Identity – Hidden and Stolen

It’s Narcissist Friday!

 

I am increasingly convinced that narcissism is an identity problem.  Some of the older psychologists would say that is a problem of the self, but I find that uncomfortable because we usually think of the self as the center of consciousness.  So I would say that the narcissist doesn’t really reject his self, but rejects his definition of self—what I would call identity.

For the narcissist, that definition is negative.  He believes that he would be rejected if he relaxed or if he showed weakness.  If you really knew him, you would hate him.  That’s what he thinks.  For many, this was the picture of growing up.  Mom and Dad tolerated his presence, depersonalized him, devalued him.  So he learned to hide what they saw.  He became someone else.  He adopted a new definition of his self.

He knew it was phony and he still knows it is phony.  Yet, he doesn’t have a choice.  He can’t be real, so he has to have something.  And he craves acceptance.  He wants to be loved.  But, because he knows the identity he is using is phony, he can’t even feel that love and acceptance.  He can’t really receive it because it is given to a false image.

Because he cannot feel the love, he demands more and more of it.  He looks past true affection and sees loyalty, devotion, and worship.  The deeper the feelings he can cultivate in the other, the more hope he has of feeling the satisfaction of being accepted.  But it can’t ever satisfy because it is never directed to what he thinks is the real definition of his self.  This is why we call the love others give “narcissistic supply.”  It is very similar to a drug that creates dependency but never satisfies.

If the narcissist were able to come out of hiding and find the love and acceptance, perhaps he could release the false image and live again.  But few are able to do this because they don’t want to accept the truth.  They fear it too much.  When they talk with family and friends, or counselors, or even God, they promote the image they believe is acceptable.

When you enter into a relationship with a narcissist and you have a reasonably healthy identity, even as a Christian, the narcissist almost immediately sets himself against your identity.  He may do one or both of two things.  He may attempt to add your identity to his image by controlling you.  He separates you from any independent support, makes you dependent only on him, and takes credit for anything you do that adds to his image.  He may even make you the scapegoat for any failure he experiences.

The other thing he may do is seek to destroy your sense of identity.  Because he knows of the falsehood in his own heart, he assumes that falsehood in the hearts of others.  In fact, he cannot be at peace unless he shows that identity to be false.  So he may decide to counter everything you do.  He argues with you and points out your failures.  He tells you that others do not accept you.  He tells you that you are unworthy.  He projects his own falsity on you.

Sadly, the narcissist is often very good at these things.  Even stable and healthy people can be brought to the point where they forget who they are under constant criticism or manipulation.  Solid Christians begin to think they are unacceptable to God and others.  They forget who they are and lose their source of support and joy.

Identity is powerful.  When we find it and accept it, we have freedom and peace.  Once again, the struggle of narcissism and the truth of the message of Jesus are brought together.  He is the answer when we find our identity in Him.

20 Comments

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20 responses to “Identity – Hidden and Stolen

  1. I love your line “He looks past true affection…” so very true.

  2. n

    This post really resonated, and gave me comfort, and hope for my former husband. It was also affirming again, because what you describe rang true to life for me. I guess I am still “waiting” to be healed of my own identity that he squashed decades ago, when we first married and he put his steely control over my life. He even told me if I would let him, he would think for me because he was so much smarter than I was… I KNOW in my head – and recite – the scriptures relating to my identity as a daughter of God through Jesus death and resurrection, and I can even pretend in front of others that it is in my heart. But when I go home, the tid-bit of confidence evaporates. I have so little experience making decisions. I just freeze in my heart because I “know” I’ll make the wrong one. I know in my brain this is wrong thinking, but it is so hard to argue with it. My former husband drilled into me that I was incompetent, needed him to live, and was so controlling that I was not even allowed to open bills, and had to ask to take a quarter out of the change dish on his dresser. I did not get a just settlement, and followed the advice of friends and my counselor to not worry about money the first year or so, to just take care of myself. Well, 14 months later, my savings has dwindled to scary levels, my alimony is not enough to live on. I need to make a decision whether to try to buy a foreclosed home 45 minutes away from church to save money, or stay close to church and relationships and continue draining what I have left. I know I need to get a job. I am TERRIFIED that I won’t cut it, and will be fired, or will not be able to make enough to make a financial difference. My ex has a Phd (I worked to put him through). I have no degree. I am having a serious problem with confidence. I’m having a serious problem living my faith like I’ve never experienced before. I really feel like I’m so broken apart that I’ll never be able to function as a whole person again. I have skills – I have edited every word of every journal article and book my husband ever wrote, I entertained clients and students and threw parties, and facilitated Bible study discussion groups, volunteered as a child advocate in the court system, taught my kids to read and cook, set up nursing home visitation programs and taught art appreciation in my children’s grade school,…yes, this all sounds impressive on paper, I know, but it was all done on the energy and fear of being rejected by my ex. that he held over me. I ran his errands, cleaned up constantly after him and kept the house up to his perfectionistic standards…but I am empty now, just empty and drained and scared. He already remarried and is living in a million dollar house. And I am broken and incompetent and am fast becoming a recluse from my crisis of faith and confidence..

