Fool Me Once

It’s Narcissist Friday!

You know the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  In general, it means that we should learn from our mistakes.  The first time someone deceives us, we have the excuse of trusting and being unaware of their true nature; but, the second time that same person deceives us, we should know better.  Then it is our own fault.

Well, that’s what the saying means and it’s what a lot of people think.  When you entered into a relationship with the narcissist, you really didn’t know what kind of person he/she was.  You overlooked the strange focus on self-image, and the exaggerations, and the boasting, and the quick anger, and the lies, and the unkind words, and the thoughtless disregard for your feelings, and the distance between the narcissist and his family and your friends and your family, and so much more.  You overlooked all these things because there was something different about the relationship, something that made you feel like everything would get better very soon.  If you could just find the right words to say, the right things to do, or something.

But, of course, you never found those things.  Nothing seemed to help except more draining of your energy.  So you finally understood that you had been deceived.  It wasn’t love and it wasn’t even compassion.  It was something else, something strange.  You were manipulated, used, and abused—all so the narcissist could get some kind of “supply.”  Your heart, your energy, provided the drug the narcissist apparently needed.

And you feel ashamed.  You ignored so many warnings.  You left so much behind.  You think you should have known better.

Listen carefully—stop it!  Stop beating yourself.  This is what narcissists do so often.  What I have described above is almost a normal narcissistic relationship.  They use people.  And they are very, very good at deception.  They know the right words and the right timing.  They can appear as saviors or victims or teachers with almost equal ease.  They tap into your core desires and needs.  You were simply deceived.

So stop putting yourself down.  There is no shame in being used by the narcissist.

But now what?  Do you leave?  After you have left, do you go back?  If your emotions are tied in knots or twisting uncontrollably, please understand that this is part of getting out of the relationship (and part of deciding to stay in).  And if you fall into the deception again, it will be for the same reasons.  Even the second time you are not to blame.  Yes, you should learn, but these narcissists are (as I said) very good at what they do.  Just when you think you are rid of them, they can come back to twist your heart some more.

The point of all this is that it might seem right to blame yourself and feel ashamed of your vulnerability, but it isn’t right.  Nor is it helpful.  The best thing you can do is admit the truth about the deceiver and your openness to his/her maneuverings.  Then live in that truth.  Find the way to health.  Get a good counselor.  Set up boundaries.  All the things we have talked about so often.  Be good to yourself.

People who live in shame live in bondage.  People who live in truth are free.


Filed under Narcissism

9 responses to “Fool Me Once

  1. Fellow Survivor

    Lets see. The first outright lie that I am aware of was 18 yrs ago. The ex would go on girls trips which I was fine with. Her best friend at the time had/has horrible judgement. The ex told me about a girls trip and I am like, have fun. But it wasn’t a girls trip all along. It was just the two of them, which she knew I would never approve of. After that I verified everything, which is pathetic on it face because that meant I did not trust her. (By the way, she had to “drop” that friend because her behavior was so bad it started to impact the reputation and image the ex was trying to project)

    Then there was the time 13 yrs ago she was out with the “girls”. We had an agreement, if she was to be home by 11 then she would call and ask if was OK to stay later. I never denied those request. This particular night she didn’t call, would not answer my calls, and didn’t come home until 3 AM. I of course was terrified that something bad had happened to her. But she was out with her new best friend that has the same bad judgement as the first best friend. She told me they were just out at a gay bar so I shouldn’t be upset. Yea, right. I was feeling much better now. The ex has a moral’s clause in her contract where she works and I had to threaten to tell her boss about this new best friend if she didn’t stop hanging with her.

    Now about 10 yrs ago she wanted to go to New York to shop,without me of course. I foolishly allowed this new friend to go with her. At first she just packed tennis shoes and light clothing, more room in the suit case to bring all the goodies back. Then she started packing more formal evening attire. I asked her if she was going to the Night Clubs and she said no. Then I found a list of all the coolest hottest clubs in NY. I Confronted her and she says we only went once. Yes but that’s not what you said the first time

    I finally told her she is not going to NY with that friend or anyone else except me. The first time we went we had a really good time. The second year she wanted to meet her sister there who goes to NY on legitimate business. So she plans the trip where she will stay 4 days and I will leave after 2 so she can spend 2 days with her sister. Sounds resonable to me, right. Well, I later discovered that when my flight was taking off leaving NY , friend number 2’s plane was also taking off heading to NY. She lied and lied about that until I showed her the proof. And then she said they were just having dinner with the friend gay friends. Oh, that makes me feel so much better.

