Forgiveness: Not For The Narcissist

I’m feeling a bit angry right now.   If you don’t follow my blog, here’s the key points to know:

1) I spent 25 years with, and am now divorcing, a covert narcissist

2) Yoga has become one of my coping techniques

3) I live in a small community, and me & the ex-narc have 3 children & own a business, so everyone “thinks” they know our story

4) My ex is living with a new girl, in our small community, and she and the ex are friends with one of my yoga studio owners (call her Jane)

5) My ex narc is doing what Narcs do:  making sure that I walk away with nothing, while he can afford copious vacations, a new cadillac and constant dinners out; because he is the “victim”.


A renowned Yoga Teacher came to our town this weekend.  My studio spent 2 years getting her here, and the classes were very expensive.  The cost was well out of my price range, so I didn’t sign up for any classes.  The co-owner of the studio (not the one who is friends with my ex & the GF, so I’ll call her Sue) was instrumental in getting this teacher to our town, and was adamant that I go to at least one of her classes.  Today, in exchange for helping with logistics, I found myself in the Heart Opener class, the one  Sue suggested for me.

I am going to assume that she suggested this because she knows I’m going through a divorce, i.e. I’m going to assume she was well intentioned.  Right before the class was to begin “Jane” came to me, picked up my mat and moved me to the front row, right next to her, calling it an “upgrade”.  It was wonderful being with the teachers I’ve come to love, but I am now questioning her motivation.

The teacher spend the 1st half of the class talking about Chakra’s 1,2, & 3, which had been covered in the AM class.  She explained the psychology behind blockages, denial, dissociation, etc.  In the Yoga community, they phrase these concepts a bit differently than in psychology, but they are ultimately the same.  The 1st 3 chakras  are really the 1st 3 levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Once she finished her review of the 1st 3 Chakra’s she began talking about the Heart Chakra.   I’ll be honest here:  I’m not really clear about what she said, except that “forgiveness” is essential to an open heart.   I know I approach this with my own story in mind, so I understand that I might have honed in on the word “forgiveness” more than someone else.  It eventually became the only word I heard.

Most yogi’s were very moved by this class. I was not.  I took advantage of the restorative aspects of the class and had some great meditative time, but I was not moved.  At All.  It might be my paranoia showing, but it seemed like Jane and her husband (who plays basketball weekly with me ex-narc) were looking for my transformation after class.  At a minimum, it seemed they were checking me out to see if I had been affected.

My initial interpretation of this was that my heart is too “blocked” to be reached.  I questioned that explanation though, because I feel an abundance of love in  my life, now that I’ve had time away from my narc and have begun to recover.  My tendency to see my weaknesses though led me to the conclusion that I was blocked.

As I got ready to leave, a woman closer to my age & experience asked for a ride home, and during that ride I shared with her those thoughts; that I hadn’t been affected by the class, and that it must have been because I am “blocked”.  She said Bullshit!   We’re not besties, but she knows a fair amount about me and my back story, and she said “you are beyond all of that.  You’re not living in anger or rage, so forgiveness is not on your radar”.

I thought about this as I drove home.  I am not filled with the rage I once was.  There are times I am angry, like when he pulls into our driveway in his cadillac, while I worry about how to pay for brakes for my 8 year old car.  Yup – that pisses me off.  But the hurt, the outrage, the sense of betrayal and the humiliation I felt 2 years ago, are minor players in my life now.  For the most part, I see how damaged my ex is, and I am quite certain that I am a better, happier, healthier person without him.  Furthermore, I don’t envy he or his GF, because I know what the future holds for them, and it isn’t pretty.  To the contrary, while my future might not be pretty either, it could be, which is enough for me.

As I’ve thought about this I can’t help wondering if I was set up.  Was I offered that class for free so that I might be amenable to the ludicrous settlement my ex is offering?  Was I offered that class because Jane, and perhaps Sue, view me as the unreasonable party, the one holding up the divorce, the one being uncooperative and therefor unforgiving?  I have not shared anything with them, so if they are aware of any narrative, it is the one being presented by my ex narc, so it is entirely likely that they view me to be unreasonable.

As I pondered all of this I decided I needed to research the concept of “forgiveness”.  In the process I stumbled across the following article, which was extremely clarifying.

In essence, this article describes the narc’s thought process during divorce, and agrees that the non-narc must get in front of a judge to get a fair settlement.  This has been my lawyer and my’s assessment, that the only way I can ever get what I need to survive, and what I earned in our 25 year relationship, is to get in front of a judge who will listen to our stories.  Because here’s the thing about narcs:  They are perpetual game players, and They Lie.  The truth is fluid to them; they can change the truth to fit their current needs, their current situation, their current social group.   While I have spent months reviewing each action I took, every word I said, every question I asked, to find out what my role was in the train wreck of our union, he does nothing more than change his story to fit his current desires.

Webster’s dictionary defines forgiveness as:

Forgive | Definition of Forgive by Merriam-Webster

1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult> b : to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt> 2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon <forgive one’s enemies>


Perhaps my heart is blocked, but I’ll be damed if I’m going to do any of those things!  I will not forgive him his debt to me.  I will not relinquish my claim to requital.  I don’t think it’s even logical to suggest that in those moments in which I can’t afford a haircut, yet  he’s taken his 3rd vacation in 4 months, that I not feel resentment.  If I were to not feel resentment, I’d be denying my humanity.

