Looking back, my process for going no-contact with my 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.
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 provided me with psychological self-preservation and gave me psychological strength.
They were things that led to thoughts that led to actions. Those actions led to reactions. Those reactions 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.
Stages of Going No Contact and Meaning It
1. Epiphany #1: I Realized Something Was Very Wrong
Things had been taking a darker turn for a while.
However, 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.
Once he had me back where he wanted me, the love-bombing had almost stopped. 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.
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.
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.
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 strong sources of attention and adoration 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.
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. Exit Behavior
In this stage, I was ready to finally fully accept what had happened in the relationship. Yet I needed to get away from his influence to do it because I was still vulnerable. It was a trap.
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.
11. Barricading 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.
It took me months to gently accept the new reality. I had to go through a process of letting the bricks wall up a little higher each day.
As I was able to make new connections about the past that I wasn’t able to see at the time, the door continued to thicken, and likely always will.
It was important for me to recognize the stages in order to understand how I got here and why it took me so long.
Most importantly, I needed to forgive myself for being unable to get here sooner.
Going No Contact is a Process
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).
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.
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.
Don’t forget to check out these resources:
This has been my mirror!
Thank you very much for setting out the 11 steps toward No Contact.
It’s taken me 5 years to implicate this process.
I still wobble!
My strength is 10 fold.
I am different but a better version of myself!
I smile. I laugh. I am happy
This was like reading my last 4 years…. and the last year of planning my escape from the gaslighting, silence and devaluation.
Thank you so much for this, I could have written it myself. I am day 10 out of the relationship and day 4 no contact. I have saved your link so I can read this again if I ever need clarity again. I’m still in such a surreal haze absorbing all the abuse now that I can see that is what it was. It’s such a confusing experience that no one will ever understand unless they have lived it. All that is getting me through is reading other peoples stories and realising what each part of our relationship really was in the game, it wasn’t the relationship I thought it was in any part of it. The love bombing was what we were always trying to get back to and I can literally pinpoint the moment it all changed and he showed me the real him 8 months ago. I wish I ran that day. I will in the future. If someone shows you the real them. Believe them. He even told me he’s not a good person and I can’t fix him. But I took that as more of a challenge ?
It feels good to read all these stories here of people who have experienced the same. And yes, Jade, I, too, was told straight from the beginning “I am a very complicated person. I am extremely needy.” Later, he told me his therapist had diagnosed narcissistic personality traits. “You?” I asked. I couldn’t make sense of it. “Self-absorbed, yes, but narcissistic? No.” It was like he was warning me. At the same time he was also love-bombing. When I didn’t confirm or uncovered a “white lie” of his, he was threatening or accusing me or coming up with such nonchalant answers I started doubting myself. Or he would say things like “person xyz said this about you, too, he also thinks you’re this and that, you need to really work on it”. And triangulating me with other girls. It was such a mind fuck. I was never quite sure who and what exactly I was to him. I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into, I had simply never met a person like him. And yes, I too, thought, maybe if my love is pure enough, he would drop his masks, he would start being the real person I thought he was. It’s been about half a year with barely any contact, I blocked him on all social media, on chats, everywhere. We’re still somewhat tied together through a joint work project, but I have stopped writing anything personal to him. It is sad, I’m sad for him. We talk about narcissists like they are consciously manipulative. I doubt he is acting from consciousness at all. I think he is a very lost, very broken person who has a deep lack of self-love and is constantly, desperately trying to fill this void. I think he sees how he is hurting people, but I think he is so on auto-pilot, he can’t stop doing what he’s doing. When I realised that, I was ready to finally shut the door.
They intentionally hurt people. They are enraged with jelousy at the thought sound or sight of you being happy or at peace. Everything you you stated is exactly what he wanted you to think so a person who has empathy, a conscious or is nurturing will feel sorry and want to save them. It kept me trapped for 30 years. I completely lost myself. I was doing laundry, shopping, cooking, serving and running around like a nervous wreck waiting to get caught doing something wrong. All for someone who made sure he learned everything about me just so he could use his energy to make sure I never had, saw or did anything I loved. I served a 30 year sentence in hell for being compassionate and loving and giving and caring. Now I care about myself. I am #1. I don’t need to save anyone or convince anyone that I am a good person. My gut is my 2nd brain and if it does not feel good or right It is because it is not. I do not need to second guess anything. I finally learned to never under any circumstance react with anger or aggression again. No one will ever have that kind of control over me again to become a person I literally hated and wished I would die. Don’t get involved with anyone until you learn to love who you are and are true to yourself and have found what God’s plan is for you. A couple should be 2 people who encourage and respect and love each other that each person is the best version of their true selves.
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!!
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.
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.
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…..
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.