I remember few years ago, sitting at Starbucks, scrolling through articles on Flipboard app, reading some disturbing write-ups giving a personal accounts of dealings with a Narcissist. I recall that afternoon, I was off work, enjoying a quiet moment, waiting for my favourite cup of java, sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg on top.I was entertaining myself with the reads. I could not identify with the victims of Narcissistic abuse. I had not experienced one in my life at that time.
Was the writer sharing personal story to simply amuse others? Maybe, the act of writing was a kind of catharsis, releasing pain in the story, an attempt to alert others? Or, was this act of sharing a symbol of hope in reaching out to those who had experienced it, to form understanding and common ground.
I don’t remember when I heard this phrase – if you never tasted a banana, no one could describe its taste to you. This definitely rang the truth for me. What are you going to say to the person? It has a shape of zucchini, but the colour of spaghetti squash. You may successfully describe the image of the fruit, but you will never be able to describe accurately the flavour banana produces on your tongue; only your taste buds can inform you of that.
Few years later, I was peeling that banana. At the time I didn’t recognize the taste of it immediately, but I intuitively felt I was dealing with something risky, unsafe, and it could lead me to my own peril. My higher self alerted me, I was treading hazardous territory. There were danger signs posted all over the area, spelled – slippery slope, high voltage, acute toxicity ahead.
I didn’t ignore the signs, but I could not tell where those hunches were coming from, because I was only slowly entering into this relationship. We had no history together, no story to tell. Yet, I already wanted to end it before it began.
My other part of me, wanted to give this a chance. “Don’t be such chicken, Marianna”, “cheer up”, “don’t be so judgemental” – that was Pollyanna’s inner voice speaking through me. Which voice should I listen to? I chose to proceed with caution. This wasn’t gratifying experience, because I felt, I was holding back, not trusting the person. There were brief moments, that I forgot to be cautious and I chose to believe that what I had was real, but betrayal was my one and only loyal companion that never disappointed me. Lack of trust was weaved into the fabric of this connection from the very beginning. I resigned to a thought that at my age, good men are either already taken or dead. At the end, I can at least turn my less romantic misadventures into writing, for amusement and warning to others.
We met through online dating. I was on vacation and at the beach when I heard a chime on my phone, alerting me to a message. Timothy was of European descent, same as me, and very skilled writer. He was also an artist, musician and PhD in English. Sure, I thought, we could meet and become friends, at least. I didn’t sense any attraction at first, but when I saw him walking towards me few days later, I thought – oh no, I don’t want to be friends. He was tall with nice built, carried himself well, with mid length blondish hair falling to his arms. He had an air of someone unconventional. I was instantly attracted to his elegance and eccentric style.
Our relationship progressed fairly quickly. We would spend a lot of time on the beach, driving through beautiful landscapes, going to picnics, travelling locally and to the US. We seem to be on the move a lot, despite me having some mobility issues, as I was expecting hip surgery in few months. In meanwhile, I got myself a cane, and we walked together as far as I could go.
Everything seemed perfect at the beginning. Timothy always showing up, initiating getaways, contributing energy and time to a relationship. High quality food was important, fresh tuna steaks from Granville Island market, blueberry wine handpicked from local winery in Mapleridge, chocolate truffles out of this world and black-purple grapes. We were driving in the evening when Timothy suddenly exclaimed: ‘let’s make pancakes’! ‘Let’s go to Okanagan Valley’,let’s go to California.’
Timothy loved telling me stories of women from his past. He didn’t spare me any details. There was an older married woman he met in Paris while attending literary festival and book fair in France. In his view, she was a progressive woman who knew what she wanted by demanding having an open relationship. There was his ex-wife Anette, whom I have met on one occasion. She was my favourite of all of his women. If circumstances were different, we would have become best friends. There was his last lady with the name of Nana. He was still heartbroken because of her. He liked telling me countless stories of Nana, how unfair she was to him, keeping him at the distance. She would invite him for tea, but he would end up helplessly licking her like a cat, only to be discarded later. There was one summer season when he got very lucky and met three beautiful, young ladies, and they spent summer hanging out by the beach wearing tiny bikinis.
In many of his stories, I picked up that he wasn’t able to form anything long and lasting, and all these relationships had heavily dependent on sex. In his mind, food and sex belonged to the same category. To have appetite for life was measured through physical senses.
