Not long ago, my attorney said to me, “Stop apologizing for nothing.” She caught me by surprised. Seeing that, she added, “He had you so squished under his control that you tend to apologize for almost anything you’re about to say or do and there’s no need for that, most especially with me.”
She was right. There was a time when I could might have just as well changed my name to Sorry. I would start almost anything I would say with ‘I’m sorry.‘
To some degree, it could be my cultural background. We tend to say “perdón,” “perdóneme,” or “disculpe” to people we either don’t know, or older people, as a sign of respect, as well as when asking for help, a favour, or anything of that sort. It’s like the American “excuse me.” But cultural differences apart, I knew my attorney was right.
For the good last 5 years of my marriage, I had been apologizing even before asking for anything, when about to start one of those difficult but much needed conversation [that never went anywhere anyway], or any other small situation that I knew it would be touchy for him or end up in some type of conflict. At some point, I would even start to cry before approaching my husband or anything would happen. Later, the crying would also be accompanied by anxiety attacks.
The funny thing in the early stages of our marriage was that he would tell me to not give him explanations or even apologize when asking for something or bringing anything up. Nonetheless, a year or so later, he would basically demand explanations and apologies, even without actually saying so for most part. He had a subtle way of forcing me to give them freely. I just can’t explain it. It was more in his body language and face expressions than actual words. But many other times it was by his polite but nonetheless subtle ways of attacking me and in a way that I would end up feeling it was my fault that I had upset him.
Indeed, it should never have to be that way in a normal marriage. But a marriage to someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is anything but normal.
I would not only apologize to my husband unnecessarily, but I would also do so to other people in his name. Maybe, in those cases, apologies were somewhat warranted because of his behaviour. But now I know it wasn’t my responsibility to apologize for him. Nobody should ever have to apologize for other people or feel responsible because of them… unless those people are 2-years old and my husband was about 40 years older.
What I’m trying to say is that there had been plenty of situations where I felt I had to apologize out of embarrassment, situations such as,
- Being late to gatherings because of him and having had people waiting on us
- Being late to family dinners or gatherings
- Being late to the cinema, concerts, or other shows that we had coordinated attending with other couples and friends of mine
- Being late to events organized by him (participants would already be waiting for us)
- He arrived late to the private baptismal ceremony of my friend’s baby. He then tripped on a kneeler when he was trying to go around to sit by me, causing the whole ceremony to come to a stop. (And he was not even dressed up for the occasion.)
- There was the one time when we applied for a loan and, because his income was commisions-only, they denied us the loan. He kept on pushing and insisting to the lady at the bank that she needed to take his bonuses into consideration when she had clearly stated that bonuses didn’t count. I tried to thank the lady for her time and everything she had done for us several times. He didn’t take the cue. He kept going on and on. I wanted the seat to eat me alive and make me disappear, poof! Energize! It was so embarrassing. I called her later that day to apologize.
Those are probably the ones I still remember the most since they were by far the most embarrassing ones to me.
And speaking of being late, I have always been a punctual person. It was so not me to be late and I would feel so uncomfortable, especially since he would not even apologize for being late and having everybody waiting on him.
When and if I would ask or point out, he would give an endless list of excuses for his tardiness and other attitudes, all the while diminishing my feelings and even sometimes going as far as acting positive and turning it on me by saying something along the lines of my supposedly inability to see the glass half full.
Let me give you an example. If you have ever been to the orchestra, you know you cannot walk to your seat once the concert has started. You have to wait until the intermission. Well, good luck with that if my husband is your partner. We were always late and we would spend half the concert standing in the back, me wearing high heels. He would always say something along the lines of ‘At least we got to see the last half of it. It was great, wasn’t it?‘ The first time, I tried to see it his way. However, as this clearly became a pattern, I started to feel angry, resentful, and even hurt because more than once it would have been me the one who had bought the tickets and it was a concert I had wanted to attend.
I remember losing it one day and, after he had said his usual “half-full glass” comment after being late once again to a concert, I said “Too sad I didn’t pay for just the last part of the concert, half the ticket in other words.” He asked me what I meant by that. I replied that I had paid for the full concert, not half of it and maybe 1/4 of standing in the back until intermission. He got upset at me and told me that I couldn’t ever see the bright side of things.
That hurt me. Knowing how I grew up, how I had to learn to see beyond imperfections and look for the bright side of things for most of my life prior to coming to the United State, it was a blow below the belt. Unfortunately by then, devaluation had already started and the seed of doubt had already been planted. Nevertheless, I took matters in my own hands the following concert we attended, which I think it might have been the last or one of the last ones we ever attended, if I’m not mistaken.
He decided to workout right before we needed to leave for the concert. Of course, he had to take a shower after working out. I was all dressed and ready to go and he was not even close to being ready. I told him through the shower curtain that I was leaving his ticket on the dresser and to meet me there. He started to complain about taking two cars into the city and paying for two parking tickets, as well. I told him so be it and left. I got there on time to see the full concert. He didn’t. By the way, he almost didn’t make it to the intermission because he had no cash and had to find an ATM. Speaking of ATMs and cash, that was another thing I would almost always end up paying for: Parking. Because he never (conveniently) carried cash. Whether it was the orchestra, the game, fireworks, it didn’t matter. He was always asking me to pay for things requiring cash.
Looking back, those two boundaries set by me are probably two more nails on my divorce coffin. I don’t want to go into one of those “I should have” rants. The lesson to take here and that I paid too high a price was setting my boundaries. And I should have stuck to them.
When we have healthy boundaries, we deflect unhealthy people. I guess I was so desperate to get his validation and love that I was the first one to disrespect my own boundaries. I cannot expect anyone to respect my boundaries if I don’t respect them myself.
The second mistake I made was enabling him and making excuses for him. I eventually saw this and I stopped doing it. (And there goes another nail on the coffin.)
The third mistake, trying to get his validation. I had learnt long ago that I didn’t need validation from my group of peers. But now I see that I had always wanted validation from my most closest relationships, including my mom and immediate family. I guess I replaced them with my husband. And it seems to me that narcissists have a personal radar or antenna that helps them detect individuals who are in need of validation in the same area as me.
This is an area where I still need to do much growing. But just realizing it, is a step in the right direction.
At this point, I feel there’s need for one last apology: The one I owe to myself… or at least to that little girl inside of me who might still be looking for that validation. I didn’t protect her. I didn’t love her enough. I didn’t tell her it was okay and that she had me. That with me, she was accepted and truly loved as a whole. That she can now rest and not try to bust her back trying to be perfect because she already is perfect. She’s God’s creation and God does not make mistakes. Therefore, she is enough.
I just pray that I can bring up my own daughter in the knowledge that I love her unconditionally and that she does not need validation from me or anybody else to the case. That’s the thing that scares me the most: That I may not teach her how to prevent falling for the tangled web if a narcissist. If she does, then my heart will break more than it ever did while being with my husband.
I just hope that God is listening to all of this and gives me the tools and shows me the way. Because I’m concerned I may not be able to do that on my own or on time.