I’m 43 year old male, never married, no children. I recently terminated a 6-month relationship with a woman who exhibits many of the symptoms of NPD. It has left me profoundly confused and disappointed. I hope to get some insight.
I met her “the old fashioned way,” in a bar. She initiated the flirtation, I reciprocated. We exchanged numbers and very quickly learned we had many shared interests, intellectually, artistically, politically. The chemistry and mutual attraction were immediate. We were sexual from the begging, often and intensely. While the interpersonal connectedness felt very strong, I had some reservations about allowing the relationship to become too serious. I want a family. She was 42 with two children from her only previous marriage. (One child was adopted, not so much by choice when the original adopted mother, an in-law, died unexpectedly, leaving no one to care for the child.)
In the first month or so she dropped hints that she had no plans for more children. I would have found it awkward to bring the issue up so early, but when she started to express deeper feelings for me I did. I told her, sadly, I did not see long-term compatibility for us because I wanted children. She became very upset, angry and left my house in a huff. I thought that was the end of it, regrettably but necessarily.
The next day she emailed to say she was embarrassed by her behavior and for “misleading” me about her desire for more children. She explained she made anti-baby comments to in order to assure me she was not looking for a man to give her more children. This was odd to me because I never shared my plans in this area and had no reason to believe she, a 42 year old mother of two, wanted more children. Nevertheless, after she explained she in fact did want more children, but feared because of prior miscarriages (3 she said) she could not, we continued the relationship, tabling the child matter for later.
Around this time, I’d say 6 weeks in, she routinely expressed deep feelings for me – that she wanted to be exclusive (we were and I gave her no reason to think otherwise) and that she loved me. The first time she said these things, I froze. It was too early to get in this deep. I did not want to lead her on. Later she revealed my silence caused her to briefly consider rekindling an old romance. However, we continued and I allowed myself to become very close to her. I resigned myself to the idea that while our circumstances were not ideal, because she struck me as so genuine, so honest, so caring, I would follow my heart and give this a chance. I developed and shared openly strong feelings for her. I was glad I did so, for a while.
She introduced me to her children. They accepted me. I was not in total agreement however that she encouraged open displays of affection in front of them (girls, ages 8 and 11) so soon. (We had been dating not even two months.) I thought it best they know me as “mommy’s friend,” but it was clear I was “mommy’s boyfriend.” She assured me it was fine. She discussed it with them and wanted her daughters to see her in a loving, caring relationship, something they did not experience with their father, and her first boyfriend. (I now think she wanted word to get back to their father.)
I met her family and all of her friends. They would quickly say things like “Oh, she is so happy to have found you. We’ve never seen her like this.” Everything felt right: natural, comfortable, loving, trusting, caring, honest, drama free. We never disagreed, much less fought or argued in the first three months. I did not doubt for a second her feelings for me or commitment to us. Indeed, she shared such feelings often. I made her feel “safe” in a way that she had not in a long time, that this was the “adult relationship she had prayed for,” in her own way. I was happy to reciprocate. And she was happy, upbeat, and positive. We truly enjoyed each other.
But the child issue would resurface. She could not stand the idea of another miscarriage, and my disappointment she feared would follow. (Her husband, she claims, abandoned her emotionally after she lost twins, choosing to go on an extended fishing trip, leaving her alone to mourn and watch their young daughter. She reacted by having a prolonged affair. He found out but they stayed together until she caught him cheating on her with several or her friends. She left him two years or so before we met.)
She explained she would not undergo intrusive medical procedures to get pregnant or have children. She would not take hormones to harvest embryos to be implanted in a surrogate. And most interestingly, she was cold to the idea of a total surrogate – a woman who would bear my child, a son or daughter we would raise as our own. This was the first sign of selfishness I saw.
When I expressed reluctance to continue the relationship, she again changed her position. Because it was important to me, and therefore important to her, we would “figure something out,” she would write in an email asking that we stay together. I agreed. Everything quickly returned to normal. We were in love. We felt like best friends. I enjoyed her children. They seemed to enjoy me. We never fought or disagreed. We were partners.
