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11 Things You Might Do Before Going No Contact and Meaning It

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 only when we are fully aware of what we are dealing with and when we are ready to protect ourselves from further harm– an action taken with the best of intentions. Going no contact and meaning it, however, is something else entirely.

Going no contact often fails at first if and when the narcissist uses an excuse for contacting us by hoovering us (or our defenses are weak and we don’t close all the methods to begin with).

I’ve previously tried to describe how difficult it is to know when you’re actually breaking up with a narcissist. 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.

 

Breaking Up with a Narcissist is a Process

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 also wanted him to leave, and times when I begged him not to.  There were times when I walked out unable to take any more. And then afterward I 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.

 

There are 11 stages through which you might progress before you're able to go no contact and mean it.

Stages of Going No Contact and Meaning It

 

1. Epiphany #1:  I Realized Something Was Very Wrong. 

Although things had been taking a darker turn for a while, 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.

2. Deny, Deny, Deny.   

He began making excuses for his behavior.  Because I had never encountered anything like this before, I was not ready to accept the implications of what he had shown me under the mask.  I accepted his excuses and I repressed how bad it really was, just wanting things to go back to the way they used to be.  All of that reading I’d done about narcissism?  I pretended suppressed all that knowledge as if I’d never even read it, believing he could never be a narcissist. I was willing to overlook and forgive when he started to love-bomb me again.

3. 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.

4. 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,”  knowing the truth but believing 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.

5. 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.

6. Rebellion. 

Some part of me started to pull away from him.  During all the break-ups, he disappeared for long 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 a chance 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. I Engaged in Exit Behavior to Distance Him From Me.  

In this stage, 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.

11. 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 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.

 

Don’t forget to check out these resources:

 

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Kristen Milstead

Kristen Milstead is a narcissistic abuse survivor who has become a strong advocate for finding your unique voice and using it to help others find theirs.

57 Comments

  1. Being raised by a narcissistic mother, one would think a person would be more careful in choosing a spouse.
    It’ll be a cold day before I’m fooled again. (I hope, anyway!!)
    Thank you for this article.
    We are NOT crazy!!

  2. 100% recognize every single step described. I am finally at Exit phase after two years and learning to accept he wasn’t who I thought he was and he was never going to change.

    I am thankful for this lesson, it was the most hurtful one but it was one I needed. I am a much stronger person now and I will never let it happen again. I’ve learnt how to have a brilliant life on my own and look after my own emotional needs. When I found this peace, I knew I will not settle for someone who doesn’t appreciate the amazing person I am, therefore I have become the most confident and happy version of me and have realized who the most important people are in my life and will keep them close to my heart if they are good for me.

    I know all along I stuck to being the good person I am and that none of it was my fault, it is his own insecurities and issues why he acts this way. So when he would call me weak, I know he was portraying what he thought of himself onto me, and I wasn’t the weak one, and deep down he knew he wasn’t good enough for me and my kind heart.

    Now I am the most confident and happy version of myself I am ready for the right man to come along and I know I can spot who they are instead of being fooled by a persona and letting my feelings get in the way. I deserve more and am not stopping until I find it.

    Hard but valuable lesson to love yourself and know your self worth. Thank you to the universe for showing me this lesson.

  3. Thank you for your article. It was like reading EXACTLY what happened in my marriage, even though I am not to #11 yet. Still working through that. 🙂 Excellent article.

  4. I met one online dating, by complete accident, initially he seemed quite normal and rational, a lot of his profile was lies and he self admitted these to me, and told me why he had lied, it all made sense and was rational so I just assumed it was his fears of being rejected because of things and let it go. that was 2 yrs ago. I would not say he love bombed me, or bent over backwards to do things, he really appeared completely normal, reluctant to date through anxiety, then going on dates, it all went normally. He didnt shower me with gifts, none of this. But it all started after one date we went on, he spent it fully engaged and staring at a woman at another table who was out to dinner with her husband and family on a friday night, she had two small children who she was obviously at home with. I couldnt even have a conversation with him because he was so cognitively engrossed in her and what was going on at her table. I nearly got up and walked out. when we returned home, I confronted him with it. That is when it all started to begin. He fully denied all of it, then as I didnt accept it, he admitted he had counted the number of times he had looked at her as if he should get away with it, he had presented himself a certain way, what he thought I was seeing, then he could deny everything. He told me the conversation they were having at the other table almost word for word. Then he stood up, said “I am not dealing with this jealousy shit” stormed out the door. Then proceeded to send me abusive emails for approximately 2 days trying to force me to admit that it was my jealousy and nothing else, he refused to speak to me trying to bully me into admitting it. He was punishing me for it. I called him abusive. He then stated he had only behaved that way because of me, if I had not said anything or been so jeolous everything would still be sweet and this is all your fault. I have finally gone none contact….it has been the most painful experience of my life, and yes you can be completely unaware and all can be normal until…one day…..

