Narcissus

A few days ago, I told you that the narcissist in me wanted to say I was worth taking a chance on. That, despite your concerns, I could be good enough to ease your doubts.

You, of course, rebuked my advances, but not without calling me out for my so-called narcissism. “You have self-worth. You call it narcissism, but it isn’t that. It’s you feeling your own value.”

Could it be that I have trained myself to believe that any sort of positive opinion of my own being is unearned, that to feel some semblance of happiness with who I am is a sign I’m a harmful, self-indulgent person?

2018 has taken a toll on me in a way I still haven’t fully managed to wrap my head around. The previous year had felt like the best of my life, and then everything slipped out of my hands. I got married to a wonderful person, and fell in love with someone else – and despite that sounding questionable, it was my husband who wanted a polyamorous relationship and I decided to try it out.

And now they’re both gone. They’re present in my life, but the relationships could no longer function. And I miss them in a way that makes me feel a deep sense of shame.

You were the person I turned to in the dark depths of this year, when no one else was really listening, and I found safety in your presence. You spoke to me in a way no one really had before, and it felt wrong, because you were the person my ex-boyfriend essentially replaced me with. He wouldn’t speak to me after the breakup, instead transmitting his thoughts through you, and not giving me much of anything. Even six months later, as I try to maintain my friendship with our mutual ex, I find myself breaking down at times, convinced he doesn’t want to actually keep this up, but I’m too oblivious to notice and he’s too meek to speak his mind.

It didn’t help that you let me know he mentioned feeling pressured into being my boyfriend. That what I thought was one of the great loves in my life was simply because the person I loved was too weak to deny my desires, despite him having 17 years on me. He apparently went along with my fantasies, letting me believe we had this beautiful relationship, consistently giving me exactly what I wanted out of a partner until I started questioning whether my husband and I were ever as close as I had felt.

I still don’t know what I am to him, and even after six months, he hasn’t given me the dignity to sit down and talk any of this over. You’ve mentioned that he’s never referred to me as a former romantic partner, that you didn’t even know the two of us were dating him at the same during the first month and a half of your relationship. He told me just before you two started dating that, while we weren’t having sex, it was because he had no desire to have sex with anyone at the moment. It wasn’t until I saw you tweet a comic about a night you spent together that I realized he was lying to me; cheating on me, really. I’m not even sure he comprehends that what he did was cheating – but it was.

Just like my husband. Because, despite both of these being polyamorous relationships, there are still rules to follow, and neither of them could keep to their word. I called my boyfriend out the day after I read your comic, and he broke up with me. Three months later, I had to have a similar conversation with my husband; that despite how much I tried after several years, I realized I could never trust him again, not the way I needed to trust a lifelong partner.

Through all of this, you were the person who was there. And soon after you and my ex-boyfriend also broke up (or, to be honest, during that last week where your relationship had clearly already fallen apart), I realized I was falling for you. Not just because you were there, but god, you really seemed to get me, despite our differences.

But I’m not who you want. You love me, and at this point we’ve explored quite a bit with each other, but that’s not enough. It’s a painful cycle. We get close, and then you begin to feel guilty because you’re still not over our mutual ex. Like you’d be betraying him if anything happened between us, despite the two of you having broken up over three months ago.

Which, god. No one’s shown that much respect for my boundaries even while dating. What did he do to be so lucky, despite having a history of actually cheating himself?

So that’s why I’m a narcissist. No matter how close I get to someone, I’m never enough. Because I loved these two people so much, more than I loved myself, so I don’t want to blame them for hurting me. It’s always my fault. I overestimate my importance to other people. I thought they loved me enough to respect me, to at least give me the dignity to say goodbye before moving on to someone else, or to wait for me to catch up before cheating on me as a way to force me into accepting an open relationship. I’m a narcissist because it’s clear I’m a person who has earned no one’s true respect; how can I believe I’m anything other than the lowest person? There must be something broken inside me that I can’t fix.

I’m happy you’ve never taken advantage of my love – I just wish that didn’t make me trust you more, and therefore love you more. I want to be the friend you want me to be, and I’m sorry my feelings can get in the way of that at times.

And I know that whole negative thought process is nonsense. No, despite how much I loved them, my ex-partners really, truly did hurt me. They’re the ones in the wrong for what they did, no matter how they try to justify it. Instead of speaking their concerns to me, they betrayed my trust, delivering me into this low. It’s always twisted into my fault. You once told me how our mutual ex complained how long it was taking me to get over our relationship – only four days after he broke up with me. He expected me to just move on within a week – and here he is, over three months since your breakup, still not even trying to get over you. I’m expected to hide my problems away while he gives himself permission to sulk as long as he sees fit.

Likewise, I’m sure my ex-husband is letting everyone believe I’m the cause for the divorce because I’m the one who asked for it. Because how can I possibly explain to either of our families that he cheated on me and then forced me to choose between having an open relationship or losing him, and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to someone I truly thought was the love of my life until that point? That, sure, it might have taken me years to finally decide when we could have avoided a whole lot of mess if I realized it wasn’t working before the wedding, but he was the one who shoved me into that ultimatum in the first place.

I’m not wired to direct my anger toward others. I inflicted all the wounds they gave me back upon myself. I’m not a narcissist at all, but almost directly the opposite. If I’m not hating myself, something must be wrong and I course correct.

But that’s what is wrong with me. I believe my self-hatred but not my self-love. I deserve better than all of this; because if I saw this happening to anyone I cared about, I would tell them so. So why don’t I say that to myself?

I just hope being aware of the problem can help me change it. 2019 is a new year, and the only person who I can reasonably expect to love me going into it is myself. So I better get started.

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