An Open Letter to My Future Partner: The Nightmare Is Not Over (A Guest Post)
Days, weeks, and even months after leaving an abusive relationship, I said to myself—never again.
Never again would I trust. Never again would I believe. Never again would I hope. Never again would I love.
The monster who terrorized my heart became every man in existence on the planet.
The woman I was before—the woman who believed there was someone good, honest, and worthy—was destroyed in the battle against good and evil that existed between an empath and a narcissist.
As time went on, pieces of her began to resurface. They were shattered underneath the boot of the narcissist I fell in love with, but they had still survived somehow.
A little bit at a time, the light of my future grew brighter and brighter until I felt ready to stop seeing the male species as demonic creatures sent from hell to destroy all women.
As I entered into my next relationship, I realized that while she was there, the traumatized version of her was there as well. Sometimes the traumatized version of myself spoke louder, much to my dismay.
What she had to say had the potential to ruin all my future relationships, but behind her voice, there was another lesson to be learned.
There were layers of truth and healing behind the words she spoke, despite the pain she caused to be heard. She wanted the man I would grow to love unconditionally to know that while I might be a worthy partner, there is a purpose behind everything I might do to push him away.
To all of the men and women who love someone who has been traumatized by narcissist abuse, we hope you understand a few things about us.
Want to learn about the five stages of leaving a narcissist? See the end of this post for information about how to read a free preview of my book, which including the first chapter and the pathological love relationship checklist.
1 – You might inadvertently do something that triggers our trauma.
It’s not anyone’s fault, but it happens. While it feels like it’s out of the blue, it’s not. This thing that has triggered your partner is buried deep beneath the surface, waiting for the right moment to appear.
Have you ever said or done something that has caused that look of terror to pass over your partner’s face?
Please know that it is not because of you, but because of something that’s happened in the past. Try to see these triggers as opportunities for communication and growth.
When you can understand what the trigger is and why it’s so painful, you both can work on creating a path for your partner to heal.
2 – It’s not you, it’s him (or her).
When we react to something that brings our traumatized selves to the surface, please understand that it’s not about you.
While we don’t still love our abusers, they still affect us in many ways we haven’t begun to understand. If something you do or say reminds us of a narcissist from our past, we have one brief moment of seeing their faces in place of yours.
It’s not because we miss them, but because that action or those words had such a profound negative effect on us, that it has left scars we may not see or feel.
The monsters of our past linger there, anxious to pounce at any second. It’s the one last f*** you that our abusers silently leave behind.
Please try to understand that we know you are not the one who abused us.
We know that you are good, trustworthy, and kind, but the trauma we’ve experienced thinks it’s trying to protect us by acting out through our insecurities. The best thing you can do is be patient and keep the lines of communication open.
It will take time for our trauma to see that you are not the one who hurt us.
3 – We might need reassurance.
We survived months—or maybe even years—swimming in a pool of emotional and physical abuse because of our strength, but even the strongest of us have weak moments.
Even though we are confident in your love for us, we might need to be reminded from time to time how important we are to you.
We don’t need these reminders because you’re not doing a great job loving us, but because we are so used to another type of love, that needing reassurance has become a habit.
We might tell you that we love you a little more than normal. We might ask you if you promise to do something or promise that you feel a certain way. We also might need you to kiss us, hug us, or hold us a little longer.
We apologize if this is asking too much of you, but we need this because we love you and want you in our lives so badly. Not because we merely need someone, but because we need you.
4 – There may be a period in our relationship when being touched by—or intimate with you—is physically painful for us.
We don’t know why this happens exactly—or at least I don’t—but it is a pain that is very real to us. It could be because we relate touch to physical abuse or because a hidden part of us still yearns for our abuser’s touch that we had to beg to receive.
Every survivor that experiences this pain has their reason for why this happens. To our mind, it doesn’t feel quite right, so it causes us pain because it is too intense for us to handle.
When we react to this pain, it doesn’t mean we want to push you away or distance ourselves from you; it means that this feeling is something we’ll have to learn all over again.
For some, treating the depression, anxiety, and anger that results from being traumatized helps. It also helps when we talk to you about how this makes us feel and instead of taking it personally, you understand that we’ve been through a lot in our past relationship(s).
Please understand; it’s important to us.
5 – Our insecurities are very real to us.
When we act through our insecurities, there is no difference between fantasy and reality—it is all real.
