Processing the End of a Narcissistic Relationship

end of narc blog art

May 21, 2020 – Day 66 of my quarantine

Because I am currently going through this process I wanted to share what I have learned and am continuing to learn.

The spectrum of narcissistic personality disorder is broad and varied. This post is mainly for people who have finally identified that they were in a relationship with a narcissist and ended it by going no contact permanently. There is no other way to end a relationship with a narcissist. You have to remove them from your life entirely or face the continued emotional manipulations of “hoovering”, “baiting” and “bread-crumbing” for the rest of your life. Because they will never let go. Especially if they have identified you as a premium source of narcissistic supply.

The good news is that you recognized what was happening and took steps to end it. You chose yourself and your emotional and psychological safety and well-being over the false promises of attaining a normal relationship from someone who can never give you one. But instead, they dangle the tantalizing yet false hopes that you can attain a normal loving relationship with them in order to draw you back in over and over and over only to hurt and discard you over and over and over.

So, let’s do a quick basic review – What got us here?

1. Healthy adult relationships do not make you repeatedly feel “confused.” The feeling of “confusion” is the very first warning sign that you may be dealing with a narcissist. It is often missed and/or easily dismissed because if you question this they will tell you, and, you will then tell yourself, there’s something wrong with you. You are not “understanding” them. This is where the first round of guilt and shame begins. You are being convinced that you are the problem, not them. You are hurting them with these questions. This is Gaslighting.

2. Manipulation. Healthy adult relationships do not include one member manipulating the other. This manipulation can include covert coercion, gaslighting, blame, scapegoating, passive aggression, and flat out lying in order to get you to give them what they want.

3. Isolation. When you started dating you went out to public venues, you introduced them to your social circles, maybe even some family members. Then as time progressed, they wanted to go out less and less. They’d say things like, “I just want to have you all to myself” – and you may have felt very flattered by that. But then one day you woke up and realized you hadn’t gone out or seen any of your friends for months. Isolation is a form of control. In order to secure their supply (You), they must isolate you.

Narcissistic relationships work because they are like slot machines. They use “intermittent reinforcement” to keep you coming back. You don’t know when the reward is coming, you don’t know if it will be big or small, most times you will get nothing at all. This type of psychological reward cycle is the hardest to break a person away from. “Maybe I’ll win on this pull.” “Maybe I’ll win on this next pull.” “Maybe they’ll hear my needs this time.” “Maybe they’ll acknowledge me this time.” Hope and the promise of reward. It’s what keeps people checking their cell phones every 15 minutes for social media tidbits that make them feel good. Give them that little rush of endorphins including serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. The Feel Good brain cocktail.

Over time all these elements can become very damaging leading to “Trauma Bonding.” The term “Trauma Bonding” is a lot like “Stockholm Syndrome”. (Having an emotional bond with someone who is harming you.) Trauma Bonding is caused by unhealthy patterns of behavior, namely – inconsistency, invalidation, devaluing, dehumanization, and chaos. The bonds are made stronger by the cruelty of the relationship. Basically, it’s when you are equating abuse and trauma with love. This is often mistaken for “chemistry” between two people because it evokes such a primal emotional response. But to what? To those who originally hurt you. Maybe your parents or a sibling. That is the feeling of familiarity resonating deep within you. Adults who were traumatized or neglected as children are particularly susceptible targets for narcissists. 

Narcissists are masters at finding and exploiting your weakest, most vulnerable spots.

The General Cycle of the Narcissistic Relationship is:

Idealize

Devalue

Discard

Hoover

and back to the beginning

This is very similar to the cycle of addiction.

The Final Ending

When a healthy relationship ends there are generally not as much convoluted and confusing feelings. You may experience real pangs of grief, you may feel sad but you move past it in time.

When a narcissistic relationship ends it can feel emotionally catastrophic and gut-wrenching. Because in the beginning, during the “Love Bombing “ phase you felt euphoric, maybe you believed you found your soul mate, they saw the REAL you, this was a once in a lifetime relationship, the most perfect relationship in the whole world, you were meant for each other, they were your partner for life. They accomplish generating these feelings in you by psychologically mirroring you, flattering you and love bombing you. The hallmarks of the beginning stage are feelings that are overwhelmingly intense. Things are happening very fast. Quickness and Intensity are words that best describe the beginning of a narcissistic relationship. If a relationship feels too good to be true – you may be dealing with a narcissist.

So – Can you get closure after ending a narcissistic relationship?

No.

Life after a narcissistic relationship is about grief and relief. Don’t let your grief gaslight you into thinking that you made a mistake ending the relationship. You didn’t. Focus on those feelings of relief. No one is emotionally abusing you anymore. To reinforce those feelings of relief – write a list of every single thing they did to devalue, manipulate, hurt, and control you. Look at that list when you begin to have feelings of grief or doubt and begin questioning your decision to end it.

You are never going to get closure like you would in a healthy relationship. Because by the time your narcissistic relationship ends you are so confused, full of self-doubt, emotional pain, and probably gaslighting and blaming yourself, all you want is to be able to think clearly again. The longing for closure comes later. But …

There is no closure from them. There is never going to be any closure from them. They aren’t going to give it to you.

Because closure is a big part of healing this is where you can get really stuck. In this case, you have to ask yourself, “Am I willing to spend the rest of my life waiting for something that will never happen?” If your answer is, “Yes”, you are continuing to allow the narcissist to define your reality.

The Good News  – Closure is something you can create for yourself. You do so by reflecting on every moment you felt confused, upside down, less than, isolated, when you felt like you weren’t enough –again – make a list if needed – but get real clear on it. Once you do, you can then recognize that you no longer have someone in your life who’s making you feel like that. Reflect on how much healthier your life is, how much better you feel, how peaceful your mind has become, how you no longer have that empty aching in your heart, you are no longer waiting for validation and acknowledgment that will never come. Take stock in yourself. Validate Yourself. Celebrate your decision and move forward in your new healthy life. You are enough. You are whole and complete. You are perfect just the way you are and you deserve to be loved, respected, acknowledged, and valued completely.

Backfire Warning – Once you feel stronger, healed, grounded, and centered you may feel like you can take-on that narcissist again. Don’t. Just Stop. Do not reconnect. Ever. Do not go looking for them or respond if they look for you. The Covert Narcissist is a master at guilt hoovering after a breakup. They will tell you they could not go on without you, you were always the only one, they will seduce you with false hope – because you are finally hearing what you always wanted to hear from them, you convince yourself they changed. Don’t fall for it. Because they will fuck you up even worse than they did the first time. I speak from experience here. The ultimate healing comes when you no longer think about them at all. And the Bonus is you will spot the next one so much more quickly and be able to get away from them before they can cause you any harm.

I hope you found this helpful to read. It was very helpful for me to research and write.

Stay Safe. Stay Smart. Stay Sane. Stay Strong out there.

Until next time …