    • I am going through a process of recovery myself. One of the things I learned very recently which helped a lot was that I needed to take the focus off of the narcissist and place it onto myself – I desperately needed self-care. The repetitive cycle of talking about what the narcissist has done to me was re-victimizing me each time and was giving him control of my life, even when he wasn’t physically present – I was too afraid to live – to enjoy life, take risks, in case I got it wrong or failed – even though I am a very competent person. I don’t know if the website I post here will show… but search for Melanie Tonia Evans, she has a site all about narcissism and you can sign up for emails on recovery. I don’t share her ‘spiritual’ beliefs, but she gives a lot of practical advice as per the information I have already shared. God Bless you in your journey towards recovery. http://www.melanietoniaevans.com/articles/index.htm

      • n

        Dear Spiritual Sandwich,
        Thank you so much for the link, and for the wise encouragement to take the N out of the focus. It is very helpful, and you’re right – after you initially get through and process and start to recover a bit, if you tell your story or parts of it – to yourself or someone else – it really does make you feel the grief and shame and victimization and anger all over again. And makes it so hard to forgive. I know the Lord spoke that to me through a therapist, and now He’s spoken again through you. I need to get serious about disciplining my mind in that area. You sound like you’re doing pretty well, although I know that there is a great deal of pain and story you’ve worked through to get where you are. May you also experience profound peace and healing. I can tell you’re a dear, your sweet spirit comes through in your writing.

      • Dear n
        Thank you for your kind remarks. I’m still working on recovery as I am still living through this, and some days it is hard and tears are shed. But I find that being focused on rebuilding my own life has given me the much needed mental freedom even though I’m physically bound for now. There is so much, to look forward to, I don’t want to look back. Letting go of the past, means you have to open your hand to release the pain. However, it also means you open your hand to receive the new things that God has in store for you. I wanted to hear him admit that he had treated me inhumanely and disrespectfully – to have heard this would have brought some closure – but through that website I learned that it is unlikely to ever happen and to wait for that validation from him is a waste of my life. It is only through and by God’s power that I can give myself the validation, closure and peace that I need. By the way, your story and life resonated with me in many ways, and since you say I have a sweet spirit, you must have one too. I believe in you, you can do it – to have endured what you have makes you an incredibly strong person mentally. If you were able to sacrifice yourself because of your unconditional love for someone else who did not care for you, then you can at the very least give yourself the same unconditional love – because you are worth it. All that you did for him and the love you gave him, you can give it to yourself. I’ll be praying!

  3. Fellow Survivor

    The best way to describe this post is “BULLSEYE” The complete story of my marriage. In the beginning “my” friends wives were teachers, so my ex became a teacher. Are friends would tell us how much we were alike. I didn’t realize she was just reflecting me back at me. Taking a part of me and making it her own. Those were great days. 10 yrs later when the father came into the picture she began to reflect him back at him to gain his acceptance. In the same way that she became “like” me at first, she became “like” him the more time she spent with him.

    I once asked my ex what she looked for in a man that she would marry. She told me “not my dad” “the opposite of my dad”, which I am. He never was there for his kids when they were growing up, did not attend a single event, dance recital, school play etc. Me on the other hand have never missed a single event, with very few exceptions.

