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Getting Over a Narcissist Means Reflecting on Love

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Getting over a narcissist is one of the hardest things we ever have to do in our lives.

My narcissist ex-boyfriend was the first man that I ever really loved. For me, overcoming the abuse I suffered at his hands meant understanding why that fact mattered so much.

It’s not because took advantage of it, although he did.

And it’s not because it seems ridiculously naive or hyperbolic, although it may.

It’s because I have to trace back why. Why was he the first? Why then and why him?

It wasn’t as if he was my first boyfriend. I’d been with the same man for almost 17 years before I’d met him. It wasn’t that I hadn’t loved that man before him. It was just a different kind of love, a love that didn’t get inside me the way my love for my narcissist ex did. There was some level of something it just didn’t penetrate.

And that was exactly it. He had known me in a way that the others never had. How had that happened?

What Getting Over a Narcissist Really Means

He did all of the customary things to make it feel safe for me to express myself to him. He showed genuine interest in wanting to see me. When he looked at me, it was as if he was really looking at me, into my soul, and he touched me as if he was lighting me on fire.

I was ready at this time in my life to succumb to this type of advance, and though I was scared, he had made it safe.

Most importantly, however, when I did, he reflected back exactly what he saw. He saw that I loved him deeply, and he showered me with love and affection. We spent timeless moments entwined together, gazing into one another’s eyes as hours slipped into days. He was me and I was him and there was nothing I wouldn’t have done for him.

I didn’t realize until long after our relationship was over that what I loved about that time was not really him or our interactions or the way he treated me. It was not for lack if trying. I wanted to love him. I tried to love him and thought I did.

But it wasn’t real. That was the biggest mind twist of all to overcome.

It’s like climbing a grand, marble staircase into the clouds because you know there’s something beautiful at the top. Why else would it be the most magnificent staircase you’ve ever seen?

Yet when you get to the top, there’s nothing there. If you keep walking, you’re going to fall into darkness. But when you look back, the entire staircase has disappeared.

Did you imagine the whole journey to the top? Of course not. You would never have climbed up so high if there wasn’t something so lovely enticing you there. There were other paths to walk, other staircases to climb. But this one…

So you’re trying to figure out: if it wasn’t real then why did it feel so real? If it was real to you did that, in fact, make it real? And if not, how were you going to fill in “real memories” of a staircase with some other memories you didn’t have?

The only way to do it is to finally understand someone else’s version of how the staircase exists, to accept truths that save us but hurt us and break us at the same time.

He created a beautiful illusion.

Those things were part of a way of acting he had devised by learning about me in order to get from me the things that he wanted.

And yet… the illusion is more beautiful than I at first knew.

Narcissists and psychopaths study others to learn how to express emotions appropriately. I am sure that he did love me–as long as I was doing exactly as he wanted in his own mind. And yet because of his own torments, he could never stay happy for long, so I was always doing something wrong and he was threatening to or actually taking his love away.

It wasn’t his love. That was control.

The beautiful truth I have realized is that what I loved when he was expressing his love for me was, in a way, his interpretation of the way I was feeling about him just reflected back at me.

In other words, I was able to open up to him and show him my love, and what he showed me right back was only his best guess of an approximation of the same thing. The love I was showing him was bouncing right back to me.

That was me. It was all me.

Now, I’m doing what I should have been doing all along. I’m practicing cutting out the middleman.

I went through an emotional roller coaster of hell to get here, and I’ve had so many realizations about this relationship since it ended. One of them was that I’m capable of so much love and I deserve that love that I was trying to give him.

Every time I catch myself feeling stupid for not recognizing who he was sooner or for wasting my love on him, each time I feel humiliated thinking of something he said to me, or hard on myself for taking so long to leave the relationship, I just remember how easy I was on him for absolutely horrible behavior–all in the name of love.

Then I just close my eyes for a moment. Getting over a narcissist means giving yourself the love you once gave to them.

I’ll never forget that again.


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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.


  1. Hi Kristen.

    I made the mistake of emailing my narcissist ex 2 days ago after 2 months of completely no contact because he blocked me everywhere “apparently for me own good cos I’m apparently crazy”

    This used to happen:

    If I was upset about something he would have a go at me, then tell me I’m stupid, I say stupid stuff and that I shouldn’t speak.
    I get called psycho for asking stupid basic girlfriend questions and then he would ignore me for days on end until I actually had to beg him to talk to me after.

    I was constantly threatened that my ‘behavior’ is such and I must think about my actions and reflect the things that I’ve done.

    He constantly talked about his ex wife and had her family on all his social media and none of mine. He hid our relationship from everyone for a year and a half and when I called him out on it then the fights would start and the silent treatment and name calling.

    I made a fake Instagram account to actually spy on the shit he was doing and I found out so many thing. Now his excuse is- he can’t deal with fake people living fake lives but I was driven to a point of insanity where I was forced to play investigator.

    Can u tel me what to do to get over this? Everyone is just telling me things like- snap out of it or just get over it. If it was that simple wouldn’t I have done this already?

  2. Thank you for the reminder of who they, and we, really are….
    Beautifully written with such veracious account..

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Dina: You’re so welcome. I’m glad it was meaningful to you. -Kristen ❤

  3. Beautiful post, thank you. You expressed so much of what I learned from my relationship with a narcissist- that I am capable of so much love. My heart stretched wider and opened more than I ever thought I was capable of. Like you I also experienced the roller coaster and felt deeper pain than I thought possible but I learned very valuable lessons. It’s just like you said- that love I was feeling from that person was a mirror. It was all me! Cutting out the middleman is such a better way to live. ???? Thanks again for sharing your experience!

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Lindsay: You’re so welcome. Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you were able to find a way to take away some lessons out of all that pain about yourself and how strong and beautiful you are. Stay strong! -Kristen

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