Every once in a while I find myself re-learning the importance of impenetrable boundaries when dealing with a narcissist. This week was a refresher course.
It started on Monday when my ex narc claimed that his* PowerSchool** was blank, could I tell him what our son’s grades were. I know – seems mighty innocuous, right? It wasn’t until the week unfolded that I saw the genius behind the request.
I checked PowerSchool – which was fine – and emailed my ex with the grades. As soon as I did I had a gnawing feeling in my gut that something was amiss. Two days later I got the request to change visitation – via our son. The request was 4 days short of the required weeks notice, and was directed to our son, not me as they are supposed to be.
You might think I’m being petty, and years ago I would have thought that same thing. This is the thought process that sends you down the slippery slope of manipulation, into the pit of despair the narc would like you to reside.
In the narc’s ideal world you exist for his fulfillment – you are his narcissistic supply. This means that there are no rules, you bend to his every whim and he is not accountable for anything. The way he achieves this is by chipping away at your boundaries.
Imagine you have a well in your backyard. It is very dark and dangerous, so it is surrounded by a high stone wall. The stone wall prevents people from falling in. If somehow, a person did fall in, the wouldn’t die right away. Think back to the Silence of the Lambs, a person could be kept alive for quite a while in that well, until released by someone.
This is where the narc wants you to exist, but he can’t just throw you down the well. Doing so destroys his reputation, the persona he has carefully crafted to convince the world that he’s a great guy. He has to be careful how he gets you into the well, so he starts chipping away at the wall. Stone by stone he dismantles the wall. He is so careful, and patient, and meticulous, and you have no idea the wall is coming down. In fact, you don’t even realize that you’ve been pushed into the well when you finally succumb. You know you are living in a fog, a pit of despair, but you have no idea he put you there. Instead, you believe you deserve to be in the well, that you have actually put yourself into the well by maintaining your own destructive behavior.
In my current example,the first stone was his request for me to report to him regarding our son’s progress in school. We’ve been apart for 4 years and it is only in the past 3 months that my ex started looking at PowerSchool. Prior to that time it was my reports that spurred a response. This year I realized how ludicrous it was for me to assume all the responsibility for our sons grades, and I told my ex that he had to get his own Powerschool account. He did, and he has been checking it regularly, until this week. It seems quite innocent, right? The plea that he can’t access our son’s records, will I do so for him – what is there to be upset about?
Unfortunately, this is just one stone in the wall that separates me from his pit of despair. Once I allowed him to remove this stone he pulled the next one – the one that states that he will adhere to our set visitation schedule. Because I’d been primed by the removal of the 1st stone, this one slipped right by me. The 3rd stone was his refusal to communicate his plan with me, to instead text our son. Again, because I wasn’t paying attention, this slipped by me. The only reason I caught onto it was because he was supposed to pick up our son 11AM Friday morning. At 10AM my son came running downstairs saying “shit, dad just texted me and is on his way – I have to get moving”. That’s when it dawned on me – I’d been Narced.
I am rethinking boundaries, and I’ve come to see them as a game of Jenga . Each block comprising the Jenga tower is a boundary; a rule, established by you to protect yourself. The educated narcissist starts tearing the tower down. He starts at the top, so if you do notice that a block has been removed, you don’t make a big deal about it. After all, the tower is still standing, so what’s the big deal? If you have been through this enough you might notice on the 3rd block that he’s taking down your boundaries; destroying the tenuous fortress behind which you live. If you are new to the game and you complain, you will be met with his assertion that you are being ridiculous. In my situation, he’d have said “this is the first time in three months I’ve varied from the schedule, and I work hard and my schedule is unpredictable, so stop being a bitch”. If I’m unaware of what he’s doing, I succumb to his insult and allow that block to stay out of the tower. He is now one block closer to breaking through all of my defenses. To add insult to injury, not only has he removed the block but he’s convinced me that the block is gone because I am a bitch. Sneaky, eh?
Perhaps it feels silly, but to protect yourself from a narcissist, you need strong defenses. In fact, I would say that a wall isn’t enough. You need to build a fortress around yourself, similar to a medieval castle. Built a wall and man it with armed forces, ready to sling arrows at the first suggestion of penetration. Then, dig a moat and fill it with vile water. And add some alligators. Add a drawbridge, which only you can release, ensuring that you have total control over who crosses your moat. Finally, put your castle on a huge, barren hill, so that any attempt to access your castle is readily seen.
If this feels like overkill, remember – you are stuck in a deadly game, a game in which he will let you die if it fulfills his needs. There is only 1 way out: No Contact. So pull up your drawbridge and man your wall. Prepare your bows and arrows and let them fly! You are in charge, and you can protect yourself.
*Replace she/her is your narc is a female.
*Powerschool is an online platform that our school district uses. It allows teachers to share with parents the results of homework, quizzes & tests, class performance, attendance, child’s attitude, etc.