There it is…the million dollar question: If things are so bad, Why don’t you just LEAVE him?!
And it seems like such a reasonable question, doesn’t it? If things are so bad, why not just leave? I wish I had a reasonably easy answer for you, but I don’t.
The reasons I stay are as varied as the stars, and half of them (or more) will most likely seem as stupid to you, as the fact that I haven’t already left my dear husband. Yes, I realize fully that you think I’m an idiot for staying…or for continuously going back. I’m not completely ignorant, you know.
So why do it, right? Well, I’ll do my best to try to explain it. Though I can’t imagine what good it might do. It seems we’ve become a society that insists on shaming the victims of brutality- even as we reach out a hand to help. We lost our patience for having compassion, or even just staying neutral instead of making the situation harder.
And there you have the very first, and most basic, reason why I stay. I stay because, given the choice, I’d rather not be shamed any more than necessary. Shame and I are already close friends. I’m not really interested in being BFF’s, if I have a say in the matter. And, yes, I realize what a cop-out, stereotypical “victim statement” that is… it just doesn’t matter much, all things considered.
The fact of the matter is, if I chose to ‘just leave’, I’d deal with more garbage from the people who, for all intents and purposes, should be the ones supporting me. I just don’t have the the strength to face that.
We’ve heard this before. How are you going to support yourself and the kids without him? How can you just tear your family apart like that? Your kids need their father. Are you really going to deprive your children of a father? You’re being too sensitive. You’re so dramatic. Here we go again…Why should we go through all this trouble, when you’re just going to go running back to him tomorrow anyway? You’re the one who took him back, remember? You made your bed…
And, to be perfectly fair, and honest, these people…they have every right in the world to say/think/feel these things. We HAVE been through this before. Several times. And I DID go running back. But does that mean that I should be doomed forever? Yes, I made bad choices…but they were the best, bad choices I could make, under the circumstances. I know you don’t really get that… but, believe me when I say, I’ve really, truly, in my heart and soul, done the very best I could, or knew how to do. And for those who have never been in my shoes…I challenge you to do any better. Then again, you probably wouldn’t have got yourself into this mess in the first place.
I also stay because, he’s my husband and I love him. I swore before God that, for better or worse, in sickness or in health, that I would stay by his side, and love him. Yeah, but surely that didn’t mean….what? That vow didn’t mean I should stay if my husband was ACTUALLY sick with some horrible personality disorder? Or things were REALLY worse, rather than better? I see. Well, someone forgot to give me the memo on that one.
I stay because I have hope that he will heal. That he’ll get better. I know they say that narcissism is incurable, but what if they’re wrong? What if there is a way to release the demons from inside my husband and set him free, but I just decide to walk away instead? How could I live with knowing that? How could I look myself in the mirror, knowing I abandoned the man I love to Hell? What if I haven’t exhausted every option? What if I can carry him out? How am I supposed to know when I’ve tried everything? How are you supposed to know that NOW is the right time to give up on someone? To abandon them as a lost cause? What if, when the man you love was in the midst of that vulnerable moment, you swore- you gave your absolute word- that you would NEVER give up on them? What if you looked them in the eye and SWORE that you’d never abandon them? That you’d NEVER just leave them in that Hell? Tears start to sting my eyes, just from thinking about it…. I don’t know…
You’re still thinking I’m an idiot…. and I get it. Truth be told, I’m kinda with you on that point, at the moment. But I’m not done yet. There’s more.
I stay because, if you’ve never loved (or been love-bombed by) a narcissist, you have NO CLUE as to how magnificent it feels to be the center of someone’s universe. To be the thing that made them ‘good’…to be their one hope for salvation. You have no idea how the sun can rise and set in the way he looks at you- like you are the most precious being…like he is in awe of your goodness. And the way he makes you feel as though he feels he isn’t worthy of your devotion…oh- that breaks your heart open into a million pieces, and somehow, you love him even MORE for that vulnerability. However fake it may be…. because, you see, you don’t know it’s fake at the time. He makes you believe, with every fiber of your being, that it is real. More real than that little voice, in the back of your mind, that insists it smells smoke….
You also have no idea what it’s like, to look at a man- broken, a bottomless void- after he’s had a brush with his True Self. You don’t understand the look of fear, panic, and pain in a man’s eyes when he sees inside his own soul…and finds it not just lacking, but empty. You don’t know what it feels like to have him cling to you- your hand pressed to his heart- as if to try and convince him that he does, indeed, have one. You don’t know what it’s like, to watch the man you love try desperately to fight the grip of darkness, as it tightens its grasp on him. You don’t know the ache in your heart- the acute pain in your very soul that comes when you ask him what he’s feeling, and he answers “Like the happiness just isn’t for me.” You don’t know how your heart would break for him.
You just don’t know….
These moments, they leave a mark on you. It does something to you. It stays with you through the bad times. It’s these moments I remember, when he’s giving me the Silent Treatment, or when he walks away, as I lay broken and crying on the bathroom floor, after a particularly harsh verbal beating. It’s those moments that come to me- like a warm embrace, like comfort- when he is cruel. I think, He doesn’t mean to do this. He doesn’t want this. I know it. I’ve seen it. This is his fear.
