You might have already read my posts on gaslighting and bluffing. If you did, you know one very important thing about narcissists: they need to control your every thought. When narcissists gaslight you, they’re attempting to control your thoughts about a particular subject. A smokescreen is an attempt to control the general direction of your thoughts, so as to prevent you from thinking about a particular subject altogether.
I’ll give you an example from my own life and break it down for you. My last girlfriend, who we’ll call Meredith, had a pretty good relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Aaron. Although he wasn’t her son’s biological father, he was a father to the boy. He came to pick Tommy up twice a week, and two other days a week, he would come spend time with Tommy at Meredith’s house.
I thought that was just a little bit strange (just a little bit) so I asked her straight up if she was still sleeping with Aaron. She said that she wasn’t. Of course, I was paying close attention to her when I asked, and my intuition told me that the question made her really angry, but that she didn’t want to show it. I let it go, sensing that I had offended her. Ostensibly, we had an open relationship. To me that means that we were should be completely open with each other; no secrets. I told her early on that if she slept with anyone else, I wanted to know about it. That’s all.
On one of the days that Aaron visited Tommy at Meredith’s house, I was on my way over to her house. Right before I got there, she called me to change plans.
“Hey, look, I really don’t want Tommy to get excited before bedtime, can you not come over tonight?”
“I guess… I’m already on my way.”
“Yeah… I’m just really exhausted tonight. Can we not?”
“I’m sorry…Me too. Look, I’m like two blocks away. It’s a 20 min drive back to the house and I’m low on gas. It’s already ten. How about I just come and go right to sleep in the guest room. Tommy won’t even see me. That way I don’t have to drive over for work in the morning. Yeah? Please?”
“…Okay. You promise you’re gonna be here 5 minutes?”
“Okay. See you in a bit.”
When I got to her house, I saw Aaron’s car pulling out of her driveway. I didn’t think anything of it.
Little Tommy was already asleep. I talked with Meredith briefly and went right to sleep.
The next morning she was really cold. Her energy was really different. She would hardly look me in the eye. Intuitively, I felt that she was showing signs of guilt, but I didn’t ask what was wrong. I just kept my distance, waiting for her to tell me what was up. She never did.
The next day, I helped her move a table she’d bought over to the house. She was really rude to me the whole time. I held my peace until we had everything in place and then asked her if everything was alright.
“I was just about to ask you the same thing,” she says.
She tells me that she “didn’t want to have this conversation right now,” and then launches into a massive tirade. According to her, I “pushed my way into” her house the other night. I asked her to borrow a pair of gloves at work. There was the peanut-butter and jelly sandwich I ate last week. Don’t forget that I took two showers at her house!
Every time I presented another side to one of her issues, she just enumerated another of my sins. Eventually, she was shouting at me in the back yard about the fact that I got toothpaste spots on her bathroom mirror. I asked her what the real issue was. Surely she wasn’t this upset about toothpaste spots on the mirror and a sandwich. Now I was interrupting her, she said, and she wouldn’t stand for that kind of disrespect, so would I please leave.
So I left, disgusted and frustrated. I stopped at a gas station to top off my car and, when I went to take off, it wouldn’t start. I called a friend to come help me. As we drove to my house to get tools and come back, I told him all about the fight with Meredith.
“You can’t have a relationship with that person,” he said. “She’s fighting you over petty stuff when you’re doing all this stuff for her out of love. When you do stuff it’s just because she’s your girl and you want to take care of her. When she gives you stuff though, she’s keeping score. She’s not doing it out of love. She’s doing it just to get something back. That’s not love man. You can’t be in a relationship with that person.”
Later, once I had a chance to settle down, I thought about what might have been at the root of the issue. I thought back in time to before the fight.
One of the things that happens when you go through narcissistic manipulation is that you have periodic flashbacks. You’ll realize that things they told you were gold were actually lead. Your heart knows the truth and their words can only delay your realization of it for a short time.
The day before came back to me: her rudeness while I helped her move her new table in. Then there was her strange distance at work, her guilty bearing, her refusal to meet my eye. The night before that: Aaron’s car leaving her driveway at 10:00 pm when I know his “visit” ends at 8:00… Tommy being already asleep.
Suddenly I knew why she wanted to cancel our plans. Things were getting hot with Aaron and she wanted him to spend the night. It dawned on me that she’d been sleeping with him on and off during the course of our relationship. All the signs suddenly flashed back to me.
So let’s go back to the fight: Why had she unloaded hell on me over tinier and tinier issues as the argument progressed? She never had a problem with anything I did. The whole thing was just a smokescreen to distract me from what she was doing with Aaron.
She had sensed that I sensed that something was off. She was so unwilling to talk about what was really goin on, so unwilling to tell the truth, that she chose to stir up intense emotional chaos to get my mind focused on something else. It was only lagniappe to her that she could get me focused on my supposed shortcomings. That way, as she hoped, she could have me crawling back to her instead of holding her accountable. Isn’t that twisted? Imagine the arrogance it takes to think that you can lie and cheat someone and have them begging to take them back.
What’s really crazy is that we had an open relationship. The only thing I ever asked is that she keep me in the loop about who she’s sleeping with. If it’s none of my business, then we’ll just be friends. But that’s not enough for a narcissist. A narcissist has to have control of the narrative. So she lied, and when her lies were about to be found out, she threw a smoke bomb.
Watch out for smokescreens my man, and remember: Don’t fight with narcissists. Just walk away!
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