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How to Deal with a Narcissist When You Can’t Go No Contact

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One of the most difficult things about trying to explain relationships with narcissists is explaining even to ourselves why we don’t leave sooner.

What we often have not recognized fully and do not give ourselves enough credit for is that leaving them isn’t just physical.

Learning how to deal with a narcissist at the end of a relationship means we must leave them in our minds as well.

In addition to all of the difficult steps we often have to take to prepare our physical environments for a different life without them, our mentalities must be prepared for the loss.

It does no good to move away, shut off our phones, focus on other people in our lives, tell others about what has been done to us, or return to or find hobbies to keep ourselves occupied if we haven’t left them mentally. 

We are literally having to shift our perspectives of our narcissistic/sociopathic partners from what we thought was real to a new understanding in order to leave them.

This cannot be done overnight and usually must be done while they continue to abuse and traumatize us.

We often also must do so while our brains are chemically addicted to the abuse cycle perpetrated by the narcissist’s actions.

In addition, psychological trauma shrinks the hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex of the brain, activating our “fight or flight” response and making it difficult to make sound decisions that are not based on the drama-manufactured emotion.

I wrote an article on Eleven Things That Can Happen Before Going “No-Contact” and Meaning It. Those were things that I personally went through that I could only recognize after I left the relationship I had been in.

Reflecting on the long period of time between when I had the epiphany that something was wrong with my ex-boyfriend and when I was finally able to get out for good helped me to understand why it had taken the length of time that it did for me to leave and what I had actually been doing during all that time.

It helped me to realize that I had been trying to get out all along. I was pushing myself in that direction under unfavorable conditions even I didn’t fully understand until I was able to finally get away.

I can’t say that those exact stages or things that I identified speak for everyone, but I can say that if you are not yet in no-contact with your narcissistic partner, you are lost somewhere in that break-up/make-up period wondering how things will end.

Although it may seem as if you will never get away, or that the narcissist is in control, or even that you are confused about what you really want, there is likely a part of you that is working hard to save yourself.

Let it do its job.

In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help yourself get there. The stages I identified were more a passive recognition of what I was feeling and thinking.

In this article, I will describe active, conscious steps you can take to move closer to the finish line and faster. They are things that will not only get you there faster, they will make things easier when you get to the other side because you will be that much stronger. 

How to Deal with a Narcissist in Seven Steps

1. Don’t Be Hard on Yourself.  

For all the reasons listed above and more, this is not easy. You are on a path to get out of this relationship and you can only be where you are right now.

Don’t beat yourself up for not being farther along on it. You’ve had obstacles thrown in your path at every turn.

But you must keep going.

You can and will get out and get your life back. Your partner does not maintain all the control, although that is what he or she would like for you to believe. 

If they did, you would not be reading this. You will get out and that part of you trying to save yourself knows it. 

Let it take over and don’t fight it.

2. Keep Reading.

Every time you read an article like this one or any of the other thousands out there about narcissistic abuse, you are retraining your mind to think differently about the relationship and staying on the path to your freedom.

You have been brainwashed into trying harder and harder to earn the love of someone who cannot love you.

Read the articles over and over, and let the part of your mind that wants to save you absorb it.  Read them until it sinks in and you truly understand what has happened to you.

3. Talk to People Who “Get It” and Stay Away From People Who Don’t. 

If there are people in your life who excuse the narcissist, who try to keep the two of you together or make you feel guilty or responsible either for not leaving or for trying to leave (for there may be people on both sides), try to avoid them.

Instead, talk to people who have had similar relationships like the relationship you are going through who can validate your experience and remind you that what you are going through is very real.

It isn’t your fault, it isn’t your imagination, you aren’t overreacting, it is abuse.

You are being slowly eroded, your own will was conditioned from the beginning, and it is making you sick. Again, you would not be here otherwise.

Normal relationships do not make people feel this way. 

4. Figure Out What In You Is Resistant To Leaving. 

There is a part of you that’s stuck where you are because of something you still feel about your partner or the relationship. What is it?

Is it that you think you’ll never love anyone that way again or feel connected to someone the way you have to him or her again?

Do you worry that maybe you’re wrong and he or she can change?

Do you miss what they were like at the beginning and have been holding out hope that things can be that way someday again?

Are you afraid of facing the fact that they never loved you?

Are you sure that what you’re reading doesn’t apply to him or her and there must be some other logical explanation if you could just figure out what it is?