I talk to my non-yogi sister about yoga, and the part I focus on is the idea that we can experience pain, but we don’t have to suffer; we can observe our pain, accept it, and understand that it is temporary and it will pass.  Perhaps I didn’t explain this concept well, but my sister said “wait; it sounds like you’re describing disassociation, which, last I heard, isn’t such a great thing”.  Perhaps this concept is not ideal, but the idea that the only way for me to “move forward” is to “forgive” my ex – narc is  a form of disassociation, and it is unacceptable to me.

I’ve spent the past 2 years learning to feel the feelings I’ve suppressed my entire life, and I will not suppress feelings of resentment towards my ex when he is so blatantly disregarding my, and our children’s, well being.  I will also not relinquish my claim to requital, or forgive him his debt.  I will hold out for my time in front a judge.  I will wait for that time in which I can tell my story, and get the validation I deserve.

Does this mean I’ve not “forgiven” my ex-narc?  I suppose in the eyes of the yoga community the answer is yes.  Will this impede my recovery?  I don’t think so.  I think I spent 25 years feeling I was to blame for every issue in our union, and I think that if I were to “forgive” him now, I’d be denying the reality, the pain, the abuse I experienced all those years.  I think that in forgiving him I’d be denying myself.

So my take away is this:  I won’t forgive him.  I won’t let this destroy my sense of well being, and I certainly won’t let it interfere with the love I feel for others, but I will not forgive him.  Because is not forgiving him, I am honoring myself; I am forgiving myself, which is what will lead me to recovery.


4 thoughts on “Forgiveness: Not For The Narcissist

  1. I started reading your blog today. Ah, forgiveness. What a hot button topic! I, personally, like Chump Lady’s definition: I’m not actively wishing you dead; consider yourself forgiven. I’ve found a few others that I like as well. These all came from other people. Many times if I read something that really clicks with me I will copy it down and save it for later. Apparently, today is later.

    1. Forgiveness is not a gift you give yourself, letting go of the anger (eventually) is a gift you give yourself. Making a new life is a gift you give yourself. This emphasis on “forgiveness” of people is overrated, and there is now research that it is HARMFUL for therapists (or others) to plug “forgiveness” of the cheater or OW/OM.

    2. Forgiveness is NOT a gift we give to ourselves, it’s a gift we give to the guilty. This modern forgiveness tripe is just that, tripe. There’s no responsibility, there’s no recompense, there’s no amends, there’s simply no justification. Most people who demand forgiveness for a third party don’t understand what they are asking or are simply cut from the same clothe as the cheater….

    Have I moved on? You bet!!! And I’m happy, and my life is going well, and getting better. It’s not perfect, but it’s improving, 2+ years after a divorce. But yet there are even now people who insist the only way my life will be perfect is if I blubber and hug and forgive my witch ex wife. That’s just silly.

    I’ve come to my own peace and solitude. I had a friend once tell me “you forgive the safe people and those who aren’t safe you just accept the fact that you got out of there alive. But to tell them you forgive them will only further embolden them to act the way they did to begin with.” That’s the TRUTH about this forgive at all costs mentality, there’s zero responsibility for the offender, and there’s only you admitting you’re a doormat and they can continue to act irresponsibly.

    3. I think there is a huge difference between eventually letting go of anger vs. forgiving an unrepentant cheater. No one wants to be eaten up with constant anger; eventually most of us will see the anger wane and even forget about our betrayal for large swathes of time.

That’s a long way from forgiveness, which can be either a pardon (e.g., “forgive a debt”) or absolution. It’s not just a question of semantics; it’s an emotional issue. I haven’t “forgiven” a boyfriend from 30 years ago who was a horrible person for most of the relationship and who broke things off in an ugly way. Does he occupy my thought processes more than 60 seconds a year? No. Did disgust at him prevent me from going on to live a fulfilling life? No. Am I still emotionally angry? Would I initiate a conversation with him if I saw him on the street? No. I just don’t care anymore, but I maintain a cognitive evaluation that he is a horrible person. That’s where I am headed with cheater-X. But forgiveness, in any common sense of the word? No.

    I love those definitions of forgiveness because they focus on us healing and not worrying about the people who hurt us. Those definitions also tell us those who hurt us are owed forgiveness. Those that preach forgiveness are doing it more to prevent uncomfortable feelings/situations for themselves more than they are looking out for our “emotional” well being.


  2. I never understood the power of words until I read The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
    Book by Don Miguel Ruiz. I started to look up definitions, and I started to understand why words like “forgiveness” were offensive, or not in my current reach. I wish people were more aware of their words, because my ex will never be forgiven his debt to me. EVER. And, I’m not a bad person as others suggest, for taking this stance. You aren’t either! Hold your ground!


  3. I understand. Every time somebody suggests “forgiveness” I balk. There will NEVER be forgiveness for Loser or that WTC. They do NOT get to walk away with everything, including my children and receive absolution from me. The one problem is….they don’t give a shit nor do they have to. They have convinced everybody (including my children) that I am “clinically insane.”
    I do know that one of the things Loser wanted more than anything was “my forgiveness” so he would feel no guilt about fucking everything that circled him like a bitch in heat.
    Forgiveness? NO.


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