Lately there’s been an email exchange between me and my ex. There was an issue with our communication and the kids and he said he didn’t want to go back to court because it was expensive.
Now, this issue, on the surface, looks like I am the aggressor and he is the victim. It’s a manipulative dick move on his part, because it ignores his past behavior completely.
He relentlessly filed motion after motion after motion for years, spending untold tens of thousands of dollars with the intention of financially crippling me, of bullying me. It was so bad I’d get flooded when I saw his name on email and I’d go into fight, flight, or freeze. Seeing another notice of a motion filed sent me into an anxious mess for days. It took me a long time to learn how to eat, sleep, and detach while under siege.
To him, it was just a game. It was just what you do when you have unlimited money and a compulsion to control and a target to scapegoat and punish. Just another day at the races.
But to pretend that never happened, that you were never litigious, has a few names: deception, gaslighting, dishonesty, delusion. One of his responses took offense at my boundary of not meeting him for coffee until he’d made amends to me financially and emotionally. Of course, I know he can’t, and his response was an attempt to bait me into repeating myself ad nauseum. He can’t hear anything I say. When I told him I would not accept his contempt and condescension in another email, his response was:
“I also do not take kindly to your accusation of harassment because it is baseless and non-productive when it comes to fostering a spirit of cooperation.”
I remind myself this is from a man who could not foster a spirit of cooperation if he tried, and who wrote a list of demands/conditions for staying married to him. I remind myself this is the man who mocked me, raked me over the coals in court, abusively stonewalled me, and called me names. I remind myself this is the man who broke apart our family out of his entitlement and deep need for control. This is the man who chose his compulsions and hatred over the needs of our children. I remind myself that he is most likely using this issue as a smokescreen for something else, sift through his words looking for the projections so I know what to expect, and that any time he comes sniffing around for narcissistic supply, he is deliberately planning something hurtful.
So while he may not take kindly to my “accusation”, the facts remain and his inability to acknowledge fact is indeed disordered.
I read a lot about healing from narcissistic abuse and trauma. There seem to be two camps: those that believe a narcissist knows what they are doing, and those that believe he doesn’t. If he KNOWS what he is doing, and has a response that lacks a normal level of empathy, then we call him disordered. If he doesn’t know what he is doing because he lacks basic levels of self-awareness, we call him disordered. But it doesn’t matter. The nature of the disorder is that no matter what his motivation or intention or level of choice, he hurts people, he enjoys it, and he won’t ever change.
The snake doesn’t care if it is a snake or not. It seeks its prey and swallows it whole, a process that is long and certainly excruciating for the prey. It doesn’t stop to consider the feelings of the prey, it doesn’t have any regard for whether or not it is a snake, it simply goes about its life doing snake things. A narcissist is the same way. If the theories are right, that a narcissist experienced severe deprivation of human warmth from a primary caretaker or was brought up in a den of other narcissists, he is wired to be this way. He doesn’t care that he is a snake and you are not. He just seeks his prey and uses them for what he can extract from them.
I grew up catering to snakes. I grew up pretending not to see their true nature, and was taught very well how to do this. This was my teaching: how to live with snakes; how to pretend snakes are like humans, how to do mental and emotional alchemy and deftly distort reality to conform to that of the snake’s. I was taught not to acknowledge that the man in the room was a pedophile, or that the man in the room beat my mother. But living with snakes is a cruel thing to do to yourself and others. I didn’t know any better and now I do. Learning to accept the empathy and kindness of fellow human beings has been hard, while I’ve simultaneously been hungry for it and filled with grace.
My response to my ex’s last email was not to engage. He knows my complaints and was simply looking to engage me in a fight. Instead of falling for his bait, I appealed to his ego and wrote that we should show his email to the therapist because it has important information. He actually said, “ok.”
Boom. I’m learning a different way with snakes.