Notes From Kristen

“Not My Boyfriend” Syndrome: The Narcissist’s Best Weapon is Our Own Denial

I am unsure if I can adequately put this piece of my story into words. Everyone who has been through a relationship like this one understands how you can really only talk meaningfully about a piece of it at a time– and yet even then, trying to adequately convey what happened sometimes is like trying to hold water in your hand.

If I can’t put it adequately into words, I know that you who read this and have been through one of these relationships are the only ones who will come close to understanding what I intend to say.

This is the story of “the end” of everything related to “us.”  It’s mostly an internal one that takes place in my mind, set into motion by external events that would likely seem inconsequential to most people.

It starts with this: I had “not my boyfriend” syndrome.*  And then one day it started to fall away as if my very reality was cracking open and another one was buried underneath.

After almost three years and eleven months, I finally saw through the mirror he was holding up and there was something behind it on the other side.

I believe that “not my boyfriend” syndrome lingers for a time even after the death of the relationship.

It winks out in a slow fade, like sunset tugging at your heart on a day you never wanted to end; but also like a bullet wound that should have killed you that scabs over instead.

There comes a point, however, before that time, as you’re shutting the door when you get the flash.  Your catalyst.  And then comes the twist of pain.

This was never real.  

With my boyfriend it was, you see.  My boyfriend wouldn’t do that.  Not my boyfriend.

But it’s too late. The floodgates are open now. You’re on your way to knowing the truth.

Throughout our relationship, he had told at least three other women that he loved them.

And to me, he had also said:

You are the love of my life.

I will never love anyone the way I love you.

We have a connection people wait all their lives to have/no one can break/we will never have again with anyone else.

You are the only thing that makes me happy.

I know no one will ever love me the way that you do.

You are the only person I can talk to. You are the only one who accepts me for who I am.

Blah blah blah.  We have all heard it.

He had excuses for saying what he said had to the others.  Always reasons why he was going around claiming he loved other people. It’s quite strange, but he made it seem like it was something people did every day– just text people or walk up to them and claim to love them but then tell someone else it hadn’t been real.

But there had been something in the way he’d been with me, something in his actions that made me believe that his love for me was genuine.

(Mystery solved)

I hadn’t wanted to believe that his love for me had been just as unreal as theirs.  I had “not my boyfriend” syndrome.

What is real?

Fast forward to the end…

He’s declaring his love for me, despite being with someone else, insisting he won’t stop loving me even after he’s dead.  Blah blah blah.

He blows me off soon after, again showing me his words are meaningless.  

I want him to go away.  I need him to go away.  I did something to drive him away.  The only thing I could think of left that would do it:  I spent time with another man and told him I had done it.

He gets upset. He cries. Despite his own relationship– he is upset about my time spent with someone else.  He compares it to all of the cheating he did while he and I had been together.  He claims I should be glad he isn’t blowing up and calling me names– he means, I should be glad he’s acting like a decent person. He makes it all about himself, again showing me his words are meaningless.

He posts a bunch of pictures on social media, same day– he and the woman he’s with.  He says things to her that are equivalent to what he has just said to me, again showing me his words are meaningless.

Fool’s gold.  Glittering nothingness. Empty words. His eyes are black caverns.  

Light is starting to appear through the cracks.  This is how I break away.

I do a logic problem in my mind:

  1. He had made it clear that he was the type of person who was capable of telling women he loved them when he didn’t actually love them in order to get things out of them.
  2. If it was true, that made him callous, cruel, deceitful, uncaring, and manipulative.  It meant he was willing to play with people’s emotions to get what he wanted.
  3. If it wasn’t true– it still made him deceitful and manipulative, because he had lied to me about it to get something from me.
  4. Either way, he was deceitful and manipulative.

Not my boyfriend.  Keep going, I told myself.  The answer is in front of you.

He’s not honest or faithful.  He tells people what they want to hear.  He is loyal to no one but himself and does not love any of you.  It isn’t real. 

Yes, my boyfriend.

Something inside me wished for it not to be true, not because I wanted to be with him, but because I wanted it not to be meaningless. I wanted it to be more than just a shadow.

I told him about my logic problem.

His response?  Why are you talking to me?  Go talk to the guy you were with.

Again showing me his words are meaningless.

So I had my answer.

That was the last time we ever spoke. That is the last time we will ever speak.

I am free.

*”Not my boyfriend” syndrome is a name I apply to the denial we feel when we are confronted with the initial truth of our relationships as we start to read about the false persona the narcissist first presented to us.  Inside, we may say to ourselves that it wasn’t that way and try to hold onto a shred of hope that it was genuine because the alternative is painful to face. Although I call it “not my boyfriend” syndrome, it could just as easily be called “not my girlfriend” syndrome” or “not my wife/husband” syndrome.

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Kristen Milstead

Instagram: fairytaleshadows

19 thoughts on ““Not My Boyfriend” Syndrome: The Narcissist’s Best Weapon is Our Own Denial

  1. You ROCK!!! I wish I could express myself so clearly because what you described is what I went through for a long time before saying enough. I am still dealing with health issues that he caused so it’s so hard for me to write. It’s similar to ADHD on steroids. Anyway, I think I have fully moved away from the “not my boyfriend” phase to he’s just the guy who destroyed my vestibular nerve, caused PTSD and damaged my brain. And, he no longer deserves my attention and I owe him nothing.

