Trust After Betrayal: After Many, Many Many Betrayals

“Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it’s broken, but you can still see the crack in that mother fucker’s reflection.” ― Lady Gaga

And after a marriage to a serial-lying, serial-cheating, narcissistic personality disordered person, how does one learn to trust again? Like back in those innocent days before you met your ex-spouse, when the world was simple and good, and people generally told the truth?

Dating after divorcing a NPD is a minefield. A casual conversation about infidelity in Europe can quickly devolve into lunacy. One moment you are laughing and enjoying your scallops at a fancy restaurant, and the next moment your face is flushed, your chest is tight – is that a heart attack? – and you can’t breath or remember what you just said.

And the person you are dating looks at you like he has never looked at you before and quietly says, “I think you are making me sound like a bad guy. And I’m not.”

And then you catch your breath and wonder what just happened, and he says the unspeakable: “I think we should wrap this up and go home.”

And you know you have just moments to make big decisions. But your brain is still acting in the way it needed to act for more than a decade in order to protect you. It can’t suddenly catch up and admit that it overreacted. It starts searching for ways to make him the bad guy. It starts scouring memories for slights, suspicions, imperfections, and quickly comes up with a laundry list of faults and problems.

But despite the crazy in your head, you manage to excuse yourself and text a dear friend in the restroom, and she tells you to Scale It Back. In no uncertain terms. I think her first text was, “Oh boy,” like she fully expected this sort of behavior all along from you. And of course she did because she has seen it countless times from you before – and perhaps she has even experienced a bit of it herself, given that she too divorced a NPD.

And so you march out of the restroom, knowing that at least your friend understands, and you pray that the person you are dating will understand you too.

And you apologize. You may not remember exactly what you are apologizing for, but you try your best.

And it’s okay again. At least it’s okay again on the surface, but it will be hours before he will start to relax in your presence, before he comes back to being himself. It will be tomorrow afternoon before you start truly connecting again. You will walk through the city together, hand-in-hand, and you will both laugh, and all will be okay again.

But you cannot truly relax, because deep in your heart and chest cavity and gut, you know he has limited patience for this sort of scene. And that you’ve used up probably two of three strikes already. And you feel helpless because you still wonder about this man, this handsome and calm and disciplined and kind man who is devoted to his children and who comes over to cook you dinner and drive you everywhere and fix your gate. Yes, you wonder come crazy things, and some things that might be less crazy.

One suspicion in particular seems to resonate. All day. You know it is not healthy. But suspicion kept things in check in your marriage. They kept an insatiable and sociopathic NPD in check, albeit briefly.

Suspicion kept you safe once.

And then you remember when you asked your therapist if she thought you could do this – if you could have a healthy relationship with this man, at this time. And she turned to you and said, “I know with certainty that you can have a healthy and successful and loving relationship with someone at some point. I can not promise it will be with this man right now.”

And you realize again that you are broken. You are humbled, and scared. You feel a slight thrill that she believes you can do this, eventually. But then you start mourning the end of this relationship as if inevitable. Then you summon up all your resilience and you rumble forward, hoping against hope for happiness.

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5 thoughts on “Trust After Betrayal: After Many, Many Many Betrayals

  1. I keep reading this over and over, understanding it all…

    At some point, I realized that, temporarily anyway, the only person I needed to trust was myself. That if I could fully do that, trust for others would come.

    In order to accomplish this huge, at least in my mind it was huge, feat was to dive head first into serious compassion for myself. Self-compassion came in many, sometimes strange, forms for me but it worked. I now trust myself, my gut, my heart more than anything. I have learned to listen to my instincts and step back in observation of my feelings instead of letting them take over. It is a hard process…

    When I read this, I see that you are already on your way down this path. You trusted yourself to say something, anything. You trusted yourself to walk away for a few minutes to get your bearings again. You trusted yourself to apologize — that is so huge! You trusted yourself to acknowledge that all of this was even happening. And, you trusted yourself that you would find the courage to get back up and move on even while be scared.

    Trust yourself

    much love,
    sunshine

    • Dear Sunshine,
      I’ve missed you! As usual, you’re way ahead of me. I’m a huge Brene Brown fan, and her latest book, Rising Greatly, focuses a lot on being aware of how you feel – and what to do about it in a healthy way. It involves tons of self compassion, a trait I am lacking in.

      I never once in my life thought about this topic. And then, in the middle of the episode at the restaurant above, my friend coincidently sent me a podcast about letting go of judgements about other people.

      It overlapped Brene Brown. And you.

      And the craziness thing is that it was EXACTLY what I was doing right then, at that very minute. Judging, chandeliering, blaming, bursting out with anger and indignation, unloading a ton of anger after numbing it for so long.

      So I guess I’ll try to follow you and learn self-compassion and hopefully how to follow my gut and instincts and heart. These are things I ignored for more than a decade with NPD ex. Instead, I chose to tamp down on my gut and my instincts and heart – and instead let myself be gaslighted by an NPD con artist. Because following myself and my heart and gut would have meant giving up everything I had and having to start over. Which of course is what ultimately happened.

      I am dying to ask you how you step back from your feelings to observe them. I think mine are too powerful!

      Thank you so much for being here and sharing your story. I am so glad and thankful to know you.

      -M

      • HOLY COW!!! I haven’t logged into here in forever and was under the impression that things would pop up on my phone, so had no idea until just right now about this reply! I am so sorry, I so hope you weren’t left feeling abandoned by me. I read this thru wondering what the hell I even said to warrant this response as I can’t find what I had written! Well, whatever it was, hopefully it helped 🙂 How are you? How are things for you and your sweet kiddos? I logged back in here to retrieve something I had written a long time ago to share with a friend and found this message. I am so excited! I feel like I have found a long lost friend 🙂 I so hope you get this message so we can catch up! much love 🙂

  2. This post resonated with me, not regarding a dating partner, but incidents with others. I have been reacting in a distrusting way when people have acted or spoken to me. I have had that momentary loss of trust in them and wondered whether they truly support and love me for myself. Then after I go away and reflect on what they have done, I soon realize they are really minor incidents or them just having a bad day. It has been no where near the level as in intimate betrayal. I am realizing that this is NORMAL life. I am having to relearn what NORMAL is. Normal is not perfect. I am not perfect. Others are not perfect. I am slowly learning that I can trust those people in my life and, even though they will have occasional words to say to me that I do not like, they will not let me down when it counts. Slowly trust is coming back.

    You have much courage in taking on this relationship. You are strong. I believe that you will work through this and make the right decisions. I wish you well.

    • Dear Wise Elizabeth,
      This is the essence of how I feel. It is the essence of what is “left over” from our pasts. I, too, have to learn a new normal. I’m afraid it’s a process that just takes a long time. I hope that each new day that someone surprises us – or someone proves that we should trust them – will bring us closer to the full life we want to live again.

      I’m working hard – being trusting and vulnerable SUCKS. I stammer and blush and basically freak out. Sometimes I can’t do it. Sometimes I think, “Okay, I took one step today. I guess I need to take the next step tomorrow, and I hope that’s enough.”

      But I figure that if I’m going down in this relationship, I might as well go down flaming because I tried my hardest and gave it my all and was open and loving and vulnerable. Better than always wondering afterwards if I was too scared to TRY. I wonder if that’s how you feel with ordinary people?

      Thank you so much for sharing your insights – argh, they are so true. And I wish you so many wonderful things too. 🙂

      xo,
      M

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