There is a blogger named H.G. Tudor who is a narcissist currently in therapy and he keeps an active website with articles he writes about how he thinks. He reads the same literature that survivors of narcissistic relationships read to understand how we feel and the effects that narcissists have on us. Some of his writing tries to fill in the gaps left by unanswered questions: Why would the narcissist do that? What was the narcissist thinking? What was the narcissist’s goal? That didn’t seem to make any sense– what was the narcissist trying to accomplish? What did the narcissist want? Did the narcissist care about me? The writing is both scary and eye-opening.
In a series of three posts, he describes three stages that victims go through when they are breaking up with a narcissist. He calls them “Post-Discard Battles,” because they start after the “discard” phase of the relationship.* He calls them “battles” because during each, the victim is struggling either externally with the narcissist, internally in his or her mind, or both.
- STAGE ONE: THE EMOTIONAL BATTLE
The victim is shell-shocked and overwhelmed, and can only react according to the lovesickness, confusion, mind games, and chemical bond that have been produced during the relationship. There is no other basis for processing the relationship. Because there is no schema or construct in the mind yet for processing a relationship like this one (which is unlike any other ever experienced before), there is no other way the victim can respond to the narcissist other than emotionally. If the narcissist returns, and he probably will, the victim will always go back during stage one.
- STAGE TWO: THE HvH BATTLE
Tudor also refers to this as the Logic versus Emotional Battle. At this stage, the victim has realized that there is a problem with the narcissist and the relationship is untenable. The victim may have been through enough discards or, as is what happened with me, they may have stumbled upon information about narcissism and figured out that their partner’s behavior fits the pattern of the disorder. They may have had friends or a therapist tell them that their partner has a problem and they need to leave. They may have discovered new betrayals. Whatever it is, something or some combination of things has taken place and the victim is no longer processing the relationship in a purely emotional manner. All of the same dynamics from the emotional battle are still at play, however, and it is not a sudden overnight switch from one way of viewing the narcissist to the other. Nor is the process of change in perception linear, as the victim may swing back and forth and not know what to believe or how to reconcile the two.
Is my partner really a narcissist, or am I wrong?
Maybe he can change.
He seems really sorry–maybe I should give him another chance.
If only I hadn’t done [x], maybe [y] wouldn’t have happened so maybe we should try again.
We have something so special if he would only stop doing [x] things would be perfect.
Maybe he realizes now how much I love him and he will treat it as if it’s valuable to him.
I just want him to explain why he did it.
I just want to see him one more time and have closure.
If the narcissist returns, and, again, he probably will, the victim will almost always be unable to resist going back during stage two, and they will likely go back more than once because the head has not yet won out over the heart. They have only begun to become aware of what has happened and it needs time to sink in. The narcissist knows this and will use it to their advantage. The victim’s natural strengths and weaknesses are psychologically manipulated to further cause doubts and confusion, weaken judgment, and isolate from external support. A victim can stay stuck in this stage for a long time.
- STAGE THREE: THE FINAL BATTLE
In the third stage, the head finally wins out over the heart. Each time a discard or break-up occurs during the HvH Battle, the victim gets a little closer to the final stage until finally reaching the other side and entering it. Once there, they have control of their emotions again and no longer feel under the influence of the narcissist. The victim develops some sort of protections to keep the narcissist out and guard against anything the narcissist might say or do to try to get back into the victim’s life or hurt the victim. The risk that the narcissist will show up again, however, never goes away. The narcissist may catch the victim off-guard and that is what the victim wants to protect against. If the narcissist returns during stage three, the victim has more control over whether they go back. Yet the uncertainty of if and when the narcissist will return is why the battle never ends. Tudor writes:
“This final battle takes place in a land where the battlefield, for the first time, is more of your choosing than ours. You have better equipped to fight this battle and whilst there remains a risk of defeat and you are being ensnared once again, it is far less than in the previous two battles… How long will this final battle last? It will continue until one of us no longer lives.”
* * * * *
When you get into a relationship with a narcissist, you permanently become part of their collection and they can try to take you down and play with you whenever they get bored. They may break up with you temporarily or pretend to break up with you, or you may break up with them, but they never really break up with you. In theory, this gives the narcissist a measure of control. “That is why we did what we did; so we always had a way back in,” Tudor writes.**
Yet, in reality, the control lies with the survivor of the relationship. It will always be up to the survivor to ensure that the relationship is at its end. And the only way to ensure it and preserve your own sanity is to bar that emotional door in your heart by remembering that they deceptively manufactured it in the first place so that they could forever gain access without having to earn the right to enter through legitimate means.
And we thought the only things that were certain were taxes and death! It turns out that for survivors of narcissistic abuse, there is one other thing that is certain: our lifelong need to protect ourselves from being manipulated back into an entanglement with the narcissist who abused us.
Yet in time, as we become healthier, stronger, happier people, it will cease to be a “need” at all. It will just be a natural part of who we are, and who we are will render the narcissist impotent, as they no longer will have a key to this new person we have become.
H.G. Tudor has published a few books from the perspective of this idea that narcissists don’t break up with you. It’s a new way of looking at things when you realize that it will never really be over until you decide it is over. His books walk you through things you wouldn’t even normally consider, and he is also very blunt about what narcissists think and feel when they are in these stages with you. If you are intrigued, shocked, or frightened by this idea that there is no such thing as a final discard where narcissists are concerned and want to arm yourself with information, I recommend these books by Tudor for more information on the real point of view from a narcissist:
- Getting Out! How to Prepare to Leave the Narcissist
- Black Hole: The Narcissist Hoover
- No Contact
- Escape: How to Beat the Narcissist
These books are available on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, so as a subscriber, you pay nothing extra to download them from Amazon and keep them to read as long as you wish. You can try it out Kindle Unlimited free for 30 days here:
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like this series on breaking up and going no-contact:
- Eleven Things That Can Happen Before Going “No-Contact” and Meaning It
- How Do You Define “Breaking Up” When You’re With a Narcissist?
And also this series on the relationship between hoovering, no-contact, and discard and what hoovering really is to narcissists:
- The Anatomy of the Hoover (Pt 1): Why Narcissists Do It
- The Anatomy of the Hoover (Pt 2) – Methods of Hoovering
- The Anatomy of the Hoover (Pt. 3): Insincere By Definition
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