“I should have told you this earlier: I’m still living with my exgirlfriend”… I don’t know how many times I wished I would have ascribed more importance to this warning signal he gave me on one of our earlier dates. However, when he came out with this confession, I wasn’t even that shocked or surprised. In my naivety I was convinced that it was okay to still be good friends with an exgirlfriend. Little did I know that I would later on deeply regret the decision to not keep my distance from a guy who clearly was still too attached to his previous girlfriend. When I finally realized the crazy and disturbing nature of their relationship to each other, it was too late, as I was in too deep and had already become part of their drama and sick mindgames, deceit and craziness.
I have dedicated several posts to the nerve-racking, immature and dramatic triangle between the narc, his exgirlfriend and me, and I don’t intend to repeat myself over and over again. This post is therefore dedicated to one aspect of the triangle that I haven’t paid that much attention to in my earlier posts – namely the narcissist’s tendency to rub his exgirlfriend’s existence in your face. Narcissists often have a talent for making their exgirlfriend’s names a part of almost every sentence and to constantly make references to them. Even if the topic has nothing at all to do with their exgirlfriends, they somehow manage to slip their names into the conversation. You are therefore continually reminded of their existence and the fact that they still seem to occupy a large amount of space in the narcissists’ mind.
At the beginning you don’t really mind and you dismiss the fact that he constantly mentions her as a normal byproduct of their friendship. However, it often turns out to be a grave mistake to blend out all the signs. In my case, it was one of the biggest mistakes I made in the course of my relationship with Mr. Unavailable. After some time, his exgirlfriend revealed her true colors and I had to come to terms with the fact that she was crazily jealous, deceitful, hateful, hysteric and didn’t allow him to meet me (she threatened to throw him out of the apartment). Her unreasonable behavior, however, didn’t prevent him from mentioning her name in almost every sentence. She complicated my interactions with Mr. Unavailable to an enormous extent, forcing us to make our encounters a secret, and looming like a giant cloud over the times we spent together. I’m not proud to admit it, but I began to despise her for her irrationality and hatefulness (back then I didn’t know she was probably behaving unreasonably due to also being a vitim of his narcissistic manipulations). But still, the narcissist was rubbing her existence in my face, telling me about every detail of her life as if it was the most natural thing to do.
He would tell me in detail about the things they did together: having dinner at an Italian restaurant, going to a Beethoven concert, going on city trips, going to the dentist, going to the fitness center etc. He talked about it on a daily basis, and I didn’t even admit to the fact that it made me severely depressed to hear about them spending most of their time together. I didn’t want to sound like a crazy, clinging, jealous person and therefore swallowed the pain and jealousy. He mentioned her so frequently that I, at one point, just silently accepted the fact that she was a fixed component of our conversations and interactions. On some level, I knew that it was unfair and not normal to rub an exgirlfriend’s name into the face of your new partner. However, he talked about her so nonchalantly that I just assumed that it was indeed normal behavior, and that it would make me seem clingy and dependent to have a problem with it.
Things didn’t get better: He answered her calls, sent her tons of text messages and went grocery shopping for her when he was with me, and he informed me about every little detail of her life: I learned about her job, her strained relation to her family, her lonely existence, her childhood, her daily routines – I even learned about her sex dates with total strangers or the fact that she was giving Mr. Unavailable face massages. Sometimes he read her text messages out loud to me (and she sent him tons of them!). I never asked about any of it. He just told me about it, as if it was the most natural thing to present your new partner with a biography of your exgirlfriend.
I sometimes felt the urge to just shout out that I didn’t give a tiny rat’s ass about his crazy exgirlfriend’s life. But of course, I never dared to do so. I didn’t even complain when he mentioned her name in almost every email addressed to me. Once, he rambled on for several lines about how much he respected her and how he wanted her to stay in his life forever. Of course it felt like a slap in the face to read it and it reduced me to tears. However, even though I knew that it was completely inappropriate and unfair of him to tell me these things, I kept my mouth shut and just accepted it. I don’t know how I could have had so little self-esteem to allow him to treat me like this. I know I should have stood up for myself, but I was too intent on holding on to him and enduring the costs of doing so.
In the end, his exgirlfriend had become a fixed component of our interaction: She turned our dates into secret missions, she kept him from spending the night at my place, and the thoughts of her hysteric, hateful behavior were constantly keeping Mr. Unavailable distracted. However, her irrationality and deceitfulness did not keep Mr. Unavailable from constantly mentioning her name. He talked about her on a daily basis and in such an uninhibited way that I thought it apparently was just a normal thing to do. As a result, I swallowed my anger and frustration out of fear of being thought of as a jealous and dependent person. It never really occurred to me back then that it was not the decent thing to do to rub an exgirlfriend’s existence all over my face. Only when looking at it in retrospect did I finally understand that I allowed him to make a fool of me. Back then I still felt sorry for him when he told me about how strained his relationship to her was, and when he complained about how she was exhausting him with her hysteria, irrationality, hatefulness and deceit. I even offered him to stay at my place should his living situation become unbearable again.
I now know that I should have told him to shut up and that I didn’t want to hear her name ever again. I also know that his behavior was absolutely immature and impudent. Had he behaved like a grown-up, he wouldn’t have conjured up such an annoying triangle. The decent thing to do would have been to sort things out with her first, and then to enter into a new relationship. His ambiguous, deceitful way of treating us turned my relationship with him into something resembling an episode from a bad soap opera. He seemed to enjoy the drama surrounding his person too much to finally sort things out and treat us with honesty and respect. He wallowed in the attention bestowed on him by both of us and didn’t want to lose any of it. Consequently, he played us both like puppets on a string, and was feeding us with breadcrumps of affection to keep us attached. The only words I can think of to describe this kind of behavior are disgusting and pathetic.
If a guy we are dating is constantly rubbing an exgirlfriend’s name all over our faces, we should interpret this behavior as a clear red flag and try to opt out as soon as possible. The annoying, dramatic and exhausting triangles that narcissists love to conjure up will eventually suck the life out of us. We feel disrespected and fooled, but never dare to speak up out of a deep-seated fear of losing him or of sounding jealous and unreasonable. However, our doubts and frustrations are more than justified. It’s not a characteristic of a healthy relationship to continually be reminded of an exgirlfriend’s existence and to feel as if you were in a relationship with two people simultaneously. Being treated with respect and consideration encompasses being the sole center of attention, instead of only a part of a triangle. We shouldn’t be satisfied with being treated ambiguously and with being put on hold. No matter how low our self-esteem, we should make ourselves very aware of the fact that it is never okay to be toyed with and turned into a component of a shady drama. When you are in a loving, adult relationship, the exgirlfriend just shouldn’t be much of an issue anymore. Everything else is just unfair, painful and pathetic.