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How to Get Over a Narcissist: You Absolutely Must Do This

The one thing that people write to me about most frequently is how to get over a narcissist.

Believe me, I understand. Getting over a narcissist is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It took me two and a half years–longer than the time we actually spent in our relationship–for me to truly get out.

Even after I was out physically or when we were in one of those periods when we weren’t talking, there was a deep longing for him still.

I once surveyed readers and asked them to describe what they had the hardest time explaining to their loved ones about the relationship, and the top response was why they missed their partners.

Yes.  Exactly.

Why is it so hard to get over a narcissist?

How is it possible to miss someone who has damaged your life and abused you so horribly?

It’s possible to miss someone who has abused you because love-bombing is abuse too.  Love-bombing is a form of cult indoctrination, like brainwashing, and in this case, it’s done under false pretenses. It’s just as much a part of the abuse that has been inflicted as any of the more obvious forms.  This is difficult, yet critical, to accept. 

Further, the fact that we have a hard time accepting this fact that missing them is part of the abuse is itself also part of the abuse because it makes us vulnerable to being further abused.

Understanding and accepting that all of the stages of our relationship with the narcissist were abusive is crucial, because until we do, we can stay stuck in a hoovering phase, or even if we have gone no-contact, we can feel lost, disempowered, and without hope by what happened for years.

Therefore, yes, getting over a relationship with a narcissist means that we must definitely go no-contact, but it isn’t sufficient in order to heal. There are two things we absolutely have to do to get over a narcissist and get our lives back:  (1) “Go no contact” and (2) “Stop idealizing the narcissist and the relationship.  

It is my belief that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to do each one separately from the other.

In other words, it is nearly impossible to stop idealizing the relationship before going no-contact because they consistently influence our thoughts while they are in our presence.

Yet it is also almost impossible to go no-contact before stopping the idealization of the relationship because without being able to re-frame the relationship, we will have a mostly romanticized view of the narcissist and want to stay in it.

Nice trap they have us in, isn’t it?

Instead, to be completely free, what is more likely is that you will have to go back and forth between the two required steps until you find that you have put the relationship in the past and you are whole once again.

During a short burst of no-contact, your view will get a little less rose-colored.  Then when you make contact once again, you will be that much closer to breaking away for good the next time.

And yet you cannot stop there. You cannot live in the past with the image of the narcissist intact as it is.

 

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In other words, the two things have to go hand-in-hand.  We can’t leave a narcissist until we go through five different stages:

 

So what does “going no contact” and “ending the romanticization of the relationship” really look like?

How do you get there (to the end)?

 

1. Going No-Contact

(or Going Gray Rock if You Have Reasons You Can’t Cut Off Contact Completely)

You absolutely must stop interacting with the narcissist in your life before you can even begin to recover, much less completely stop idealizing the relationship. Even though it is obvious, its importance cannot be understated.

You can’t leave the door open to be friends. You can’t leave the door open for them to get in touch with you with the idea that you “just won’t respond.”

You can’t look at their social media profiles or contact any mutual friends to find out how they are doing.

If you are still interacting with them, your life and your thoughts are not your own.

You will not recognize how much they have an influence on what you are thinking and how you feel until they have been gone for a few weeks. They have penetrated every layer of your being and know everything about you.

There is a pervasive fog that clouds your mind. Confusion may be your primary emotion. You may not even realize it until you have spent time away from them for a few weeks.

They split you into two people in their own mind with their actions, and thus you become two people in yours as well: the one that wants to believe in them and the one who knows they will never be good for you and will never change.

They have been slowly draining you out of the one who wants to believe in them by conditioning you not to speak up. They have eroded your own will and slowly replaced it with their own and then tried to silence that other part of you that is trying to rebel against how you have been treated.

That part of you that wants to believe in them has been indoctrinated with their lies of love. It will try to keep you there, locked in a fantasy until you are drained of everything you ever were.

You must get away, and yet this is also why going no-contact is not enough.

Going no-contact is the fight for your right to control your own life and physical space. Gaining a realistic view of the relationship is the fight for your mind and thoughts.

