He said he loved me.
He promised to love me and cherish me.
He promised to take care of me. He told me I didn’t have to work, he made enough money to take care of his family. I could be a housewife and soccer mom.
He was to be my knight in shining armor. He didn’t say that, simply my assumption considering how he swooped in with all the right stuff.
Then I learned, I was wife number three. He was always the victim. The previous wives were always the problem. He was a good guy, or so he implied, always seemingly unlucky in love.
I should have known something wasn’t right. I second guessed my gut. Whenever I do that, I am always let down. The way he proposed was so not romantic. Who proposes in the throws of an argument? Although I accepted the proposal, I looked at him quite differently from then on. I forgot about all of the wining and dining, and the long romantic lunches. Forget about the trinkets and gifts, and the romantic weekend get-a-ways. This wonderful man that I agreed to share the rest of my life with showed me a side of himself that I had never seen before. I didn’t like it, but I ignored it. In the end, it truly was who he was.
Twelve years later, I could clearly look back at all of the signs that I missed, and all of the subtle abnormalities I ignored.
There were the old ex-wife issues. The never ending kind. She was so vindictive and mentally ill. He had ex-wife issues. The kind that always seem to cost money, and meant days in court. Not to mention someone is always looking for her (like bill collectors and the U.S. Marshall) I thought it would be ok. I had no clue going in how much time she would spend making him miserable. I also didn’t realize I was married to a man who didn’t care to fight. His answer to every bad thing was to go to work, ignore the problem, and when served with papers to appear in court, pay whatever they said pay. He always gave up, he never fought. His ex knew her power, and he victim. It took it’s toll on his promise, and it ended up being one of the largest strains on our marriage.
The most important thing I misread was the fact that he lacked empathy. I accredited it to him being retired from the military. I did not realize he was a covert malignant narcissist. I had no idea what it was, until I stopped supplying his needs. Boy would misreading his behavior early on be the biggest mistake of my life.
I also would have to acknowledge my role/failure in the matter. In the months that led up to the dissolution of my marriage, I would have lots of time to think back over the years (including prior to a wedding proposal) to assess what went wrong, and take responsibility for my actions, as well as my inaction.
I didn’t ask the right questions. I was fooled by the outer trappings of a man that society says are the qualities of a “good” mate (i.e. a home, cars, career, behavior, personal appearance, credit, income, number of children, race/ethnic makeup, earning potential, religious preferences, sex drive). Mental health never was mentioned. I now understand how important it is.
I also didn’t understand my issues, therefore, I couldn’t deal with them prior to getting a new spouse. I was actually looking to belong to something. That’s what society teaches us. Having come from a broken home, been abused by both parents, and placed in foster care, I was always alone. I liked it, but at some point, it got old. At some point in my life I wanted a connection. A connection with a functional family. I was kind of savvy about what I needed to connect to, but I had not dealt with my own deficiencies and in adequacies that made me unequally yoked and unprepared for a mate.
I allowed religion and friends associated with religion to provide a false narrative and unrealistic picture of what a “good” marriage is. Hurt people, hurt people. A broken person can’t fix another broken person. Additionally, a broken person unwilling to (or unable to) acknowledge their brokenness, doing all he/she can to mask it under the guises of any vice (swapping spouses, work, careers, money, toys, sex, drugs & alcohol, religion, sports, partying, shopping, etc.) can’t make another human being happy. We are in charge of our own happiness.
In the beginning he told me I was his everything, which made his promise so appealing to me. Whatever he needed, I had his back. I did everything I could possibly do to be the best partner in the marriage. Besides being an independent consultant (my career), I did lawn work/landscaping, cooked specially prepared anti-inflammatory diet meals, maintain the home inside and out, paid the bills (he never checked the mail), got the teen sons into and out of college, fished at his beck n call, etc. I was his personal attorney every time legal troubles came a calling when his ex was ready to exert her power and collect our hard earned money.
We relocated for our dream retirement destination and to begin working on our pre-retirement efforts as we were new empty nesters. Then, his job kicked him in the pants. His employer cut his salary, which in turn cut into our livelihood. He changed. But even before the salary and wage issues, he started changing. He life his work. His work was his life. I suddenly needed to earn more money to help pay for his old life (the ex wife, the legal fees, their old debts, and their old tax liabilities). I felt like I was giving way more than I ever intended, and it wasn’t feeling good.
I noticed I was only valuable to him as long as I was giving. Supply was the name of the game. I was on to him, so I started to not be so willing to supply all of his needs as I continued to sacrifice. His mood changed. His tone toward me changed. His tolerance of me also changed.
Now, every conversation no matter what it was about began with ‘My job,” or ended with “getting ready for work.” Work was the most important thing in his life. Impressing his employers and co-workers, being the stellar manager, having the perfect JCAHO score for the Family Medicine clinic he worked for. Work became the wife. I was the side chick. I did all I could help to progress his career through the years. All I got was shown the door in the end. Narcissism 101. When it’s over, it’s over.
After I finally realized that all I was good for was what I could offer, and I no longer felt appreciated so I returned my feelings, the relationship with the narcissist was over. There was no more patience for the marriage, he was ready to end it quickly. No more supply of stroking his ego, or catering to his needs. There was never any love there. It was simply lay bare for us both to see.
My fairytale became my nightmare.
At the end of the promise, he told me he didn’t need me for anything. He could do EVERYTHING himself at the end of the promise.
I gladly left. I didn’t want any money or the house. All I wanted was my dignity that I lost somewhere over the years. The broken promise led to an awakening, and ultimately a new life. I reclaimed my sense of self, never to relinquish it ever again. I realized my first mind, my gut, my intuition never failed me. I chose to disregard it and it caused me a great deal of anguish, unnecessarily.
A broken promise eventually set me free. It took me a while to get my life together, to pick up the pieces, and to accept the fact that I married someone with no empathy or compassion for others. It was a hard pill to swallow, but the sooner I came to the realization the love was gone (it was never there), I could heal and begin my journey.
Broken promises can lead to rainbows and sunny skies. Sometimes, you have to be willing to tell yourself the truth, and walk away from destructive relationships. I’d rather be poor, alone, healthy and happy than in a relationship of any kind that destroys my self-esteem and destroys my sanity.
Broken promises don’t have to be the end. Those broken promises can lead to new beginnings.