  5. Michelle Dunbar

    Narcissistic abuse is like no other abuse, I left my Narcissistic Husband in January 2018 after putting up with so much for so long, I’d tried twice before to leave but the hoovering worked, 1st time he swore he’d change (he did for a week or so then it reverted back) things bumped along for another year or so until I left again and again he used the death of his Niece as leverage to reel me back. During the times I had left him he bombarded me with texts and phone calls which I didn’t answer as I really didn’t want to talk to him as I knew he’d use anything to try to get me back home where he’d continue his controlling manipulative abuse and continue with his bad behaviour, the confusion I felt was so intense that I did at times feel like I was going crazy, which I now know is just the way he intended it to be so as he could say to people he was the one putting up with his crazy wife (poor man)I am currently in the process of divorcing him which incidentally he’s contesting (I sort of knew he’d do that) he’s making out that I’m the baddie and he’s the victim (no surprise there then) and I must say he’s got playing victim down to a fine art, in the papers I received from the solicitor there’s truth in some of the points he had stated only it happened the other way round or he only told the part of the story which suited him but left out the punchline as to why I had asked this or that, I read the papers and it really hit home just how self centered he actually is and his ability to lie is second to none. I know I’ve still got a long way to go, but slowly I’m trying to find myself as he’d chipped away at me until there was barely anything of me left. I honestly don’t know whether narcissistic people don’t know what they’re doing or if it’s a case of they are fully aware of what they’re doing but don’t care and actually get a sick kick watching you die a little bit everyday.
    My simple piece of advice to anyone who is in a relationship with a narcissistic person is get out of the relationship while you still can and don’t look back, they will never ever change but will tell you quite convincingly that they will change, don’t fall for it it’s all a great big fat lie. My regret is staying for so long and after I left the 1st time being so stupid enough to go back to him and the endless abuse, I should have just stayed away as I now know I was only delaying the inevitable and prolonging my suffering but thankfully I’m out of that environment now and I’ll just take each day as it comes sometimes I do think why couldn’t he just have been the person I first met and fell in love with and then I tell myself that person doesn’t exist he just made that person up to reel you in I also feel angry with myself for being so stupid and easily duped, most people coming out of this type of relationship probably feel the same way, hopefully these feelings will disappear through time.

  6. This is almpst a blow for blow of my life over the past 2 years +. Amazing to think there are so many people out there suffering from the same problems!
    I think if I hadn’t had kids with my partner our relationship would have been over a long time ago, or maybe I’m telling myself that to make me feel better. The biggest issue with regard to qalking away is the drastically reduced access to my children, it breaks my heart to know that walking away means not seeing them on a daily basis, however I am coming to realise that growing up around this kind of relationship is only going to set them up for adulthood pretty poorly so know what I need to do but simply can’t atm. Feel like a lost cause but I will continue to read great articles kike these and try to find the courage to break away.

