When I first met my narc, the sex (after the 1st few extremely awkward and unsatisfying pairings) was amazing! It was unlike any I’d ever had before. It actually felt as if our souls were merging during the act. He often said that afterwards, that it had been the best sex he’d ever had, and that our souls were like one soul. It was intoxicating to say the least. More importantly, though, it led me to believe that my other sexual partners had been lacking in some way. I felt like I had clearly made the right choice to break up with these boys, because the sex had never been that intense. Obviously, this new relationship was the one I was meant to be in; he was definitely my soul-mate, as evidenced in so many ways, but especially in our sex lives.
Our wedding night was odd. We were both exhausted and we had an early flight in the morning but we agreed that sex that night was pivotal to a successful union. So we had sex, and, while I couldn’t really explain why at the time, it concerned me. Most successful marriages I know sometimes engage in a “quickie”, and most of the women I know who will discuss this. enjoy it. It is a way to bond, enjoy each other, but not take up your whole day, or keep you up late at night. It seems, actually, to be a staple of a good marriage; not used all the time, but used to keep the love alive given our busy lives. There was something off about our quickie that night. I chalked it up to our exhaustion and forgot about it. The rest of our honeymoon was the long, soul entwining love making of our pre-wedding life, so I felt reassured that this was a fluke.
As time went on, it started to dawn on me that something was wrong. We both worked full time, we were raising his toddler son, I was soon pregnant, and he worked many nights and weekends, so our lives were busy. We were not often in sync with each other, as I worked 9-5, he not. On the nights he came home late and wanted sex, but I was exhausted and had to be up early, I tried to implement the quickie. So many other women swore by it, it had to work for us, right? Certainly soulmates would be able to make the concessions needed to keep their souls enmeshed, right? It did not. I couldn’t figure out why. I also couldn’t figure out why, at 10PM, when I had to be up at 5AM, he would be insulted that I didn’t want a 45 minute love making session, but insulted he was.
I gave in some times and played the “good wife”, engaging in our long, drawn-out sessions to appease him, but I grew resentful. Shouldn’t there be a balance, I thought? Why couldn’t we try both? Why did I have to be one to give in? Why couldn’t he understand that I had a hard job, 2 kids, a house, shopping and cooking, laundry and cleaning?
It didn’t take long for him to claim this was my issue. He said I was frigid. He said I denied him sex as some type of marital warfare. He said I was unreasonable and unloving, and he in no way deserved this, since he was such a great husband. And I bought it. It was all my fault.
Hindsight and education have helped me figure out what happened. To begin with, there is Nothing Wrong With Me sexually. It is perfectly normal for a working mother to not want to engage in 45 minute love making sessions at 10:00 at night. If you want to – great. If not, you have the right to say No. This does not make you frigid, unreasonable or unloving. There is a time and a place for everything, and weeknights at 10PM after you have worked all day, fed the kids, bathed them and put them to bed, done some laundry and cleaned the kitchen, and are all too aware it will be the same the next day, is not the time for a long, drawn out sexual encounter. And that is OK. That is the purpose of the quickie!
How did this take down happen? How did he get me to believe that I was the problem? It happened in three stages.
Stage 1: He learned my hot topic issues. He learned that I was confused about my role as a wife and mother. He saw what a neurotic perfectionist I was, and he began presenting the accomplishment of perfection as a wife and mother as possible. He knew I feared being seen as a “bitch”, especially an emasculating one. He realized that I was completely terrified that I was simply too damaged to be a whole, functioning, competent employee, wife and mother.
Stage 2: He began putting me down. He chipped away my self-esteem, at my perception of reality. He worked at making sure I was off-balance. He called me emasculating, he accused me of not thinking he was good enough, then a few days later he’d tell me how great I was. He told me that I was a an unrelenting bitch; that he would never be good enough for me; that I just didn’t Love Him Enough. Later, he’s tell me how lucky he was to have such a competent wife. WTH?
