If you dare to question or call out a narcissist, you’re going to become public enemy number one. The mask immediately comes off, and there is no level they will not stoop to in order to “punish” you. They have myriad ways of attempting this; some are covert, and some are open and obvious. The narcissist has a seemingly inexhaustible obsession for making people who cross them “pay”. Once they set their sights on you, you’re a permanent enemy, and their seething spite will feel as intense years down the road as it did when it first began. The length of time they can keep up the full intensity of their hatred for you and their campaign to exact revenge is absolutely dumbfounding to non-narcissistic people.
The relationship ensued, only his treatment would wax and wane from dream boyfriend to evil, sadistic child out to bully me on the playground. As time progressed, this juvenile side seemed to be all I encountered. His favorite way to punish me when I pissed him off was with the silent treatment, similar to my ex. Only with Ben already on the quiet side, it was hard to know when the silent treatment started and stopped. I found myself totally confused, it seemed like Ben enjoyed holding power and control over me, as the silent treatment only ended when he decided. He made me feel like my presence wasn’t needed or wanted by him, whereas I needed his to exit this world of silence, and therefore with time I became dependent on him and saw myself as inferior.
Ben’s sadistic change in demeanor was perplexing, and I pressed him for more answers about this “dark side” he claimed to have.
What did I tell you about trying to figure me out? I told you not to try doing it; if I don’t understand it, you definitely won’t either. And trust me, you don’t want to know or understand it.
The biggest explanation I received as to why he had “2 personalities”, the good and the bad, was Ben’s automatic line:
That’s because I’m a Gemini.
When I asked him to explain he’d just roll his eyes. So I didn’t ask again, at least not during round 1, this first period of us meeting.
I found it strange; he even had a name for this alter-ego, but I didn’t question him further; I figured it was his way of coping with his abuse and a means of living in denial. I didn’t know what any of this signified; he was a bit mean and selfish at times, but often he was pleasant and enjoyable to be around, especially if it wasn’t just the two of us. What struck me as confusing was how someone could treat me better than I’d ever been treated before, yet also treat me worse than I’d ever be treated before. It seemed so unreal that the same person could be responsible for both.
I shouldn’t have stuck around like I stupidly did; I should have left that ‘relationship’ then and there, running for the hills, remembering pieces of my last relationship that were resurfacing here only in a slightly different manner.
To the outside world it would seem obvious that you should just ‘get out’…. but as we all know when it comes to the leaving part – and even after you go – you may really struggle with the decision. It is so hard to upset the dream of this perfect partner, or this incredible life you thought you were going to have with the narcissist, and truly once being hooked by a narcissist every part of your emotional addiction is trying to keep you hooked to the narcissist for many reasons. The narcissist is an expert at confusing you. He wants to retain you for narcissistic supply. And this means that narcissist will hit whichever emotional button causes you the most angst in order to affect you and keep you hooked.
But I wasn’t in a calm, rational state of mind at that time. Instead, depressed and distraught, I had nothing now in my life, without Ben, except for HIV, and HIV had already killed my spirit. So I chose to take what little Ben would give in lieu of the perceived nothing I’d have if just with HIV alone. Our “friendship” was highly sexual and emotionally abusive, yet most that saw us together it seemed like we were this perfect, happily married couple. Little did they know we weren’t close to that.
Ben would not budge in his willingness to date me. You couldn’t get him to budge much for anything, maybe occasionally when he’d benefit from something he would. He could be bright and a lot of fun when he wanted to be, but he always made sure I knew that he held all the power. He drove home hard the idea that he didn’t need me at all, whereas I needed him like a child needed a parent. He rarely (if ever) apologized for his behavior or mistakes, and he believed that he was was perfect as is. He was self-centered, he was all about himself, he didn’t seem to have much concern for my feelings, and I was starting to see this one-sided friendship really drag me down.
And I was already feeling down so I knew this wasn’t healthy but I didn’t know anyone else willing to take on my mess and tolerate the pathetic state I believed I was in. Ben had met me after the most serious period of abuse, shock and fear I’ll ever experience in my lifetime, and I hadn’t begun to heal; he still had a lot fenced up inside him. But shortly after, he’d become mad when I brought up this topic for discussion at all. Soon he started placing rules on our sex, often under the guise that it was helping me:
You’re getting attached, I’m cutting off the sex.
