Welcome to Survivors’ Stories. Here people who have survived dating narcissists tell their stories. The purpose of this feature is to give people the voice they were denied by their narcissist ex. All male partners will be referred to as James in these interviews (not to protect their privacy but because the main character in my book is called James so all narcissists from here on out are called James).
Our first Survivor Story comes from Susan who is 57 and lives in Seattle, Washington.
Thank you for agreeing to share your story! It will help other women heal and move on with their lives.
Hi Natasha, thank you for the opportunity to share my story, along with many others.
Tell us your story. What happened between you and your narcissist ex? Our relationship was great in the beginning but when I got sick it went downhill fast and eventually we went through a messy divorce. We met online. I had just bought my condo in Northern California 3 weeks prior. I was trying this dating site for 4 weeks. On the 3rd week, I was actually not impressed, and woke up on 19th May 2011 to his message. We started talking, he came to my house (4 hours away) 2 weeks later to meet. We dated 6 months long distance, seeing each other on the weekends. I was relocating by October 2011, and we got married a month later on 11th November 2011. I sold my condo and moved in with him and invested all my money into his house that he had for 18 years prior with his ex wife. I thought I had finally got it right after 3 disastrous relationships. He was charming and wanted me to fall hook, line and sinker. I did, but when I got sick everything changed. We separated in June 2016 and officially divorced in February 2018.
When we broke up, he tried to take everything from me – everything that I had contributed to the marriage. He had a home – the home that I had paid to remodel the kitchen, re-landscaped, decorated, while I was made homeless. I couldn’t even get a loan until the divorce was finalised because California State is a common law state. I would have needed James to sign off to legally get a loan. I was not going to do that. I was struggling everyday and needed to have a place to call home. I’m living like this and he’s sitting in a beautiful house with everything I did and purchased to make it a beautiful cosy, comfortable home. He even admitted that to me on a “good day” that I created a home, that everywhere he looked he saw my touch. I needed to see some light at the end of this very dark time in my life.
He was so sneaky, the way he changed the password on the security system within 24 hours of me leaving for what was supposed to be 5 days (even though separation was looming) and asking how I was and if I was going to feel well enough to go to see my family for the 4th of July. He only did this to know where to serve me papers. He knew I had mutual bills in my name, but chose to not send money for them or for me to live until I got help from my Uncle to hire an attorney and got emergency court ordered Alimony. He put a bunch of things that were bulky trash in with my things instead of going to the dump: 2 big torn bean bags, a big box of Halloween stuff from him and his ex wife, a huge teddy bear that was rained on that was to go to the dump. He sent me nasty mean emails and I could go on. Everything was fine until I got sick. I had good credit, just bought my home, I had my health, my career that I was proud of and loved, I was playing softball, on a bocce ball league for 6 years with friends, and kayaking every weekend.
When I met James, he was struggling financially. He was getting out of Real Estate. He was able to keep his home but had horrible credit and was looking for a paycheck job. Right about the time I was getting ready to move (October 2011), I got a job with an Oral Surgeon and James landed his job. We got married in November 2011 and by April of 2012, I became ill. I worked for 3 months under extremely ill circumstances, by July, I couldn’t do it anymore. I tried to be a Nanny for about a year and a half, but once she got older and slept less, it became hard to stay. Once I had no income or a diagnosis for my illness to even apply for SSD, our relationship changed significantly, which made my illness suffer. He became hot headed, blew up about everything, had road rage with me in the car… I spent more days in bed, more days physically ill than not for 4 years. I left because my health depended on it.
I poured my 401K & equity from my home into him and his home. I was trying to make his house with his ex wife, “our home”, somewhere I could feel comfortable. He now sits with a remodel kitchen, beautiful landscaped yard, all of the outdoor things I bought: a shed, outdoor furniture, TV, fire pit, hammock, storage bench, bistro table and so much more…
17 months after I left, we had to appear in court and the judge saw him for who he is and ordered him to pay 48K back for what I invested in him and his home. He didn’t care if I lived on the street. He did not want to be fair. The thing is, I told him that figure before I even left his home. We could have done it without the cost of attorney’s fees. But he is a narcissistic a#@h@%e and only cares about himself.
What was he like in the beginning and when did his behaviour change? In the beginning he was very charming, but he was also looking for someone that earns a decent living, as he was struggling financially. He was also a pathological liar. In the beginning, I caught him in lies, but he was such a good liar and I believed him. Karma caught up to him when I found dating sites, porn and secret conversations with other women on the laptop that I purchased, but he blamed it on his son. Had I listened to my gut, I would have never left my family, friends, home, my job that I loved as a RDA. I believe that things progressed quickly in the relationship because he had everything to gain. Unfortunately, I had everything to lose, and did.
When did you realise that you needed to end the relationship? When I went away for a few days to help a sick friend, I knew then that I never wanted to go back home. And James felt the same way. I feel like he sucked the life and money out of me and spat me out once I couldn’t bring home a paycheck or have sex due to being ill. The relationship breakdown was such a horrible thing to deal with and being sick made it so much worse. I needed to leave and get settled. My health and well being depended on it.
How did the relationship affect your physical and mental health? I knew I had to leave for the sake of my health. I was in bed for the better part of 4 years. I wanted to die, I was so sick. I had been discussing separation with him, because I was so sick and needed to see if I would feel better without the stress of a toxic environment. The stress he caused me really negatively affected my health.
How did you get out of the relationship? When my friend was going to have shoulder surgery (almost 4 hours away), I went to stay with her for 5 days to help her while her husband worked. As soon as I went away James changed the password to the security system (that I purchased). I found out when I went to access the app to see if it was raining there too and couldn’t log in. So I never went back to our house again. Months later after court dates that I didn’t attend due to distance and being sick, I had movers come get my things to be put in storage near me. He left everything in the driveway and the garage door shut. He left big items that weren’t even mine, that he wanted to get rid of, knowing my space was limited to a 10×20 storage unit.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us? His family defended him and made excuses for his behaviour. His father said he was sorry this whole situation turned so bitter and antagonistic. Then his excuse was that James had been struggling so the parents had to step in to help with attorney fees. His anger and frustration was the result of demands made by the court that he felt were unreasonable and destroying his life. His father said James could be a very caring and giving person, but this situation drove him to react out of character and his dad wasn’t proud of that. It just goes to show that family members would rather make excuses for the behaviour than admit to themselves the real causes and then have to deal with it.
What would you like other people to take away from your story? The take away from my story would be, don’t rush into marriage, especially if it’s the man pushing it and he has everything to gain. Listen to your gut. Don’t give up everything for a man. This wasn’t easy to think about again, but thank you for the opportunity to share my story.
If you would like to share your story on Survivors’ Stories, please get in touch via email or Instagram.