 

2. Stopping Your Idealization of the Narcissist and the Relationship

How much time do we spend going over and over the relationship in our minds, like a “choose your own adventure” story playing out endlessly, where there’s that one path to the end that will give us our happily ever after if only we can find it?

We open door after door, but maybe somewhere in the middle of the story, we forgot what that would even look like. Maybe the story changed and we forgot how we wanted things to end.

So much damage done, so many new leaves now heaped on top of one another waiting for us to turn over, we wouldn’t even recognize what season we were in anymore even if things did ever start to change.

Drowning in the pages of the story, we lose sight of what we are fighting for; all we remember is a dream of the past where, because of that person they once showed to us that seems now to have disappeared, we felt infinite love, and all we want is to feel it again.

This is what keeps us tied to them.

A lot has been written about going no-contact, yet I have seen very little written about how to stop idealizing your ex.

It’s very important, however, to gain a more realistic version of the narcissist and the relationship, as it is one of the keys to both staying no-contact forever and to mending ourselves so that we can move forward and out of their shadow.

It feels as if little is said about how painful this process is or what we must accept in order to make it here.  Yet this is what keeps people stuck.

We must see the relationship for what it actually was, not as the narcissist wanted us to see it. To do that, we must reframe how we see the narcissist, see the world through their eyes, and dismantle our view of what could have been.  

Complete no-contact will be difficult before idealization ends, and yet idealization is difficult while the narcissist’s influence lingers.  This is the paradox of a relationship with a narcissist. 

 

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This is why the hoovers work so well, and why we live in this purgatory for months or years. The initial attempts to break up fail because:

  1. We still miss what we had and have a hard time moving on.  We get abuse amnesia and wonder if it was as bad as we thought it was.
  2. We may blame ourselves or wonder if things could have turned out differently.
  3. We’ll still struggle with the cognitive dissonance and wonder if they can change and if we should try again.

In other words, “no-contact” is pretty useless without a complete mental shift.

We either still have the idea in our heads that it’s okay if they come back into our lives, thus undoing any progress we make when they are gone– or we keep them alive in our heads, negating some of the loss of their physical presence.

We have to banish them from our minds too.

 

So Why Is It So Hard to Get Over a Narcissist?

If it weren’t for our own minds, every time the narcissist came back, we could just ignore them. We have a construct that we must dismantle first.  (This is the painful part).

  1. We have to accept that we were manipulated.
  2. We have to look back on our memories with them and think about the fact that they meant something different than what they seemed like at the time.
  3. We have to accept the fact that the narcissist didn’t love us the way we loved them.
  4. We have to accept the fact that someone could do something like that to us, that people like this actually exist in the world.
  5. It may make us feel unsafe and violated to know that someone was infiltrating our innermost thoughts and emotions and using them against us.
  6. Accepting that someone you loved so much could really have had no guilt about hurting you this deeply is bonechilling and disturbing.
  7. It’s like a death. Not only is the relationship over, we are grieving over the idea that the person we loved isn’t real.

You lose a piece of yourself too.

You’re not exactly sure what’s in it–it’s a piece you never wanted to lose–but you have no choice.  They’ve written their name all over it.  Part of it contains your innocence.  Part of it contains the last ties to them that they built through their constant contact and general penetration of your world.  You have to let it go and leave it in the past.

But… with an understanding of how narcissists think, although it’s painful, there is light too.  The light comes from the truth.  You learn that the pain they caused was not personal, and that is a turning point that puts you on the path to healing.

 

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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.

19 Comments

  1. Thank you for such a wonderful article, my ex wife of 29 years was text book Narcissist!, then after our separation I landed myself another one, it wasn’t until a close friend describe What a Narcissist was and all the pieces fell into place.Its been a difficult journey to heal from them , but all I can say is learn as much as you can about Narcissism and it helps a great deal with the healing, Your article was fantastic!

