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When She Is the Narcissist in the Relationship

by Scott Ninneman 7 months ago in Dating
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Even ignoring the exit signs didn't stop our relationship from imploding.

When She Is the Narcissist in the Relationship
Photo by Jozsef Hocza on Unsplash

In the three seconds it took for me to take a sip of wine, I knew it was over. If there was any doubt, her furrowed brow and unblinking eyes told me everything I needed to know.

The clock ticked away the minutes as we sat in silence. There was nothing left to say. Giving up, I leaned forward and placed my wineglass on the table between us. Our eyes connected one last time before I rose and made the serpentine trip to the exit.

In an ideal world, that’s how our relationship would have ended. Reality was much messier. Even ignoring the exit signs couldn’t save our doomed relationship.

The Beginning

Marriage was the goal. Our new relationship would be the model to follow, and neither of us would have to endure the trials of dating ever again. But forever wasn’t in our destiny.

My grandmother used to say about relationships, “Never ignore the red flags.” If only I had listened sooner.

Red flags are like exit signs on the highway. They tell you when your relationship has reached its end. Ignoring them is dangerous and painful, a lesson I learned the hard way.

The Early Signs

The first exit signs were tiny, inconspicuous notes telling me I needed to flee.

One night, we were having dinner at an O'Charley's restaurant. She was loud no matter where we were, and when she was passionate about a topic, her volume increased. It was common for other patrons to hear our conversation and comment on it.

A middle-aged couple in the booth behind us spoke up about our ongoing conversation about a controversial episode of The Practice. They agreed with my viewpoint. My girlfriend pursed her lips and glared at them.

"Was I talking to you?" she snarled through gritted teeth.

The man looked at me with those run-for-your-life eyes and apologized. I smiled and told them it was okay, but chose to ignore his nonverbal communication.

She ranted loud enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear for the rest of our dinner, and her tirade went on until we finally went our separate ways around midnight. She seemed most upset that the couple agreed with me, but she never conceded that point. I ignored the red exit sign.

She was attractive and funny. It was just a bad night, I told myself. We were only weeks into a relationship, too soon to making any lasting judgements.

By Jacob Townsend on Unsplash

The Friends

Soon thereafter, I planned to go out of town to see a friend. It was too early in our relationship to think about taking her with me.

“Enjoy your friends now,” she told me. “You’ll only have me once we’re married.”

I laughed. She was joking. But she wasn’t.

The last days of my twenties were disappearing faster than I could comprehend. All I wanted was to be married before turning 30. She was a nice girl, and I liked her son. Surely that was enough to build on.

I also liked her family, and truth be told, when the relationship ended, that’s the only piece I missed.

The Struggle

Exit signs started showing up with more intensity. I would catch her casting the evil eye at my mother when she didn’t think I was looking. She frequently expressed how my friends would never be her friends. She would change our plans last minute so my friends couldn’t attend.

I chose to be blind to what was happening.

Little by little, she consumed my life, making excuses why I needed to spend the night at her place or cancel my plans so we could be together.

Part of me thought it was what relationships were supposed to be. You’re supposed to make compromises, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I cared about her. I enjoyed being in her company, but I wasn’t ready for my entire life to revolve around one person.

Maybe that alone should have been the brightest exit sign. If I had truly been in love with her, I might have felt differently.

By Andrew Teoh on Unsplash

The Revelations

The tiny cracks in our relationship grew in size, but I still ignored what was happening. Each sign told me to exit, but I kept flying down the deranged highway.

In time, I heard of her failed marriages. Marriages? I knew of one, but there turned out to be three. Part of me wondered, how could someone our age already have three failed marriages?

Exit sign ignored.

Next, I learned about her criminal record. Yes, criminal record.

I’m a quiet country boy, never having had so much as a speeding ticket. I was pulled over once, and that was for rubber-necking to see who was garnering the attention of two police cars on the side of the road. My conversation with the officer lasted less than a minute before he sent me on my way, commanding me to keep my eyes on the road in front of me.

Criminal activity was foreign to me, but I let my desire to be married overpower the instinct to run.