Then she started disappearing. She would be gone, unreachable by phone for hours at a time when normally she would be available. She would claim she was going home, tired, and needing to rest up for the next day, then in response to calls or texts from me, reveal she went “out with friends.” Oddly, she would not text: “I had a change of plans. So and so called and we decided to go out.” She would instead pretend as if should know where she was. If she told me she planned to stay in, and I could not reach her for the traditional good night call, she’d text something like “Still at dinner. Sorry. Took longer than expected. Going to grab a drink then home later.” She seemed clueless to the idea that this would surprise me given what she told me earlier.
She once told me she was going home to pack for our weekend trip. When I told her I may stop by, she revealed she and a friend were at a bar, a last minute idea suggested by the friend. She invited me to join, saying they would only be there a little while. I did. Three hours later three guys showed up expecting her to go “dancing” with them at a different place. She went home with me, however. I did not believe she ever intended to stay home.
This pattern would continue even after I expressed some concern about it. Often, the explanations for her absence were flimsy at best: a class she needed to take for work, but where she could not remember the name of the hotel holding the class, cell phones that die at times when she would normally call, bizarre explanations for why her car would be somewhere it should not be, trips out of town when she wasn’t comfortable bringing me along with kids. There were many more. When I questioned her honesty after catching her in a lie after one such occurrence, she angrily refused to discuss it, hung the phone up, and deleted me from her “friends list” on a social networking site.
While she expected me to understand “the importance of her friends” and how “busy the life is of a single mom,” she never tolerated any action on my part that she interpreted as distancing or lacking interest. The one night I had to work late, I became short and irritated at her hypocrisy in questioning it. Suspicious, she drove past my house late, saw the car I rented while mine was in the shop, and later asked what “sketchy” behavior I was up to. (I wasn’t. She also made up an implausible reason for her late night drive.) If she thought (mistakenly) she saw an email from an ex-girlfriend, or if I failed to mention even the most insignificant fact about an ex, she would use the word “lie” to describe my failure to share it and command “don’t let it happen again.” In sharp contrast, she would at times reveal, without my asking, that her exes were “coming out the woodwork” seeking her attention. (I told her I did not care. As pretty, smart, and fun as she was, I expected it.) She once intended to or pretended to post a photo of the two of us online, claiming “this is sure going to break some hearts.” I assumed she posted it, but when I asked later why the photo was not posted, she claimed there was a problem uploading it. (She’s a professional photographer.)
While these strange occurrences continued, she never waivered in her seemingly genuine devotion to me and us, at least while we were physically together. When in each other’s presence, everything was normal and happy. However, she once made some strange revelations. I was extremely good to her. (I don’t know how else to be.) But I’m not a push over. At one point she lamented “I sometimes wish you were not so sweet.” When I inquired she explained “I worry I’m not as sweet to you.” When I asked why she added: “I worry that part of my brain is shut off.” I told her, firmly, “Find it. Turn it back on. Because while I’m very good to the people I care about, like you, I will not tolerate for a minute being taken for granted.” When I told her I thought she was in fact very sweet to me, (she in fact really was) she hung her head and said “No, I’m not.” She would later say she was joking, an often used excuse when I would question things she said or feelings she expressed.
And her absences continued. Despite her shortage of free time, she joined a band as a backup singer. Rehearsal took up one full night a week, sometimes two, she claimed anyway. Moreover, she continued to routinely plan activities without inviting me or knowing I could not or would not go. She planned weekends away without me, happy hours with coworkers without inviting me, late nights out when I was too tired from a similar endeavor with her the previous night.
This all struck me as odd, given her words, and my own experience. Couples in the early stages of a blossoming romance move mountains to be with one another. Not only was she not moving mountains, she was excluding me from some social activities, all the while discussing our future together. It was maddening to me, a very logical, rational, communicative, emotionally open person, qualities she often praised. After one such choice to do something without me, I ended it. I explained her strict adherence to her very full social calendar did not allow me to see a future where she would again be a wife, much less a mother. Similarly, I could not reconcile her perpetual absence by choice with her words of devotion to me.
