Dear Dr. Archer,
I have been with my boyfriend for three years, and living together for two. When I first met him he was so charming, showered me with gifts and compliments and I believed I had found the man of my dreams. I couldn't believe I'd found someone this nice who would accept my children, and my children loved him in return.
Not long after moving in together he started making comments about weight, not directly at me, but how nice a thin woman looked or how thin his exes had been. Being paranoid, I put myself on a diet and started working out, which he encouraged. Then he started to make comments about my friends, telling me how they weren't worth knowing and how I was better than them.
I sort of agreed with him and somehow ended up being cut off from everyone I knew. He makes comments about exes and other girls and of course I'm jealous, but I've found I spend most of my time trying to live up to all these other women and that I've become focused on what I look like.
He doesn't get along as well with my older child now. He gets very angry if they do anything he doesn't like and doesn't like me to show them too much attention. If I do anything wrong he will go days, even weeks, not speaking to me as some sort of punishment. And yet, I feel like I have to make him happy and win his approval.
He lies about stupid things; it's like he can't help but lie. If I question him about anything he won't answer, or says I'm stupid, but then afterwards he seems so loving and sorry. I've never seen him cry or get upset over anything. I banged my head on the car once and it started bleeding and he just laughed at me.
To think about it makes me so sad because I love him so much, but I can't help thinking that he doesn't really love me. I feel like I'm just someone he wants to show off when we go out and to look after him. I looked for information online and started reading about narcissists and he fits the bill to a T.
I'm so scared now, not only because I think the man of my dreams never really existed, but also because it says people like him want revenge if someone leaves them. He is always talking about revenge on people!
I don't know if I will ever be able to leave him because I love him so much but could it ever be possible to change him? Could I ever teach him to not be a narcissist? And if not, how could I ever make it safe to leave him?
Start planning your escape now. I'm serious. If you're scared, good; make that anxiety work for you. If you have family or friends you can go to, then by all means make some plans now. Pick a day to leave, don’t even tell your children, it must remain quiet.
Go to your area women's shelter and obtain a restraining order immediately after you leave. That will be your first stop. Let them know where you will be living and let them know where you work. Also tell them where your children go to school in case he would go to the school. They must be protected at all costs.
Listen, Shona. You CANNOT change this man. He is not good at all. How can you say you love someone who compares you to other women -- with you always getting the short end of the stick?
How can you love someone who does not love your children, goes days or weeks with the silent treatment, lies, calls you stupid or laughs at you when you're hurt and bleeding? REALLY? This is not love; this is abuse! And if you do not leave, it will continue to progressively get worse, trust me. I’ve heard it a thousand times before.
There can be a good ending, but it begins with how you decide to live your life. Your children deserve a full time mother, not someone who can't show them too much affection or else she will face consequences.
Get your restraining order, be in a safe place and as soon as he breaks the restraining order -- because he will -- call the police immediately. Now is the time to return to family and friends, because they're the ones who truly love you. Be careful and best of luck to you and your children.