When The Narcissist Leaves

I’d only seen her a handful of times since college.  She would come into town from the ranch and once in awhile our paths would cross.  My kids were younger than hers.  Her kids were stretching out in that teenage growth spurt phase.  I never seemed to recognize them.

We’d compare notes on kids and life.  Her life was foreign to me – ranch wife raising two kids while teaching in a one-room school and helping her husband as much as time would allow.

She had that outdoors look – lots of sun and wind and the way the elements make creases in places she didn’t like, but ways I envied.

One of the last times I saw her, the creases appeared deeper.  Her eyes had lost their sparkle.  She was beyond tired.  I assumed she was exhausted from keeping up with teenagers, school work, ranch life and marriage.

She didn’t have time to chat.  I didn’t ask any questions.




The next time I would see her, Will would be a teenager.  She and I laughed about how she had survived the teenage years and how I was just dipping my toe into that crazy river.

She appeared less stressed, more fully herself.  The creases punctuated her tan face, but now they were enviable creases again.  She smiled a lot when talking to Jen and Will.  She held their hands longer when shaking and asked Will about his golf game and Jen about her favorite things.


“Diane, you look good – happy.  How are you?”

We walked to a table to sit and get caught up.

“Oh Jesse.  You should have seen me two years ago.  I was a mess.  John and I are divorced now.”

“Oh God.  I’m so sorry.  I had no idea.”


As if on cue, the kids got up to find something to drink.


“Yeah.  I had no idea, either.  He found a younger woman.  You remember that the ranch is his family’s, right?  So that means I lost my home, and since I had to move, I had to give up my teaching  job at the school.”

“What about the kids?”

“Well, they were in their sophomore and senior years of high school when I found out.  They stayed on the ranch to finish school.  I moved into town.”


I looked over in the direction of Will and Jen, “So we’re both divorced now.  Isn’t life grand?”

“I’d thought I’d heard that you were separated.  How long have you been divorced?”

“Oh, I think it’s been five years now.  Jen was three when we moved out.”

Diane reached for her coffee and laughed after taking a sip.  “I never thought I’d end up a cliche.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, you know – happy homemaker learns her husband is leaving for a younger woman.”

“Yeah.  My short version is:  Mom and kids leave before their very souls are sucked from their lifeless bodies by a narcissistic husband/father – or something like that.  Were you happy in your marriage?”

“Ha!  I was too busy trying to keep up to ever stop to think about being happy.  So you were married to a narcissist, too?”


I dug in my wallet for change.  After handing Will some quarters, I gave him the look that said, “Can you give us a minute?”


“Yep.  That’s where I was – peddling as fast as I could just trying to please and not get in the way.”

Diane shook her head and said, “You know, after we’d been separated for a couple years, I met a woman who told me the most interesting thing.  It was at my youngest’s graduation.  I found myself sitting across from this elderly woman with a heavy German accent.  She introduced herself and said she was the grandmother of one of the graduates.  In that way that older people can getaway with she said, ‘Where’s your family, dear?'”

“I pointed to a table a couple rows over and said, ‘Those are my kids there, with their father and his girlfriend.'”

She turned to look and then turned back to sip her iced tea.

“I felt awkward in the silence.  I considered apologizing or saying something like, ‘Aren’t kids resilient,’ or some other pat answer that you come up with in those moments when you feel like a complete failure.  Before I could say anything, she looked at me and said, ‘It looks like you decided to stop being his cheerleader.  Good for you, honey.'”

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  1. Hooray for grandmotherly types with German accents! (And I don’t have my glasses on right now, so apologizing in advance for spelling errors.)

    It always amazes me how many people I run into who have had experiences with narcissists. We thrivers tend to find each other in the strangest ways, but once we’ve met it feels as if we always knew each other.

  2. Jenn,

    Yes! Thrivers all seem to speak and understand the same language.

    And another Yes! for wise women and men who share their lessons and experience. Sometimes they come along just when we most need the reassurance.

  3. Jesse~It is always so reassuring to talk with someone who gets what it is like to survive a narcissistic spouse. I always feel bad though for others who have lived it. Thank God there is life to be had and delighted in after. . .

  4. Lynn,

    I know. I want to take those struggling with narcissism by the hand, walk them to the edge of a plateau, and give them a glimpse of that life to be had.

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