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 Catalog: The One Thing You Must Remember When Breaking Up With a Narcissist