When I was a junior at Longwood College (now Longwood University), I had a really nice roommate named Angie. I went through many roommates when I was in college– I think seven, in all. Angie and I got along the best; she was a very considerate person. I remember telling her I was really glad we were such good friends. And I remember that Angie said, “To have good friends, you must BE a good friend.” I was honored that she ever thought of me in that way, although I think that a lot of bad people wind up with good people in their lives.
I wish I could report that Angie and I are still in touch, but she sort of dropped off the face of the earth at some point around 2007. I don’t think she ever bothered with social media, which makes her smarter than a lot of people, including yours truly. I sometimes think about her and wonder how she is. I hope she’s doing well. I’m thinking of Angie this morning as I ponder something I saw on Ex’s Twitter feed this morning.
Although I think that in a perfect world, Angie’s quote would work well, I know for a fact that a lot of good people are super attractive to narcissists. Because many good people are more empathic than other people are, a lot of really selfish, mean-spirited, exploitative people do end up with good people in their spheres. Since empathic people are so concerned about the welfare of others, they wind up trapped in toxic relationships with narcissists. Even when a good person recognizes that they are being victimized by someone with nefarious intentions, they often still get trapped in situations in which no one can win.
Narcissists are experts at DARVO– that is Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. When they get called out for doing something shitty, they frequently gaslight their victims. Most narcissists, especially ones as old as Ex is, are very practiced at turning around an accusation so that the person being wronged and having the courage to speak up, ends up being the one who is demonized.
A couple of days ago, I posted about how narcissists will take revenge on those who hold them accountable. I wrote about how I think that the Sussexes may try to get even with the British Royal Family by becoming estranged and withholding access to the young Sussex children. That may or may not happen– as the British Royal Family is pretty powerful. However, I have also seen this dynamic happen in less famous and powerful families. One parent in a narcissistic family system feels entitled to weaponize the children and keep them from the other parent, or the opposing parent’s extended family. This is a means of temporarily maintaining control.
Of course, that happened to Bill, and when he tried to confront Ex about it, she accused him of being a terrible person who horribly abused her and their children. The reality is, he simply couldn’t take Ex’s abuse anymore. He didn’t want to live in poverty, do low-paid, second and third shift assembly line work in factories, and have his life completely controlled by a woman whose personality seemed to change by the hour. He didn’t want to deal with a woman who treated him like a sexual predator, when he couldn’t be further from being an abuser. In fact, the opposite was true. Most of all, he didn’t want to be married to someone who didn’t love and accept him for who he is. Ex wanted someone else, and she was constantly trying to get Bill to change who he was to suit her whims. Even when he did something different, Ex wasn’t satisfied. She would accuse him of trying to be cool, or something like that. Above all, her shit never stinks. It’s always someone else’s fault when something isn’t right.
So, as you can see, Ex isn’t a good friend. And, it appears that she doesn’t have any good friends, either. This was what she lamented about on Twitter today.
To be a good friend, you have to have good intentions. You can’t look at people and determine their worth only in terms of what they can do for you, or how they might influence other people. A quality friendship is based on mutual respect and admiration, honesty, and genuine regard and concern. There must be give and take, fairness, and consideration for the other person. I know for a fact, Ex isn’t a good friend. She doesn’t have consideration for other people. She is good enough at FAKING concern, but only toward people who don’t know her. Those who do get into her “inner circle” are eventually abused. And when they’ve had enough abuse and try to back away from the relationship, she accuses THEM of being abusive.
Unfortunately, if a person has been trapped in an abusive system like that long enough, their thinking can get distorted and they can experience “trauma bonding”. That is, the victim can attach to their abuser, not because the abuser is good to them, but because they are chasing the “high” of the good times, and they think they either “deserve” the abuse, or they can’t live without the abuser. Narcissistic abusers can be very charismatic and charming, and they can be convincing as they make the case that they’re victims. They are also very good at being threatening and foreboding. A narcissist won’t hesitate to tell a victim that if they leave the relationship, they’ll be left with nothing.
When I first met Bill, he made many alarming statements about his relationship with Ex. She had him believing that he was dangerous, and that he’d profoundly harmed her. He believed that the divorce was his fault, and he was sure that I would see the situation in the same way Ex presented it. But the more I got to know him, the more I realized that he is not an abuser at all. He’s an empath, and a very good friend to those who will allow him to be a friend. Although we do have occasional spats, they’re usually caused because he doesn’t want to be assertive and explicitly define his needs, not because he’s a mean, abusive person. And now that Bill talks to his daughter, we can see that he never was the whole problem. Ex treats her children– who are in her inner circle, at least for a time– just as badly as she treats her husbands. And I’m sure that if she ever has had a friend who got close, that friend was treated similarly badly. Ex keeps her relationships superficial for good reason. Because beneath the surface, it’s really ugly.
Hell, I have even experienced trauma bonding myself. A few years ago, I actually was against moving out of the house we rented from a very high-conflict landlady, because I worried that the next landlord could be even worse than she was. At least I knew what to expect from her, right? Of course, now I know that my thinking was skewed by four years of psychofuckery, and dealing with this very intrusive, manipulative, and controlling person whose dealings with us were dishonest and exploitative. Our current landlord is nowhere near as disrespectful and unfair as she was. Yes, we pay much more rent, but it’s totally worth it, because it’s a much nicer house, and we get to maintain our dignity and privacy. But I still marvel at how I had initially balked at moving because I was scared. That’s a form of trauma bonding.
The same “trauma bonding” dynamic happens in abusive friendships, marriages, employment, and romantic relationships. Narcissistic abusers can’t risk letting anyone get close, because then they will see the mess that lurks under the facade. It would be one thing if Ex was open to allowing someone to help her clean up the mess, but she can’t do that. She doesn’t trust anyone, and is fixated on a false reality that she’s created, because reality, to her, is simply too painful to acknowledge.
Likewise, now, when I look back on the four year period in which we rented a home from a high-conflict landlady, I realize that just like Ex, our former landlady was very focused on the external. Every project she undertook was about curb appeal and surface image. She never did anything, at least while we were living there, that would improve the actual experience of living in that house. We weren’t important, because we were already in the “inner circle”, and ripe for abuse. She wanted to attract new victims for when we were discarded. So all upgrading projects that were done while we were living in that house were done for cosmetic appeal or the landlady’s convenience. Moreover, it didn’t matter to her if we were inconvenienced as she completed these projects. I did read that after we left, and before she got new tenants, she updated a few things in the house– probably using the money that she illegally tried to rip off from us. But I’m sure those upgrades were minimal and mostly cosmetic. I doubt, for instance, that she bothered to put in a modern toilet that didn’t backup all the time. Instead, she got a new dishwasher. Dishwashers are great, but toilets are essential, and I think that having a toilet that doesn’t take two or three flushes to clear would be better than having a spiffy new dishwasher.
So anyway, I don’t think that Ex is a good friend, even on a casual basis. She isn’t capable of being a good friend, because she is much too fixated on herself. She’s not a good partner or a good parent, either, for the same reason. She was never able to psychologically mature beyond early adolescence. It’s really sad, actually. I would almost feel sorry for her, except that I know she has hurt people I love. Aside from that, I actually think that it’s rare to have a lot of extremely true friends who are very loyal. Those types of relationships are very special, and they have to be nurtured. That’s why I tend to hang out with dogs. 😉