I recently returned to therapy after taking a five-year hiatus and boy is there a lot to unpack. Mostly, I’ve been reflecting back on the whirlwind romance I had with a guy (let’s call him Dylan) that started around the beginning of the pandemic. Like most people I know who entered relationships during that time, mine was incredibly intense – a pressure cooker of trauma bonding and existential angst. Dylan is a successful cinematographer who is used to traveling the world for work, so COVID hit him especially hard. As a result, he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. 

For the longest time, I blamed the blow and booze for his sporadically cruel behavior. He would get fucked up, be verbally abusive, and then love bomb me with apologies the next day. As much as I hated myself for continually putting up with his bullshit, I somehow always managed to give him a pass. As an empath, I find it incredibly hard to set boundaries because when I see someone in pain, my instinct is to heal them – even when doing so comes at the expense of my own emotional needs. 

Every time Dylan lashed out at me, I couldn’t see him as the monster my friends did. All I could see was the broken little boy who had been horrifically abused as a child; a sad and vulnerable human being who had been denied compassion and nurturing when he had needed it the most. I was going to heal him with my unconditional love – or so I deluded myself into thinking. 

It’s taken me years to stop viewing my sensitivity as a weakness. Society has tried to convince me that I need to toughen up and stop letting myself get taken advantage of. From the outside looking in, I can understand this sentiment. At face value, a woman who stays with a man who abuses her appears fragile and insecure. But it’s more complicated than that. It was never that I thought I couldn’t do better or that I was so beaten down that I couldn’t garner the strength to leave. 

It was more just that I made excuses for him. I’m a firm believer that when a person says something mean to someone else, it is simply because they hate themselves and are projecting their self-loathing outwards. Rather than pitying myself, I pitied Dylan. I realized how weak others probably perceived me to be, but I knew the truth – that my empathy was and continues to be a superpower. To understand what someone is going through to the point where you can remove your own ego and not take things personally is a rare trait. I don’t just love, I am love, which means that no one or thing can vanquish my light because I am not just some flame on a candle, I am the motherfucking sun.

Yet, that doesn’t mean that my light can’t be dimmed, and Dylan sure as hell did a good job at being the rainy cloud on my parade. As transcended as a person can be, abuse still has a way of seeping deep into one’s psyche. Over the course of the last three years, Dylan and I had broken up and gotten back together too many times to count, in addition to going through periods of not talking and periods of limited contact where we tried to be friends. Anytime we took time apart and had no contact at all, my life would flourish, whereas his life would be full of isolation and despair. This, of course, infuriated him. 

On some level, we both knew that anytime we came back into each other’s lives, I was doing so out of some combination of guilt and obligation to help him. Whereas, he was seeking someone who would validate him and show him love, free from judgment. But every time we reconnected, things just kept escalating. 

About a month ago, we started talking again. I had been quarantining with COVID and was going crazy from the social isolation. He had just gone through a breakup. We were both vulnerable, lonely, and in need of emotional support. So, we started hanging out under the guise of, “let’s be friends.” The problem is that we have an undeniable physical chemistry that makes it hard to even sit in the same room without some form of intimacy occurring. 

By this point, I had sworn off ever having sex with him again but I was down to cuddle and watch a movie. Big mistake. He ended up feeling rejected and the vitriol soon followed. To make matters worse, he got word that his ex-girlfriend had committed suicide. Naturally, he was upset, and there I was – one of the few remaining support figures in his life, trying my best to be there for him while also maintaining my boundaries. But with Dylan, nothing was ever good enough. 

It all culminated with a screaming match followed by an incident that left me scarred for life. He had called me in the middle of the night dozens of times from blocked numbers, saying he was in crisis. Given his history of suicide attempts, I was deeply concerned. When I called back, he started berating me for my lack of accountability and for the way he felt I had dismissed him throughout the course of our relationship. He told me to switch to FaceTime and – sleep-deprived and not thinking straight – I obliged. He then asked me if I wanted to see something. I asked, “What?” and he replied, “A dead body.”

His next words were, “This is for you Jules,” before proceeding to take a kitchen knife and stick it down his throat. The next thing I knew, he was off camera and unresponsive. I immediately called the police. The next 20 minutes were pure agony as I waited for EMS (emergency medical services) to call back with an update. It was about 5 in the morning at this point and I found myself slumped over on the sidewalk outside my apartment balling my eyes out (my poor neighbors). The fucked up part was that half of me felt like it was all a sick joke but the other half wasn’t sure. 

As it turned out, the whole thing was a hoax. The cops actually sounded annoyed with me over the phone, in a “Thanks for wasting our time Ms.,” sort of way. Apparently, when they showed up, he had been asleep and denied my story flat out – something to the effect of, “I don’t know what this hysterical girl is telling you but none of it is true.” That was the final straw for me. I reached out to his sister and caught her up to speed; making sure she knew that if I ever heard from Dylan again that I would not hesitate to take legal action.

I’m a few days removed from the situation and my head is still reeling. That image of Dylan with the kitchen knife down his throat is forever seared into my memory. Therapy has been my saving grace. I’ve always been aware that I’m an empath and I’ve also been aware of my attraction to deeply damaged and misunderstood men. Yet, I was never able to put two and two together, until now that is. Dylan and the series of bosses and ex-lovers I’ve known and been exploited by over the last decade all suffer from narcissistic personality disorder: “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” 

I’ve spent the last three days pouring over literature about the empath-narcissist dynamic and it’s been humbling. Here I was thinking I was fucking special; that this string of toxic relationships I’ve found myself in over the years was unique. Turns out, I’m just a case study in a psych textbook. 

At the same time though, it’s been a very empowering and liberating experience – to be able to put a label on something and understand it in less of an emotional way and more of a logical one. Even still, I’m careful not to pigeonhole myself as a victim. In my opinion, modern-day feminism gives women far too much leniency when it comes to accountability. We can just claim, “All men are trash. My boyfriend was abusive and I am the innocent victim here.” 

In reality, though, no one is all good or all bad. As an empath, I have the capacity to be narcissistic and cruel, just as Dylan has the capacity to be vulnerable and compassionate. I’ve made mistakes that have hurt people and rather than opting to hide behind the victim narrative, I choose to own my shit; to reflect on my patterns and re-evaluate my behavior so that I can do better going forward. I may be the flame to the narcissistic moth, but I have the power to build up walls that will protect me from ever becoming entangled with a narcissist again. And so I shall. 

Culture
empath
narcissist
narrative
psychology of sex
relationships
Jules

Jules

Author

Based in Brooklyn, Jules has dedicated her twenties towards harnessing her pussy power, exploring the muse, whore, and wild woman archetypes along the way. When not blogging, you can find her sweating the toxins out in a hot yoga class or sipping a matcha latte at a pretentious coffee shop, whilst she scribbles away in her journal.


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