    1. Searching For Hope, I feel the same way as you do. I’m sorry gor what you’re feeling but I do take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone about the way I feel because it giv s e hooe that I’ll get better again.

    2. Yes, he definitely no longer deserves your attention. You should not denigrate what you write though. I’ve read it and it’s beautiful. Thank you for your kind words. Keep surviving and thriving!

      1. Thank you Kristen. I really appreciate it. I sent an email – not sure if you got it. Asked if you were in DC because I’m here. Email me if you are interested in meeting up. Take care and thanks again for helping me feel sane and for expressing what I feel when I can’t…

      2. You are welcome and I’m so sorry! I have discovered that some of the contact messages go into my Spam box and I’m not sure why. I just found it and will reply shortly. Thank you!

    1. Oh wow! I feel truly touched and honored to have been nominated by you. Thank you so much, Vesta.

  2. Kristen, every blog I read of yours is like you’re in my mind and a fly on the wall the last 13 Years of my relationship. Yes, I am the idiot who kept up the facade of “not my boyfriend” for so long, even though friends and family kept telling me this was wrong, this wasn’t love. They just didn’t get it, they didn’t see what I saw when we were together, the sweet, loving man who just needed someone to love him unconditionally and never leave him. I could do that! I could be the one to show him what true love was! Sure, he cheated over and over and over… but always came back to me declaring I was his one. He couldn’t live without me in his life…I also have Borderline Personality Disorder which includes intense emotional attachment to people and fear of abandonment and never feeling good enough. To say this was the perfect storm and I was/am his perfect victim is an understatement.
    I also became fully financially dependent on him which of course fueled the part of the relationship where they tell you you are selfish and ungrateful and some other expletives that he enjoys throwing at me that I cannot write.
    So after years of pure emotional, mental, sometimes physical torture, several stays in the hospital because of attempted overdoses, almost succumbing to alcohol abuse to numb and block out the pain, especially when he disappeared on me at night because he was out with some other woman, heavy therapy for my BPD which he would come to at least once a month, very often saying to the therapist “did you fix her yet?” not knowing that the therapist was also trying to convince me I was in an abusive relationship, and I would tell her no every single time.
    So, finally this past year I could not keep my head in the sand any longer… he has “replaced” me as his “number one” throwing me just enough scraps to keep me hanging on and saying “ no, this is not happening, he loves me! I know he does” No, Nicole, no he doesn’t. I read your articles every day and just cry at the the truth of it all. I am trying to get strong and to go no contact. One thing sabotaging it is the money situation that we need to finalize when we separate. He says the sooner the better so we never have to speak or see each other again, yet won’t make the move to finalize it and give me the money. That was 2 weeks ago. I’ve been looking for a job for months. Between the abuse and my BPD I find it very hard, some days have to drag myself out of bed to face the day “without any purpose”. I mean if I don’t have him to chase after and worry about and do things for, what am I supposed to do? Who am I?
    You’re articles give me strength and hope that there is a beautiful warm light at the end of this dark, cold tunnel..
    Thank you. Thank you for your words, for your sharing and for your strength! ❤️

  3. I am seeing more and more of these characteristics in my boyfriend. Just wife tried to warn me about the type of person he was but I refuse to believe her. I just thought she was being vindictive because he left her for me. I see more and more signs of his narc behavior all the time,but try to accept it. Maybe he will change for me he says he loves me like hes never loved anyone before is it possible for him to change?

    1. Hi Faith: I’m sorry to hear what you are going through. Narcissists experience a cycle of love where with every new cycle, they idealize their new partner and it feels as if they have never experienced this before. Inevitably, the realities of the real world come crashing down and that’s when the trouble sets in. Narcissists generally cannot just “change” on their own and they can’t do it without serious therapy because they have developed defense mechanisms over a long period of time– even if they want to change, they usually don’t know how. It may last for a short period of time, a few weeks. I wrote some articles about narcissists and love to try to answer some of these questions. How he feels about his past girlfriends and what they went through is a crystal ball for what may end up happening to you, so please keep that in mind. You’re here reading about narcissistic abusive relationships so something must have brought you here! Please take care of yourself. -Kristen

  4. “He had excuses for saying what he said had to the others. Always reasons why he was going around claiming he loved other people. It’s quite strange, but he made it seem like it was something people did every day– just text people or walk up to them and claim to love them but then tell someone else it hadn’t been real.”

    Yes! I too was told “they are just texts. What, I can’t say such things to my friends?” “This person means nothing to me.” “This person is just somebody I know, who you will be glad to know is also is rather stupid.” Exactly as you have described, and this was even my exact response: “You don’t just tell your coworkers or people you barely know that you love them or want to see them naked. It makes no sense.”

    Turns out I was living with a crazy person who has no emotions and only uses such words to seek out attention from others. But why would they do so with someone whom they declare to be stupid? To make themselves feel superior, I suppose.

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