Trouble Piecing Together Relationships After Narcissistic Abuse

Love after a Narcissist?

Sometimes, humanity seems a writhing, aimless mass of stupid, immoral, germ-infested, filthy creatures not worthy of this Earth. At least, that’s the sort of view that comes forward in my darker moments, since beginning a long road to recovery from narcissistic abuse. No one is trustworthy. No one gets close. I’m often happiest, now, when I’m alone and free to pursue lost interests.

Creative pursuits like art, writing, music and video production took time and effort to reestablish, but after years of persistent effort, those hobbies have made a comeback and I’ve found the gumption to pursue a private pilot’s license – something I kept saying I’d so “someday.” Someday is today. Keeping busy keeps those darker moments at bay.

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I’ve overcome the depression and anxiety that follow narcissistic abuse, but whether romantic, familial or just friendly, relationships don’t come as naturally as they did before. Actually, I find very few people worth the time or effort anymore. I’ve stabilized my life and found ways to be happy, but I’m sadly aware that a piece of my basic humanity is still missing. I suppose it could be akin to that Quarterflash song and I’ve “hardened my heart.”

My personality has been altered and I feel much less capable of giving of myself or showing affection.

Perhaps it’s because I had to tear out the part of me that was bonded to Tina to save the rest of me. Like the hiker Aron Ralston, who cut off his own arm to escape when he got trapped in a canyon.

Over the forty-odd years that came before I met Tina, I assumed I’d developed a pretty clear picture of how relationships of various kinds were supposed to be. That’s all a bit murky now.

I remain astonished and bewildered that a person could actually be as terrible as Tina was and that unfortunately shapes my view of humanity as a whole. More so when I consider how careless I was in allowing creatures like Tina and her various sycophantic flying monkeys near me.

Tina opened my eyes to countless betrayals from her and even from people I’d considered friends. Tina had managed to recruit a surprising number of people to assist with her nefarious aims. As the scales fell from my eyes, I was forced to confront a side of humanity that was previously only theoretical – mostly the stuff of film and fiction. Now my picture of a human relationship is a bit like 10,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle dumped on the floor in a heap.

So maybe I’ve hardened my heart and maybe I just can’t see clearly now, or maybe I’m subconsciously avoiding really looking. There are familiar colors here and there, some partial shapes I recognize, but I’m starting over with figuring out how it all fits. I don’t know if it does. Those pieces might all be from different puzzles. Looking at relationships of any kind is almost like looking through a kaleidoscope.

What I’m describing, after three years of no-contact with my narcissistic ex might sound bleak, but I’m actually pretty happy most of the time. I just struggle with relationships that are more than superficial. I don’t feel the same kind of connections to people. I don’t know if I can anymore. If this damage isn’t permanent, it’s at least more resistant to healing than other wounds I’ve overcome. With the exception of my nieces and nephews, I’m often somewhat indifferent about other humans.

Between getting sober and leaving Tina for good, I left behind probably 80% of my former relationships and find little desire to establish new ones. My circle has become much smaller. Even that doesn’t always feel “safe,” but it’s manageable.

A romantic relationship poses the same challenges as all the others, but multiplied. There are stronger expectations there and I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not as open, devoted or affectionate a partner as I’d been in the past. It’s not a conscious thing, but some part of my brain is keeping all the gates locked shut. Nobody gets in. Stay right there. That’s close enough!

Physically, everything still works as well as always, but even my interest in sex has been diminished. Sometimes – not every day, but sometimes – I perceive sex as rather unsavory. I’ve linked that bit of psychology to Tina’s wanton and dangerous promiscuity. I learned early on that Tina had a compromised immune system, making her more prone to infections of all sorts, so realizing that her vagina had been a sleazy dumpster for the germs and bodily fluids of numerous other men while she was with me came also with a realization that she was putting me at terrible risk without the slightest concern for my well being.

A trip to the doctor was one of the first items of business at the end of that relationship. I was as surprised as I was relieved when my tests all came back negative. Despite that stroke of luck, what I used to perceive as a kind of beauty sometimes looks base and filthy and undesirable now.

Just as with relationships, the picture I have of sex is jumbled and I have to find ways to reassemble the puzzle in a way that makes sense to me. It’s a work in progress.

Read next: Healing Strategies After Narcissistic Abuse

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