Every relationship has its ups and downs, but the scars from a toxic relationship run deep and take time to heal. Recognizing the harmful characteristics of a toxic liasion and taking proactive steps to deal with it are the first steps towards healing.
Ever watched a film where two cars are racing towards each other at full speed? The occupants of each vehicle are determined to drive head on, expecting the other to turn away. Heart stopping stuff! A stand off in real life with a toxic partner is equally heart stopping; it takes sheer guts to go up against your septic other .
The light was pinged on which rudely aroused me from sleep. He called my name a few times but I was in no mood to answer. Unless for an emergency, I don’t like being awakened from my slumber. It was the threat that got my attention;
“Get up now or I’ll wet you”. It was a statement, very calmly spoken. I heard his footsteps leave the bedroom; and from the kitchen I heard the tap gushing out water. Was this man for real? He was that cruel?
The footsteps returned. The threat was repeated. Nonchalantly, I sat up in bed. There he was with a basin of water in his hands. The following thought went through my mind; if I moved to his side of the bed and went back to sleep, his side of the bed would get wet and then I would have the bed all to myself because he would have to find somewhere else to sleep. On the other hand, there was always the possibility that he would wet my side of the bed even if I was on his side. I sat there staring at him trying to reach a decision. To get wet or not get wet? His side or my side? His face was set, determined. His jaw was set.
I conceded defeat. I wasn’t ready for a midnight showdown. The only way I was going to be allowed to return to sleep was to hear him out. “What do you want Mr. Impatient?” I sighed. He rambled on: about what, I have no recollection. I blotted his rant out of my conscious listening. I just wanted to return to slumber. When he was done, I didn’t even bother to acknowledge that I had heard him. I simply laid down and turned on my side.
One day in the not too far future, there will be the greatest stand off EVER. Jesus Christ is coming to reclaim His people. He will stand in the ring with his arch enemy Satan. The enemy will be forced to concede. He cannot win this battle. In fact, from the very beginning, we, the Princes and Princesses of the Sovereign King knew that we are on the winning side. Christ is the conqueror; He will not and cannot back down. He is victor!
The Devil who deceived them will be hurled into Lake Fire and Brimstone, joining the Beast and False Prophet, the three in torment around the clock for ages without end. Revelation 20:10
I remember an array of memories from my childhood. In the summer we would leave London in the dead of night when traffic was virtually asleep with the rest of the world. One by one, my father would carry us, his sleeping children and lay us at the back of the car. By the time we eventually opened our eyes, we would be on the motorway; well advanced into the journey to Wales where we had a caravan.
I remember my mother’s stomach becoming so big that it was hard to get my arms around her when I embraced her. She explained that there was a baby inside it. When he was born I kept wondering what was wrong with ‘it’ because between his legs was different to what I had. His poo stunk and he cried too much for something that was so small!
My mother used to make an amazing drink blend of tinned peaches, ice-cream and milk. It had us wishing our tongues were longer so that we could lick the remainder from inside the glass better!
My sister before me and I, often dressed in the same dresses for church; I thought it funny that church folks thought we were twins because my parents joined that church before either of us were born! My elder sister used to make delicious recipes at school in her home economics lessons and bring it home for us to sample. I also remember when she had to rescue my other sister and I when we climbed to the top of the wardrobe in our bedroom and couldn’t get back down again!
I remember when we left our home in London and travelled to Dominica, the island of my parents birth; my heritage. It was our first experience on a plane. In my child’s mind, the journey took forever. At the airport, our aunt greeted us with mangoes; my dress got stained from eating it. It was so sweet and juicy. When we were enrolled in school, I found that I was no longer the one and only black child in my class (well the entire school!). Racist slurs were a thing of the past and I began to really enjoy school.
My childhood wasn’t perfect, there were some unfortunate things that happened, but that made up a small percentage of it. It was healthy, it was adventurous, and I was loved.
Sometimes, those of us who have had the privilege of a positive upbringing often cannot fathom the toxic former years of others. That an adult would deny a child the opportunity to laugh, grow and explore buggers belief. It is an evil that unfortunately, actually happens.
One must appreciate that we are all products of our childhood; granted there are always exceptions to the rule. There are those who were raised in affirmative homes but somehow they lose their way and became a ‘defective’ product of society. Conversely, there are persons who refuse to succumb to their terrible past; they become a beautiful version of their past. Whether good or bad, our character and values are formed in our early years. It’s engrained within us to the point where we may not even be aware of how entrenched they are.
