Does this sound familiar? You ask him a question or make a statement – nothing high-drama, we-need-to-talk-now demanding, or in any way unreasonable. Then suddenly it’s a huge deal, he’s telling you that you’re crazy and it’s your fault.
If you’re in a toxic relationship with a guy who has narcissistic or sociopathic tendencies, then a conversation or circumstance can shift suddenly. He reacts negatively or loses his temper, then accuses you of being crazy or unreasonable. Suddenly it’s you who is to blame.
You feel stunned. You try to explain to him what you meant or what you were thinking, but that just seems to add oil to the fire and then you’re accused of making a bigger deal of it than it needs to be.
When I was in a toxic relationship, his lashing out was a way for him to control me – and I can see now that he’d also lost control of himself along the way.
If I wanted discuss the relationship, something that had happened between the two of us or something I needed to clarify with him as my partner, then I think that by lashing out, he was also projecting: transferring his frustrations, insecurities, guilt, shame – or whatever emotions his rage was masking – onto me. If this sounds familiar, don’t think for a second that you can excuse the behavior or ‘rescue’ him from his own insecurities. If you do excuse any kind of emotional behavior, then you are living without boundaries. Without boundaries, you’re saying that his behavior is acceptable and you sacrifice what you want from a relationship, and from life.
He would swear and curse as he told me how I was at fault. After being stunned by his reaction, he’d tell me I was wrong, that I was “crazy” – and then I would be shunned – totally.
The silence would be complete. He would shut down and ignore me for hours, days, and at one point it ran into weeks. In each stun-and-shun episode, I would go into apology overdrive in an attempt to smooth things over. Which, I did – after I told him I loved him and I accepted responsibility.
He would never apologize. If he did, it would always be, “I’m sorry that YOU …” where the blame was automatically back onto me. I never once got an honest, heartfelt apology. I think that’s because he never thought he’d done anything wrong, and he certainly couldn’t understand anything from my perspective, because he never had any empathy toward me.
Each time this stun-and-shun behavior occurred, my boundaries retreated and became weaker. For years I didn’t realize that I was ideal prey for this type of emotionally abusive relationship: I could be controlled, wanted to make things right, and thought I needed to fix things.
It got to the point where I admitted I was fighting a losing battle, and also not being true to what I wanted from a relationship and for my own life.
Walking away was incredibly hard. Several times I tried to leave and returned, sometimes wondering perhaps if it had been me, or hoping – with a misplaced sense of optimism – that things would change. Then I realized I had to make a choice: me or him.
Now, looking back? I can’t describe the joy of being myself again and regaining a sense of peace that I had almost forgotten existed.
If you’re in a relationship that you know isn’t serving you then it may be time to move on. If you want help, resources and tools to help you stay away, then check out our MOVE ON program.
Whatever you do, it’s so important that you do put yourself first.
Yours in service, Tabitha