I was recently contacted by an ex-boyfriend, and the experience helped remind or reveal to me several things.
One: I have memories of incidents which I am far away from them, almost as if I were reading them.
Two: I have a compulsive need to write down and explore these incidents, or I will lose the emotional impact of them. Was this created in my childhood of constant journaling and constant memory suppression?
The first time I sat down and selectively eliminated memories, I was 7 years old (thank you, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, and an early self-taught awareness of cognitive behavioral therapy – I said to myself: “If I don’t just forget these things about which I can do nothing, I will not be able to move on. What do I need to get rid of?”)
I started my first journal that same year, though I did not become obsessed with journaling for another two years. It’s almost as if strong memories cannot be recalled on a primary source basis, but only by the separation of writing or discussing them with other people. I can have stronger memories of writing out something than of actually experiencing it.
Three: I date narcissistic men, and I seek out playing the victim.
I came to the third startling conclusion while reading the letters from my ex. He was a real stunner, and though he didn’t realize it at the time, he was emotionally and sexually abusive. I don’t think he realizes that now; he just thinks that he was an asshole to me. At the time, I knew exactly what was happening, but for some reason, I just didn’t give a damn that it was going on. In fact, I reveled in the knowledge that I was putting up with his bullshit and let him attempt to play mind games on me. Every time he yelled at me, I took it as practice in closing down my emotions. I had recently gone through a very traumatic & violent experience, and he was almost like a punishment to myself because I didn’t believe I deserved what I really wanted (which I HAD PURPUOSELY TURNED DOWN to date this guy!).
As I sat there recoiling in horror at my memories the relationship, I thought about the things which had drawn me to my ex, and then compared them to things which were what had drawn me to my main long-term ex-boyfriend, and then things that had drawn me to many men in the past.
Confidence, humor, a willingness to impart knowledge to me in subjects that I wasn’t learned in….
I’m not saying that any of these men – most boys – were cruel or bad people. Only one was truly in need of anything more than therapy and some sense knocked into them by life’s lessons. But in their own ways, most of the men I have dated have been selfish and patronizing and, somehow, “better than” me.
Why was I drawn to people like this? I like people whom I can admire, true. My friends are all AMAZING people whom I am desperately, platonically in love with. Why then do I take it to the extreme – why do I involve myself in men who make me feel as if I’m not good enough?
For a lot of the men, it was a trade off. There was some way that I was superior to them, and I knew that when I dated them, and it was fine to take their small abuses because I could play the victim and feel like a better person than them.
As I’ve gotten older – especially in the last three or so years (post that ex!) – I have gotten better about not going after men who show strongly negative narcissistic tendencies. I definitely haven’t cut the cord completely, but I approach men on a more even playing field. After having actually becoming the victim, I refuse to play the victim.
I knew a lot previously about myself choosing men over whom I felt power or superiority, and I have actively avoided easy targets (which are SO EASY). Why date losers, right? But now that I see this victim-role I put myself in, I can be more watchful of myself and hopefully avoid or curtail it in the future.
I still make bad choices in men, and I am still picky as all hell, but in the last two years, I’ve only had one strange affair, recently and finally closed, and he was simply deeply self-absorbed, not narcissistic.
And perhaps this time I’ll become interested in someone who carries conversations, not delivers soliloquys.
edited in for clarification The amount of fucks I did NOT give about this guy probably saved my ass from a lot of emotional repercussions. Other than being a little bit afraid of him to this day, I really came out of the relationship with very few issues. Thankfully, I was already damaged goods, and he wasn’t throwing anything I hadn’t been obsessively reading about since I was in grade school