I?ve been through my share of breakups, including a divorce involving children, and the hardest one was when I broke up with a narcissist. Narcissists don?t want to lose their ?supply? and that makes breakups ugly.
For me, it felt like a nightmare. I couldn?t bring myself to tell anyone how I felt about him or our relationship. I was miserable. Looking back, I realize there was even a part of me that was scared of him. I couldn?t have consciously told you I was scared or why, but it was there.
When I finally freed myself of him and the relationship, my entire life changed for the better. But it wasn?t an instant thing, and there were a lot of bumps along the way.
There were some things that I expected when I broke up with him, but there were a lot of things that I didn?t.
I was with my narcissist for about two years. The first time I tried to break up with him? About two weeks after we became exclusive (roughly two months after our first date). Thus started the cycle of me trying to break up with him, him promising things would get better, and me deciding to give him a chance to prove that.
A cycle that continued for two years. In fairness, I wasn?t trying to break up with him every day, or even every month. And there would be long periods where I didn?t want to break up with him at all. We?d get into a phase where we seemed to be doing well and moving forward, like when he asked me to move in with him. Soon after, though, things would backslide and I?d want out again.
Narcissists are masters of gaslighting and manipulating you into doing what they want. What they want is for you to stay so they can use you until you run dry. So when you try to break up with them, they?ll know just what to say or do to convince you not to go.
If you find that it takes more than one try for you to successfully end your relationship with a narcissist, don?t beat yourself up over it.
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They?re not going to apologize
Narcissists are good at doing what they need to do to get you to stay. They can even turn on the tears and give what sound like incredibly heartfelt speeches about how much they love you and how wonderful your life will be together. They?ll promise you anything ? including marriage, kids, or anything else you ask, even if it?s not reasonable.
The one thing they?ll never do? Apologize.
No matter what they do, no matter what proof you have, they will never apologize for it.
The best you?ll get will be some half-assed apology like ?I?m sorry you see it that way.?
The closest I got was, ?I?m sorry you couldn?t just be happy with the way things were.? As if being cheated on, lied to, and ignored, among other things, was something I should have cherished.
You?re going to feel bad
Narcissists want to be in control. If you?re breaking up with them, that puts you in control, so they?re going to do whatever they can to put you back in your place ? right under their thumb.
My narcissist knew that I cared too much about him and other people. So any time I brought up anything he didn?t want to talk about, he?d claim to be sick. If he wasn?t sick, his daughter, his mom, or his dad were. It might be the flu, pneumonia, a back hernia, a migraine, high blood pressure? the list of ?illnesses? that he and his family suffered from was long. But he knew that I?d feel bad pushing a breakup or even for an answer to a simple question while he or one of his loved ones was ?suffering.?
Your narcissist might cry if they know that?s what will get to you. They?ll beg if they think they can break you down that way. They?ll make big promises to change, even insist that you tell them exactly what to do and they?ll do it if you?ll just stay.
They?ll do whatever they can to make you feel guilty, ashamed, or even just unconvinced that you should leave.
And if you don?t break down and stay? They?ll still make you feel bad. They?ll swear you?ve broken their heart, insist you?ve misunderstood even the clearest of signs, and tell you you?re heartless and cruel to leave them like this. They?ll call you names, insult you and your family, tell you that no one else will ever love you the way they do, and that you?ll be alone forever.
Whether it?s guilt, fear, shame, or something else, be prepared to feel like total shit both while you?re breaking up with them and for a while afterward.
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They won?t give you answers
Looking for closure to the relationship? Yeah, it?s not going to happen. A narcissist will never sit down and have a conversation with you about what happened.
You know they cheated and want to know how many women there were? They?ll promise to tell you, but never actually do it. You know they lied about where they were Friday night and want to know the truth? You can keep asking until you?re on your deathbed, but they?re not going to ever tell you.
