real life

'It took me years to realise the man I thought I had married never really existed.'

I wish someone had told me this back in the days I exhausted myself trying to rescue my relationship. Back in the days I prayed and prayed and begged and begged to not lose who I believed to be the ‘love of my life.’

Anyone who has fallen for a narcissist is no stranger to their emotionally covert truth.

And because of this, we focus heavily on injustice. The craziness of the world knowing one charming individual while we know a second more ruthless version.

Why can’t everyone see it?

Watch: A clip from Kristy Best’s series, How to Know If You’re Dating a Narcissist. Post continues after video. 

Video by Kristy Best

We fool ourselves into believing this is the illicit deception. This is the secret. This is the mystery of narcissism.

And in our defense, it is.

But narcissists hide an even deeper and darker secret from those who love them. Had I discovered this veiled truth, I know with certainty I would have fled sooner.

I concentrated so much on the narcissist and the duality of their personality it left little time for myself. That is, except for the moments of anguish, counseling, and tear-soaked pillows.

The counsellor urged me to focus on myself.

And I listened. I respected him. I knew he was correct.

Yet I had spent my life as a tenacious fixer. Which meant my resolutions of self-protection and boundaries scattered the moment I walked out of those appointments.

I simply couldn’t put myself first.

Saving my relationship was far more important.

I alternated between trying to convince my husband to continue in counseling, yelling words I now care to forget, and urging people to understand my truth.

All in all unbelievably exhausting and completely ineffective.

No one cared.


My husband certainly didn’t and neither did those who found it impossible to believe my reality. This super handsome, successful, charming guy was awesome. The life of the party. The good guy.

My counselor told me narcissists generally cannot be rehabilitated.

I was undeterred.

Because there was that good side. The one that temporarily hid when the cruel counterpart took over. The guy who held my hand. Who hugged me. Who snuggled next to me on the couch.

The guy who loved me.


We had all of those shared moments. The ones where you can feel love exists. Like there’s no one else in the room. Like there’s no other person in the world for you.


A narcissist is incapable of loving another person.

The dark, deep, and dirty secret they keep even from those of us who know them best.

A narcissist’s perception of themselves is too grandiose to possess authentic love for another.

Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, discuss what narcissism is and whether or not Trump has it. Post continues below.

Another way to understand the narcissist’s ability to love would be through the lens of addiction.

They love as much as they are capable of loving anyone.

Because the addiction will always be first. The person they love always second. And it is less love on love — more love on enabler.

The narcissist’s addiction is with themselves. They will always come first. Less love on love — more love on enabler. The enabler has value because they allow the narcissist their ego addiction.

I knew I was in love with an illusion.

I knew my college sweetheart no longer existed — even worse he never existed.

Yet the reality I almost went through life with someone with no ability to ever love me was frightening. That I had fought to the point of self-extinction to simply remain an accompaniment to someone else’s world.

That I had prayed and prayed and begged and begged.

When in fact, what a gift I was given when my husband refused interest in saving our marriage.

What’s that Garth Brook’s song?

Thank God for Unanswered Prayers.

The feature image used is a stock photo, sourced from Getty.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. For more from Colleen Sheehy Orme, you can find her on Instagram and Facebook.