It seemed like he kinda got off on putting me down, making it known that he held the power, I didn’t, and that he had several Alex’s whereas I only had 1 Ben. But the moment he wanted sex, the rules were out the door. The friendship was very one-sided: if I wanted sex, he’d say no if he even answered, usually he just deflected the question by addressing something else. If he came over on his own accord, sex always happened, I didn’t say no because him seducing me became like breathing air, it was happening all the time, and I was used to breathing that; plus he’d walk right into my place, taking his clothes off like it was nothing special. A stupid part of me still believed that he had to view sex like I did, as being special, as being sacred. But no, Ben saw having sex like chewing a piece of gum. It was frustrating and I found myself rather jaded, and further isolated myself from the world. I began to notice that his compliments always seemed back-handed:
You’re really attractive for an older man.
I was 5 years older than Ben, and while it didn’t seem like he’d thrown that in there to insult me, I couldn’t help but take offense as this is how he phrased it every single time, always tacking on my “older” age even though I was 33 at this point in time. When he’d refer to our sex, he’d always have to add on a comment about how he didn’t need it, he could take it or leave it, and focus on our “friendship.” My eyes would be rolling in my head listening to that passive-aggressive crap, and what kinda “friendship” was Ben even working towards with me? He later came at me with more insults and jabs, frequently mentioning my lack of self-esteem, always reminding me that we’d never date, only having sex when he wanted it, and always bringing up what I referred to as my “pre-planned demise” as he’d frequently ask me
What are you gonna do when I start dating? How are you gonna cope?
He later claimed his comments were all done out of kindness, so I wasn’t taken aback when he was suddenly dating. Only… that never happened; all that ever happened was him antagonizing me by constantly by bringing up how unworthy I was of dating him, but someone else out there was, and I needed to think about how I’d react when he someday found his next victim. This seemed to happen with a whole lot of topics actually, getting me all worked up over things that were coming down the pike, things I wouldn’t like so I needed to be forewarned, only none of these bad things ever panned out.
It made no sense to me – why get someone all stressed out and worked up over nothing? It seemed like such a waste of time and energy on his part, and completely draining emotionally on my end.
He seemed to enjoy bullying me, he enjoyed putting me down to feel better about himself but I didn’t get why. Constantly bringing up my end date was inhumane; here he’d met me after my first boyfriend-turned-narcopath infected me with HIV, he had the chance to make a positive impact in my life, but instead… all he could dwell on was my unworthiness, as well as my exit once someone that was worthy entered the picture. It was demeaning, it was mean, and what was most confusing was how he’d started all this off being so kind, and leaving me feeling… safe.
I’ll never forget one Friday night when he looked at me half-way through sex and said:
You like this, don’t you?
I nodded, and he suddenly fired back:
Well if you don’t fuck 2 other guys by Friday, we’re not having sex again the two of us!
My head was spinning, I was so mortified, I felt crushed. Who wants the guy they’re sleeping with to be sleeping with others? Why would someone threaten to withhold sex from me if I didn’t go out and do something I didn’t want to do sexually with other guys?
This was really, really bizarre. The way he went from treating me so wonderfully with sex to cruel and controlling with sex baffled me. Down the road when I’d bring up how his treatment and demeanor changed so abruptly with me, his excuse didn’t seem to match what I’d experienced at all:
I was trying to make sure you didn’t get too attached to me, I wanted to make sure you experienced sex with other guys. I knew I always wanted you; I just knew it wasn’t the right time when we first me.
Among other comments that made Ben appear entitled, and his compliments perhaps back-handed, he’d say things like:
- He felt he deserved 3 boyfriends, not just one; in fact I wasn’t even on the waiting list. It came off as he viewed himself as being special, deserving the best x 3; he wasn’t successful or wealthy but seemed to think he was so “hot” and unique that he deserved everything.
- He seemed to re-write history a lot, his recollection of events were often very different than mine. He’d take all the insults and degrading comments he’d make and later paint them out to be tough love, encouraging me to be stronger, or even wanting to protect me. It all seemed like bullshit to me.