When we dated, my ex shared much of his childhood with me. It was pretty dismal. His mother was just a teen when she became pregnant with him. This ruined her chances of completing school which is probably why she resented him from day one. She raised him single handedly. In the summer months instead of roaming around the village with the other children, he was exiled to the house. Even though he was old enough to make a cup of tea or help himself to a snack, she watched everything like a hawk. If there was sugar or coffee missing, he received a beating. If he snuck out and she somehow found out he was beaten. He says that these beatings were for virtually any perceived misdeed, and were frequently done on his head. As an adult he suffered from headaches. When he was still a young boy, his mother emigrated leaving him behind to be passed from relative to relative. It’s no wonder he had separation anxiety and never really felt settled or felt that he belonged anywhere or to anyone. When he was fed up of moving from home to home, he built a small home for himself on his mother’s property. He struggled through life but was afforded the chance to study abroad. His qualification opened certain doors for him.
I remember thinking how, for someone who had experienced such neglect, he was well adjusted enough to have come so far in life. However, this was the external person. I saw him have conversations with his colleagues and make random jokes with cashiers at the supermarket. I saw his warmth, I felt it. He presented as friendly; an advocate for the underdog, he was a grass roots man. He was a man in the process of healing and wanting to excel and do better. I wanted to be a part of that journey. I didn’t want him to go it alone. If he was already doing this well, I knew he’d be even greater further down the road. He was the embodiment of a new person in the making. I wasn’t about to miss out on this miraculous transformation!
Christ never has and never will force us to change. The choice is always ours. If we recognize that we need His saving grace, He is ever ready to impart it to us. As time rolled by, I realize that my ex-husband liked the idea of change but didn’t have the desire for it. He felt that he was who he was; I had to learn to live with it. I had to discover how to exist within his toxic sphere; endure the insults, the put downs, gaslighting and his indifference. Healing was no longer a pursuit; he wore his brokenness like a badge of honour. The problem was that his brokenness was disintegrating me. He was happy with whom he was; I despised who I was evolving into.
Christ is only too happy to take us on the transformative odyssey of a lifetime! He will unlock our chains, iron out the kinks, and bandage our pain. You just can’t be the same once you have experienced his make-over. He doesn’t charge for this service and he promises to be your forever coach. He won’t judge you, He won’t turn you away. He is just waiting for you to have your first appointment with him, or maybe drop by for a long overdue visit. God is phenomenally awesome!
Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! 2 Corinthians 5:17
There is one more cluster I want to share, but today I want to share a memory that recently came to mind.
“Listen to this; I was talking to David our neighbour the other day. He and his wife have been trying for a baby for a while. Guess what he did in the end? He slept with his ex-girlfriend and got her pregnant. When the baby was born he claimed the baby so that he and his wife could raise it together. That’s a good wife! What do you think of the idea?”
Of all the stupid questions and scenarios my ex put to me, this one was the most absurd. “Come again?” I asked. As he proceeded to repeat the entire escapade, I interrupted him.
“I got the story. What makes her such a good wife?”
“Well she understood her husband’s desire to have children and she didn’t stop him. That’s sacrificial love.”
“So you’re saying it was ok for him to be unfaithful just to get a child? What was wrong with adopting?”
“It just shows how important being a father was to him. What do you think of the idea? Would you have been willing to do that?”
“Well I feel sorry for her because it sounds as if whether or not she agreed to it, he was going to do it anyway. Now she’s stuck raising a child that isn’t hers. It’s not as if he had this child before they met”.
“What would be the difference in adopting? She would still be raising a child that she didn’t give birth to.”
“The difference is that she, or they, would have chosen a child. She wouldn’t have had a child thrust onto her. She would of had a choice in the matter. And to answer your question, I doubt I could have agreed to such a ridiculous idea.”
“So if I came home one day with a baby, and explained that I had the baby with an ex-girlfriend, what would you do? Would you really reject a baby? My own child?”
“I would never prevent you from raising your child, no child asks to be born. Whether or not I would hang around is another matter. Then again at the end of the day, if the issue was with you, and I slept with my ex-boyfriend to get pregnant it would have been fine right? Yes, that’s sacrificial love!” That was the end of that conversation.
