If it wasn’t clear from the title, I’d like to warn anyone going through the turmoil of breaking up with a narcissist that what I write here about narcissists and their motivations so starkly may feel harsh and painful to read. I write it only with the best of intentions, hoping it will help others as the knowledge eventually did me.
Being with a narcissist is an extremely painful experience that keeps you stuck for months or years in confusion about what happened and can leave you unable to trust yourself. You may doubt your own memories of the relationship and get lost trying to answer questions that seem to have no answers. You may inexplicably long for the person who hurt you and remain unable to comprehend why. You may be wracked with conflicting emotions that never seem to subside and that keep you from being able to enjoy your daily life.
Even after I realized that I didn’t love my ex-boyfriend the way I used to and there was no going back, even after the pain had far outweighed anything positive I was getting out of his continued attempts to forge his way back into my life, even after I had finally shut that door to him and looked ahead to the unknown, there was still something holding me there as the fog began to clear… just standing… on the other side. Not waiting for him, but just standing.
Something that I needed to take care of.
I knew I was vulnerable and I had to get out of there, but…
I didn’t even want him back but…
What was it I needed to do?
I needed to learn and accept the truth.
Five Things You Must Understand About Narcissistic Abuse Before Moving On
First, how do I define moving on?
I think there are at least three important things that characterize it:
- letting go of attempts to hang onto the past
- not responding to hoovers or checking up on your ex
- taking active steps toward the future, no matter how small
What do I mean by hanging onto the past? Reaching out to the narcissist. Purposely keeping mementos because they remind you of the narcissist. Waiting for the narcissist to come back into your life. Leaving channels unblocked so that he or she can contact you, or going to places where you know that he or she might be so that you could run into him or her.
It doesn’t mean that you feel positive all the time or are happy about what happened and look back fondly at the events. It doesn’t mean that you have fully accepted what happened yet or forgiven the narcissist (that’s up to you if and when you do that). Moving on is about facing forward instead of backward. It’s about not being stuck in place waiting for the narcissist to explain or rescue you. It’s about taking some control back over your own life even if you’re not sure where to go. It’s about knowing that the relationship is over, even if a part of you has to grieve over it for a time. It’s about embracing all of your emotions and reaching out for support and waking up every day being proud of yourself that you made it through.
I believe that knowing and eventually accepting the things below will help keep us moving away from the door we just closed and into a better future.
These are the most painful things we must face about what we just went through and once we can start to weave these into our understanding, we can begin to do just that.
They are the things that the narcissists have been using to control us all along.
1. The Set-Up
The entire thing was doomed from the start. It was a set-up. It was one-sided. It doesn’t matter whether it was intentional or not. It was not ever a relationship that was built on a foundation of commitment, fidelity, trust and honesty on the side of the narcissist, so that set you up to be exploited. If it hadn’t been set up that way, you would not be in this position. You would not be a survivor of narcissistic abuse. The very nature of narcissistic abuse is that in order for the abuse and exploitation to occur, it has to start from day one with some of the things described below. The relationship could not have turned out any other way.
WHY IT MATTERS: You don’t want to go back to a relationship where there is no chance it can ever work. Keep walking.
2. The Bait-and-Switch
It wasn’t love. Narcissists never enter into relationships with the same mindset or goals that you do. They are unable to form healthy attachments to people and while you were falling in love and providing them the foundation of a solid relationship, any loving emotions they felt, if they felt any at all, were due to how you made them feel.
WHY IT MATTERS: He or she is incapable of loving you. Keep walking.
3. The False Persona
The person you loved did not exist. In the beginning, narcissists construct a persona they want you to see. They lie about their pasts. They mirror your interests and align their present actions around you, enmeshing their lives with yours until you are dependent on this illusion. They omit what they don’t want you to know about and gaslight you about what else they are up to. They make promises they don’t intend to keep and make plans that they know they will find a way to never make good on. It’s a false reality construction customized to your desires. No one, including you, actually knows what they are really like because their identity shifts for each audience to get people to like them or to get something out of them.
WHY IT MATTERS: You don’t want to go back to that person because they weren’t even real. Keep walking.
The reason you miss them is that they reflected back to you your best qualities. This love-bombing is a form of idealization, not actual love, and it is contrived in order to get you to drop your guard quickly so you will make yourself vulnerable to them. It ended as soon as you did something such as disagreed with them or they got bored, but as soon as you started to leave they would pour it back on again to get you to provide whatever it was you were giving them that made them feel validated again.
WHY IT MATTERS: Not only are they incapable of loving you for you, what they were giving you is not even really love and can only end in misery when you fall off the pedestal–which you always will. Keep walking.
Narcissists will never tell you any of this, and that is part of how they abuse you. Don’t look to them for any answers. In fact, the more you spend time with them, the deeper into the fog you go. They will keep you in a state of confusion and anxiety as long as they can. This leaves you in an acute traumatized state where you are unable to process any of this on your own as long as they are in your reality at all. This is why you must get away from them.
WHY IT MATTERS: If you go back, you will be back in that state again– and you’ll be in this doomed relationship with someone who can’t love you and who will never leave you alone until you decide you have had enough.
Keep walking now. Before he or she comes back.
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