    The more she became like him, the more opposite she became of me. Life Values are what I mean by opposite, what is important in life, what matters in life. His number one value is MONEY which translates into control of others who are impressed by it. Me on the other hand value marriage, commitment, loyalty, faith, and love. We have all seen those couples that have been married 60 plus years, that was my number one goal, that’s what I wanted more than anything. However, because that goal doesn’t even show up on his values list, it now doesn’t show up on my exes either.

    Now she has a best friend that left her husband for no reason and she has become just like her. I mean, just like her. I don’t even recognize her anymore. Its like a total transformation in personalities. A completely different person. Very Very strange.

    I have run on to long, by my objective is to re-claim ME. I don’t want to become a new person, I want to be me again. My identity was and has always been in Christ Jesus and I am now just beginning to reclaim ME. The real ME would never have tolerated the nonsense for so long. My own daughter told me “you’re not yourself daddy”, thats how bad it was. Thanks for listening everyone. I am getting stronger everyday only because I am getting back to who I am/was in Christ. He still has a lot of work to do on me, but I am going in the right direction.

  4. n

    OK, sorry about my earlier post. I know so many others have gone through this, and I’m just having some bad days. God is so very faithful, and I should have been crying out to him, instead of leaving a long post….still learning to lean on the everlasting Arms. To the man who posted after mine- I am so very sorry for the confusing reality you’re living with right now. You’ve been delivered by God and so have I – we just need to keep seeking him for our peace and identity. I know that at some time we’ll be able to really walk in our identity as his children again if we lean into him to know him better..

  5. J

    “n”, please don’t apologize for your post. You are hurting so much. Sharing your pain and loss with other safe people is a very natural part of the healing process. You have every right to be sad, angry, confused, hurt and afraid. You, like many of us, have been through an experience that is beyond difficult. Give your self much grace and be patient and loving to yourself. I so understand your fear about making decisions and your desire for things to be different (and the dire nature of the situation) yet the inability to move forward. One day at a time. I am praying for you now that you will grow and gain confidence in your decisions and God-given abilities. You are amazing!!

    • n

      Thank you for your kind words, J. Life has been just existing in a fog with a few clear days, for the last 2 years.But I think I should be ready to move on; I just long to find a place where I can serve God and connect with people on a deep level. Everyone I love deeply and know deeply is married. They are kind and inclusive, but are busy with husbands and family as they should be. I have met lots of new acquaintances; have put myself out there to find a small group and serve a young family from church with babysitting, etc. I just don’t seem to fit anywhere, And I can’t seem to locate a “path” where God is leading….I feel directionless, and yet I know, I think I know, I’m trying to follow and know the Lord. I don’t know how to exist in limbo. I’ve been so tightly controlled for 35 years, pathetic as it is – it feels wretched to not have everything mapped out for me on a daily basis. It took so much psychological energy just to survive everyday when I was married…now I have time to think and be myself, but I still don’t know who I am yet, and that feels embarrassing to be middle aged and have this struggle. It feels like the message from my former husband that I couldn’t live without him and would be nothing must be true (even though I know as a “fact” that cannot be true). Have you gone through anything like this? How recent is your exodus from your N?

  6. All I can say is SPOT ON! I read this to my covert narcissist husband of 37 years and he says it is all true. He knows he is a phony… He cannot have genuine feelings for people or for himself. Please pray for him as he is becoming more aware of his ‘identity crisis’. I am sticking with him since he has gotten freedom from the sex addiction and is reading God’s word daily and praying. It will never be easy for us as a couple because of all the years of abuse and the damaged relationships. Knowing who we are in Christ is the best identity anyone can ever have. My husband has no history of identity… no guilt, no joy, no memory, his life has been a lie and because I have been married to him my life has been made into a lie. However, I am ever hopeful that he is forming an identity in Christ.

    • n

      Yes. Donna, prayer for you and your husband both. Thank you for sharing some of your story. I hope you guys are in counseling together with someone who is skilled with handling N relationships. I’m hopeful for you. Praying for protection of your heart, clarity and strength and for discernment.