When I left my island home to get away from my ex-husband, I returned the following year for my sister’s wedding. I found out that not only did my ex-husband already have a girlfriend, she was soon to give birth to their child. The math said that maybe he got lucky and got her pregnant right after I left. However, it is more likely that he was having an affair even before I left. Though I had already filed for divorce, the new information about his infidelity surprised me but didn’t make me angry. It did bring the above conversation back to my mind.
Everything I have spoken about in my blog is true to the best of my memory and knowledge. Today’s blog is speculative. I have no reason to doubt that my ex asked me that question way back then, to determine my thoughts and get a feel for how I felt about raising a love child, we hadn’t even been trying for a year yet. Maybe that’s when he formulated the plan. Now, what would I have really done? I would have resented being put in that position that’s for sure, but I can only speculate. The thing is I’ll never factually know. God saved me from a complicated and destructive marriage; that’s a solid fact!
No one expects their spouse to be perfect because all humans are flawed. We know our partner will do things that hurt or makes us angry. We know that there must be a spirit of forgiveness. Though it does happen, no one expects their spouse to deliberately plot an awkward and distasteful predicament. In marriage, a partner expects their spouse to want the best positive things in life for them. There should be an element of good will projected by both parties in a marital relationship .
The old testament is filled with the apostasy of Israel. When they were obedient and followed God’s precepts they were blessed and they prospered. When Israel was disobedient and wayward, they languished. Yet even in their rollercoaster of defiance and insubordination, God loved them still. He loves us still. Our heavenly Father only wants the best for all of us.
I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11
There are four personality disorders in cluster B; anti-social, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic. Someone with a diagnosis within this cluster will typically have challenges with impulse control and emotional regulation. Their behaviour is often inappropriate, emotionally volatile and unpredictable.
Someone with anti-social personality disorder is usally manipulative, deceitful and reckless. They have no regard for the feelings of other people. They show no remorse or regard for their behaviour. This disorder is on a spectrum which means that the behaviour can present as mild or severe resulting in repeated law breaking. Psychopaths are considered to be extreme anti-social personaloity disordered individuals.
People who are diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder are often concerned about being abandoned by other people in their life and will often take drastic measures to ensure this doesn’t happen to them. They have intense emotions that can last a few hours to a few days and then suddenly change. They may find it challenging to make and keep steady relationships and they often feel hollow and empty inside. They have intense feelings of anger which are often unmanageable.
Individuals with histrionic personality disorder have a tendency to be self-centered and are attention seekers. Their self-esteem is strongly linked to the approval of others as opposed to any sense of self-esteem or worth. They are dramatic persons who may publically display extreme emotions in order to receive recognition.
I have not bothered to mention narcissism in this blog since an entire blog was devoted to this disorder a few weeks ago.
The Almighty Father doesn’t mess or play around with the emotions of us His children. He doesn’t have erratic mood swings and He isn’t self-centered in any shape or form, though He is deserving or our love and worship.
This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.1 John 1:5
When someone has a personality disorder, their way of thinking is often rigid and unhealthy. It affects their ability to function in life. Their inflexibility causes them distress creating challenges in areas of life such as school, relationships and work. Coping skills are often underdeveloped. Their perceptions are much distorted. Personality disorders develop in the teenage to young adult years of life.
Personality is what makes us individual people and creates our uniqueness. It includes our attitudes, thoughts, behaviours, moods and how we use these to interact with others. People with a personality disorder differ vastly to societal norms. Probably the worst part is that they are usually unaware that they have a problem and only seek medical attention at the request of someone close to them.
Personality disorders are amongst the most common of mental disorders. In the cluster A, there are three main categories; eccentric, dramatic and anxious. Eccentric personality disorders include paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal. As the title implies, people diagnosed in this cluster are perceived as odd or peculiar. Dramatic personality disorders consist of; anti-social, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic. Individuals with a dramatic personality disorder are impulsive, have unstable, intense emotions and distorted self-image. Persons with anxiety personality disorder characteristically are nervous and fearful.
