Dear... actually, no. I'm not going to name you. Recognition is powerful, and I could use it to destroy your reputation. I've chosen not to.
If you happen to be reading this, you probably think this will be the opportunity I take to absolutely rip you apart. And trust me, the fleshy part of me really wants to. The first time I wrote this, the tone was nothing short of a fist punch, the keyboard my boxing gloves. But I know it's not what I'm called to do.
I'm called to forgive you. I've lost count of the times I've needed to, over and over again:
Every time I look in the mirror and see what you saw: my "tree legs" with no shape. The wrinkles above my knees you once pointed out in disgust. My abs that "don't have as much definition as they used to." My natural hair, that didn't match the "preference you were entitled to as a man."
Every time I've felt the insecurities I didn't have before you: will people think I have an alcohol addiction if I have two glasses of wine at dinner? What's really behind the people who raise their hands in praise at church? Is it safe to spend time with my friends? Is my husband mad at me? Am I an unlikable person? Should I trust them? Is everything my fault?
Every time I've needed to forgive myself: for neglecting, even losing, the friends you made me cancel plans with to spend more time with you. For the memories I could have made with my grandmother and gave to you instead. For texting you through every hangout, bachelorette party, and work shift to avoid the silent treatment or written attack. For believing the traits you projected on to me - that I was a codependent verbal abuser who no one would ever marry. For giving up the values you didn't respect. For falling for the love-bombing and catering to every outburst. For not realizing how bad it was until I needed confirmation later on, completing an abuse screen that read the word "extreme" back to me.
I'm called to pray for you.
I pray that you've found the courage to look within yourself and the hurt you must feel to damage others the way you have. It's probably not easy to admit to yourself. I pray that apologizing isn't something you "struggle with" anymore and that you recognize it's a part of healthy relationships. I pray for your breakthrough - not just for you, but also for her. I pray there won't be another day where a woman looks in the mirror and hates herself because of something you said. I pray your life is happy and fulfilling - if it is, it means someone else's is, too. I know you've gotten letters like this before, and I pray you never have to read one again.
I think I might be called to thank you. I completely lost myself because of you. And it's the best thing that's ever happened to me, because rediscovering who I was, that I am worthy of love, that I'm not who you made me out to be - it was one of the greatest seasons of my life. And if it weren't for how much you broke me down, I'm not sure I ever would have been built back up in the way that I was. I'm not sure I ever would have felt the need to get as far away as possible. I'm not sure I could empathize with others in these situations like I can.
I'm called to hold you accountable. And on that note, I'd love to catch up.
The day I finally walked away, I felt like I could exhale again. I didn't shed a tear. I never did. I'm sorry if that sounds cold - I never asked, but how did you feel?
I started a new life. I found myself. I made new friends. I was introduced to my husband, who never guilts me for surrounding myself with other people who love me, and speaks new truth into me every single day. What has changed for you?
I'm hundreds of miles away now, writing a blog post so that others know the signs of narcissistic abuse. What are you up to?
Oh, I've been learning a lot, too. Before I ask you what you've learned lately, I'd like to share this.
At some point on my healing journey, I read that narcissists use a common tactic called hoovering - communication or social media stalking after a break-up. Do you remember that time you called your ex to let her know you were dating me? It's kind of like that. But strangely enough, when I walked away, I never heard from you again. I have to admit, while I was pleasantly surprised, I did wonder why, considering you've matched nearly everything else I've read. Until the day I saw this:
When a narcissist does not hoover, it means "they understood that you are too difficult to be controlled, used, or mistreated... They are aware of your change just as you are aware of their lack of change... You should be proud of yourself if they did not hoover because they did not see a chance... It just means they can't fool you anymore." - Instagram user @narcabusecoach.
That's when it hit me: you always knew how strong I was without you.
I'm sorry - enough about me. Have you learned anything new lately?
My letter is not for pity, but for empowerment and awareness. You may have heard similarly hurtful comments or experienced this type of control. If this resonates with you, please continue researching the signs of narcissistic abuse and seek support. This article by Crystal Raypole (medically reviewed by Danielle Wade, LCSW) sheds light not just on tactics of a manipulator, but also symptoms of narcissistic victim syndrome (even if you have gotten out of an abusive relationship, you may still need to seek help along your healing journey). The instagram user I quoted, @narcabusecoach, is a certified trauma professional who shares incredibly informative resources regarding narcissism. If you are a victim of abuse of any kind, I also encourage you to safely contact the 24/7 Domestic Violence Support Hotline.
Please be safe, take care of yourself, and know I am on your side.