Those two truths formed the first real wedge of doubt that would ultimately lead to the end of our relationship.

More things didn’t add up. She’d tell me a story, but her family would later tell me it was only a tiny part of a much darker tale. She laughed off each deception.

I closed my eyes and let the exit signs sail past.

By kimi lee on Unsplash

The Past

Each time I confronted her, she told me she didn’t want to talk about the past. She claimed she was no longer the person who did those things. She wanted to forget those memories.

Who of us doesn’t have a past we want to forget? I know I sure do.

I shared a few of my darkest memories with her, but we agreed some things needed to be left in the past. We tried to seal the door to the past shut. There was no reason to unpack those bags.

Doubt continued to fester in my mind, though, as more exit signs appeared.

Her disdain for my mother grew, and she decided it was okay to insult my mom to her face. The intensity of her hatred for my friends grew, and she nitpicked everything they did. The false politeness disappeared. She felt she had me, so she let me see more of her real self.

It wasn’t long before I started to admit the sad state of affairs, but I stayed on my insanity highway. The exit signs were impossible to ignore, but I closed my eyes and drove on.

My grandmother would be so disappointed.

By Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

The Wedding Venue

The next jarring slap in the face came on a Monday morning when a wedding venue organizer called me to confirm our reservation.

We had a few months of dating behind us by then. As I said earlier, we both had marriage as a goal, but neither of us had broached the marriage subject. We tiptoed around it, but neither of us initiated the talk. I thought our relationship was still too fresh to be making any sort of lasting plans.

Before our first date, I told her I have bipolar disorder.

“You need to see me in all my seasons,” I warned her. “I can be a very different person from one season to the next. I’ll never get engaged to anyone unless I’ve dated them for at least a full year.”

My 12-month rule was non-negotiable. I was sure I would be the crazy in our relationship and wanted her to have all of the facts going in. Yet, my warning was just another thing she ignored, and sharing facts was never her intention.

The June Wedding

It was spring, and our wedding was already scheduled for June of that year. The woman was calling to confirm the exact date.

That poor soul couldn't understand when I told her I didn’t know who she was. I knew nothing about her or the location she was calling from.

“What do you mean you’re calling to confirm my wedding date?" I laughed into the phone. "I’m not getting married.”

I questioned if she was calling the right person, but she had my name, and Ninneman is not exactly a common name. She was also calling me at my office. Someone had given her my information.

The organizer was speechless. In her time at the venue, no one had ever scheduled a surprise wedding. She encouraged me to talk to my girlfriend and call her back.

Angrier than I wanted to admit, I confronted my girlfriend. It horrified me to learn that not only had she planned an entire wedding, but her family was helping her with the preparations. Hundreds of dollars had already been thrown at the clandestine project.

When I asked her if she remembered our conversation about dating for at least one year, she told me she was confident she could change my mind.

"You don't really mean that," she told me. "You want to be with me."

The exit sign was so huge I had to walk a mile to go around it, but around it I went.

By Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

The Realtor

A few days later, another pleasant woman called my office to confirm my information. When I told her we were not having a June wedding, she was confused.

"Sir, I'm calling about the house you're buying," she told me. "I need to verify some details so we can set a closing date."

I knew my girlfriend was looking at houses. We went to several open houses together. One house was perfect, a multi-level dream with a crisp white interior and a large backyard. There was never any discussion about us buying it together.

My girlfriend loved the house. It ticked most of the items on her wish list. I told her to do whatever she felt was right, never thinking for a moment it would lead to forgery. To her, my words meant we would buy the house together.

The closing required paperwork and a notary. My scheming girlfriend couldn't forge my name again.

The debacle forced me to recognize the gravity of my situation. She was plotting my entire life. If I didn’t stop it, she would rule my world.

The Almost End

The end of our relationship was nothing like a peaceful talk over a glass of wine as described in the introduction. There was no calm and mature adult conversation. The end exploded with a fiery phone call.

It was a Thursday night, and I was lounged back in my recliner reading a Michael Crichton book. My girlfriend called to tell me I was spending the weekend with her. She knew I had a trip planned with my friends that had been on the books since before we started dating. There was no way for me to pull out last minute.