- He’d frequently point out how lucky I was that out of everyone else in the world that he’d “chosen” me. He acted like he was some Superstar, and in such high demand.
- He lied a lot, and about anything and everything I was finding out; he often seemed convinced he was telling the truth when I knew it to be different, he often lied about nothing worth lying about. I began to feel like I couldn’t trust anything he said.
- He told me that he only dated a guy, if they made the cut, for 30 days before disappearing on them altogether; why 30 days? “Because that’s when people really start to develop feelings,” and he didn’t want to deal with others’ feelings since they always fell in love with him. Damn. Ben sure felt high and mighty hidden behind his glasses. He also seemed to hint at how sticking around one place would let too much out about who he was, he was very secretive about his life for some reason, he told me little about his other friends, family and past.
- He planned out everything he did beforehand to a tee, and became upset when things didn’t go as planned or he when didn’t get all he wanted.
- He could certainly dish out the nasty; but the slightest criticism seemed to upset him like a child.
- He spoke constantly of his alter ego, his dark side, which he claimed I hadn’t come close to seeing yet, despite my opinion that he was often behaving in a cruel manner.
- He loved to hit me with the silent treatment, but always denied doing it intentionally, blaming it instead on being introvert and an INFJ that needed his alone time. It just so happened that the 4-day stretch of alone time always came after I challenged him or didn’t do what he wanted.
- At the end of our friendship, round 1 as we later called it, he informed me that he’d slept with 20 guys that month, who knows if that was just an exaggeration. When I asked him if he thought he had a sex addiction or was really that horny, he responded by saying: “Sex isn’t about being horny, it’s about power.” I realized then that Ben was likely on a hunt for all the power he could get…
Ben also didn’t seem to have any solid friendships, everyone in the gay scene knew him, but when he and I were hanging out he was always alone with me; I never met any of his friends. He also described having a rough childhood where he had to take on “parenting” tasks as his folks were getting divorced and he had to hide it from his siblings. He said his father constantly told him to hide his emotions, punishing him if he let his feelings show. He said his family moved every 2 years or so due to being in the military, never having a sense of stability, never making solid friends, and never connecting with anyone for very long. He described how he’d intuitively change who he was to fit into whatever situation he found himself in, saying it was his natural reaction to change, and how he managed to get along with anyone when he needed to.
He’d frequently mention his desire to move, to leave all behind, and escape his problems here for another place. I told him that’s not how things typically worked, that running away from problems didn’t leave the problems behind, it brought them with you. He disagreed; he recanted cutting all ties with his family for 3 years, moving across the country, trying to figure out his life; he said his problems remained back in the DMV, not following him where he went. He mentioned he had no issues disconnecting from his family during that period, never once speaking to them until he returned. He told me about a boyfriend he’d lived with for 4 years and one day, Ben up and left him. He said his boyfriend had become complacent, and Ben felt he was standing in the way of him reaching his potential. So Ben left him, and as a result, the ex was forced to grow up, go to college, and now was making a 6 figure salary:
I had no problems leaving him because I knew I was doing it to help him, to make him grow, and it worked.
It also seemed odd to me: all I’d ever wanted in life was love, and I couldn’t imagine finally finding it, and then after 4 years suddenly leaving it behind when a good sit-down talk could have helped resolve things. But to each their own… one thing was clear: Ben was confident in himself, he didn’t depend on the approval of others, he was fine being on his own, and he didn’t allow anyone to tie him down at all, he did what he wanted, there was little compromise, he was stubborn as hell, he was dead-set in his ways and beliefs, and whom he deemed as “worthy” and “beneficial” to have around was set in stone from the first greeting and didn’t change much thereafter.
At the time while I found it odd, I respected him for it; I was insecure and often agreed to things I didn’t want to do, whereas Ben stuck to his guns, and didn’t end up in the same predicaments as I often did. When it came to dating, he wouldn’t settle for anything other than his ideal mate; he had no issues explaining to me time and again how I didn’t fit his “ideal” and that’s all he’d seek. He had all these ideals, these visions for his future that he felt were necessary to be happy: he wanted kids, a great-paying job in information technology, he wanted to live by the beach, he insisted on having a grand wedding.
