“I have been abused and am in fear for my life. Many threats have been carried out against me tonight. Pray for peace.”
This is how a lengthy Facebook post ended, in which my ex-partner accused me of domestic violence. S and I were no longer a couple but still lived together while I searched for a new home. For anyone else considering this, please don’t. It’s a bad, bad idea. Once the narcissist has discarded you, your needs are an impediment to their moving on. When I explained to S that I had to wait for an apartment, she bristled. “You’ve made my life hell for 2 years, now you want to linger?”
My head was still spinning from the break-up ten days earlier, but S was already over it. She happily talked about her new life. She was going to redecorate and had plans for the garden. Asking my opinions on colour schemes, she appeared completely oblivious to my grief over losing the home I had come to love. S tried to speed things up by making staying as uncomfortable as possible. Gaslighting took on a whole new meaning. One moment she was screaming obscenities two inches from my face, the next she wanted to cook me my favourite dinner and called me ‘punkin’. I couldn’t tell what was real anymore.
During an argument that ensued after S turned off the electricity in our home, she pulled out a card and started dialling the number for a victim support worker. I was stunned. There was plenty of emotional abuse in our relationship, but neither one of us was ever physically violent towards the other. When I questioned her, she explained she had gone to the police on several different occasions to file a report on me. “The cops are already aware of what’s going on.” Panicked, I called the police myself, fearing the situation would get out of control. When two officers arrived, it quickly became clear that no police reports existed. S was extremely angry, saying she had never seen the document I showed the officers, which allowed me to stay in the house we were renting from her mother until my apartment became available. It was signed by us both. The officers asked her to leave for the night to cool off, and encouraged us both to cease communicating with each other, until the tension decreased. She reluctantly agreed. I did so eagerly. The last thing I saw of her that night was the backlight on her yellow bike riding off.
A short time later, a friend messaged me a screenshot of S’s Facebook post. It was half a page long, full of lies, and making me out to be the abuser. It was seen by 732 people, including my family. Many of her friends commented, urging her to seek immediate safety, calling me names and making derogatory comments about my mental health. Our mutual friends remained silent, except for one, “we’re here if you need to talk.” I was horrified. Literally in shock, I was unable to comprehend it at first. Then fear and rage, accompanied by shame swept in. How could this have happened to me? The post remained there for several weeks, long after she assured me that she had removed it..
I’m still traumatized by the experience. My heart beats faster when I see a police car coming down the street, and my hands start shaking when someone asks me if I’m on Facebook. Which I am definitely not. I still struggle to understand how someone who snuggled me a day ago could do something so incredibly cruel. That night I called a crisis hotline for the first time in my life. The counselor helped me see that the people who know me, would not believe it, which for the most part turned out to be true. And it helped that I had a friend who was there for me, who talked to the police about her observations of our relationship thereby providing corroboration and a clearer picture. But what if I had been younger, with less life experience and no friends? Cyber bullying became very real for me, and I understand how alone and helpless it feels. It was one of the worst moments of my life.
The smear campaign happened a few months ago, and I thankfully no longer have contact with S. But after the break-up I realized that to a lesser degree it was happening our entire relationship. At a family function she told my daughter that I am “too crazy” for anyone to love me. Confronted by me, she calmly said, “I didn’t think she would tell you.” I came across text messages to friends in which she called me “cow”, and “psycho”, while coming home night after night, pretending to be in love with me. Her mother who initially liked me, suddenly grew hostile, for no apparent reason. Then I realized, that during calls to her when I was present S became uncomfortable and said things like, “we’ll talk about that later.” Confronted with my suspicions, S called me “crazy.”
Its unfathomable that the people we have fallen in love with, and whom we have helped and supported could turn on us in this way. Even though during the relationship I became gradually more aware of what was happening, for a long time I experienced this as utter confusion. Because my brain could not accept the dissonance, I could not make sense of it. Even now, I really still don’t understand it, but because this is a pervasive pattern of behaviour in covert narcissism, I have to accept it as something that happened to me, as something that is happening to nearly every person who is partnered with a narcissist. It helps to know that this really doesn’t have anything to do with me, it’s how S is wired. To her I was always only prey, the mouse for the cat to toy with.
To the 732 Facebook friends who saw her post of lies and fabrications, I’d like to say this: Shame on you if you contributed to this malignant smear campaign! You are the cyber bullies who contributed to my suffering. To the ones who remained silent: I understand, because once upon a time, this would have been most likely my choice too. After all, we are raised with the understanding that private matters should remain private. But civil inattention, the act of ignoring embarrassing behaviour in public, allows narcissists to perpetuate this kind of abuse. That night, a simple, “hey I understand, but not the place,” would have made all the difference to me. Narcissistic abuse is complex and often remains hidden. It’s important for all of us to recognize the signs and speak up, so that victims can feel safer in talking about it. Abuse hurts everyone, and we all have a responsibility in naming and eradicating it.