Notes From Kristen

How Do You Define “Breaking Up” When You’re With a Narcissist?

All break-ups are difficult, but this one was one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with in my life.

It has led me to start asking the question, what exactly is the point at which a break up with a narcissist occurs?  Break-ups with narcissists, no matter how you define them, don’t end well.  They end abruptly, usually with the two parties having completely different narratives for the same relationship, and result in multiple make-ups, a lot of damage, and no closure.

For a narcissist, once you enter into the relationship, it never ends.  They may discard you.  They may stop talking to you for weeks, months or years.  You may cease to be their primary source of supply.  Yet in their eyes, you “belong” to them, and they will always feel entitled to reach out to you and try to re-enter your life, if only for a few minutes or perhaps for longer, depending on the situation.  In story after story of narcissists returning after years or decades, and in explanations described repeatedly by narcissists themselves, this appears to hold true.

That’s not the way healthy relationships work, obviously, which leaves it to the partner to put a true end to the relationship.  So what then is and should be the actual point of breaking up?  Almost everyone in a relationship with a narcissist seesaws in and out of the relationship multiple times, so which time is the actual break-up?  Is it the first time the narcissist discards you?  The first time you decide you’ve had enough and leave them?

A natural break-up point would seem to be when the words “no contact” are used.

But let’s unpack that idea a bit more.

The narcissist believes the relationship never ends, even if the partner has instituted no-contact.  Narcissists do not respect boundaries, and not all partners, for a variety of reasons, are able to maintain no-contact at first.  Hence, no-contact itself is not always even the true end.  The problem with stating that no-contact should be the end without qualifying it is that it stretches into an unknown future that requires the partner to be adamant that whatever they are instituting now will hold under conditions they cannot possibly foresee.

Therefore, there must be a strong conviction behind no-contact.  A true break-up occurs when the partner institutes no-contact and consciously intends it with full implications and an awareness of all that that entails in the present and future.  It is a deliberate act that contains a solemn vow that one can never go back.

“Intending it” means any unpredictable and unknown action the narcissist takes now or later is irrelevant.  The narcissist could drop by the partner’s workplace, make a fake social media account, send flowers anonymously, hire a private investigator, or dispatch a carrier pigeon, and it wouldn’t matter.  The partner wouldn’t respond.  The partner wouldn’t even be rattled.

This requires psychological preparation and a discipline that most of us are not ready to take on for quite some time after learning who the narcissist really is.  I did not know it at the time, but the years it took me to finally break free, although painful, were not wasted.  Despite the chemical addition and the psychological manipulation I endured, my brain was still mentally preparing me for extricating myself from the relationship– which was amazing but true.  It is only now that I am out of the relationship that I can look back and see that.

I have identified several specific things that occurred first before I could implement no-contact and mean it.  I have also recognized many of these same things in the stories of other survivors, both those who are still in contact with the narcissist with whom they are in a relationship and those who are not.

In the next article I will describe what those things were.  I hope that by identifying these things, I can provide hope and illuminate a path forward for those who are struggling to go and stay no-contact.


A version of this article also published on Thought CatalogThe One Thing You Must Remember When Breaking Up With a Narcissist

Kristen Milstead

Instagram: fairytaleshadows

15 thoughts on “How Do You Define “Breaking Up” When You’re With a Narcissist?

      1. I very much know that feeling. I think it’s part of the healing process. What happened to me was that I eventually realized that even when I had been in a position to ask him questions, I never trusted his answers. So even if I could get all my questions answered by him, I still wouldn’t have my closure from him because he’s not capable of providing answers that make any sense. I needed to answer the questions myself on my own terms, whatever that meant to me, and provide my own closure. It was very empowering to realize I didn’t need him for that because he’d never been a reliable or trustworthy person in the first place. I don’t know if that helps. It’s just one person’s experience, but that’s what happened to me.

      2. Thanks! Yes, it’s been a roller coaster ride. Sometimes I know it’s better to just move on even without the answers, but sometimes I just miss him so much. I feel so tired of the emotional turmoil.

  1. I have never hated anyone, nor sought revenge in my life. Now, my anger and fury are so profound and overwhelming this sentence came out of my mouth. “If I knew I’d only get 5 to 7, I would kill him. It would be worth it.” My anger and outrage are not subsiding, but growing stronger. Constant thoughts of how he has changed me, his mindfuckery, lies, betrayals, projecting his sickshit onto me, no accountability, consume my time. I want to not care, I want him to mean zero to me. I want out of this hellish World/Reality I entered into upon meeting him. The relationship has been over for months. Circumstances prevent going no contact. And so does my sick brain. Sorry for the Debbie Downer post. I just needed to get it out.
    Thanks for another outstanding article, Kristen.

    1. I’m so glad you did. Getting it out helps.
      There’s nothing wrong with emotions.
      It’s what we do with them that matters and staying far away from him is the best gift you can give yourself. But you already know this. Have you ever written unsent letters to him? That has helped me considerably. If you try it, please don’t send them. But after I was finished, a lot of the rage would subside. I think anger is very healthy in these situations. It tells us we are healing because we are aware of the injustice of what we went through. Thank you again for reading, Cynthia. Please take care of yourself.

      1. Thanks for responding Kristen. I have written a lot that I haven’t sent to him. I have almost 100 audio recordings of myself describing what I’ve been through. I have a pattern of texting him when the outrage hits me the hardest in the evenings. They range from still trying to reason with him, to blasting him for all he’s done. I can’t seem to stop. Just last night it felt like I reached an end point with the texting. I hope so. It’s futile and it’s hurting me even more. I want out of this cycle of pain. Sometimes I’m just spinning in a cortex of my need for justice and retribution. Cynthia

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