      • Thank you from my heart. We have recently stopped seeing counselor #2. Husband has the gift of projecting falsehoods onto the mind of counselors. I’m aware of how that sounds however, it is a fact of our lives. Counselor #1 bought into husband’s projected innocence… hook, line and sinker. However, at the first session with the 2nd counselor husband admitted that he had totally manipulated the first counselor. Sadly, I think the 2nd counselor mistook that confession for actual humility which effectively turned the confession into manipulation. We have made a lot of progress with counselor #2, especially as we have perused every book he suggested. Things took a turn after we meet separately with counselor #2. When counselor #2 asked for separate counseling sessions we agreed and I was forthright in reminding him of husbands powers of deception through projection. Not surprisingly the counselor’s attitude changed after our individual sessions. Husband says, ‘he didn’t say anything’… (kind of funny). We parted on good terms and may return to counselor #2, though I am still baffled by the shift in his approach… It seemed I became the bad guy. Working on my ‘rejection syndrome’ and am aware that I am sensitive to rejection. Through the process of forgiveness and God’s grace I’ve moved past the intense anger toward husband for all acts of betrayal exposed through the sex addiction counseling. As new betrayal revelations arise I am able to more easily and quickly receive the hurt and put the act of betrayal under the power of Christ’s blood and move on toward the higher calling of Christ. I desire to know the real man God created my husband to be, not this empty being. Best description I’ve come up with to describe my husband is that he is a greased marble… You can never put your finger on him because as soon as you touch him or come near to the real person he shoots out in another direction. It is almost as if he is an illusion of sorts… Unable to have feelings, take ownership, lead or follow. He lives his life alone and in his head… Much like you described… Afraid or ashamed of who he really is. Husband allows no one the privilege of knowing the real person… We are relegated to being objects to be manipulated into a role in his head scenes. The counselor asked what I thought was the root of husband’s hatred for women? Now that I am aware, and he admits to having hated me without knowing, he hated me the first 35 years of our marriage I am learning to recognize the language he uses to communicate the disrespect. The challenge for me is to recognize the disrespect and be discerning enough to articulate a concise boundary. The sex addict counseling was Bible based and he says he leaned to love me because of Christ and only in Christ. I can accept that. We have weekly ‘boundary’ meetings at which we review and tweak boundaries and sometimes set new ones. We use scripture during these meetings, as best we can, to confirm the need for a boundary. The worst thing I face are the almost constant lies. When husband speaks a lie he earnestly believes the lie… it is his version of truth. I find I must rely on the Holy Spirit for discernment concerning the lies. Husband is grateful to be free from the sex addiction and fears returning to that consuming bondage worse than anything… He welcomes any and all accountability in this area. Thank you so much for your Christ centered ministry. May God richly bless you for serving and giving to others so freely. To God be the glory for the encouragement received through Grace For My Heart Ministry.

      • n

        Dear Donna, Wow, I was astounded while reading your story…and I know it is just the tip of the iceburg. I am hopeful on two counts….that your husband is actually participating in the boundary setting, and “allowing” you to set boundaries, and hopefully, is learning to respect them too. Good for you for recognizing that lying is a major player in N personality, and calling him on it. My experiences with marriage counselors was so very close to yours. My husband just blurted out lies about me, out of the blue. I would be so shocked that I had trouble pulling myself together to answer. The marriage counselor told us we were one of the only couples she’d ever met for whom she couldn’t tell who was lying. It was SO frustrating and disillusioning. And the other marriage counselor could see that I was afraid of my husband, and asked if there was physical abuse going on….I was too scared to say anything, then, suddenly, my husband blurts out that, yes, he has been physically abused by ME! (I am 5’3″, my husband is 6″4″). I don’t think the counselor believed him, but my husband decided that counselor was a waste of our money and refused to keep going. My husband pulled the wool over the eyes of the counseling pastor at our church, who then treated me like some hysterical woman, but finally saw my husband’s true character after a year when he heard lies my husband was saying about him, and when he confronted him, he was finally treated the way I’ve been treated, i.e., told you don’t remember things correctly, and suggesting you’re not quite normal. Anyway, all that to say that I know how your counseling sessions went, and how scary it is to have the counselor believe your husband. I know that staying in prayer and in God’s word is the only way you are surviving. And I praise God for his help with your husband’s addiction. Just be so careful about being taken in again by his lies. Thanks for your note, and role modeling following Jesus Christ. xo