That doesn’t mean we don’t trust you or see you for who you are, but until we allow our insecurities to speak, they will eat us alive.
So, we ask questions or say things that may seem out of character, but we are still ourselves; we are just temporarily paralyzed by those insecurities.
The best thing you can do in these situations is to encourage us to communicate the thoughts that are bothering us without judgment. We know deep down it’s the thoughts inside that are harming us; we are fully aware that it’s not you.
6 – Our abuser still affects us—even years later.
The damage a narcissist does can run deep and their effect on us can be pretty powerful. There can be memories around every corner that force us to travel in time mentally.
These events and conversations from our abusive relationship can feel as vivid as if it were happening right then. There is no rhyme or reason to it.
Some days we can pass by a spot or hear something that doesn’t trigger the memories at all, but other days these things can turn the light out and force us to live in the dark. Sometimes it’s just enough that you listen to our memories or sit and hold our hand until the feeling passes.
If you can allow us these moments to breathe through the past, they will get lighter over time.
7 – Insomnia, night terrors, and disturbing dreams may still haunt us.
These things are never quite intense as when we first leave our abuser, but they do reappear randomly to remind us we are still on a path of healing.
They may be violent, horrific, or they may even be romantic. And, even the romantic dreams disguised as peace and love can attempt to destroy us.
As with everything else that affects us so deeply, we merely need someone to be there, to comfort us, and to tell us it’s going to be okay. Sometimes we need to be grounded in the present with your words, your touch, or your presence.
8 – Depression, anxiety, or anger may randomly come and visit us.
It doesn’t have to be because of a trigger; it may appear out of nowhere. Many of us try to hide or mask these things so that we don’t burden you with our pain, but a sudden mood switch can be obvious.
Please keep in mind that it has nothing to do with you, anything you’ve said, or something you’ve done. It is a random enemy that stops by now and then and slaps us in the face.
In these moments, we don’t want you to take on the responsibility to fix us, but merely try to understand why these things happen.
Many of us who have experienced an abusive relationship with a narcissist suffer from some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and we aren’t always well-equipped to control these moods.
9 – We might be unnecessarily jealous at times.
One of the many negative attributes of a narcissist is their inability to be faithful to one partner. If you love someone who has survived a relationship with a narcissist, it is likely their abuser cheated on them too many times to count.
At the beginning of our relationship with you, we may need to ask questions or be reassured without feeling like you think we’re accusing you of cheating on us. We don’t think you are, but we’re so programmed to expect our partner to cheat on us every time we’re apart that it becomes impossible to escape these insecurities.
Open communication in these situations will be extremely important to us to erase the fear that there might be someone more beautiful, more intelligent, or more worthy than us.
We know these fears are not your fault and they certainly aren’t your responsibility to tiptoe around, but we want you to know that they do exist. We trust you fully and completely; we don’t trust our past.
10 – The nightmare is not over.
It doesn’t matter how long we existed in an abusive relationship; it has affected us in many ways we can’t control and won’t always understand.
will come a time in our lives when we’ve overcome the pain our abusers caused us, but it may take some time and patience to get there.
We don’t expect you to understand what we’ve been through and we don’t want you to take on the responsibility of fixing us, but it is the reality we live with every day. When we finally find someone that is good for us, the layers of betrayal, infidelity, and dishonesty will peel away to reveal the truth of our worthiness to be loved.
If you love someone like us, please understand that our quirks, insecurities, and failings exist purely inside of us and have nothing to do with you.
There is no amount of words in the English language to explain our gratefulness for your love and patience; we thank you for giving us the gift of honesty, kindness, love, and stability.
The fact that you are here for us and allow us to share our healing journey with you is enough. After what we’ve experienced, few us believe in fairy tales or knights in shining armor, but what you do for us is heroic.
Want to read more?
Why Can’t I Just Leave? takes you step-by-step through the five stages of leaving a narcissist and helps lead you straight to the exit.
Click here to read a free preview
This isn’t your typical survivor recovery book. When you read it, you’ll learn about:
- What over 600 survivors said about their experiences and how they left their relationships
- 75 signs that you’re in a pathological love relationship
- What makes narcissistic abuse unique
- The most damaging effect of narcissistic abuse
- Why we change while we’re in the relationship
- The five stages of breaking up with a pathological partner
- Pop culture and celebrity examples of narcissistic abuse
- My personal story
Years in the making, this book creates a bridge between the first-hand knowledge of narcissistic abuse by survivors with lived experience and the social psychological research on the interpersonal and group dynamics of high-control relationships.