Does it scare you to believe that someone looked inside your soul and used every dream and insecurity you had to extract everything good from you?

Are you no longer sure of what a life without them would look like since they were there for so long or so intensely?

These are just possibilities. Ideas. Thoughts that have run through my head at different times. Things I’ve seen other people say.

Maybe you relate to them, or maybe it’s something else.

Whatever it is, you will have to start coming to terms with the fact that your own fears and doubts are hurting you. They were programmed into you, and yet they are turning you against yourself.

Remind yourself of this over and over and focus on the things about your relationship that provide evidence of the opposite of what you fear (for there is always something) to start motivating you to harden your heart to their empty words.

5. Use Time Apart to Your Advantage. 

If the narcissist gives you another silent treatment, use it to your advantage.

Don’t chase after him or her. Try to do things that you enjoy, even if you have to start small with twenty or thirty minutes a day of an activity you used to do before you met him or her.

Call up an old friend. Go out and take a walk.

Pay attention to how much calmer you are without them around. Really focus on your body.

No eggshells? Good.

No wondering if they’ll keep their plans that day or not?

Great– you have the day to yourself to do what you want.

No random accusations or verbal abuse? Wonderful… as it should be.

It actually probably feels rather strange, doesn’t it, to not have to deal with their abusive nonsense–which is outrageous if you think about it.

But try to relax into it. Doesn’t it feel good?

Think of their silence as an opportunity to get a feel for what your life will be like without them.

Enjoy and celebrate the peace. They are teaching you how to live without them instead of punishing you and they don’t even know it. The joke is on them.

6. Challenge the Narcissist. 

Now that you have had a taste for life without them, don’t let them get away with the crazymaking they try to pull when they come back.

If you can manage it, when they accuse you of doing something, say something abusive or play mind games, don’t argue with them, just say, “I don’t accept that behavior anymore,” or “You know that’s not true.”

Say it as calmly and with as much conviction as you can, look disinterested, and walk away or change the subject.

Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t.

When they do, it can be like watching a balloon deflate. When they see that one of their old usual lines stops working on you, they sometimes stop saying it. They knew it wasn’t true all along.

Even if they don’t see what is happening, it’s still empowering.

You’re doing it more for yourself than for them. You are forcing yourself to stop caring what they think or do.

You may not feel it at first, but do it enough times and you will. You are breaking the spell.

They’re losing power over you.


7. Don’t Let Them Make You Nostalgic For the Good Old Days.

When they can’t bring you down, they’ll try to promise you the world again and tell you how great things will be if you’ll just give them another chance.

You’re almost free. Don’t fall for it.

Do you see them with different eyes yet? Keep repeating these steps and you will start to do so, and then this trick they pull will stop working.

One of the last times I ever saw my ex-boyfriend, I remember how foreign he felt to me and it brought tears to my eyes. 

I turned away because I didn’t want him to see. 

And yet he did.  Of course, he did– and leaned in for a better look.  The corners of his mouth turned up as if it was amusing. Emotion. His lifeforce. I felt as if he was gawking at me and I physically turned my body away and tried to stop the tears.

“Are you crying?” He tilted his face forward around mine so I could see him in the light from the streetlamps.

“Yes… but it’s because I used to love you so much.”  I couldn’t help that memories began to wash over me. 

It wasn’t so much the images flooding through me that were having an impact, but the feelings that accompanied them. I was nearly trembling with the emotional memory of how much I had once loved the man sitting next to me. 

“And I don’t feel it anymore. It just makes me sad.”

I wanted to burst into tears at the loss, not so much of him, but the loss of that part of myself that had loved someone that much. 

It felt like such a tragedy, such a waste.  I remembered the nights I would force myself to stay awake as long as possible just so I could watch his face while he slept.

And now I felt nothing in his presence.  He was a stranger.

This is what I was talking about earlier– that fear that I would never love someone that much again, that grief over missing that love I’d had for him.

They can never understand something like this. They can’t understand what they lose by mistreating us.

Now he was just sitting there feeding off of my emotion.  He tried to tell me about how we would have a sequel, and remind me of all of our good times, but it was too late. I had blocked that door in my heart.

Don’t get abuse amnesia. Don’t let them make you forget what they themselves are going to miss out on by mistreating you.  It’s going to be their loss.

This is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do.

You’re fighting a battle in your head and you just have to keep going. They don’t have the power– they just want you to believe they do.  It’s all yours to take away from them at any time whenever you decide that you are ready.