He tapped in to all the things I feared, and used them against me. He convinced me to question myself and my motives, every time I didn’t want sex, every time I tried to discuss our parental roles, or our respective roles in the home. Then, he’d congratulate me on how well I managed everything, which of course I did.
The few times I questioned what he was accusing me of he got very calm, stroked his chin as if deep in thought, then said, very quietly and sincerely, “do you think you need to see someone? You seem really angry”. This was my #1 fear – that I was crazy, angry, and damaged. For years that statement alone shut down every disagreement we had. I was perpetually off-balance.
Stage 3: He convinced me that I was the problem, that there was something wrong with me. And, I was so off-balance, I was so busy examining my own thoughts, my own behavior, my own emotions, that I believed it.
We tried therapy with 3 different therapists during those early years. As I look back, I realize that I’d sit there with a list of issues, like I was tired, didn’t feel emotionally supported, felt like he had dumped these kids on me and abandoned me, felt it unfair that he came and went with no accountability, no advance notice. He complained about sex. Each time we tried therapy we went to exactly 3 sessions. By the second session the therapist (or preacher) was looking at Him, suggesting that perhaps the sex issue was a reflection of a larger problem, and that it might be time for him to Drop It and start addressing the bigger issues. By the 3rd session, when the therapist was insistent that he drop the sex issue, he was done. I don’t remember exactly how he justified it, but we’d never go back after 3 sessions.
As time went on something else happened. I don’t remember exactly when, or why, but one day I realized I felt dirty when he touched me. It felt so fake, so forced, so inauthentic. I felt like I was being touched by a young child, play-acting at making love. At the time I took it as further evidence of my sexual issues. I never tried to talk about it with him, but I’m sure there came a time that he felt my discomfort when he touched me. He had to have felt it, because there were times that I actually cringed when he touched me. I would physically recoil in disgust.
When we first separated I started giving this some thought, and the first explanation I came up with was that I knew he was cheating, and that colored how I felt about his touch. This might be part of it. I knew he was cheating – maybe not sexually, but certainly emotionally, just as he had done with me. I knew when there was someone else on his radar. He’d become even less accountable with his time, he’d take more frequent trips to Home Depot or Target, the trips would take longer and longer, and he’d start taking on characteristic of his new girl. Did I ever prove he was cheating? No. When confronted, he’d say “follow me around and see what I’m doing” knowing I couldn’t very well do that with young children. I came to believe that this feeling of disgust when he touched me was because of my suspicion that he was cheating on me.
Now I realize that this feeling of disgust was because I was actually being touched by the emotional equivalent of a 5 year old, who was play acting what he thought love making was supposed to be. He was pretending he was Cary Grant, seducing his new love. There was nothing genuine about it. As I now understand, I was having sex with not only the empty shell of a person, but an empty shell with the emotional capacity of a young child. I now see why he could never enjoy a quicky because he had no frame of reference for this. His love making came from watching old movies with his mother, and lovers in old movies certainly didn’t engage in quickies. Instead, each encounter was a emotionally laden expression of two souls joining love.
A quicky requires a genuine connection. It requires both parties to say “hey, I love you, I want to please you, but I’m really, really tired or busy, so how about we do this quickly?”. It doesn’t wound someone’s ego to do this. If anything, it brings a couple closer together, because they are honoring the real life experience of the other.
Now, I just feel dirty. I feel untouchable. The thought of a man ever touching me again makes me ill.
I realize that this is not a feeling I deserve to have. I did nothing to earn this feeling. It is not my fault, and the only thing I could have done to have avoided it was to figure out that he was a covert narc. I guess, much to my credit, once I did figure it out, I called him out, invited myself on his latest date and made him choose – faithfulness or divorce. Thank God he chose Divorce!
None of these realizations, though, get rid of the feeling of disgust. Knowing what happened, who he was and why I felt the way I did, does nothing to make me feel clean. It does nothing to get rid of the feeling that I can never, ever again, have a physical relationship with a man. It is no help in making me feel I can ever let my guard down.
Now I have to figure out how to merge my knowledge with my feelings.