I can remember a lot about my life as it was the year 2000. I was in my second year of graduate school, lived with my boyfriend in a 2-bedroom apartment (one bedroom was an office), and I was the oldest Backstreet Boys fan in the world. At least, that is how I felt given the waves of teenage girls seen on MTV whenever they had an appearance. The first Backstreet Boys album released during my final year of college in 1997 won my appreciation due to some of their catchy singles. Their second album, Millennium, earned my business and heart. Released in 1999, I played it everyday driving to and from school and while exercising with my Discman wrapped around my waist in my Tune Belt. I not only loved their music, but I also loved THEM. No, I was obsessed with them. I tuned into any television program that advertised their newest video or a live performance. I bought every magazine with contained their photographs. YouTube was not around back then, but if it was, I am sure I would have used every keyword to find any video uploaded about them. A band of five talented and hot guys, Kevin was my favorite, though most girls loved Nick the most.
Their Millennium World Tour launched in February of 2000. It was making a stop in Greensboro, MY TOWN, on MY 24th BIRTHDAY! I HAD to see them! I had one problem, though. A BIG one…. my boyfriend was not a fan. My older self knows this fact should have made no difference in my ability to see them perform. However, I lived with a practicing musician and Master’s Degree student of music who thought their electronic beats were a disgrace and a threat to his field. He got upset with me whenever I tried to convince my boyfriend to see my viewpoint. He said he wanted to take me out on my birthday. According to him, my birthday was a night for him to show me a good time, not my favorite band in the world. Plus, he said, he did not have any money to buy me a ticket. I was balancing a full-time job and graduate school during this time so that I could have bought my ticket and seen them by myself, but that would have insulted him. This relationship was entirely about my boyfriend’s needs, comfort, and power.
Several weeks passed since I pleaded to buy tickets to the Backstreet Boys concert. I had to drop the subject so as not to trigger my boyfriend into another argument. The evening of my birthday arrived, and I hoped he was going to surprise me with tickets, but he took me to T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant for dinner. We shared the restaurant with scores of fellow young female diners dressed in Backstreet Boys shirts eating dinner before the concert. My heart sank, but I tried to keep my spirits lifted so I would not hurt my boyfriend’s. My boyfriend paid for dinner, which in itself was a gift as he usually insisted on splitting the cost of our meals when eating out. To finish the meal, he arranged for a free birthday ice cream sundae with the waitress. I thanked him for the delicious food, and he gave me my gift at our apartment: a birthday card and an iron. Yes, an iron to smooth wrinkles out of my clothes. While I did need an iron, it was not exactly my idea of a birthday gift. My boyfriend felt disappointed in himself that it was not a romantic gift. Still, I cooed over it, so his disappointment would be replaced with pride. I, in turn, avoided an argument that would have evolved into a screaming match by him.
Fifteen months later, in May 2001, I married my boyfriend. One would describe our wedding day as perfect. I had a princess dress, the church looked amazing, my entire family attended, and we danced into the night at a large party venue. I left him two years later on August 8, 2003, the scariest day of my life. The self-centered behavior he showed during our courtship had evolved into hours long irrational screaming events triggered by seemingly ordinary events. His unpredictable behavior resulted in me hiding my true feelings about all matters and functioning for survival. I, in turn, lived each day confused about what a marital partnership should be. Wasn’t he supposed to be my best friend? Did I do something to deserve this treatment? During our separation, I reflected that the longer I had stayed with him during his self-centered periods, the more reinforcement I had provided him. Despite my telling him that I did not like his behavior, my staying with him said otherwise. Actions truly speak louder than words. I was afraid to leave him when we dated since we lived together, and I had to face the shame of having been a single woman who lived with her boyfriend. I knew he could not afford an apartment of his own. I felt responsible for him.
I hear of women today putting their needs aside for the sake of peace in their relationships. These same women do all of the work in their relationship: planning dates, paying for things, doing the chores, and so on. These women do not feel joy nor any genuine love connection to their partners. Still, they settle for these partners as they have decided any tolerable relationship is better than no relationship. I call these partners, “Mr. Good Enough.” Women spend years with these partners hoping that one-day, things will change for the better.
In some cases, they do, but it takes mutual effort and seeing the need for change. I believe these women are in love with the idea of having a partner than loving their actual partners. If you can relate, please ask yourself if putting in the mutual effort for improvement feels essential. If it does, begin the process by talking to your partner in private. Tell him or her you believe things can be better and more dynamic between the two of you. Then, find a counselor or spiritual advisor to speak to and learn some tips on how to better understand each other’s needs, which are always more than the essential requirements for food and shelter! The road to relational recovery could be short and straight or long and hilly. Still, each individual will likely learn valuable lessons about themselves and each other. The work is often worth it!
If you do not feel safe with your partner, honor those feelings as well. Do not dismiss them! Please speak to a counselor or spiritual advisor by yourself to validate if your observations are signs of abuse. It may be that leaving your partner is the only healthy outcome. If this is the case, your counselor can guide you into steps to take to exit safely. Lean into trustworthy friends and family who can assist you with your safe departure. For me, I leaned into God heavily, so His Holy Spirit could be my lamp to show me the steps I needed to take. There are many books available to help identify if you are in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser. These books also advise how to get out. You may find them in this terrific article by Stacy Brookman here.
Reader, have you ever been in a relationship with a self-centered individual? If so, how did your relationship evolve? On the contrary, had you rather be alone or with a Mr. or Ms. Good Enough?