The heart of the book is explaining why we do things in these relationships we don’t understand and how we can stop.
Available in ebook, paperback, and hardback!
If you’d like to read a free preview, which includes the first chapter and the pathological love relationship checklist, click on this link.
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This is all true but it also feeds the myth that the trauma of narcissistic abuse needs to be long term. There are healing programmes that can create huge shifts and complete healing in just a few months. The best one I know of is Melanie Tonia Evan’s Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Programme (NARP) It changed my life and I cant recommend it more. Its possible to actually feel better than you did even before the narc abuse. This neednt be a life sentence. And I also believe that we should try wherever possible not to carry this kind of trauma into a new relationship – it will make it incredibly hard to succeed and there’s no need if proper emotional-body healing is carried out.
Good evening Kate..
I am so glad to see this about NARP…I was in such a abusive narc, marriage for 6 years to long, its been 3 years and I have since fallen very much in love, but like the above story, I have pushed him so much, I don’t think he will come back one more time…So, I guess what I am asking is how well did this program work for you, how helpful was it, I feel at this point I will be alone for the rest of my life, ..Sincerley Lisa….
Hi Lisa: This is the program I recommend. Susan L. Brown has over 30 years treating women in these relationships. Her program is research-based, and she just finished developing a program to train therapists that has gone live this year so more therapists can be knowledgeable on this topic. It’s reasonably priced and comprehensive: https://saferelationshipsmagazine.com/living-recovery-program-4
I totally relate to all that has been said in this article and I thought it was just me – on my own as a man alone. It’s taken me 4 years plus to get my head back in to my space. Alone. But I don’t think I could have read this even a year ago. Time heals. It hurts and I will push it in to my past folder and learn. I have met a lovely lady and will move on. And I have been to war with the army. That was much easier because I was trained to go to war. I wasn’t trained for this.
I’m happy that I found this article. I wish there was a group I could be apart of to discuss these pains. I notice I sanatorium every great person that comes in my life. I have difficulty identifying what’s natural behaviors.
I’m ready to go to therapy. I’m frightened to tell my boyfriend. I think I already pushed him away.
I had to go through most of these with my abuser… of course he never understood why. We tried to make things better for so long and I explained to him why I was feeling the way I was. All of this and more. Now it hurts so much but I have to live through this again… it never goes away and it’s always with me. The memories, the scars and the bitter truth of choosing to be with someone like him
I really understand your feelings. I flip flop from feeling “fierce” or strong to being overcome by feelings of guilt for staying with my abusive ex-husband.. most of the guilt is for the pain and impact it has had on our children, my parents, boyfriends, even friends. Then, my intelligence takes a blow.. I often have said “I’m the dumbest smart person I know” lol another coping mechanism, humor and sarcasm. I am forever changed, but still completely ME.. humble and kind, happy, forgiving, loving, but never ever will I be so naive. I’m grateful to have somehow fought off the bitterness that honestly, I’d have every right to let take me over after the mental and physical abuse I’ve endured over the past 10 years.
On a lighter note, I do feel like I have reached my strongest and most defiant point of whatever it was my ex and I were doing. I genuinely feel like this is THE last time. I have no desire to take him back and it’s the best feeling ever!
This is the most powerful and helpful article/workbook I have ever read on removing yourself from narcissistic abuse and I’m only on chapter 2 I believe. It has already helped me recognize and validate all the feelings I was having during the abuse. I am overwhelmed and also so grateful to have found this and I pray that it reaches other victims of narcissistic abuse. If only I had found this years ago! I’ve gone to therapy for nearly a year and have gotten so much more from this. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your wisdom and understanding, especially being we have a tendency to revert back to self-blame for the abuse. You truly are a life saver and I vow to share this with anyone who will listen or read lol
I whish I had read this article before. I was discarded in what felt somewhat narcissistic in treatment by a woman who survived such tyran for 27 years, having 3 deeply scarred children…
I still care for her, love her, although her word left deep scars as well and in her going back to him, still being influenced by his hurtfull words, she created a very big distance between. I know she’s deeply unlucky now, but her youngest son keeps pulling and pulling, manipulated by his father… which saddens me…