      • Thank you for the encouraging words. The covert narcissist is so very sly and well… covert. Years ago I identified with the apostle Paul and recognized that of sinners I am chief… I used this position in order not to have to defend myself against the constant faults husband always spotlighted in me. What I didn’t realize was that my husband and his parents held me in contempt because I no longer competed in their world of self-righteousness. I ignored their slights for years as I busied myself in rearing our five children. Husband was busy with his covert sex life during those years and busy destroying my reputation with family and friends through innuendo and projection. All along I thought it was best to ignore the mess and live life as best I could. The painful thing is that husband was working on the minds of our two oldest children who were high schoolers. He led them into rebellion against me and he sided with them. I begged him to see what he was doing but of course he couldn’t see and his parents were totally ensnared in the whole plan. I pray God will restore the broken relationships… I grieve and grieve and grieve over the loss of relationship with my children.

      • n

        Donna, After all the years of being dismissed, disrespected….has anything changed?? Are you now respected and loved?? Have your oldest children seen through him yet? Who knows of his porn addiction besides you in your familly? Has he gone back to anyone that he lied to about you and attempted to repair what he did? Does he care? I’m sorry for all of the questions when I don’t know you, but I see red flags, and my heart goes out to you.

      • I don’t mind your questions as answering them forces me to process again what I’d rather not think about. I appreciate your concern more than you may know. Our oldest son knows most of the truth and sees his dad honestly… He seems to understand his dad’s need for supply and is refusing to be used as a supply… however, we are all objects of supply via the simplest interaction because, husband substitutes supply source for genuine relationship. Oldest daughter was cruelly used as a proxy by her dad… she was manipulated and encouraged to abuse and reject me. The two of them teamed up and gave me weeks and months of cold silence and open contempt. I know that if I were in her position I would feel anger and guilt at having been used. Husband was a sex addict… Not simply a porn addict. I was diagnosed with a STD at the six week postpartum check of our third born… it required cryosurgery treatment. My OB kindly stated that this particular STD was rampant in the area prostitutes and was showing up in married couples. Husband lied so well when I confronted him that I chose to keep my sanity and moved on with my role of being a mother. I think I buried the evidence and the pain with all the other years of abuse. Husband hired prostitutes often through the years… For example when I would go to the hospital to birth one of our babies or out of town with friends he would reward himself with a prostitute fling. In 2005 I was in ICU after an auto accident near El Paso. Husband would not let any of my family or friends fly out to be with him… The Red Cross got our military son released to be there for the first three days after the accident as it seemed I might not make it. The rest of the two plus weeks of my ICU stay husband took advantage of the absence of accountability and the hotel room so far away from home for one orgy after another. As soon as I was released from ICU I was flown, with the company of two in flight RN’s, to a hospital closer to home in GA. I improved upon seeing family and friends… Husband was angry with me when I came out of the drug induced coma. Husband hired a prostitute the night I was flown back to GA and continued to hire prostitutes for the next five years before receiving help through two years of sex addiction counseling. My recovery continued in a hospital bed at home as went through several more post accident surgeries. Husband would serve me breakfast, empty my bedside potty with a smile, leave and hire a prostitute on the way to work. He doesn’t have normal feelings. He doesn’t feel guilt for wrong doing per se… he rather feels shame for having been caught… He also has convenient memory loss. Husband stopped openly condemning me after the 2005 auto accident because an insurance settlement for my injuries changed things… I had gained value in his eyes. He went ‘dark’ with his abuse after the accident… Where as before the accident the abuse had been open and relentless… His change in attitude toward me confused our daughter and his mom as they had been proxies used by husband to reject and abuse me. They both continue to