Out, in Puffs of Smoke
| The Devastating Effects of Ghosting, Silent Treatment, My Narcissist Fiance’s Disappearing Act | July 9th through 20th, 2016 |
Ghosting, the act of abruptly disappearing from someone’s life without explanation can be painful even after a first date, but after months or years in a relationship it can be completely devastating. The psychological wound opened defies closure and festers in rumination.
In my case, I was planning a future. We were engaged. We had just endured a dark and horrible illness together, but the sun was finally shining again. I thought.
Ghosting or silent treatment by a narcissist is something all victims of narcissistic abuse have probably experienced. Likely more than once.
The first time Tina vanished without a word for an extended period was right after my Mom’s birthday, July 2016. It was confusing, disorienting, life-changing and above all, agonizing.
Tina and I had what I thought was a pretty minor tiff. We never really argued (not over anything of consequence – we argued for sport over trivialities sometimes – that was more like debating). Usually, even if I disagreed with Tina, I’d acquiesce to her way of thinking, or at least humor it. On this occasion, I felt a sense of righteous indignation and let Tina know how I felt. It never even remotely occurred to me that it could lead to a breakup, but now I know about narcissistic injury and I’d inadvertently caused one.
Tina and I had finally recovered from the Double Death illness, just about in time for Independence Day and we took a trip up to her dad’s place in Cold Spring for the occasion. It was a good time. Tom took us out on his double-decker pontoon with Tina’s brother, his fiance and Jasper, the “stink dog” (Tina gave the German shorthair that nickname for his perceived attitude, not any odor). We went swimming. Tom grilled chicken, burgers and brats for everyone.
Tina and I stayed a few extra days at her Grandpa’s cabin across the bay. We were still enjoying ourselves, but it came time to get back to the cities because both of our mothers had birthdays in the coming week. My Mom’s was on July 10th. Maura’s, the 14th.
We stayed a couple days at my mom’s and I was getting back to work, so I’d left Tina at the house with my mom for part of a day. When I got back, I was happy to learn that they had apparently got on well.
At the time, Tina and I were in serious discussions on cohabitation. We had been considering taking over the lease in Buffalo, as her mother was considering moving in with Scott. It was going to be a bit of a drive for me to work, but the rent out there was so cheap that it seemed a viable option, at least for a while. The bonus was that we wouldn’t have to move much in that case. That idea seemed to be falling apart as Maura and Scott had a sudden falling out, so we were looking at other options. Or, rather, I was. I discovered, as we were discussing it after my mom’s birthday party that Tina considered it entirely my responsibility to find and decide on our housing options.
It had been an odd day. A sizable contingent of family had come over for my mom’s birthday and I was grilling for everyone at the party. Tina, however had been reluctant to come out of my bedroom and join the festivities. It was becoming conspicuous. Aunts and uncles were asking after her. “Is Tina feeling OK?” and the like.
I went up to the room to check on her every hour or so that she eschewed making an appearance. She wasn’t ill and she assured me she’d be out soon. To try to make her more comfortable and sociable, I started having a drink with her every time I popped into the room. After a while, it seems, my sudden intoxication was noticed by some of my family. Around that time, Tina finally decided she was ready to join everyone in the back yard.
After the party had wound down and we were alone back in my little room upstairs was when the dispute began. We had both been drinking, but that was nothing unusual. I had to go to work the next day, so I asked Tina if she could use my computer to look online for houses or townhouses for us to rent around the metro area while I was at work.
“That’s your job,” Tina responded, with a noticeable hint of ice in her tone.
Finally free of a near-month-long illness, I had a lot of work to catch up on. Affairs at the non-profit I was in charge of had fallen into a pretty shabby state, due mostly to neglect of my duties. I was also doing side work with my dad in his contracting business, renovating an old duplex. Tina had no responsibilities to speak of, so I was irked that she flat out refused to participate in the hunt for our future home.
I made a brief attempt to persuade her, but she was immovable on that point. If I wanted us to have a home together, it was entirely up to me to make that happen.
“You aren’t doing enough,” she told me. She wanted nothing to do with the hunt or even the decision making. I was wounded and that should have been a pretty significant warning, but I let the matter drop for the night.
The next day, before I went to work, Tina informed me that she wanted to get together with her mom and wanted me to drop her off at Maura’s place of work at the end of her shift. I had expected that we’d all do something for her birthday together, but Tina wanted to get a jump start on that and she hadn’t seen her mother in quite some time by that point.
I left the duplex job around 4 and I picked Tina up to drive her out to her mom’s place of work in Maple Grove. It was closer than bringing her all the way back to Buffalo, at least.
Tina always over-packed for trips, but on this occasion, she brought a relatively small load with: one bag for some of her clothes and another that contained her latest crocheting project.
The drive started out pleasant enough. We were both in good spirits, but that changed when I brought up the housing situation again. When she persisted with the notion that it was all my problem to deal with, I was offended. I’d expected some teamwork from my partner and I had a lot on my plate just then. I told her as much and my irritation drove me to criticism.
