To say that one is attempting to square the circle means that they are attempting an impossible task. In the OMB world, an example of squaring the circle is when you and I attempt to understand the thoughts or behaviors of a narcissist. We can’t. We don’t. We won’t. And we shouldn’t even attempt to try.
This concept is entirely different than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, or circle, which, by definition, implies that two things are “inherently incompatible.” In the OMB world, for example, this refers to any one of us who have the unfortunate claiming rights to a narcissistic parent, partner, or Ex, and realizing that at one point, maybe even pretty early on, how utterly “inherently incompatible” you, and he or she, really are.
We didn’t know the full extent of my father’s relationship with his female friend (FF) until about two years after he left. The aftermath of him pulling up to our home with a moving van, and leaving his family behind on my sister’s 16th birthday was incomprehensible.
When you encounter a situation like this in life, a natural emotional reaction is to (cry, and then) wonder, “What happened? Why did he leave us? What about the family? Did we do something wrong?” Why? Why? Why.
It takes awareness and understanding to realize why grieving and detaching from a narcissistic relationship is so difficult. It also takes a lot of your own self-work to learn how to distance yourself from a toxic parent or relationship. From my own experience, the healing during this process was two-fold. First, I had to learn not to ask myself questions like “what did I do wrong,” and “why didn’t I see the writing on the wall so many times, “ and “are there things I could have/should have done to make the situation better before it got to this?” When you are dealing with someone who has a personality disorder like narcissism you can drive your own self crazy reflecting on the “why’s” and “how’s” and “what if’s” of situations you never really had any control over to begin with. We tell our children during the divorce process, and for years after, that the divorce is “not their fault.” The quicker you accept that the behaviors, words and actions, etc. of the narcissist in your life “are not your fault,” the easier it becomes to cope. Second, you must put great energy and effort into YOU, and discover your own personal ways to come to peace with the things you cannot control. This seems so easy: Take care of ME? Of course, I can do that…. During and after living life with a narcissist, you must do that.
My father moved to a quaint little home in a quaint new little town, all by himself. Or so we thought he did.
I left college after two years of finally realizing how destructive to my own physical and mental self I was being while trying to cope with the secrets I knew, yet had not been communicated to me, or my sisters, by our father. I felt a need to escape my world for a while, and I did. I left college and lived in a few different big cities, all by myself. I landed a great “first real job” which allowed me to travel, and after some time, I felt like I was gaining a little bit of control back over my own life again.
My father lived several states away but I made an effort to visit him every two to three months. Despite his multi-year affair and his decision to leave and destroy our family, he was still my “father.” I felt sorry for him and found myself playing somewhat of a reverse-parent role; checking on him and taking care of things for him when I visited in hopes that he would acknowledge me, or own up to some of the great hurt he caused. He never did that, but it didn’t stop my hopefulness that someday he would. I cooked a lot of his favorite foods and baked cookies and packaged them in the freezer so he would have healthy meals when I wasn’t there. Maybe it was my own young naïve coping mechanisms at that time, but it was the only way I knew how to try and maintain a relationship with my father, someone I didn’t feel I knew very well anymore after so many years.
About two years into working my real job in the real world, learning a few things about life, and myself, and keeping up the visits to my father, I decided to go back to college. I knew I was ready to return then, much more than I ever felt I was ever ready to be there before, and I was excited to finish my degree.
Before I made that decision, I got a very random call from my father one afternoon letting me know that he had been living with his FF… the entire time I had been visiting him. His call was very nonchalant, like this news should be no big deal to me. Yep. The whole time I was visiting him, and feeling sorry and sad for him all by himself (despite that being his choice), she was living there but would magically vanish when they knew I was coming to town. There was not a trace of her belongings in the house, none that I ever noticed anyhow, and never a reason at all for me to believe she might have been there.
Narcissists seem to take advantage of the people who “feed” and nurture them regularly. I have no idea how they pulled off her whole disappearing act when I came to town, but they did. And did they care, or concern themselves with the feelings of others who might have been hurt by this secrecy and these lies? Absolutely not.
It took a few more years of me going to counseling, dealing with a lot of my own personal struggles, and consequently growing stronger to finally get to the point where I agreed to meet the FF one day….
…and what an interesting occasion that was.
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Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.