While Ben didn’t seem to do many good things for me, I continued having my eyes out on his best interests. I noticed a lesion on his butt, it looked to be a rectal fissure or fistula, I wasn’t certain, but I knew it didn’t look good and it needed surgery. Through surgeons I knew from working in the community, I managed to land Ben an appointment with the best of the best – a surgeon whose waiting list was 6 months long just for a baseline appointment – only I was able to shenagle it so that Ben was seen the next week. Like with his HIV meds, Ben didn’t seem all that appreciative, but then again, nobody wants surgery, and often people don’t appreciate their “peers” pointing out medical problems that need further investigation.
Nonetheless, Ben booked the surgery, and I was more excited than he was – not that surgery is every a reason to be excited – but because he was in the best hands, and the area I saw looked like, if untreated, could turn into cancer one day. So regardless of what Ben thought, I knew what I was doing was something that would not only change this life but possibly save it. I was far from perfect, but I believed I was a good friend to Ben, I believed that I put his best interests before anything else, and just as I’d aimed to do (regardless of his frequent immature treatment), I felt like I was being the best friend I could to him.
I didn’t mind helping Ben out and having it go unnoticed. However, I found myself becoming more and more bummed in the relationship. My self-esteem was falling by the minute based on how he made me feel so… ugly, so run-of-the-mill, so un-exciting.
One day I decided to research the term “narcissist” on the internet after Ben mentioned it previously about my ex, and in doing so, stumbled upon Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It seemed to describe my ex-boyfriend very well, particularly the 3 phases of the narcissistic relationship. But something else jumped out at me: I couldn’t help but see many of Ben’s strange quirks being described, although the over-the-top behavior described in the article didn’t match Ben at all, who was introverted and quiet. Maybe that’s why nobody can figure him out like he said, maybe that’s why he doesn’t seem to have empathy or concern for my feelings, maybe that’s why he has a dark side he keeps hidden yet warns you not to cross.
I sent Ben an email, and included a portion of the article in it, asking him if perhaps he thought that was why he had a “dark side” and if it might explain some of his nuances. Ben called me 2 days later, having gotten out of surgery a few hours before. I asked him how things went, and what he said surprised me:
Things went well. Oh, and I read your email by the way. You will never hear from me, speak to me, or see me again. I’m blocking you in my phone and I want nothing to do with you. You’re discarded from my life: you will never find closure. Goodbye!
Suddenly the distinct feeling I got when my ex up and vanished, refusing to explain a thing, leaving me completely confused and hopeless, came back full-force.
Why had he gotten so offended by what I wrote? After all, he was mistreating me really badly, this was at my lowest of the lows in my life, Ben had the chance to be a true friend, a role model, but instead he chose to treat me like crap. Why would some articles about narcissism – or one word for that matter, narcissist – create such a whirlwind of animosity towards me? I didn’t get it, but what I did get was Ben’s never-ending silent treatment: I was discarded just as he said I would be. I had never felt so much like the ugly duckling, and I was swamped with humiliation and confusion. Ben, albeit having issues, felt like family to me for some odd reason, and initially he’d treated me like gold. How he suddenly didn’t find anything wrong at all by discarding me made my stomach sink to the ground. I tried for several weeks to get him to cave, I reached out repeatedly by email and using my home phone, which he quickly blocked, as well. Ben’s stubborn ways made certain that his word was the only word, and that I’d be banished from his life for suggesting he had narcissistic traits. And the truth was: he did, big time. Only I didn’t realize just how big, I thought he was selfish, vain, overly confident when he didn’t have the accomplishments to match, and a slight bully.
What had I done to him that was so wrong? I’d endured his abuse, and when I called him out on it, he ensured that I was further abused for crossing him. Maybe I’d forced him to view himself as he truly was instead of the perfect, all-American boy he wanted to pretend he was. Was that the reason he got angry, because Ben couldn’t handle that the “ideal” self he claimed to be was just a phony?
There is no greater narcissistic injury than being exposed for the phony he or she really is. To lose the hold of the False Self, and have his mask ripped down exposing the true distorted, horrific shameful personality is akin to emotional annihilation for an individual with narcissistic personality disorder. He or she will react with incredible vengeance, retaliation and maliciousness. The narcissistic personality may stop at nothing to exact punishment, which includes but is not limited to the destruction of a person’s reputation with vicious smear campaigns, using any pathological and even criminal method to destroy the person’s life and the narcissist will cause mayhem and havoc to any other person who just happens to get in the way.