    And that my friends was the straw that broke the camels back. I lost all respect for her. We still had great sex but really that was all that there was. I didn’t want to serve her or pamper her like I had in the past. I didn’t feel like jumping to her commands like I had in the past. I have this crazy servants heart and I enjoyed being of service to my ex. That’s what husbands do, they pamper their wives and cherish them. But all the lies. I just couldn’t take it anymore. As I withdrew, my “tool” value to her became less and less. As mentioned in previous post, my “toy” value became less and less. Then because of the economy and the decline in my income I only became an obstical to her obtaining higher social status that she so desparately craves. There were many more outright lies but these were the big ones. Thanks for listening.

  2. Joan G

    thanks for sharing

  3. Joan G

    Your “Fool Me Once” article really hit home for me. Now I understand how I keep getting sucked into the same circle of lies. Knowledge is power. Thanks for the article. Please continue!

  4. Donna Roberts Walker

    As I become more aware of the damage and abuse done to me and my family by my covert narcissist husband of 37 years my heart aches for all the men, women and children being victimized… The very essence of their lives being sucked out one chaotic move at a time, simply because the narcissist needs their lives to enjoy the fantasy world of limitless power, control and pleasure. So few people understand these ‘gifted-evil-doers-cloaked-in-false-innocence’.

    As I am just beginning to get my mind around what has happened to my life, dreams, aspirations, relationships and even my sense of self I face many questions to which I may never know the answer. Surprisingly, I find myself thanking God for exposing the adultery of my husband throughout our marriage. As a recovering sex addict (two years into recovery) husband has owned a slice of his illicit sex life. When I am able to push the pain and shame aside, I find this revelation of adultery helpful… Helps me to see more clearly how abused I have been and the heartlessness behind the abuse. Thank you for reminding me that the ignorance and shame do not define me… though, somehow I didn’t recognize the horrific abuse. My covert narcissist’s absolute belief in his innocence was his ace. I could never connect the dots to make sense of the chaos of my life. Now I can see that his false innocence was actually my actual innocence… He somehow took or robbed me of my character, faith, love, intelligence, hope, drive, world view, relationships… Used all to elevate himself… Sadistically perverting and twisting actual reality to fit his manufactured reality. He was simply robbing me and everyone in my life of ‘quality and essence’ because of his emptiness of value or self worth. Thankfully, most everyone who has passed through my life are not aware that he was taking from them… He left most of them thinking that I am the one with problems. (Hahaha… imagine insane laughter. I joke but, actuality his covert and successful attacks on my character remains acutely painful.) I’m working my way through Leslie Vernick’s, “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship”. Whohoo to learning what steps I can take to protect myself. I’m rediscovering myself; beginning to heal; grieving for what me and our children have lost; and hoping to one day be healthy of mind and spirit. I’m Setting boundaries and it is helping! Learning how to articulate what I’m up against is especially helpful. My faith in Christ became rock solid in 1995 and interestingly, the abuse escalated to a new level of destruction of all I love and hold dear. I admit I have been confused and not been able to grasp God’s love for me. I’ve recently learned that HE never meant for me to be destructively abused by my husband. Now that I can see the abuse, I have begun to draw lines… Empowering! Now I know that I will boldly follow the Holy Spirit out of this marriage. Ultimately, my hope is that my husband will come to see, know and accept Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness. However, I no longer feel responsible in any way for his personal relationship with God. Husband is reading scripture and praying daily. Many good changes are evident, however, I cannot know what is covertly taking place in his mind. Only time will tell if God has a grip on him or this is simply another masterful plan to delude and abuse. Either way I am free.

  5. You took the words right out of my mouth with this post. This is exactly what a narcissistic relationship is like. Constant deception, lying and betrayal, but as many times as they lie and deceive they can turn on the charm, tell you they are sorry, and promise to change and will do anything to save the relationship. As for someone with empathy and true love for someone you believe them and have hope, but with a narcissist, one must lose all hope. Breaking free and really truly seeing these people for what they are should give you enough hope to get away. They are predators, not humans. Emotional vampires as they like to say.