Since we were spending a lot of time together, I often looked into his eyes. I have seen the darkness behind them, the lack of joy, no warmth in them, and no laughter. There was certain void behind those eyes, one could tell the soul was missing.It was giving me chills.I figured all those endless pursuits to conquer as many women as possible, was a vain attempt to soothe the pain that would not leave him.
He was self-medicating himself with smoking marijuana, and lamented to me, he was concerned he was reliant on the substance just to function every day. I recall one weekend we went to see a film “Loving Vincent”. Timothy showed up all doped up and was snoozing through entire time of afternoon matinee, and then telling me about the main character in the film being Theo, Vincent’s brother. However, the story focused on the investigating the events, long after both brothers died. In reality, the main character, detective, interviews people who were in contact in the last days of Van Gogh’s life in order to rule out suicide.
I noticed lack of emotions in any of his contacts, including ours.I brought up the subject, but it would make him very angry, that I expected an emotion, something he couldn’t deliver. He would tell me bluntly not to expect that, just to enjoy pleasures, similarly to what you get when you enjoy banana split ice cream, with whipped cream and nuts on a top. It’s how Timothy viewed relationships. While the desert seemed satisfying me once in a while, I knew these were empty calories, one cannot build solid foundation on just loads of sugar alone.
One of the things I remember quite well were silence treatments, when he would simply stop talking to me. There were many examples, but one of them stood out. We had a dinner in my place. It was labour weekend, and we were planning a road trip to Seattle next day. I was so excited. This was pre COVID-19 times, we were going to visit Seattle Art Museum and see Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors’ exhibition.
We enjoyed conversation at dinner table, and after I cleaned up the dishes, I was going to make some tea and continue our evening. Timothy had a different idea, and attempted to take me sexually at the dining table right after dinner, wanted me to climb furniture and go wild. I jokingly said to him to wait a little, as I was making us some tea. The moment he crossed that space between dining room to my living room, he changed. It was like a switch that went from hot to cold, and there was no way of getting him out of his state of despair into a happy zone again. He just sat on my couch sulking, and withdrawn, would not make any conversations that evening. I turned the movie on, because we were going to watch it that day together, but he got up and moved to my bedroom and remained there for the rest of the evening silent and alone.
It seems like emotional intimacy was missing in his relationships, love was impossible, instead he invested himself in sexual pursuits, substitution for love. He was seeking salvation through it. Constant stimulation, and never enough. He was like one of those people who had tobacco addiction, while having a cigarette, they would already be craving another one. It’s how he treated sex. I have also never met a man who would stimulate himself so many times on his own throughout the night. I could tell he wasn’t getting anything out of this, but he would not stop either.
In the morning on the way to work, I would tell him, he needs to stop this. It was lonely experience, because he wasn’t seeking connection with me, but rather treated me like a doll, looking for body parts, like I wasn’t even there. I could tell I was just an object to him, anyone with genitals would do.
Gaslighting is another tactic used by a Narcissist, trying to convince you that there is nothing wrong in their parallel universe. It’s ok to bully, to hurt others, to exploit and to indulge endlessly, to use others for their own personal gains. It was all right, because he had a sense of entitlement, he needed to manipulate others in order to maintain the lifestyle he was seeking.
What was really notable to me, was his blunt way of telling me something, knowing that it will hurt me, but he would not have any regard for my feelings.He could ejaculate in one moment, just to tell me in the next, that he wanted to pursue some old woman friend, he recently run into, in Spanish Banks.The reality was that he wasn’t able to satisfy any woman, there was trouble in paradise and he knew he was absolutely sexually blocked, despite of this mindless stimulation.His attempts of kissing me were devoid of any connection, he was licking my neck like a cat giving me a bath or licking his wound. Unable to maintain an erection once he entered woman’s body, but he was reaching out to me for all these things in order to overcome them. I was his practicing doll.
One day, I remember I started to finally connect all the dots, and started putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and understood who I was dealing with. I decided to free myself from this spiderweb he was building, to manipulate my way of thinking in order to keep the lifestyle he wanted for himself. I am happy I have found that courage and decided to end this fakery after six months, and not after six years or decades later.
***Disclaimer: the names of people were changed to protect their privacy***