God is multifaceted but has one personality! He is Creator, Sovereign God, provider, Judge, Father, Teacher and I have no doubt you can add more to this list. He does all this multitasking without becoming a defragmented being. He just always has it together! Thank you God for being you ❤
God, King of Israel, your Redeemer, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says: “I’m first, I’m last, and everything in between. I’m the only God there is. Isaiah 44:6
The Message Bible
Personality disorders – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic Personality Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
So to recap before I go Into details, here’s a definition from last week,
Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.18 Nov 2017
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are usually described as being arrogant, self-centred and demanding. They are selfish individuals who are manipulative and have great difficulty with empathy and considering the needs, thoughts or ideas of other people. They believe themselves to be superior to others and think nothing of making others feel small. Their ego is such that it needs constant admiration and don’t even think of giving them criticism positive or otherwise, it just doesn’t sit well with them! They tend to crave the attention of others.
The individual with NPD struggles with relationships because they tend to put themselves first. As far as they are concerned, they are always right, their way is always best. Their grandiose opinion of themself means that they often exaggerate their accomplishments and talents. They perceive themselves as being quite special. Persons with this disorder tend to have mood swings too.
Though they may exhibit high self-esteem, this may merely be to cover up their own insecurities. As a past scapegoat of a narcissistic husband, the possibility of a perpetrator not having to take total responsibility for their actions is an idea not easy to entertain. However, when you have walked a path of healing its easier to see this from an angle of an unfortunate childhood. Mr Impatient had a dysfunctional upbringing. He never had a sense of belonging. I can understand his need to portray an air of confidence having been through his own trauma. He displayed a confidence that was not instilled in him. I suppose it was his defence mechanism against the world. What wasn’t ok was making me the enemy when all I wanted to be was his ally.
A relationship with someone who has NPD is a special living hell. They are easily hurt which makes the victim tend to walk on eggshells around their spouse. They tend to overreact to simple situations. When you speak to them about their flaws they make excuses. They have no intentions of changing anything about themselves. I remember once feeling neglected. Whenever we got home from work he would wash the car and the dog. He would come inside for supper when I called him in for it. Then he would usually spend the rest of the evening on the computer or on his phone. This had gone on for weeks. I plucked up the courage to talk to him about the issue. I was up early one morning making breakfast and lunch. When he came into the kitchen I smiled good morning, turned off the stove. Gently taking him by the hand I led him to the dinning table. My heart was thumping loudly, but I maintained eye contact as I held his hand. I spoke softly, used only ‘I’ sentences to own my emotions, not laying the blame at him. He listened quietly and without interrupting. I waited for him to respond. Why did I bother? He accused me of putting him in a box and trying to control him!
That experience was one of many and reflects how they generally refuse to take responsibility for anything they do that inflicts hurt or pain on others. They always find a way to blame others for the pain they create. Listening is not their greatest skill as they spend half the time interrupting but they are exceptional at neglecting the emotions of others. Though they can be charming and charismatic, they can switch to anger and are easily irritated especially when their ego is threatened. They are often suspicious of the motives of others and are socially withdrawn.
God never has to apologise because He never does wrong. He is the most superior being, yet cares for us His little children. He is so in tune with our emotions that He sent us the Holy Spirit to comfort us.
Narcissism is a term I first came across when I was studying A-level psychology. The second time was whilst I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Behaviorial Science. Back then it was just theory.
Echo, a nymph (Greek female deity) was attracted to Narcissus a handsome young man who was the son of two Greek gods. When she did muster the courage to show her affections to him, he scorned her. Echo never recovered from his rejection. She pined away until she withered and died. Some time after whilst he was on a hunting trip, Narcissus became thirsty and stopped at a pool to drink some water. He was captivated by the reflection. In vain he tried to reach out to it. He was so mesmerized that he remained at the pool consistently trying to make contact with the elusive character. In the end he was so self absorbed, Narcissus died by the water.
The narcissistic personality disorder was born of Narcissus.
Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
The Mayo Clinic
Psychology Today describes it as
Narcissism is characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, a need for excessive admiration, and the belief that one is unique and deserving of special treatment. If you encounter someone who consistently exhibits these behaviors, you may be dealing with a highly narcissistic individual.
So how did I know my ex-husband was a narcissist? Yes I’d come across it as a student but I didn’t immediately make the connection. I noticed a reoccurring pattern of behaviours in my marriage; it would start with a peaceful phase which would be interrupted by a volatile argument instigated by him over some very trivial arbitrary matter. This was sometimes but not always followed by profuse apologies and then the cycle would repeat itself. Around the same time, a particular post kept showing in my facebook feed, ‘Life after the narcissist’. To this day I’m unsure which contact was responsible for these posts. It was one day on my lunch break that I finally took notice. I clicked and began to read. It felt as if whoever was writing these posts was spying on me. It was uncanny.