“I’m working two jobs right now and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. We need to figure out this housing situation soon and you have the time. I mean, while I’m at work, you’re at home smoking weed, coloring pictures, crocheting and watching TV,” I blurted. “I think you should be able to find a little time in the day to look for our future home, and frankly, I’m offended that yesterday, you suggested I wasn’t doing enough.”
Tears instantly welled up in Tina’s eyes and I felt like a jackass. There was actually nothing at all wrong with what I’d said, but I never wanted to hurt Tina and here, I’d made her cry.
I began to apologize and backtrack. I assured her that I’d take care of the housing situation. “Don’t worry about that,” I said. “I’ll take care of it and I’ll do it quickly so we don’t have to worry about it anymore.” I reminded her how much I loved her, apologized some more and eventually, the tears stopped rolling down her cheeks.
We were pretty close to Maura’s work by then and Tina said, “I just wish we could have parted on good terms.”
I apologized some more, offered more reassurances and pledged eternal love. Eventually, she was nodding, smiling and it seemed we were OK.
When I parked in the lot, Maura was already in her car, ready to go. I carried Tina’s bags over to the silver Saturn and said hello to Maura as I put them in the back seat. Tina and I embraced and she kissed me goodbye.
“I’ll call you later,” I said.
“OK. I Love you,” Tina said.
“I love you too. Everything will be alright,” I said. And she was gone.
Tina didn’t answer my call that night, or any day or night to follow. My text messages seemed to disappear into a black hole.
With no cause I could discern, Tina ghosted right out of my life.
The world stopped.
With each passing day, my mental state deteriorated, my brain spinning and spinning trying to decode what had happened. July of 2016 became the darkest month of my entire life. I had already developed very bad drinking habits with Tina that led to my first bout with withdrawals during the Double Death illness, but now, I plunged into the bottle, swimming deeper and closer to the bottom every day.
I used to say that Tina was my best friend and lover, but she was closer to my everything by that point. No one and nothing else really mattered. With every decision I made, I considered it’s impact on OUR future. My entire life was being built around that false future.
Trying to figure out why Tina left me without any explanation was driving me completely insane. It was all consuming. All I could think about was solving hundreds of unsolvable theories, because only Tina knew for certain and she wasn’t saying. I didn’t know if this was permanent. I didn’t know where she was. I didn’t even know if she was alive and well.
My mind was too preoccupied for the complex mental work I needed to do for my foundering non-profit, but I attempted to work for my dad. It was hard to keep moving with even simple tasks, like patching plaster or painting a ceiling line. I was sneaking nips off a fifth of vodka that was stashed in my van on smoke breaks.
My uncle was working at the duplex with me one day while I’d been drinking to get through my tedious day of painting. He took control of the radio and tuned in a country station. By the end of my work day, my head was so full of thoughts of cheating hearts, lost loves, dead dogs and all the other awful things country singers wail on about. It took me down even lower. I had never known such despair.
I decided I needed some company and went out to see my friend Donovan down in Farmington. It was a little disturbing, because I drove right past Scott’s on the way there and had a pretty strong feeling that Tina was there. To be so near, yet so tremendously far from her tore at me.
Tina was all I could think about and no doubt, my friends were sick of hearing my frantic musings and unanswerable questions. Donovan was a compassionate ear as we proceeded to get completely bombed together, however.
Eventually, he said something that was a cold hard slap in the face. “Dan, she doesn’t love you.”
I couldn’t find fault with his assumption, given the way I was discarded, but it didn’t line up with the previously constant barrage of Tina’s professions of love for me.
Donovan and I passed out early early in the morning, but I only managed to sleep a couple hours before my inner torment woke me. I went out to my van to grab a fresh pack of smokes. The sun was barely up, but shining brightly in a clear blue sky. I stayed outside for a while, lit a cigarette and stared down the road in the direction of Scott’s house.
I decided to try texting Tina for the thirtieth time since she’d vanished. I was beginning to weep while I composed the message, knowing it wouldn’t be answered. I went back into the dark house. All the curtains were closed. It might have been night time. Time lost meaning as I sank further and further into my own darkness. What had begun with weepy tears evolved into uncontrollable sobbing as I scrolled back through loving text messages from before Tina’s abrupt disappearance. An unending stream of tears were splashing on my phone’s screen like raindrops.
Weeks had passed and instead of getting stronger and moving on, my condition only worsened. Still extremely drunk and in a new unfathomably low depression, my body convulsing for what seemed like hours awake alone in the dark, I concluded that I would be this miserable or worse for the rest of my life. Every new day was darker than the one before. There was only one solution.
I went back out into the bright morning, squinting against the sun and located Donovan’s garden hose. I opened my passenger side window on my van just a crack and put one end of the hose in. The other end went into my tail pipe, but the hose was only half the diameter of the tailpipe, so I went into the house looking for tape. After obtaining a roll of packing tape, I was all set to seal everything up. I grabbed a pint of tequila from the kitchen, hopped into the driver seat and started the van. I felt a sense of peace come over me. Soon, I’d drift back off to sleep and I’d never feel that kind of agony again.
I put on some music, drank a couple swigs of the Tequila and lit a cigarette. Then, I put my seat all the way back and down, so I could lie comfortably, pretty much flat and also unseen. I was comfortable. The music was soothing. I felt a little drowsy.
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