Many of us struggle with the same issues following the ultimate breakup with a narcissist, as we try to make sense of it all. I thought today I would post a few words about the three things that seem to plague us the most when we come out of an emotionally abusive relationship.
1. Second-guessing ourselves. (Was my ex really a narcissist? How can I be sure?)
It’s natural to miss our ex-partner when we split up, even if was a painful relationship of constant highs and lows. We are programmed to those ups and downs and as strange as it might sound, almost addicted to the intensity. Suddenly it’s gone and in its place is the anger, the sadness and the emptiness. We are forced to take a look at how and why we put up with it for as long as we did and if we’re not ready to look at that, then we can experience withdrawal symptoms and start focusing our energy back onto our ex, convincing ourselves that maybe things weren’t that bad after all. That’s like forgetting how cold winter was just because winter is no longer there. If you really want to check whether he/she was a narcissist, ask yourself the following questions:
· Did my ex support me and listen to me when I shared things that were important to me, or did it seem like he/she didn’t really care and was more interested in talking about him/herself?
· Did my ex spend time with my family and friends? Did my family and friends like this person?
· Did I trust my ex or was he/she always looking at, or talking about the opposite sex?
· Could I communicate with my ex or did I feel like I was walking on eggshells in case I upset him/her?
· Did we spend time together doing things that both of us wanted to do (compromise) or was it always about my ex’s needs?
· Was my ex consistent mood-wise or did it seem like two personalities – one nice (for the public), one nasty (behind the scenes).
· Did my ex value my achievements or did I feel like I was being belittled all the time?
· Did my ex ever get really angry and then cut off all communication suddenly?
· Did I feel like I was on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, always trying to keep the peace in order to get the ‘nice person’ back?
2. Rejection. (Why can’t I get over the fact that I feel like I wasn’t wanted, that I wasn’t good enough?)
Many of us who end up involved with narcissists have experienced an emotionally starved childhood and we can carry that sense of rejection and need for love through into our adult lives. If we don’t love and value ourselves, we will always be looking to someone else to provide that validation for us. When we go searching for that validation from a narcissist we are giving ourselves a failsafe guarantee that we will never feel good enough or worthy enough, because a narcissist doesn’t value anyone outside of his/her self. If you look to a narcissist for love, or confirmation that you’re OK, then you are always going to be bitterly disappointed. YOU have to be enough for you. YOU have to learn to love yourself. YOU have to be the one to say, ‘Hey I might not always get things right but I’m a good person and I am doing my best. I love and care for myself. I am enough.’
And when you do love and value yourself, you find that you are no longer prepared to put up with behavior from another that does not reflect back that strong sense of self-esteem.
Were you good enough? Of course you were good enough. If your partner couldn’t see that, then that’s their issue. If they’ve gone straight off to someone else, it’s not because you were somehow lacking – it’s because you no doubt stood up to them one too many times, or wanted to work on the relationship to make it better and that was too scary for someone who only wants constant gratification and never wants to look at anything about themselves that might need changing. It’s easier for them to find someone new they can manipulate. The lack lies within them and their inability to love or feel anything.
You are enough. Remind yourself daily. Believe it.
3. Feeling lost. (Why do I still think about this person and feel sad, even months or years, later?)
Once the initial grief and anger dissipates, we can find ourselves in a lost, surreal space for quite some time following the end of this type of relationship. Many of us are changing the (bad) habits of a lifetime and there is no quick or easy way to do so. More often than not, it’s the empathetic person who ends up co-dancing with a narcissistic partner. The empath feels other peoples’ emotions as if they are experiencing these emotions themselves. They can sense the underlying pain and damage that exists behind the coldness of the narcissist and they want to ‘fix it’. They want to heal. Unfortunately trying to fix a narcissist is like trying to turn a reptile into a bird. It can’t be done - unless the narcissist is ready to admit that he/she needs help, and even then it requires an enormous amount of on-going counselling. Unfortunately that is unlikely to happen because early childhood damage has caused a chemical imbalance in their brain, they have shut down emotionally and convinced themselves that the fault lies with everyone else. In order to reach some level of peace, the best way to view things is to acknowledge that you cannot change someone else. You can only change yourself. If you change yourself for the better and your partner doesn’t make changes to grow along with you, then it is only natural that you will go in different directions. Letting go is the key.
In terms of the lingering sense of loss and sadness that many of us feel, we too have been damaged by staying in these dysfunctional relationships and we are usually healing wounds that we have carried through from childhood. All too often we can experience a post traumatic stress situation where we shut down for a time in order to cope. We are entering unexplored territory and terrain, reprogramming ourselves to look at relationships in a completely different way, to learn to love and value ourselves, instead of seeking it from outside. This takes time and sometimes on that journey a small, nostalgic part of us, longs for the comfort of what we knew before, even if it wasn’t that much fun because at least we were familiar with it. Quite simply, we miss the few good moments and sugar coat the bad.
The ‘journey to self’ takes time, so be patient with yourself because you are creating a completely new you and a completely new life that will ultimately be much healthier and more rewarding than what you had before. Sometimes we have to lose ourselves in order to find who we truly are. Be patient with yourself. Nurture yourself. Work on yourself. Time will prove to be the ultimate healer.
And gently, gently.... let it go.
Susan Williams is the author of The Love Games Series: Planet Ben (Inside the World of a Narcissist); End of the Fairytale (Letting Go of the Narcissist) and; Titanium (Strength After A Narcissist)