treat me as sub-human and they are also angry at him for ‘throwing them under the bus’. The main positive change has resulted from the breaking of the sex addiction. Husband seems to have adopted ‘my faith in Christ’… He says he was jealous of me for my faith in Christ in the years before. Husband is not yet able to surrender or expose his dark inner self to Christ… He outwardly clings to Christ and is faithful in daily Bible reading. However, he cannot acknowledge that his life is lived to protect or hide the broken and dark person he is within. The two years of counseling for sex addiction were Bible based and he learned and embraced and has applied much of what he learned. He owns that he was brutally manipulative, evil, adulterous and deceitful… But, his lack of empathy limits what should be a time of healing. He doesn’t mean to be cold but, lack of emotion or ability to have feelings means he is pretty much a shell pretending to have feelings and pretending to be a nice person. BTW… When he confessed his adultery to his Preacher Dad and Mom they slammed the door on any further relationship with him. As long as he was hiding his sins they were OK with him but, as soon as he confessed they rejected him outright! They obviously do not understand that it is better to own your sin, confess the sin and repent by faith in the blood of Christ. The last phone call he made to his parents was on speaker phone and I heard them angrily reject him as he told them multiple times that he loved them… His dad would actually say back to him the he didn’t love them. Broke my heart for husband and helped me to better understand what happened to him as a child. I ache for an honest and transparent relationship with my husband. Some days I want to walk away and be free… But, I am 57 years old and isolated from many friendships and family relationships. I do not see that I have options… I’ve read enough to know divorce will be brutal. I grieve that I don’t get to see my grand babies as I am considered ‘unstable’ by my daughter and son in law. No doubt she is confused and hurting as are our four sons. Husband has admitted to not having feelings of love for our children. I can’t tell you how this hurts … he was such a good actor through the years and I wanted a loving family so badly I saw only what I could accept. Last fall after I had told the counselor I didn’t understand anything anymore he assured me that indeed I did have the ability to know truth from a lie. I soon realized I could indeed discern a lie from truth and this new accountability has been effective though I still have to keep my anger in check as I HATE to be lied to. I know I am his narcissistic supply. I hate it and at times my heart physically aches from being the supply. My goal is to be keenly aware of the presence of Christ’s omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Spirit at all times and to be prepared to walk away from this marriage. I have only come to this point of clarity in the last three months and it has been empowering to trust God to meet my needs when or if He leads me to walk away. Our 18 yo son keeps me going. He is very aware of everything. He actually saw the abuse as abuse long before I accepted that I was being abused. Months ago he gave me wise counsel… He said do not listen to the words spoken but rather watch for the actions as they are more truthful. Again my heart aches for our youngest son as I know he sees his dad as he really is… It must be so damaging to know your dad does not love you but rather sees you as an object. Our two middle sons are my lost boys. I taught them to respect their dad and now I know they saw and understood things I didn’t see or understand. I covet your prayers for our sons and daughter. Our third born son can hardly be civil to me and has not been back home since husband confessed his adulterous life to our kids back in December of last year. Will the pain ever lessen or end? At times I pray to go HOME when moments of despair overwhelm me. Today husband wrote out a confession he plans to share with family and friends. It is the thrid time he has written out a confession to share but, has yet to follow through. I was pleasantly surprised that in this confession he took thorough ownership of his wretched past and deception. I wish I could send a copy to you for your feedback. He plans to soon take steps of restitution with my sister and her husband as they are believers in Christ, too. I feel so much shame I don’t want to go with him but, I know I need to go. When he goes to close friends whose sons were close friends with our sons I think he should take our sons with him. I welcome any insight you have for me! Thank you and forgive the epistle length reply.

