It’s Narcissist Friday!
“The memories are still fresh, but so are the emotions. Why do I revisit that bad time over and over? I think I have moved on with my life, I certainly want to, but I can feel the pain and the frustration almost as though it is still happening.”
“Every time I think about those conversations, even now, I get angry. Shouldn’t I be able to let it go?”
We recently purchased some old electronic equipment from a thrift store. We have been trying to get it to work. I found an owner’s manual online, but the instructions are not complete. The equipment does not work in the way it should. Nothing seems to be wrong with it, but it just doesn’t work right.
After a considerable amount of time trying the same things over and over with different and unpredictable results, we gave up. But the feeling was that there was just some piece of information we didn’t have. If we had just done this or that, it would have worked. We might just let it rest for a while and then go back to working on it. After all, the solution should be there someplace.
This is how it can be when dealing with narcissism. It feels like the whole thing could be fixed if you just had that certain piece of information or tried that certain approach. There was so much potential in the relationship, but something didn’t work right. No matter what you tried, you couldn’t find the problem.
Then, when you gave up because you couldn’t take the pain and frustration any longer, you still felt that there was something left undone, some unfinished business. It stands out as an incongruity in your mind, a problem left hanging. And most of us find it very difficult just to walk away.
Narcissistic relationships can be very frustrating. When they end, they leave a mess in our heads and hearts. We don’t understand why that person acted that way. We feel like we should blame ourselves, but we don’t know what we did wrong. Or we know things we did wrong, but know that those things were not the cause of the problem.
These relationships usually do not end well. They often end with sudden abandonment or long abuse. Questions are left unanswered. Rights are violated. Trust is broken. Even if we knew the right words to say, we aren’t sure we would have said them.
I have been impressed by how quickly people tell their stories of narcissistic relationships. Even if they don’t know the word, they are ready to share as soon as they realize they have met someone who understands. And the stories are fresh and emotional, even when they “ended” twenty-five years ago. That’s because they don’t feel like they have ended.
But there comes a time to stop trying to figure things out, to let the unfinished business go. If you are still in the relationship, stop trying to fix it. If you are out of the relationship, let it be done. Accept that certain things will never work, or never be understood.
Please know that this is not giving up. This is accepting that you do not have the information or power you need to change what happened. There is no going back, but there is going forward. That relationship no longer defines you, even if you are still in it. Let the confusion and frustration be set off to the side with the understanding that it doesn’t matter anymore.
All of us will end our lives with unfinished business. Sometimes that frustration drives us to good things. But it should never hold us back. You are more than that relationship, more than that pain.
Perhaps the old Serenity Prayer has the answer we need. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote it and used it for many years and it has become an important tool for helping people accept the troubles that have come into their lives.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”