My frustration made my blood boil, but I struggled to maintain composure. The only thing I remember saying was we needed to go to dinner and talk after I got back from my trip.

It was like pouring gasoline over an open flame. She blew up in a caustic verbal tirade unlike anything I’d ever heard from her - or anyone else.

She blasted me for abandoning her. She berated me for failing to recognize she was the best thing in my life. All of her “love” burned up in the flash fire, and she screamed about how she would destroy me.

The tongue lashing went on for 20 minutes, and I swear she never took a breath the entire time. When she was done, she slammed the phone down before I could say anything in reply.

I sat in silent shock, still holding the phone up to my ear long after she’d hung up. I searched my mind but knew I didn't mention breaking up. After a few minutes of reflection, I decided to let her cool off and handle the matter after the weekend.

My trip gave me time to reflect on the months of chaos. Maybe it wasn't my choice to end our relationship, but it felt like the best decision.

With her, it was all or nothing. Either I could go out of town with my friends, or I could give up my friends and have only her.

It wasn’t a deal I was willing to make.

The Lie

During my weekend away, my friends pointed out all the red flags they saw. My tale of our telephone conversation made them think it was over, and I had to agree. It ended in such a violent eruption that it felt like the end.

She had nothing of any value of mine, and I had nothing to return to her. As much as it hurt, I decided to go on with my life. Our relationship was dead. In the next few weeks, I heard nothing from her to make me think otherwise.

Except, the insanity ride wasn’t over. I started getting thinking-of-you and get-well cards from friends. When I ran into a friend who knew both of us, they would ask if I was feeling better.

I have a chronic illness and bipolar disorder, so I’m no stranger to being defined by my illnesses. It puzzled me, though. I was stable and doing everything right to take care of myself. There was no reason for sudden concern from others, until a friend finally told me.

To explain my absence, especially to those who thought we were soon to be married, she was telling everyone I was incapacitated by illness. My poor health was why no one saw us together. We were still getting married, and everything was fine, at least in her mind.

It should have led to a showdown. I should have gone to her house and ranted and raved like the veritable beast I can be. But I didn’t.

I tried to reach out by phone, but it was another disaster. She was incapable of having a coherent conversation on the subject. She spewed vile contempt and refused to listen to a word I said.

She wanted me to beg. I was a disobedient child, and my taskmaster was requiring my pound of flesh.

Knowing her past, I agonized over what to do. I knew if I went to her house, things would get ugly. Her neighbors had called the police about her before, so if they heard yelling, they likely would again. It wasn't worth the potential consequences.

By Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The Writer

The writer in me did the next best thing. I wrote a letter.

I sat down at my computer and drafted the best narrative I knew how. While I tried to be kind, I didn’t hold back from listing the reasons we would never work.

As is often the case, putting my thoughts down in written form made me realize how foolish I had been. The exit signs were clear, but I wasn't paying attention.

Yes, grandma, I hear your voice now.

The letter did the trick. She crusaded against me spreading lies and contempt to anyone who would listen, but she accepted the end. Some circles may forever refer to me as Scott Not-the-Man, but it’s a punishment I’m willing to take. Marrying her would have been an endless hell.

By Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash

The Memory

I like to imagine we were both adults in the end. Like the opening, we met at a wine bar and shared a last drink together. We laughed about the fun times we shared, and we acknowledged the painful differences that prevented us from being a long-lasting couple.

As the evening wore on, we would have accepted our relationship was over and toasted its death. Then, sharing one last glance, I would have taken my last drink of wine, placed my glass on the table, and left - my walk to the exit marking the end of our relationship.

That’s how the relationship should have died. In my mind, that’s the memory I choose to hang on to as I sit here and drink my wine alone.

Connect with Scott Ninneman: Social Media


About the author

Scott Ninneman

Bipolar for 49 years, chronically ill for 36. The voice behind the Speaking Bipolar blog. Wrestles taxes by day, wrangles words at night. Thinker. TV Addict. Poet. Links:

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