      • Rita Cizek

        Donna, Sorry to take so long to reply; I was overwhelmed with sadness when I read your “epistle”. I wish I had wisdom for you, but I don’t. If I told you I thought you should leave now to preserve your life and sanity, but you were not psychologically ready, that would destroy your heart even more. If I told you to stay and “fight the good fight” and promised prayers, that would be so wrong too. The only things I will tell you, passionately and from experience and subsequent reading and research – is that many, many churches do NOT represent the God of the Gospel – they teach submission for women, they teach that staying with an abuser is the same as being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, they imply that if you were truly submissive, then you wouldn’t be treated the way you are, that God will be faithful to protect you and your children from the bad decisions of your husband if you are really trusting God. This makes God so small, and controllable, denies his Sovereignty, places you under man-made rules that aren’t in the Bible, and puts the blame for the abuse back on you. If you are going to a church that all but ignores the command to the husband to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, the command to lay their lives down for their wives, and is big in the submission department, then I will tell you I think that is part of your “shame” problem you speak about – that kept me silent and ashamed for decades – questioning whether I was submissive enough, and thinking that God somehow had to protect me if I let my husband continue with his abuse and cruelty if I “trusted Him”. That somehow my husband was more loved and valued by God and it was my job to protect my husband’s image and empty myself of every human need for love and respect and identity, if my husband demanded things of me….all in the name of being a good wife and daughter of God. This was wrong thinking, wrong understanding, broken, so broken, and kept me in the control of a N, which eventually wounded all of our children so badly that they are all in jobs now where their bosses treat them just like their dad did; they are miserable, but all of them lack self love and self confidence, and believe no one else would hire them, so they stay and suffer. I have to take responsibility for how they ended up too – I STAYED and modeled for them that God must want you to be ill-treated and live bereft of love and respect. Their suffering and broken idea of God is my pain. So I really “get” when you ask me to pray for your children. I know the agony of your heart. The only other thing I can tell you is that the pain of staying is worse than the pain of leaving. There will be pain if you leave, but it will be pain that at least has a chance of leading to wholeness and deliverance. It is pain that has a chance of ending, unlike currently. If you stay, the chance of your pain ending is pretty much zero. I know that sounds harsh, but I believe it’s true. But don’t do anything until you know in your heart it is the right thing to do. That’s why you need to STAY in some sort of therapy, where the therapist is skilled at helping those in abuse and understands the dynamics of N. And you need to make sure you’re not sabotaging your own understanding of our Real Father by putting yourself under the spell of church culture and religious commands, as opposed to the Gospel. There, I’ve written you back my own “epistle”, but one that should never be cannonized!! 🙂 I don’t know what the right answer is to your question about your sons accompanying your husband on his supposed “truth-telling” missions to friends, family. I don’t believe your husband will tell the truth, he’ll just re-frame the truth so he will be blameless and continue to do damage. To have your sons hear that, will just mess with their sense of reality even more, because they’ll be used as props by your husband as proof that he’s really changed, when in reality your sons and you know that he hasn’t; that he is still operating as a N. Please read this with caution – we don’t know each other, I don’t know or pretend to understand your life – I can only claim to have been married to a savvy N for 35 years, know what self-deception kept me there, the damage it did, and my motivation is only to warn you against being further used and destroyed as your husband seeks to make others believe his is repentant and changed. If he is, then why doesn’t he try to win back your heart? Why isn’t he concerned about what he’s done to your family and children, but continues to disparage you (understatement) to your kids, instead of try to expose what he did and repair it? Why does nothing happen unless YOU drive it? Why isn’t HE driving the search for a marriage therapist? OK, I’ve said enough. Something I can recommend for help is Heart Change – an organization in Oregon City, OR – started and run by retired missionaries. It is an intense 4 day very Biblical inner healing and rediscovering God’s love retreat. They don’t charge a dime, you won’t be pressured to give money, but you do have to provide your own place to stay and some meals. I went in June 2011, it was during the time I was separated, and it was like nothing I’ve experienced since I was radically born again when I was 18. My heart and life and relationship with my Father is so healed and different as a result of this retreat. Now I am stepping down from my soapbox, and I want you to know that Donna, whatever you do, if anything, I will always care about you as my sister in Jesus Christ. Jesus knows your agony and is in agony for your suffering. He see all and loves you so very completely, and me too, just as we are.
        With prayer and empathy, n