Assistance with Breakup with a Narcissist

I’m always on the lookout for new and high-quality resources for survivors. Are you struggling with how to leave your narcissist partner?  This course on the five steps you can take to exit can help. Are you having trouble recovering from the relationship even after it’s over? Try enrolling in this Webinar on getting started with your recovery so you can start to get off the emotional roller coaster or this one on using EFT Tapping to break the addiction to the narcissist. Lovefraud webinars on relationship abuse are presented by experts but also from the perspective of experience. Almost every instructor learned about the behavior of sociopaths in relationships the hard way. They’re affordable and offer practical information you can start using immediately. If you decide to try one, send me an email and let me know how it went!


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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. I’m aware and awake and ready for the next step and you’re a angel for writing this article thank you so very much

  2. About 5 years ago my sons mom kicked me out. For years I had been in love with her and we were finally together for 7-9 months? When we separated I didnt understand why. I decided to keep trying to fix my family. We started couples counseling but the therapist ‘fired’ me as a client. Devastated? Yep. Went and found someone else to see but he and I didnt accomplish much… She convinced mt to rent a place 4 doors down… then things got weird… I focused on trying to figure out what had gone wrong so I could fix whatever in me needed fixing. I shard my journey with her and after she went through a coup;e of abusive relationships and I had read a couple hundred hours of self directed research I realixed we each had all of the symptoms of cptsd. We got pregnant and she moved some abusive creep in. I found God after being the WORST blasphemer for my whole life. I kept my focus on trying to fix our family…. He got to be too much and then..he was gone. We reconnected. fell in love and were going to get married…. I had finally gotten my chance to make things right..
    then she moved her longtime girlfriend in… I had been trying to point out how things were happening the same as before. Anyhow , I got to know my daughter at my ex’s house. I am close to her 2 yrs old now, our son is 8. The gf is abusive, its escalating and im not sure how to be what to do. Srarted with yelling at kids mom then it got craizer and crazier beat her up for flirting and left her (my kids mom) on the side of the road 40 miles away. Yes I answered and went to pick her up… all the way home she was telling me she was gonna kick her out. By the time we were in the driveway she was asking if maybe she deserved it? i TRY TO BE a friend and have resisted the gf attempts to isolate her completly… My thing (my path to healing) has mostly been bibliotherapy as I havent found a therapist that has been worth the phonecall… None seem to be trauma informed nor able to discuss childhood trauma and how that leaves one open to further abuse later in life. I mention this as EMDR therapy seems helpful to many, Adult Survivors if Child Abuse has a workbook Survivor to Thriver with online support meetings as well. In anycase once I realized there was help out there already and I didnt have to create a cure I relaxed a bit… but kept focuse on all I can change is me. Rece ntly I shared a kindle ebook with my ex “Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse” that she said was 86-90% her life… Then I read up on trauma bonding…. talk about some scary stuff.
    Thing is my ex let this other broad beat her up shatter windows in her house and they fight all the time. I feel like they are grown and its not my place to say anything.. They started therapy after the last meltdown blowup. Somehow the first thing they do is the abusive narc gf makes it all about me. I work 6 days a week 70 hrs if i can and drive 2 hours a day getting to the job.
    Still havent been able to talk about this book with my ex. However all the ‘signs of trauma bonding’ or narc abuse quizes have me realizing how dumb i am. Feels like all i can do is go live by work and hope this isnt what it looks like. SEEMS like shes been hoovered again..
    Sotty. The story is the price you just paid for this (fruit of my research: NLP technique called 10 min phobia cure and Spinning Emotions are helpful. I read learned and applied to myself (like most things, if you can make the WHY big enough the HOW takes care of itself. …. has some other advanced stuff if you have a therapist who is willing to try new things. I wanted to share this info with anyone still struggling. If you dont have a therapist or want to put in the effort yourself… well its working for me. your millage may vary.
    (my most recent EMDR therapist and I couldnt find any emotionally charged memories from my childhood to work with… which added to this book above makes me wonder if ALL MY ISSUES WERE FROM MY EX BELIEVING HER NARC AND MINE IS SECOND HAND??? May God help us to help ourselves. All glory TO CHRIST MY LORD

  3. I have to say this is on a different spectrum for me in many ways. I am starting to believe everything he tells me I am. I am starting to question everything I’ve ever known about myself. He has me so beat down I can’t even breathe. I can’t even get time with my family alone. I am suffocated by him and when I did leave one time the heartbreak was so horrible to bear. How can I be done but not be done? He’s lied about HIV and so much more.