She was “heartbroken” and “cried in bed for days.” (Normally, she was a very happy, upbeat, optimistic person.) After all, she had been “falling in love with” me “from the moment we met.” She had no idea this was an issue and lamented I did not give her the chance to “adapt” before “blindsiding” her, “ending us, so “abruptly.” (Her claimed ignorance is nonsense. We discussed the matter several times.) However, at her request and after she assured me she indeed shared my vision of the future, I gave it another chance.
I fully expected the distancing behavior to stop. It did. She (said she) quit the band, but would honor her commitment through shows already booked. She took me to a wedding and introduced me to her entire family. (She really could not have attended this obligatory event without me.) We took her daughters and stayed out of town, at my mother’s house, together, but in separate bedrooms. She asked me how things were. I told her I was happy and the future looked “promising.” She smiled big as she often did and asked: “Are we going to pull this thing off?” I said “yes.” Things had never been better. It did not last.
Only days later she announced (not “discussed,” not “broached the subject”) but announced she would be away the upcoming weekend. She needed to discuss an “investment opportunity” with her father, who lived two hours away. And while there, she would take the girls to a music festival nearby and spend the night again with her father, and return on Sunday. The following weekend, a commitment with the band would take her out of town to play a private party, another event I could not attend. (This would have absented her 3 of 4 weekends in a row, the sole exception being the wedding.) As before, she raised this issue as if it were nothing out of the ordinary, nothing of concern despite our recent troubles over the same matter, either clueless as to the significance of such a plan, or pretending it should not matter in hopes I would let it go.
She explained I could not join them because it involved an “investment opportunity” with her father and my presence would be “inappropriate.” (I’ve met him, and we got along extremely well. Not to mention I could excuse myself with the girls for the time. ) When I suggested I could arrive the next day for the festival, she rejected that idea saying “the girls need some time with me alone, without distraction,” a concern of mine she did not share in the past. Also, she expected me to be step-father to these children. I thought about it for a day and broke up with her again. (As an aside, I don’t believe her explanation for a minute.)
She was furious, accused me of being “rigid” and unappreciative of her decision to quit the band and to take me to the wedding. She sent a short, somewhat nasty email accusing me of being “cold” and “cruel.” She made no attempt to explain her choices, or take issue with my reasons. She more or less said “If you change your mind, I’m here to listen.”
I wrote a long, diplomatic email, regretting her sadness, but firmly standing by my decision. I carefully did not to suggest illicit reasons for her constant disappearances or plans to be away from me, despite the fact I did not now believe them. I did not use words like “selfish” or “dishonest.” I did not want to invite debate. I simply rested my decision on my inability to reconcile her actions and words. She simply did not want me around more than made sense, given what she wanted, given her professed love for me and commitment to us, and given how new and seemingly wonderful this all was for us.
She did not reply, but soon sent frowning faced texts, with no words other than “big time.” She sent links to video clips which I assume she thought I would find interesting, but without explanation. She placed insignificant belongings left at her place on my car. I took these aloof gestures as reminders that she was there if I wanted to reconsider. I never responded. A week after the breakup, she texted asking if we could get together, adding “I hope you don’t mind my reaching out to you.” She never addressed much less responded to the reasons I gave for my decision. She did not pretend she wanted to do. She almost pretended I had not given reasons for my decisions.
I sent an email declining to meet with her. This time I explained that while my decision to end our relationship did not hinge upon my skepticism about the reasons she gave for her actions, I in fact did not believe her, after giving her the benefit of the doubt time and time again. I added I did not know the real reasons for her choices and absences, but I could not accept the ones she offered. In other words, I did not trust her. I was angry for her having taken advantage of my trust, repeatedly and for having, as far as I could tell, sabotaged the relationship by continuing the same course of conduct that caused problems only weeks before.
She responded only to say, curtly, she was sorry I was angry and upset. She hopes I will get over it and remember the good times we had. She did not respond, and never has, to any of the concerns I raised. I find this so odd. If a person I cared about thought I betrayed their trust, I would respond in some manner, either to deny and explain, or to admit and apologize.
This is all so strange to me, the paradox of professing deep love, but continuing to be apart by choice; the regret and surprise at the termination of a relationship that I ended only weeks before for the same reason; and the continued unwillingness to engage at all, no explanation, just “I’m here if you want to reconsider.”
Did I fall for a narcissist?