  6. prodigalkatherine

    a question:
    What is the proper way to integrate this perspective with Jesus’s commands to love and forgive?
    While I completely agree with the importance of naming and breaking free of the addictive components of the narcissistic relationship, I am concerned by statements “they are predators, not humans”. When we make someone into a monster, we stop allowing the for the possibility that God is still working in that person’s life. It’s as if we are judging them “damned” and therefore unworthy of the normal respect for human dignity that each of us is called to give.
    Jesus says, “LOVE your enemies”. I am well aware that this is not a call to make yourself repeatedly available for exploitation. But it also seems like a clear admonition against shunning and dehumanizing someone who has hurt us.
    Because “narcissism” is such a buzzword in today’s culture, I worry that someone with narcissistic traits who is still very much in process will be judged and rejected by members of Christ’s body. This is a grave error.

    What would be helpful to me is to see a post about how to set loving boundaries with a narcissist to prevent future exploitation. I do not believe that God causes us to “judge” another person, even as I do believe that we are called to submit to God alone, not a raging egomaniac who we suspect might be a narcissist. Naming this evil pattern of behavior is useful for victims when they are confused and trying to escape its mind boggling effects. But after that has been accomplished, I think the next task is to move towards a place of wise compassion for a broken soul who is not beyond the reach of God’s love.

    • Fellow Survivor

      Katherine, I completely agree with your statement. I am just now entering the “acceptance” stage of grief although the mere fact that I am still posting on this board means I have a long way to go. To get to the place where we/I need to be, “accepting the brokenness of our exes” we or at least I need to be free from the power they/she has over me to hurt me. I know of the exes abusive and chaotic childhood and comforted her many times as she relived the events from her youth. Will I forgive her one day, I sure hope so, not for her sake but for mine. Would I have been less giving and supportive of my ex if I had a clue what she was up to, I hope not, because then I would not be myself. It just mystifies me that after all the years of support and loving service I am so easily discarded. I don’t mean this in a malicious way, but I hope at some point in the future she runs out of all her supporters and is all alone. Then she will call me for the support I have always given her. At that point I will ask her to get on her knees and tell Jesus that she needs him. You see, I know her brokenness better than anyone, her mom, dad, friends, anyone. There was a time when, at least I thought, she really let me in and see who she was. Even now, I look at her and just want to say, “what are you doing” not just to me and our daughter but to yourself. Without me, she will always be alone because I am the only one that she ever let see the real brokenness in her soul. When I say alone, I don’t mean without a partner or husband or friends, but that no will will ever know the real her. She denies all that brokenness now as if it never happened. I could make a pretty long list of things she shared with me that now she says never even happened. So, yes I agree, the end game is to get to total forgiveness. What has happened to us doesn’t even come close to what happened to Stephen. When he was being stoned to death the last words he said were something along the lines of “don’t hold this against them Father” Now that is true forgiveness and that is where I want to be.

  7. Carolyn

    Katherine, your post was wonderful. Even though our marriage has ended…and my Narccisst continues to lie to me, call me terrible names and put me down…I simply CANNOT do the same things back to him…or even think of him as a “monster”. He was, and still is…someone that I love.

    That doesn’t mean that I want to have anything to do with him…nor will I succumb to his charms when he is “hoovering” between new supplies of women. I continue to pray for him, for me, and if it be God’s will…for our marriage to be restored one day. My ex-husband professed to be a Christian, but he refused to yield to God’s will. It was all just talk.

    The word GRACE swirls through my head all the time. We are not deserving of God’s love nor His forgiveness. I want to reflect Christ working through me by giving my “N” ex-husband grace as well. Does he deserve it? No…but I need to look at him through Christ’s eyes and heart….not mine.

    Peace and God’s Blessings to all who are suffering from what has been done to us.

    • prodigalkatherine

      The thing that helps me when I get angry at the prospect of the N receiving grace is to remember that it was an undeserved gift to me, and without grace, I am nothing. But it’s not my job to provide the gift of grace, only to step out of the way so God can do it. My one responsibility is to not let residual bitterness grow in my heart to the point I return evil for evil, and contribute to the hardening of an already hurting heart.

      As I ponder the “fool me once” message, maybe my take away is: Don’t fall for the narcissists game of idealizing you and charming you. Don’t believe that your love is the one missing ingredient that will “solve” everything. That is the lie that the narcissist sells, and it plants a seed of pride in the target. The inevitable devaluation that comes after the idealization is where you get so hurt. But if you force yourself to see the idealization stage of narcissistic relating for what it is, you are less vulnerable to getting sucked into a trap where your own pride and need to be needed is used as a weapon against you. When you lose that motivation/obsessive quality in how you relate with a narcissist, you can see them with softer eyes, as broken people who must be handled with extreme care- both for your sake and theirs.

      With the gift of grace, God transforms us all. We are all “dead inside” vampires when we are controlled by sin. Only through Christ do we experience life.

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