  2. I’ve been with a narc for 37 years….and it’s taken all of that 37 years for me to finally figure out it isnt me, it’s him. My mom came from the era where woman tolerate abuse and just hope one day they’ll get old and chill out…..we met when I was 15, he was 23. There were never many relationship issues the first 8 years because of our age differences so we only saw each other a few times a month but I did know he was an a@;hole, no big deal I thought all guys can be that way and he wasn’t mean to me. But after all those years of never officially being a real couple we decided I was going to move in with him after I graduated college. The first 6 months were total bliss. I wasn’t working yet so I cooked every night, we had great sex all the time and never once fought. But then I got pregnant and that’s when it all changed. He turned nasty, wouldn’t tell me he loved me anymore and found anything and everything to complain about. I realize now why, it wasn’t all about him anymore. So I made my bed so I had to lie in it. I played the part because I refused to raise my son in a broken home….now our son is 28 and I’m still with this man who has physically and mentally abused me for years. I began drinking about 10 years ago more and more and was finally able to stop a year ago but I’m still with him. An incident happened about 4 weeks ago and he hurt me pretty bad physically and I called 911 and they arrested ME! The police report said I was erratic and his story was better. I had a busted mouth and a bloody nose (only thing visible to police) and I still went to jail. I couldn’t go home for a week. But now I am home with much time on my hands because I can’t leave the county even though I’ve never been arrested or anything. I began reading and discovered the narcissist and trauma bonding on Pinterest and the light after 37 years came on. I’ve been trying to figure out all these years what was wrong with me. Why I never felt good about myself, why I couldn’t talk to other people, why I never felt truly loved or appreciated. He said to me once I was allowed to come home that I was lucky for my sake that he wasn’t the one who went to jail or it would not have turned out well for me. He’s threatened me, he’s silent treatment me, he’s said he loves me, he’s told me he can do so much better than me, he’s told me I’m pathetic then tells me he’s taking me on a month vacation this summer. I’m taking all of this in and then reading about the narc empathy relationship and every single thing he’s doing is text book….my plan now is that once the state attorney drops the charges of domestic violence against me (my attorney feels confident they will) that I’m leaving. I’ve not told him because he will make my life a living hell. But I’m scared and the only way to make this work is for me to put all of my stuff in a storage unit and get in my car and drive as far away as I can and just start over. Do everything except change my name. I’m scared he’ll find me though only to try and woo me back and if I don’t he’ll get nasty and start defaming me to our son making up lies so I’ll have to constantly be assuring my son I’m fine etc…wish me luck and that I’m safe.

    1. DENISE VALENTYNE

      He may not even try…..easier to find new prey

  3. How To Heal from Narcissistic Abuse | In the Shadows of the Fairy Tale

    […] stop isolating the good times and our positive view of the narcissist from the abuse that occurred. This has been my view all along, as well. We cannot merely go no-contact–that’s only half the battle of recovery; we […]

    1. My best weapon is thinking about the horrifying abuse & every time i started idealizing the relationship replacing those unrealistic idealizations & thinking about the horrifying abuse!! Now this does take time & practice…I Know!! But I feel it is a powerful weapon!!

      1. Thtank you for your input. My question is, why do people like this constantly Lie. Why don’t they exhibit any regular human emotions, or accountability. Can You assist?. I barely sleep now. Sorry for timing.

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    […] stand on the other side. You have to keep working on moving yourself forward. You have to stop romanticizing them to avoid being vulnerable to potential future […]

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    […] In Stage #5, our mindset changes and we no longer view the narcissist or the relationship the same way. We become ready to tear it all down. We must actually take actions to remove oneself from the abusive situation physically and psychologically.  This involves two steps: […]

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  15. I couldn’t go no-contact because of the children. But I did stop interacting with him on any other level. I had to do a handover to his family so that he would stop leaning on me to help him with this and that. All contact with him was done at the door for handovers of children, and text message.

    The more I stepped back, the more he pushed, and it was quite unpleasant but I had begun to reframe him when his behaviour OBVIOUSLY affected the children, which is what gave me the strength to get rid of him.

    Interesting writing, I hope it helps others

    1. I am in this same position right now, he’s been out of the house for four weeks today but only no contract for four days (his love bombing and continual texts, emails). My older two kids see it as they are teens but my youngest is having a rough time with the separation.

      My current challenge is trying to figure out my next step. I’m currently oscillating between feeling stuck (unable to move forward) & like I am going to run out of energy & strength to keep on. *I CAN’T GIVE UP!*

      Peace to us all who have come across this website.

      Thank you Kristin!

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