  4. Thank you for this post. I am exactly at this stage. Trying really hard to leave my narcissistic exboyfriend. I just found out about his narcissistic pathology a month ago. When we broke up finally after 2 years of relationship. You have no idea how much this kind of information helped me.

  5. Hi kristen. Unfortunately my mother is a narcisscist and in the spiritual world you can say she is a jezebel spirit. She ruined me and am planning to seperate from her and keep her in some old age. These narcisscists are the shittiest people and abusers I have been through. Thats why my father walked away when I was 5 and another 35 years she made me a scapegoat. I came to know only in 2017 that she is a jezebel siprit a narcisscist and the only way I can get rid of her is to dump her in some old aged home as I live as a tenant after she ruined my career and everything. This is a great article. Had I knew much earlier I would have left her. It will take a long time to recover what she has done to me but I know I have to move on. Am mentally tired.

  6. Thank you for your article. It is right on point. I’m completely embarrassed to say that I have been with my narc for 15 years… what makes it so hard for me is that we have three children and they love him. Also I feel as though I have built him up for some other woman – he cooks, cleans and open doors… however he has all the characteristics of a narc, continually to do things that he apologizes for but returns back to them without remorse. He never means his apologies, he just says I want I want to hear… for his own comfort. He always repeat the same thing he just apologizes for… I feel lost and helpless… especially with my three innocent kids…

    1. Hello I am going through something similar…

  7. Hello Kristen ,I found myself in every word you wrote ,still with him, still afraid for not finding ,,love,, like this ,memories like with him ,I still love him so much, it’s heartbreaking for me and I cry right now and pray to God for power. I can’t leave him ,but it’s so painful ,my heart it’s more than broken. We have a little son ,can’t imagine life without him,but can’t imagine too for feeling that kind of pain for rest of my life. God help me. Thank You Kristen for that article. I found myself here in every sentence especially where You wrote about that u even didn’t want to fall asleep just for look at him while his sleeping , I was so happy I felt love every piece of my body ,now that changed into pain ,but still love him so much. Take care Kristin ,bless U that u found power to leave him. Magda

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Magda: I am so sorry for what you are going through. You’re not alone. So many of us have been where you have been. It takes time but you too can find the power to leave and take your own life back from him. Keep reading and making your mind strong to keep it resistant to what he does. Please stay strong and try to take care of yourself. -Kristen

  8. I’m sitting here sobbing because this article has been my life for 2 years. I’m in day 3 of no contact…. ripped to pieces and broken. Embarrassed and humiliated because I put up with this man for so long. Thank you for this, you have no idea how much this helps me.

  9. Great article.

  10. Thanks for the nice article. Still going through trauma even after went on NO CONTACT. It was hell since last 5 years with Narc ex wife. I escaped from the death bad. Lost all most every thing. I was a victim but proud to say am survivor.

  11. Thanks for the nice article. Still going through trauma even after went on NO CONTACT. It was hell since last 5 years with Narc ex wife. I escaped from the death bad. Lost all most every thing. I was a victim but proud to say am survivor.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Nizar: I’m so sorry to hear about your experience and I empathize with your continuing struggle with trauma, but I can feel the hope and strength in your words. Stay strong and take care of yourself. Thank you for reading and commenting. -Kristen

  12. This article made me sob. It is me! I try to do the no contact build my confidence then he comes back around and I melt myself back down. And then I’m showed maybe a week or two later that nothings changed, he just proved his power over me again. And it’s gotten abusive the last couple cycles and it makes me feel even crazier for still wanting to be with him.

  13. This article made me sob. It is me! I try to do the no contact build my confidence then he comes back around and I melt myself back down. And then I’m showed maybe a week or two later that nothings changed, he just proved his power over me again. And it’s gotten abusive the last couple cycles and it makes me feel even crazier for still wanting to be with him.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Parker: This is part of the cycle: that you try to go no-contact and he comes back and nothing has changed. I’m so sorry that this is happening to you. Please don’t wait if you are in danger. Call a friend or contact the domestic abuse hotline at or 1-800-799-7233. You will need to get away as soon as you can. Please don’t wait. -Kristen