I started researching narcissism. The more I clicked the more fascinated I became. I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t imagining that there was something wrong in my marriage. I didn’t have to try harder and I wasn’t being unreasonable. There was something wrong with him. It had a name, a label. He was a narcissist! Now I have no medical training or even psychological, but the characteristics fit him to the ‘t’. I pored through copious amounts of accounts of people living with such toxicity, it mirrored my life. The devastating thing was that there didn’t seem to be any hope, all the narratives said that they didn’t, couldn’t change. The victims only refined strategies to deal with their behaviour.
I printed off some pages to give to Mr Impatient. I placed it on the dinning room table so that he would see it and read. I prepared his supper when he arrived and put it on the table. I could see that he’d noticed the document but he was resisting picking it up. Eventually he asked about it. I told him that I had found out what was wrong with our marriage.
“Is it about me or us and is there help available here?”
“It’s about you and I’m not sure if there is help available”.
“Ok”. I stood waiting, but he continued eating and made no attempt to pick it up. I turned and left. In short, I never witnessed him read those pages but he was uncharacteristically quiet for a number of days. The cycle resumed shortly after.
My research into narcissism taught me a few prompt lessons. I could let myself of the hook for supposedly not trying hard enough because nothing done for a narc is ever enough. I was never going to have any of my needs met because narcs are inherently egotistic. My marriage was going to be an everlasting rollercoaster ride.
Narcissism is the antithesis of everything Godly. God loved us so much that He sacrificed His only Son to redeem us. The narcissist makes no sacrifice for anyone but would readily sacrifice anything if they were to get great personal gain. Ironically, Mr Impatient was always reminding me of his sacrificial love for me 🤔. The narcissist is always moving the goalpost, but God’s principles for our lives have been so well thought of from the beginning that He doesn’t have to ever change them. After all, He is omniscient! God’s love for humanity is everlasting, eternal and unconditional. Hallelujah!
God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks.
How exquisite your love, O God! How eager we are to run under your wings, Psalms 36: 5-7 The Message Bible
A memory of this book was triggered the other day. Our Pastor asked us to purchase it as part of our premarital preparation. I smiled when the book came to mind because I remembered that though I partnered with a man who cared less, it was filled with delightful gems for couples. To this day I recollect the ones we adopted; ‘I would never intentionally hurt you’, ‘Team Hypolite’ (insert your own surname), and ’75+ more years!’
The authors, Gayle and Mike Tucker predicate that on a daily basis, both parties must make the conscientious and proactive decision to make positive choices.
Our attitude is always one of goodwill.
is another motto in their book. It implies that an individual decides that they will do whatever it takes to accommodate their spouse, that you will make reasonable changes if it is needed to strengthen the relationship.
There was one motto that was quite unexpected. I had to read it a few times!
Not only would I be crazy to leave you, but you’d be crazy to leave me!
They explain that
Focusing on your spouse’s positive qualities enhances the value you place on the relationship . . . It’s the second part of this motto that many people struggle with . . . Yet, many problems arise in a marriage where a proper self-valuation does not occur.
Sometimes I don’t like you, but I will always love you.
Let’s pray about it.
I will express concerns and make requests without criticism or attack.
I will never attempt to fix or change you.
It is more important to love than to be right.
You’re stuck with me. Good, bad, or ugly, we’re committed to each other.
The bible doesn’t record the first wedding vows. God decided that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone; he needed a helper. He created a woman and brought her to him. Adam eventually named her Eve. He ‘knew’ his wife or consummated the union and Cain and Abel were the results (Genesis 2-3). No bands read, no church ceremony, no reception. What we do see is that Adam and Eve become lifelong partners. I’m pretty sure that initially they argued over whose fault it was that they got kicked out of Eden, but they had to work things out and move beyond losing their perfect home. The Creator gave them a foolproof relational model and they messed it up. He has given us an impeccable example, but Homo sapiens continue to corrupt it.
Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along.Romans 13: 8.
Every relationship has its ups and downs, but the scars from a toxic relationship run deep and take time to heal. Recognizing the harmful characteristics of a toxic liasion and taking proactive steps to deal with it are the first steps towards healing.