Every day of every life we learn and we grow. Some days it’s a new dance or a perfect run on the trail. Other days it’s the shattering loss of a dream or a fight with cancer from whose darkness we can never imagine returning.

Even life’s most heart-wrenching pain eventually relents to the sweet rhythm of time, a hum where hope rises from scorched earth a dusty, but sweet breeze of calm. One particular year most recent to this, I learned a rather valuable lesson from an unlikely place of treachery. It began in the darkest of trenches with the demonic grip of addiction, the horrendous disfigurement of narcissism, and the repulsive cruelty of a soul maligned by an inability to connect with others except for its own advancement.

It goes against everything I was taught–but it simply is true: there really are bad people in the world who mean harm. I was married to one.

Never reject a narcissist

I would joke that he was always the smartest guy in room, just ask him.

He would laugh, careful to never disagree. For the most part, I found his arrogance funny. He wasn’t an idiot. But thisĀ self-involved scattered recluse was rarely the smartest guy in the room. Most people weren’t sure how to take him. So many years ago I wandered into his snare, an unsuspecting narcissistic supply for this broken soul. This dance of dysfunction may have gone on into oblivion but for his addiction.

At the beginning of 2013, I caught him for the zillionth time with child pornography.

Much like the many times before, it was an uneventful day in an otherwise glorious life. It was my daughter’s16th birthday and I suggested we get her a laptop. He thought it too expensive, and wanted to get her clothes but we agreed to split the cost and purchased the computer. He put it on his AMEX.

A few days after her birthday, I logged into his account to make a payment to his card in the amount agreed. As I made the payment, the website confirmed the transfer, displaying both the transaction and most recent account activity.

Suddenly my heart began to pound. It hurt my chest but I knew I wouldn’t die because I, to my greatest misfortune, had been exactly here many times before.

My eye caught a revolving charge with some obtuse name (Interactive Classifieds). I knew from its fit and finish that it was likely something to do with my husband’s uncontrolled addiction. A few clicks of the mouse and my worse case scenario was realized.

Still, and even in the horror of the moment, there was a soft mist of resolve to my pain. I had dreamed of a day of no more surprise subscriptions entering my house through this man’s gapping wound of addiction. It was about to be so. He obviously willed it to happen and I would oblige. Like the saying, suicide by cop… he would be divorced by wife. He had been warned so many times it’s as though he taunted me to follow through each time he was caught. This was the time.

I mentally recounted supporting events of the past weeks. He had slipped into his late night “reading” in the living room on his iPad again. Check. He was his usual distant self and generally preoccupied. Check. He had nervously juggled his iPad when I unexpectedly came into the room and walked toward him. Check.

Duck. Duck. Duck. Goose.

When I warned him last he was caught, I told him the next time would be his last. But that’s what I said every time he was caught with child pornography.

I had counseled with priests. I had been to therapists. Sessions. Advise. Prayers. Year after year, he would get busted and the cycle repeated itself in perfect form. First he was furious. He would explode and scream that I was “invading his privacy.”

He would become enraged. Then came the silent treatment for days, weeks or months. Final stage: after a couple weeks I would receive an over-the-top apology and promise that he would never do it again. He would get help. He would get counseling. He would, he would, he would.

And then he wouldn’t.

My husband’s morality, like most narcissists, is his own concoction derived primarily from his self-proclaimed deification. He is his own god and makes his own rules in life and mind. And I, his enabler. I financed him. Propped him up. Gave him credibility.

Why? I wish I knew. What I can definitively say is that I will never fall into that trap again.

I thought I was saving a soul. I thought I was rehabilitating a life. I was taught to help, to aid, to fix.

It took years, but I now know with every bit of my being that I was married to a lost cause.

His porn addiction is hard wired, literally. The failure is his and his alone. I can’t make him intelligent, nice or functional. He simply is who he is, and the porn addiction is likely another despicable and pathetic feature of his narcissistic personality formed by some aberration of childhood… or not. Who really knows and at such a dismal rate of remediation, who cares. Lost cause. There are such things.

When living with a narcissist, keep your emotional gloves up

My ex-husband, as most ex-husbands do, taught me a lot… including that the guys with the lowest self esteem, the hollowed-out bullies, are the ones who eternally exude misery upon those around them. Inside they are alone but for a lifetime of failures. Outside, no one else can possibly hold a candle to their brilliance. Disagreeing is but a mark of the truly stupid.

This is important to note because of all the weapons of choice such individuals wield, deflection is the favored. Demeaning those around him elevates himself in his world; clearly no one was ever as smart as he. (sigh.)

Hence, the smartest guy in the room complex. A lesser person would have taken a real beating from this tiny person’s looming misery. By the grace of God I never once took his marginalizing me, my children, my friends, or anyone else in his gaze, as anything more than his own self-loathing.

2013: year of the eagle (take it to the limit, one more time!)

Even as a broken clock is right twice, he, like a number of other schmucks in the great state of California, filed a restraining order against me for a sinus infection. Here’s how it went down. (sneeze.)

After the great discovery of porn-guys’ latest child porn posting board, I moved into another bedroom in the house and contacted an attorney. Being completely humiliated that I married a pervert and my second marriage to boot, I sought counsel outside my hometown in East Bay, California.

That proved a folly for many reasons. Mostly because you need an attorney who specializes in hair-brained narcissists or you will waste a lot of time on their rather effeminate and persistent drama. Lest I digress.

Things heated up over those next weeks. Mostly it was miserable. During the same course of time, porn-guy lost his job and pretended to go to work everyday. I only found out when I received a COBRA notice in the mail one day. Since he lies about losing his job to this day, it’s anyone’s guess whether he was caught with child porn, or any porn, at work. It was inevitable because he ran the porn posting board account that I saw through his work email. Maybe not the smartest guy in the room.

Nevertheless, he has a chronic sinus infection (and most annoying throat clearing thing) dating back from 25 years of a pack-a-day smoking habit. (Ask him and he will tell you it’s allergies.)

So he heads over to his doctor (a long-time friend of mine).. Apparently, he uses the office trip for the sinus infection (note, no mention whatsoever of domestic violence — and yes, my friend, the medical doctor is peeved!) as the basis for a make-believe temporary restraining order.

The punch that never was

Now before we get into the irony of porn-guy’s pretend world, you should know that he weighs at least 100 pounds more than I, and, well, he’s a guy. Not a fit guy cause he sits on him bum all day looking at porn, but a guy none the less.

Now every night for months, the order of events went as such: my 16 year old daughter comes home from school and plants herself on the floor in my home office to do homework. While doing said homework, and while I did my work, we would chat about the days events, life, or any crazy little thing. Round about 6:00 porn-guy would come home from pretending to have a job, signaled by the sound of the garage door going up. At which time, my daughter would gather her books and papers and scramble to her room and lock the door. I, in turn, would get up to lock my office door, as well. Thus ended family time.

Until that Friday night.

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