    Thanks

  7. Wow. I have read several of your articles but this one has resonated with me the most. I have been in an almost 3 year relationship with someone I believe to be a narc or at least has strong narc tendencies. As of right now, I think I’m going back and forth between the rebellion and helplessness phases. Earlier in our relationship, he was under an extreme amount of stress for understandable reasons and I wrote off his behavior during that time. I was very much so attached to him and always willing to go above and beyond to do whatever I could to “prove” myself and keep our relationship intact. I didn’t start to really see the “light” until after the first year or so. Since then, our relationship has changed from him always trying to “leave” (which I know now was really a manipulation tactic to get various “supply” out of me, mainly money) to now I have made several unsuccessful attempts to leave and he’s the one making “efforts” to keep us together, however surface/superficial. Once I started seeing him for who he really was and verbalizing that to him, he started to shift the tide and blame me for all of our issues–“I don’t respect him, I talk down to him, I don’t build him up, etc.” “He only acts out aggressively because of how I treat him.” Simply speaking the truth about his behavior or real events that have happened is a problem for him. So now, I am the person who needs “fixing.” My solution is now to dissolve the relationship but instead I get guilted because “if I loved him I would stay and fight for our love” or I get called a “coward” who doesn’t want to face issues head on and deal with them. So when I leave, he always eventually worms himself back in some kind of way. He’s shown up at my house, called my mother, shown up at my job, bought me plane tickets and of course will call incessantly, even though his number is blocked. Then once we make that first initial contact, a lot of times it’s downhill from there and I find myself back “in it” though I’m not really in it, if that makes sense. It’s like he has some type of hold on me. We do have “moments” of good times between us but I would say that at least 50% of the time or more, we are at odds and it’s getting worse. Recently, we have had times when I feel as if I’m in hell. I have acted out verbally in ways toward him I’m not proud of and have had moments when I just wish I were not alive to experience such immense emotional pain, but at the same time I’m not suicidal. I’ve never felt so much rage/negativity toward another human being as the feelings I’ve experienced toward him. Then I find myself dealing with the guilt and shame of acting out of character which then allows him to “point the finger” and turn everything around on me. It’s crazy. If your steps are accurate, I am hopeful that I will soon make it to the end and get out of this once and for all.

  8. This feeling of needing to disconnect with him on all levels has been going on for 5 months. Physically it’s happened emotionally its getting there. Currently at between 10 and 11. Hoping I don’t backslide.

    1. You aren’t physically attracted to him anymore?
      I use to think my narc was the most beautiful woman on earth! I was mesmerized and a little intimidated even by her beauty, but since becoming more aware of who she really is beneath the mask of near perfection, she fools everybody with, is one of the ugliest souls I’ve ever met! Before, there’s was nothing I wouldn’t do to be with her, and now I think I finally accept the fact that none of it was ever real to begin with. She learned my biggest insecurities and of my troubled childhood and used them to slowly deplete my self esteem and self respect, she gaslight all the time saying I’m psychotic or crazy or insecure or jealous for having feelings any normal man in the same situation would be feeling. She denies any and all wrongdoing and nothing ever gets resolved bc she makes everything my fault somehow. She is self righteous, self entitled, and has double standards. She can treat and talk to me disrespectfully and accuse me of whatever she wants, but as soon as I question her loyalty she gets hypersensitive and punished me with silent treatment for weeks, all the while going out drinking with her girlfriends and hooking up with random men at nightclubs. I only know that for sure bc she left her phone on my car one night when I dropped her off. I know I shouldn’t have bit I needed to know the truth bc my gut was telling me things I didn’t want to believe. I easily got in with the first 6 digit passcode I tried, I call it divine intervention, and what I discovered about her secret life away from me while I’m psychologically tormented and left with severe cognitive dissonance she’s out acting and behaving like single woman without a care in the world for me as if I never existed. She had hooked up with several different men during these times, she never had ANYTHING good to say about me to anybody, the same exact words she said to me she also said to other men, she blocks me everywhere, and will only call me from a private # for some reason. All of this goes on when we aren’t face to face, but when we are face to face she is totally different, caring, attentive, and sweet. She tells me I’m the only man she’s ever really been in love with and nobody has touched her since we met in 2015, tells me how she can’t go out on the dates she gets asked out on because she’s still so in love me much less kiss another man…… According to her own text messages to her bff, everything she said to me was a lie! She had made out with multiple men, had sex with a couple, and even had the audacity to act like I did something unjust by looking thru her phone to see what she does when she discards me. I have every reason not to trust her, I know I don’t want to share my life with her, but it’s so hard to break the trauma bond, I feel like I’m finally done playing her games. We have a son together and he is such a joy to be around, but I’m almost ready to to walk away entirely die to the trouble and all the drama she adds to my life. It’s not worth it anymore, the good times are nonexistent and don’t outweigh the bad by a sizeable margin, so I’m trying g to lick up the pieces and put my life back together at this point. She calculated an attack on me that has left me homeless, jobless, and hungry. I think I’ve finally had enough of this abusive cycle she’s trapped me in for so long. I love her and I’m confused as to why I love her, I know she doesn’t love me. She can be so intoxicating one minute and so hateful and cold in the next. Passive aggressive behavior that keeps me confused. I’m either pleading with her or defending myself every time we see eachother. I literally don’t have problems like this with anybody else. She constantly says hurtful things about me that aren’t true. Uses our son to reel me back in when I’ve had enough of the drama and celebrating and insults and the covert attacks on my character and me as a parent. It’s offensive. I just want it to be over so u can move on and be happy again. Hopefully, like you, I won’t backslide either.
      Praying for you and wishing you peace,
      Brandon