While the ending of my last relationship changed my life in a way that could never be repaired, my ending with Ben might have took what little hope I had left…
…and threw it into a deep, dark, ravine that kept leading further into darkness…
…and it would only get darker until Ben finished off what he’d started. While I’d read a few articles on Narcissistic Personality Disorder at that point in time, I didn’t understand what it signified; I didn’t know it was a psychopath basically – the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde, the absolute worst head-ache of a psychological disorder on the planet. I never thought Ben was some sort of monster or human predator; I believed he had narcissistic tendencies and attributed his behavior to his rough life experiences, to being pimped out at a young age, and to the life he encountered escorting. Nobody is inherently evil, right?
I viewed Ben as a person who was inherently good deep-down but just confused. Even while he mistreated me, I’d remained quite fond of him and kept on waiting for him to apologize. Only that never seemed to happen, ever… I’d believe Ben had apologized for certain things only, with a second read, I’d come to discover his words weren’t actually expressing his regret.
While our relationship only lasted a few months, our abrupt ending without closure seemed to haunt me indefinitely. I didn’t know why I felt such a strong bond with Ben, especially since he treated me like dirt; nonetheless, I felt this strange closeness to him regardless. Why was he blind to the fact that he went out of his way to mistreat, bully and torment me? Why was that OK to do, but asking that question was such a huge offense?
Narcissists can’t take criticism because it deflates the false self they have created that takes place of their true one. Narcissists are the most sensitive people on earth and take criticism very badly, which is ironic since they seem to insensitive to everyone else. But the effort of maintaining the false self is too great for them to afford to care about anyone else’s feelings but their own.
Suddenly I was left with nobody in my life. One day I stumbled upon Tim, that guy that I’d met through John several months before. We tried dating for a split second, but we weren’t a good match. But as friends, we seemed to get along just fine. Tim seemed low-key and a good guy; the two of us would go on remain “just friends,” almost best friends, for some time to come. But I didn’t feel that magnetic connection to Tim like I had with Ben. Ben had somehow managed to “grab” me in a way that left me overlooking all the abusive treatment he dished out, despite it making no logical sense at all. I tried repeatedly reaching out to him, but Ben wouldn’t cave, he maintained his silent treatment no matter what.
Come to find out the absolute worst thing you can do to a narcissist is call them out on being a narcissist. They can’t tolerate criticism or real or imagine threats at all, and having the truth about them discovered is their biggest fear, it would result in them losing everything if the world knew they were pure evil. The narcissist insists on being in charge of reality, they insist on being recognized by the “false self” they project to the world. Failure to do so leaves the narcissist wounded, fearing exposure of their “true self,” and so they lash out in an attempt to silence the offender forever, waging a smear campaign to destroy them.
Calling out a narcissist is akin to strapping a bomb to someone’s body that’s set to detonate at some point in time, albeit a minute or 10 years down the road.
It’s not a matter of if it will explode, it’s only a matter of when it will explode, as it’s 100% guaranteed to blow you to bits flying in a hundred different directions when you least expect it.
Who would have known the word narcissist could create such an explosion? Definitely not your average non-narcissist, definitely not me.
It would be 18 months into my subsequent relationship with Ben down the road before I finally realized the reality of this disorder. Narcissists have nothing good to offer anyone, they are always dangerous; narcissists are the epitome of all things evil, they may act like they love you, but narcissists love no one. They are incredible actors, they can dupe anyone, even experts, especially with their pity plays. Behind the fake smile and kind words and gestures, the narcissist hates you, they hate everyone, and the life of a narcissist consists of destroying every person they can maim without getting caught. And they’re extremely successful in doing so.
By asking Ben if he was a narcissist on that dreadful day, I’d sealed my fate for the rest of my life, or at least for several years to come…
You just dug your own grave by suggesting he was the other “n-word.”
But how was I supposed to know that?
You’ll know in time…
…it’s straight out of the textbook.
All piano songs composed and performed by me.