When partners of narcissists try to implement “no contact,” the narcissists often try to entice them back into the relationship. Going no-contact with a narcissist is something we do once we are fully aware of what we are dealing with when we want to protect ourselves from further harm– an action taken with the best of intentions.
Yet it often fails at first if and when the narcissist uses an excuse for contacting us through a method we didn’t consider (or our defenses are weak and we don’t close all the methods to begin with). In my previous article, I describe how getting serious about going no-contact requires an awareness of the repercussions and a psychological readiness that often takes time. It requires us to think through not only the logistics of no-contact, but the emotional implications as well: the relationship is over, and there can be no more romanticizing it or believing the narcissist’s lies.
Partners implementing no-contact must ask themselves, am I truly ready to accept this? If I am not, I may be vulnerable to something that the narcissist may do in the future to try to come back into my life that I can’t anticipate.
One of the things that may be difficult for the partner is not just accepting the truth of the relationship or the view of the narcissist, but a view of the world or of people in general. If someone believes that people are generally good, then a complete acceptance of the narcissist’s version of the relationship may mean letting go of that belief and accepting that that there are some people in the world who will look right into your eyes and fake fundamental human emotions for their own benefit.
That’s a lot to take in. It can be traumatizing to accept that that level of exploitation is real and that you have experienced it. No one should be able to tell any of us how long it should take to be ready to accept that information and move forward.
Looking back, my process of leaving my narcissist ex-boyfriend actually started over two years before it came to a complete end. I didn’t understand what was happening to me at the time, nor would I have been able to explain it to anyone else. There were times when I wanted desperately to leave, but I couldn’t envision any possible future without him, and there were times when I wanted nothing more than to stay and forced myself forget the things that had made me want to leave. There were times when I wanted him to leave, and times when I begged him not to. There were times when I walked out unable to take anymore, and then waited desperately for him to inevitably contact me and draw me back in.
Many times I behaved irrationally as if controlled by something outside of myself. Who is this person acting like this? I would sometimes think. Why are you doing this? It was as if an alien force had taken over my body. I was in there somewhere, but where I didn’t know. Emergency sirens only I could hear were blaring in my head at all times, and different emotions took their turns cascading through me relentlessly: anxiety, fear, disgust, despair, elation, relief, recklessness, defeat, exhaustion.
What I did not know at the time but can see now is that my mind was preparing itself to leave the relationship during that time, and a part of me always knew it. Very specific and distinct things happened during that two-year time period that either provided me with psychological self-preservation or gave me psychological strength–thoughts that led to actions, actions that led to reactions, reactions that led to emotions, and on in the cycle. All of these things, however confusing or painful at the time, moved me closer to eventually being able to go full no-contact with my ex-boyfriend.
Here are eleven things that happened to either protect or prepare me psychologically for getting there. Sometimes I moved in between a couple of them for awhile, but all of these I recognize now marked very distinct stages of my mindset.
- Epiphany #1: I Realized Something Was Very Wrong. Although things had been taking a darker turn for awhile, a series of major incidents suddenly occurred that were so out of character from the person with whom I was first presented and with whom I had fallen in love, that I could no longer accept that my ex was the person I thought he was (e.g., massive outbursts, cruelty, secret lives, etc.). It was the mask falling off and my subsequent realization that this wasn’t normal.
- Deny, Deny, Deny. He began making excuses for his behavior. Because I had never encounted anything like this before, and because I was not ready to accept the implications of what he had shown me under the mask, I accepted his excuses. I repressed how bad it really was, just wanting things to go back to the way they used to be. I was willing to overlook and forgive when he started to love-bomb me again.
- Bargaining. Once he had me back where he wanted me, the love-bombing had almost stopped, and he was often back to the behavior that had led me to believe something was wrong. I could no longer deny the things he’d done, but now I was just confused– he had given me an explanation for the behavior, but he was up to it again. Why couldn’t he just stop? If he could, things between us would be perfect. I’d tell him he hurt me with the bad behavior. Just give me one more chance, he’d say.
- Splitting. Chance after chance I gave him, but nothing actually changed. Which one was he– the “good one” or the “bad one?” I couldn’t decide, and I’d “split in two” and knowing the truth but believeing the lie. I wasn’t ready to face consciously yet that he was not that person I fell in love with and never would be.
- Fantasizing. I started having fantasies about the relationship that fell at extremes. I wished he would either just somehow disappear and never talk to me again so I could be free, or I wished he would make a grand gesture, stop all the bad behavior once and for all and claim me so we could start over and be happy. I’d wonder what would happen if I just blocked him without saying anything, if I was the one who just disappeared without even saying goodbye.
- Rebellion. Some part of me started to pull away from him. During all the break-ups, he disappeared for longer periods of time because I was no longer providing him with the supply he needed. Yet the longer periods of time away from him gave my head a chance to clear and the anxiety in my chest to loosen. I started doing all the things he used to harass me about not doing, like going out with my male friends or with any males at all. When he did eventually contact me again, after long periods of silence, I didn’t worry about how long it took me to text or call him back. The more I took charge of my own life again, the more empowered I felt.
- Helplessness. My strength was growing, but his influence was still keeping me from rejecting his version of events (the relationship). I was getting there but not yet quite ready to act and I was filled with a feeling of dread. The thought entered my head that I would never get away from him until one of us was dead.
- Rock bottom. My entire life felt as if it was on hold and was not moving forward because he was still in it. He was dominating my thoughts and controlling my time. I wanted something to change, but I felt powerless to do anything about it.
- Epiphany #2: This is Never Going to Get Any Better and I Must Act. There were several mini-epiphanies that accompanied this one. I cannot live with the feelings I am having. He’s not going to change. He’s not who you think he is. This is not what you think it is. You don’t want to be with him. And he will never leave you alone or respect your boundaries. I have to act or something bad is going to happen.
- I Engaged in Exit Behavior to Distance Him From Me. I was ready to finally fully accept what had happened in the relationship, but I needed to get away from his influence to do it because I was still vulnerable. I was desperate to push him far enough away so that he wouldn’t have a desire to contact me, at least for a long time. I did things out of desperation that I would not normally do (nothing illegal or permanently harmful) in order to attempt to make him want to avoid me, such as expose something about him to others that would conflict with the persona he was trying to convey.
- I Barricaded the Door in My Heart. Eradicating him from my life and giving him a good reason not to come back enabled me to gather the last of my strength and close the door, going no-contact with a complete awareness and acceptance of what that means. The fog cleared. I am gently accepting a new reality. And I have had to go through a process of letting the bricks wall up a little higher each day, as I am able to make new connections about the past that I wasn’t able to see at the time. The door continues to thicken, and likely always will.
It has been important for me to recognize these incidents in order to understand how I got here and why it took me so long, and to forgive myself for being unable to get here sooner. It also helps me to recognize the work I still have left to do.
Do you recognize any of these? Where would you put yourself right now? What else happened or is happening that you don’t see here? Please comment below and let me know.