      1. God bless you Brandon !…you deserve so much better !!

    2. I feel like I’m exactly where you’re at, and it all started about 5 months ago ironically. Good luck and best wishes!
      Icexalso lost interest in the physical with her bc she does something to ruin it for me everytime. I deservet to be treated with love and respect also, just like she demands from me. I love her, but I’m slowly learning how nor to. I still have some confidence and she didn’t completely break me so there’s still hope for me, but she’s never going to change.

    3. I also hope you don’t backslide. Do you two have children together? If so, what do u plan to do to handle that aspect of the manipulationship?

  9. Thank u for writing this. I stumbled across this from my Google search ‘ how long should it take for me to heal from narcissistic abuse? ‘.

    I too was in an on/off manipulationship with my ex. The recent bout of our togetherness started in April 2013. We were ‘ official ‘ from Nov 13 to Mar 15. I ended it due to his inappropriate bullshit. Then got caught up in a vicious cycle of abuse under the guise of ‘ best friends ‘ (which of course had every Hallmark of being boyfriend and girlfriend with none of the commitment on his part, but every possible expectation that I had to behave in the way he deemed necessary,) from Mar 15 to April 2018. Since then there has been limited contact/communication/time spent with each other, very few sexual encounters with him (the final time was mid June 2018) and ever since a series of very negative interactions as I’ve become less and less willing to comply with his demands/expectations.

    I too feel I’ve been healing and garnering the strength to make the final step towards no contact for the past 2 and a half years. It’s been a horrendous experience and I’ve lost many things I held dear, least of all my self respect and love of my authentic soul. I’m still suffering the psychological and physiological effects of stress and trauma but I thankfully am beginning to feel I’m almost back to my best self.

    Everything you wrote here resonates with me. It’s very helpful to read these validating stories. I’m committed to my recovery and to helping others do the same.

    Much love to you and all survivors/thrivers.

    X

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Thank you for reading, Paula!

    2. I appreciate reading this article. I have been struggling with a relationship since 2013. I lost my husband in 2011 and was heart broken. I met this man on a dating website. We met and got along well and he immediately attached himself to me. It was a “save the beauty” deal. A Fairytale Romance that we had…and he told me that co sisterly. He said all the right things at the beginning but if I did not do what he suggested he would get angry. Example: I talked to him late one night I was on the couch, he told me to go to bed and not sleep on the couch. I fell asleep and the next day when he asked if I got in bed I told him no…he aggressively hung up on me. That was the beginning. I have been through aweful things, he would call me vile names and has threatened me. When he drank he was a lot worse. I kicked him out several times and I always let him come back. It has been so hard to just not forgive and let him back in, because of loneliness and when he was good he was great! He gave me all the I am sorry’s, it will never happen again. He would come back and destroy things at and in my house. He would blame it on me, it was my fault. When we were not together, he would come to my house when I wasn’t there and leave obvious signs that he had been there. He denies it all. My children didn’t like him and my son had several verbally altercations and there were threats. We have spent 6 months separated at times, but he would do the grand gestures and be very sweet and kind and I would let my guard down and back into my life he came. We have been apart for a month now, and I just received a text wishing me well and saying nice things…because my daughter just got married. I don’t want to do this anymore, I want a life with a nice man that treats me with respect…but the loneliness is horrible and he has made me feel like no one else will want me but him. How do you keep from just not doing this anymore…I am just a weak woman. He says I am a narcissist and makes me feel crazy. Help! Please do not list my name, as I know he reads these kind of articles about narcissism.

      Lady X

  10. I feel like ive written this post, after 2 yeaes of push and pull and emotional abuse, and silent treatments i only yesterday decided i dont want to feel like tbis anymore ( at times ive felt on verge of a breakdown) i finally blocked him , i want to move on without his abuse affecting my life amymore ,,, x

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Marnie: I am so sorry to hear about what you’ve been through but I’m glad to hear you’ve found the strength to block him and work on strengthening your life without him. You’re not alone. Stay strong! -Kristen

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