      • Donna Roberts Walker

        I read your reply yesterday morning… Thought about your message through out the day and awoke this AM with your message on my mind. Your wisdom, empathy and identity washed over me like a tidal wave. Now that the tide is receding I’ll be revisiting each nugget of wisdom for even more insight and courage. There is probably not another person on this planet that can relate to my situation as well as you. Thank you for your transparent and bold empathy. Thank you for investing in my bedraggled life. Obviously I’m entangled so deeply I don’t know where I end and my narcissistic husband begins… And vice versa. There are many blurred and tangled identity issues within our relationship. I’m purposing to disentangle my identity from husbands… I long to be free of the narcissistic manipulation and relearn who I am. I lost myself to him almost four decades ago. I’ve given this relationship my all but, in the end my weaknesses are easily and masterfully exploited. Obviously I’ve had identity issues all of my life… Underneath all of my outward confidence lurks a child with the desperate need to be loved and accepted by the significant others in my life. This unacknowledged need has made me vulnerable to abusive types in part because they identify with my need and exploit it to their selfish gain. (I hate seeing my own narcissist traits.) It will be a battle to (re)discover self-respect however, I am aware of the need and that is the first step. Establishing and clearly communicating basic self respecting boundaries is imperative if I am to rise above this mess of a life I’ve perpetrated through unawareness and need. I’ve always retreated from abuse and abusers expecting them ‘come around’ and see that I loved and respected them as God created individuals and that that would be sufficient… Maybe in a perfect world or a child’s fairy tale! Life just doesn’t work that way and I’ve been really slow to learn this very important fact of life. Rita, Thank you for being transparent and empathetic while taking your valuable time to share your life and wisdom for the encouragement of a perfect stranger. Again I’m purposing to stand and face my abusers with confident, clear and concise boundaries… respectfully voiced as strongly as need be to be heard and understood. I’ll need help with walking away from this marriage if need be… That is one step I really, really don’t want to take but, I really, really will walk away by God’s grace and power.

      • Rita Cizek

        Dear Donna,

        I am so sorry I have let so much time elapse since you last wrote. I feel sure that you have been thinking it must be your fault because you are so used to accepting blame for what you are not blamable for…. But this is my fault, not yours, and I am sorry. Please forgive me for keeping you hanging after opening more of your heart to me, and then hearing nothing back.

        From your writing and descriptions, I can sense you are maybe still in the ‘crazy-making’ cycle of trying to be clear-thinking, hopeful, but still being played with and manipulated, which keeps you questioning, reconfiguring what is real, and so very stressed all the time. I don’t think you can do this by yourself Donna. Please stay in counseling so you can have a safe place to work this through without your husband inserting his manipulation, etc. This is not something you can do yourself – if it was – you would have figured this out and done whatever you needed to do, sometime in the last 30 years. I am speaking from experience here (34 years there myself).

        Part of why I’ve been silent has been that I am in intensive therapy dealing with PTSD from trauma from my marriage. Going through this therapy has been the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done, and makes me depressed, sleepless, etc., but at least this pain has a hope of ending – healing my soul, so I gratefully continue, enveloped in the Grace of God. I pray for you Donna, that the Grace of God, His mercy, His tenderness, His deliverance will also be known and part of your journey at this point.

        Again, I am so sorry for my rudeness. Please forgive me.

        Your sister through Jesus Christ, Rita

  7. Sunflower

    I am new here but have been following these articles for a while, as well as reading many others on this subject. My story is pretty much like the rest, married to n for 25 years, 10 children, ended up in psych ward where the doctor said he wouldn’t let me out until he knew I had made arrangements to leave the n. Single for 8 years, what a relief! Then, surprise, married another n, now 8 years ago.

    My question is, what do I say to the children. Most of then sort of see a problem but are still trying to win their dads love and favor
    And can’t understand the confusion because he says he’s a believer. At least one son is totally against me, thinks I badly mistreated his dad. If only I were more submissive, all would be well. They were legalistically taught to respect their dad above all else, that basically dad was always right. And mom is crazy. Case in point, I was driving a car to my sons when two major problems came up, either of which could have sent me off a cliff at highway speeds. Son took the car to his favorite repair place, we called my husband, he said not to fix it as he is a mechanic and would get to it when I got back, 600 plus miles later. I didn’t argue, neither did my son. I kept driving. I now see that we both were taught that respect of my husband was more important than my life. DsI could see the concern on my sons face and he did find a cell phone for me to use which he funded. And I subconsciously didn’t I Think my life worth it either, I see now. By Gods grace the car died while I was slowly rolling through a stop light, right in front of a repair place.

    So I just keep wondering how to deal with all this. Any ideas?

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