I got to a point in my relationship with an N where I was so completely fear based. I actually lived in a hyper alert terror state. I knew I was being gradually discarded by the N even after all my effort and accommodation to stop it. I felt completely worthless and fearful of being alone and rejected.
I thought everything happening was my fault. I mean what if the N doesn’t love me anymore? I couldn’t live with the idea that the N doesn’t love me anymore. What if I don’t deserve love? What if I can’t live without him?
I did not know at the time that nothing going on was really about me. I did not know that Ns follow predictable phases in a relationship and they treat all their victims in a similar manner.
The way the N in my life typically used fear against me was by getting me to question who I was as a person. He started with picking on my hobbies and the things I wanted to be good at. He had a way of getting me to question my abilities, so that I no longer wanted to do the things I enjoyed and was good at.
There was one interaction that happened a few months into the relationship that would have been a clue to what was coming. I had always loved writing, so I decided to share a piece of writing with the N. I had shared this piece in the past with several friends and family and it had been well regarded. He eviscerated each and every sentence and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. I fought him on it. Because the relationship was in its early stages I had a lot of fight in me still.
I had never had anyone be so critical of my writing before. It seemed out of line. This turned into an argument that lasted well over an hour and basically was him repeating in various ways how stupid I am and that I should never try to write. I defended myself repeatedly and told him that perhaps he didn’t have the knowledge to understand what I had written. This was me being critical of him of course and made the argument much worse. I had no idea what I was dealing with. I had no idea that telling him he didn’t understand something would result in an ongoing punishment that would be hashed out throughout the rest of our relationship.
First, I vowed to never share my writing with him again. But I then stopped writing shortly after this argument. Instead of walking away from the relationship, I internalized what he said about my writing and me. I should give up what I enjoyed because I was not any good at it anyway, so why make the effort?
If I allow fear of whether a person approves of me or not to define what feelings and thoughts I identify with, this causes all sorts of suffering. To stop the suffering I had to recognize that I must define myself based on myself only.
I will give another example of a way the N got me to question myself. This incident also occurred early on in the relationship. The N and I went bike riding together. It was perhaps a three hour ride. Not exactly the flattest ride either; there were many hills interspersed. At the time I rode my bike almost daily and up a lot of hills. I felt I was in good shape. He had a street bike compared to my hybrid with wider wheels, so his bike would definitely go faster. Anyway, he sped way ahead of me. I tried to catch up, but it was too tiring for me and I wasn’t enjoying the ride. I told him to go ahead of me if he wanted and I would catch up. Many days later he told me that I seemed very insecure about my bike riding abilities and it really put a damper on the ride. I believed him, that I came across as insecure and on top of that was a very slow bike rider and really no fun to ride bikes with anyway.
I can start with trusting myself to be able to observe a situation accurately. I must tune into my mind and body and be mindful of my speech. I must be able to say what is going on with me without making it about the other person. Then I can set boundaries and stick to them. Becoming responsible for myself creates strength and makes it much less likely that I am going to question myself and give up the things that are important to me. This is a better feeling than being afraid of not being liked and it prevents being hurt by a person rejecting me as well. It is this inner strength that enables me to focus on more important pursuits like enjoying life or being creative and being able to actually love another person and receive love from another person.