If you keep trying to get answers, the narcissist is going to use that against you. They will use your desperate desire for closure to keep you hanging on. They?ll string you along with promises to tell you, twisted and incomplete half-truths that don?t make sense but are designed to make you ask more questions, and insistence that they?ve already told you this.
The best thing you can do is accept that you don?t have all the answers you?d like and you?re never going to get them. The pain of not knowing is not nearly as bad as the pain of continuing to deal with the narcissist while you try to find out.
You have to completely cut off all contact
If you?re used to trying to remain friends with people you once dated, you?re going to have to get over that fast. Staying in touch with a narcissist leaves you open to more of their manipulations. You must stop calling and stop taking their calls. You need to ignore their texts. Block them on social media and from your email account. Turn around and walk the other way if you see them somewhere. Don?t listen if they send a proxy to talk to you.
Cut. Off. All. Communication.
If they owe you money or still have something that belongs to you, consider it lost. They won?t give it back to you. They?ll keep promising they will, to keep you communicating with them, but they will never actually give it back.
My narcissist, once he realized I?d blocked his number, would restrict his number and then call. I had to learn not to answer any call from a restricted number, as well as any call from a number I didn?t recognize. I had to train myself to hit delete as soon as I heard his voice on a voicemail.
It might be the hardest thing you?ve ever done, but cutting all ties is absolutely necessary. Even if that means cutting out a friend, quitting a job, or moving.
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Admit that the relationship was abusive
This might be the hardest part for some of us. We think of abuse as being hit, slapped, punched, and otherwise physically harmed. Or we think of emotional abuse like namecalling, insults, and other things that are easy to identify as abusive.
Narcissistic abuse is often much more subtle. The gaslighting itself is a form of abuse, and it makes you question other abuses you endure in the relationship. The manipulation and the control are other forms of abuse. It doesn?t seem like it, because it?s not clearly evil. It?s not clearly bad. So we convince ourselves that it?s not abuse.
But it is. And the sooner you admit that, the sooner you?ll be able to process it, get help if you need it, and truly heal and move on from it. Narcissists want your self-esteem to suffer because it makes them feel better. If you keep denying that you were emotionally abused in this relationship, not only will it damage future relationships, but it gives the narcissist continued control over you ? even if they don?t actually know it.
Be honest with yourself. Admit you were abused. See a therapist or join a support group if you need to. Give yourself the tools you need to heal so you don?t end up in another relationship just like this in the future.
Be gentle with yourself
Even if you recognize clearly how awful the narcissist is, you might still miss them. You might still feel sad about ending the relationship. You might fantasize about them realizing what they?ve done and how great you are and trying to win you back. These are all normal and natural and you shouldn?t feel bad about any of it.
Any breakup is difficult, and one with a narcissist is even more so. You?ll need to grieve the relationship just as you would any other. Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings you have without shame, guilt or anger.
Don?t blame yourself for getting into the relationship in the first place. Yes, there was a reason you wanted to be with them. That reason may be something you need to work on in yourself, maybe even with some therapy, but that doesn?t mean you should be blaming yourself or beating yourself up over it.
This is the time to show yourself compassion and love. You?ve been mistreated, you?re going through a breakup, and if you?re like a lot of people coming out of a relationship with a narcissist, you?re also struggling with the realization that the relationship you thought you had is nothing like the reality. It?s a lot to deal with. Give yourself space, time, and patience.
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Remember the goal
A relationship with a narcissist tends to be a rollercoaster with emotional ups and downs that you can?t predict. Breaking up with the narcissist gets you off the rollercoaster. It might not be easy, but once you?re able to do it, life will be so much better.
There is one last thing to remember, and for me, this was the reward for riding the rollercoaster of a narcissistic relationship. The love that you are mourning because you?ve realized the narcissist never truly loved you? It does exist. Everything that you thought they loved about you, you should love about you. All the things they mirrored that made you feel like they were your soulmate and the perfect person for you? Those are the things to love in yourself.
Take control and love yourself so much that the narcissist?s inability to love doesn?t matter. Because they don?t matter. You do.