you get a glimmer doubt that something didn’t add up.
As soon as you start to feel like everything is great, the rug is pulled out from under you again. Because everything else is great most of the time, it almost seems normal. It is not normal. Don’t stay like I did – get out now.
I think a lot of people who experience this kind of emotional abuse stay in the relationship for too long. I know I did. The problem with staying is that there is no good end. The lies will keep coming – every couple of weeks or months there will be a new one. You will not eventually just get through it. Communication is destroyed because this is someone who has shown you that they are perfectly comfortable skipping honest communication altogether.
You will become the worst version of yourself and the relationship will become even more and more toxic. You’ll sacrifice your health and hobbies, your work will suffer, because something that you can’t quite put your finger on isn’t right. And it’s eating you up inside.
And they aren’t just lying to you. They are lying to their family and friends (if they have any — these folks tend not to have real close friends). These are typically lies by omission. They leave out their role in all of it so that they don’t appear to be toxic. The narcissist will always want to look good, even if it means lying to those who should be closest to them.
The best thing to do is to just get out. Hop off the bus, set yourself free.
Their lying is not your fault.
It’s a behavior they learned long before the two of you started a relationship. When lying is habitual, as it was for my ex, it probably started in the family. They were taught that it is okay to lie to their friends if it means they can avoid conflict. The point here is, if they haven’t matured beyond that by the time you come along, they aren’t going to while you’re around. Get out. Now. When I called my ex out on a lie, she usually deflected blame onto me. The crazy thing is, I believed it. She made me believe I wasn’t the kind of person she could be totally honest with. I made her lie. Then why was she even with me? But it wasn’t my fault. And it’s not your fault either. For the narcissist, lies are the lifeblood. If it makes them look good, then it’s all good. If you call them on it, they deflect the blame back to you.
Because the narcissist’s primary concern in life is their own image, they will leave out their own role whenever they discuss the deteriorating relationship. They will lead their family to believe that the relationship was emotionally abusive — a convenient narrative that defers all blame and gives them victimhood. When it comes to the emotional abuse they are half right. The source of the emotional abuse, however, is the narcissist.
Don’t bother trying to figure them out.
The serial liar may intrigue you. You’ll want to figure them out. I remember feeling like there must be some big secret and all the lies were like layers of an onion protecting the deepest secret at the core. After months of this, I let this feeling get the best of me. I snooped and interrogated, which I’m ashamed of. Narcissists make everyone they get close to worse. When you let that happen, you become the asshole. Paradoxically, each time you catch them in a lie, you may feel closer to them, as if you’re getting closer to the center of the onion.
I know you don’t want to leave. You want there to be a period of time when there are no more lies. Then you’ll feel like your relationship is what it’s supposed be and this could be the person for you. You’ll finally feel safe in the relationship. And then you’ll feel like you were right to try to work things out for all this time. It’s not going to happen. You’re wasting your time with a narcissist when you could be building something great with a wonderful partner. Get out while things are still good. They aren’t going to get any better anytime soon.
You can’t win here.
The relationship is now over and you have accepted that you’ve wasted your time with someone who lies to you (and you know they lie about you). You likely will want to clear your name in some way, or take them down a notch by letting others know how “fake” they are. You want to win, somehow. The only way to win is not to play. If it makes you feel better, remind yourself that the narcissist will probably keep on living life as a narcissist. They will continue to have surface-level relationships. They will continue to be shallow. If anything, I encourage you to be grateful for your new lease on life, and to have sympathy for the people they have hurt (and the ones they are going to hurt).
Before this relationship, whenever I heard the word narcissist I always pictured someone who is clearly self-obsessed. I’ve since learned that the true narcissist doesn’t typically signal it in that way. Instead, it is often someone who is deeply insecure and lacking in confidence.
They deal with this by collecting people that have the traits that they don’t see in themselves. By getting attention from someone the narcissist perceives to be fun, witty, or attractive, they feel validated. This person is the narcissist’s mirror.
On their own, without a mirror, they don’t feel like they have much going on. They don’t have a well of their own happiness to draw from, so they take from someone else. Their relationships are transactional.
A lack of serious romantic relationships and a string of broken friendships (both true for my ex) is a better signal of narcissism than outward displays of self-obsession.
To some extent we all build our lives around an image of ourselves, and work to achieve a positive self image. But narcissists put maintenance of their own image above all else, including honesty with their partner. Looking good is better than being good. My ex’s motto might’ve been: to seem, rather than to be.
When it comes to people, listen to your gut, and be courageous about following it. Their toxicity is not your fault. And it’s not your fault for staying as long as you have. You are not a poor judge of character. In my case, I noticed a couple of red flags during the first few months, but I didn’t notice any pattern of lying until later. Everything was great. Why ruin it by second guessing things?
While the relationship itself lasted two years, we still maintained contact and hung out regularly for six months afterwards. This is because I was still her mirror, which the narcissist needs in order to feel complete. As soon as she found a new mirror, the relationship (what was left of it) was truly over.
And that is when I began the process of taking my life back. My only regret is not doing it sooner.