Yes, I know that its a stupid rationalization. But if you had been there for the other moments…it wouldn’t seem so black & white to you. I can promise you that.
Still not getting it? Well, maybe I can give you some reasons that you’re more apt to understand. Even without living through all the rest.
I stay because I’ve reached out for help. I’ve tried to talk to his family, and friends, and have had people who never had a problem with me before (and dare I say, perhaps, even liked me?) turn their backs. I’ve listened to my husband tell me how they secretly believe me to be a junkie- or worse- because I’ve lost so much weight. Not that the abuse would explain that… I’ve listened to these people tell me that I’m f*cked in the head. And maybe they’re right….but still….
I stay because I have heard his mother vehemently declare how she knows for sure, that my husband loves me. FOR. SURE. How can I tell her that, in fact, he NEVER loved me? That he doesn’t have that capacity, without coming right out and saying that her son is, what most people would label, an unfeeling monster? Think she’ll just believe me? Do you honestly think that any of these people my husband has charmed so thoroughly, will just put aside everything their heart tells them is true about him, and believe the wife that he “almost had to Baker Act” (or so he told them), when she says he is really pretending? That he is really an abusive narcissist? Think they will believe that his goodness is all just an act? Would you?
I stay because I’m too ashamed to tell my family, or friends (what friends I’ve got left, anyway) that I’m leaving him…again. They know, as well as I do, that most likely, I won’t really do it. And they’re tired of hearing me blabber on and on about my problems, as though I was the only person in the world whose life mattered. (Maybe I’m a bit of a narcissist, after all?)
I stay, because the shame of admitting that;
(1) I couldn’t make it work
(2) I was wrong about his ‘sincere’ desire to change
(3) I couldn’t ‘fix’ my marriage
(4) I wasn’t good enough/strong enough/responsible enough/smart enough/whatever enough to get through to him
(5) He really doesn’t- and never really did- love me, at all… He just tricked me into believing he did
… it’s just too much.
I stay because my husband is a narcissist. I stay because I’ve seen the utter contempt, and indifference, in his eyes when he devalues me, and I know that he believes every, last, horrible word he says. I’ve felt the coldness in his voice, when I beg him, sobbing, for love- for simple, human kindness- and he explains why I make that so hard for him to do.
Do you know what it feels like to beg another human being for love, and have them list all the reasons why you simply aren’t worthy of that effort? Can you even imagine such a thing?
I didn’t think so.
And I’m sure you’re wondering why that counts as a reason to stay. So, I ask you- Did you miss the part where I said ‘indifference’? Not hate. Not dislike. Not anger.
You feel indifference towards your refrigerator. Or maybe a piece of trash, lying on the ground. Not your wife. Not a human being.
I stay because I’ve tried to leave before. I’ve read the nasty, emails and texts, filled with lies about me- particularly my mental stability- that my own husband wrote, to convince the world of my faultiness, and his goodness. I’ve watched him try to hold back a smile- or maybe outright laughter- as I screamed and sobbed, releasing the pain and anguish in my very core, from his abuse. Apparently, that was amusing to him, in some way. I’ve watched in utter horror, and disbelief, as he pulled out a tape recorder, and started telling it how he was afraid for his safety, because I had just hit him in the face, when I threw his phone charger at the car’s passenger-side window. I’ve seen the dead-serious threat in his eyes, as he explained to me how, if I said one more word, he would take my children and leave…
I believed him.
Do you blame me?
I’ve read the text messages, where his friends call me a “crazy succubus”, and he laughs with them, then laments having to make the decision as to whether he ought to Baker Act me, or not. The funny (not so funny, at all) thing is…I don’t ever recall having a psychotic break…at least, not yet anyway.
I’ve watched him lie, to my face- looking me straight in the eyes- as he tried to convince me that what I know to be true is actually false. I’ve defended myself against his insistence that he never once acknowledged his narcissism….and that it is really me, who is the narcissist. It is I, who is the cruel one.
I’ve gone days without the slightest acknowledgement that I exist, from him. I’ve been accused of cruel and unusual punishment, for getting upset over being treated like I was disposable. I’ve felt the fear of losing his ‘protection’. I know what it feels like, to fear losing everything that matters to you.
I know the fear of losing my self.
I know shame and humiliation. I’ve sat in a car, outside his brother’s apartment, waiting for my husband to come out because he forgot to give me the key to my van. He doesn’t come out though. He instructs his brother to ignore my texts… as though I’m some psycho ex he must hide from. And this was just minutes after he said he loved me.
Let that sink in…. that is how he treats me…when he LOVES me.
Can you imagine what treatment I can look forward to, on the day he decides he no longer ‘loves’ me?
Can you honestly say you’d be so cavalier? That you could ‘just leave’ so easily?
Maybe you can….but me….I feel the courage build up inside me, and then I hear this voice in my head. This low and venomous voice that whispers….
If you say one…more…word….I’ll take the kids….and leave.