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  16. Hi,

    I’ll keep reading the articles untill i’ll get it but there is something that keeps me stuck.
    I feel guilty and afraid i’m to blind to see i’m the narcissist. It keeps going through my head that all of his reactions were the result of my behaviour and i’m the one who’s to blame. He tells me i’m the one with no empathy and he only gets mad because of my behaviour.
    I believe it and this keeps me stuck and waiting for him to come back. Still i can’t go no contact after something shocking happened.
    One night last week i showed him my sadness and cried.
    He was lying beside me, i could feel him against my leg and my sadness turned him on. It was so confusing to me. I asked him what turned him on. He said Your vulnerability.. I think thats very disturbing and still i cant go no contact..
    At this moment he ended the relationship again and i try to stay calm but can’t think clear and afraid he will come back and at the same time missing him. When is this gonna stop…
    I’m beginning to feel ashamed.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Jacky: It stops when you decide it stops. Decide in your mind and heart that you are finished and it doesn’t matter what he does anymore. You said he ended it but it sounded as if you think he will come back. I’ve been there so many times I’d need about ten hands to count how many times, so I definitely understand. YOU can be the one in control at any time. For me, the switch flipped and I saw him in a light I no longer liked and I also did a couple of things that kept him away (upset him) long enough that my mind kept clearing so that he had no influence over me. Then I got my power back. I still had to recover from everything but I got my own mind back and it was really shocking when I could see with a clear head what had been done. I write all this because I believe in you to be able to find a clear path out for yourself. I know you can do it. Thank you for being here and please take care. -Kristen

      1. Hi,

        Thank you Kristen for the effort, your really a guidance in this crucial time in my life.

        Everytime i read your article or comment more pieces come together. I’m starting to see him for what it is but even writing this down makes me a anxious. It feels like i’m slowly saying goodbye to him now i’m discovering the truth but thats a very sad feeling. There are still doubts that make me doubt my perception like; he was so sweet the last time we were together and bought me a little present, he never cheated (i think), he feels hurt when we are not together, he never hit me, he comes back everytime even when i never call or text him after a break up etc etc.
        Again thoughts that keeps me stuck;
        i must be wrong, he is a good guy and really loves me otherwise he wouldnt be nice to me.
        What a fight with myself…
        Regonize this?

      2. Kristen Milstead

        Absolutely. It is the cognitive dissonance of seeing the two different sides. There would be times when I would block out what had happened because he was being nice again and go into denial, and ride things out again– until the next time he wasn’t. Each time I saw again the truth of what things really were, I was a little bit stronger, a little bit closer to where I am now, and there was that lingering part that wanted to hang on that I had to break off finally to save myself. It wanted to believe so much but that was how he poisoned me by turning my own love against me. The flipside of “he is a good guy and really loves me otherwise he wouldn’t be nice to me” is “he can only be as good as the worst thing he has ever done to you.” Because if he won’t stop doing those things, then something is wrong… it’s ongoing.

  17. Excellent article- entirely accurate. I’m out 7 months no contact. It was VERY hard to do- in fact I stayed halfway in until I got discarded. I was glad but also heartbroken. I wanted freedom but I just couldn’t walk. And once you are off the crazy train with them – the awfulness becomes so sadly clear. And how easily they stroll off with the new person- is telling- tells you all you need to know. She burned me out… and she had to grab another admirer fast. And she was gone.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Kathleen: Yes, it is extremely difficult to stay no-contact and I truly believe that it is impossible to see exactly what is happening to you while you are still in the relationship. We might be able to leave, but it will take a while for our minds to clear and for us to be able to see the big picture of the entire relationship and how we have been manipulated. Thank you for reading! -Kristen

  18. You are totally unreal how you express my heart. Thank you so much.
    I cannot believe your words.
    I am not the crazy one, yet still love him.
    I was married just shortly . The first 3 months were ok. The 4th month , I saw the real him. Beginning the 6th month, I filed for a Divorce. He has no clue why , still . Unbelievable.
    I go through all the emotions you are talking about, still.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Hannelore: Thank you for reading. Yes, the emotional turmoil and mental craziness they put us through together are one of the worst things that anyone can ever go through, in my opinion. I’m so sorry to hear about what you have been through but I’m glad you have filed for the divorce. It is so hard to get away. It happens a little at a time. No one can understand unless they have been through it. -Kristen

    2. I can’t believe, we’ve been through same situations here. The first 3 months he was okay, but then he started to show his real self. Been married for 8 months but I couldn’t stand it any longer so I asked for Divorce.

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