How To Heal From Your Narcissistic Ex

Every breakup’s healing process is unique – especially when we were dating a narcissist.

By Keelia Clarkson3 min read
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Making the decision to end a relationship is never a simple one. If we’ve spent a significant amount of time in the relationship, there are, inevitably, all kinds of feelings tied up and thoughts whirling around. 

Choosing to break up with someone, even if we know it’s what’s best, isn’t a decision we make at a moment’s notice. We wonder if we’re being rash, or if it can work, or if we’ll ever find love again. What if he’s the one?

Our general state of confusion, heartbreak, grief, and loneliness in the midst of our decision to end our relationship isn’t made any better when the person we’re ending things with is a narcissist.

Here’s the thing: we’re all a tiny bit narcissistic in our own way. We might think more highly of ourselves than a random stranger would, or think we’re a little better at something than we actually are. This is simply human.

But then, there are those whose selfishness, seeming overconfidence, and self-absorption affects their ability to have a relationship. But before we can talk about healing from breaking up with a narcissist, let’s better define what a narcissist actually is.

Narcissists are master manipulators with an uncanny ability to control people to get what they want.

What Are the Telltale Signs of a Narcissist?

The word “narcissist” immediately conjures up an image of someone who takes every opportunity to gaze adoringly at their own reflection, a person with such an overinflated understanding of themselves that they can’t help but proclaim how beautiful and talented they are every hour on the dot. 

But there’s more to spotting a true narcissist. Here are a few signs that you might be dealing with a narcissist:

  • They were incredibly charming at first.

  • They lack basic empathy.

  • They think themselves too special to associate with just anyone.

  • Their need for attention or admiration goes beyond what’s normal.

  • They don’t have many long-term relationships or friendships.

  • They pick on you.

  • They gaslight you to stay in control.

  • They won’t ever apologize because they don’t think they’re ever wrong.

So You’re Dating a Narcissist and You Want To Break Up

Even when we know the relationship is unhealthy, our emotional involvement makes it tricky to actually get the job done. But dating a narcissist adds a whole other layer of difficulty to calling it quits – especially because of something called trauma bonding, which is when a victim of abuse feels inexplicably tied to their abuser due to a cycle of abuse that alternates between degradation and intimacy.

Trauma bonding leads the victim to hold on tightly to the “good” days they have with their abuser as signs that they’re not all bad, and, while they know they should end things, they feel unable to.

Narcissists are master manipulators that have an uncanny sense of how to control the people around them and get others to do what they want, making it incredibly challenging for us to do something against their own desires, like ending a relationship. So what can we expect when we try to end things?

Come to terms with the reality of their narcissism, and don’t blame yourself for falling for them.

First, come to terms with the reality of their narcissism, and don’t blame yourself for falling for them. Also, don’t expect them to own up to their faults; narcissists are known for never admitting wrongdoing. Be ready for them to do everything they can to keep you around, including making you think they’ve changed. Expect them to rapidly switch from trying to win you back to starting a smear campaign against you.

You have to remember why you’re ending things, so don’t allow yourself to forget that – put up sticky notes or set a reminder on your phone if you have to. It might help to keep a detailed journal throughout the process – it’s easy to forget the pain/confusion we felt during the breakup process and be tempted to go back to an ex. Lastly, make sure to surround yourself with people who will support and love you through it.

So You Ended Things. How Do You Heal?

It’s no secret that a breakup with a narcissist is unlike any other breakup we’ve had before. It probably involved a lot more emotional whiplash, manipulation, and exhaustion than what we’ve experienced before. What has worked for us previously, in terms of healing, might not cut it this time. So how do we go about healing from ending things with a narcissist?

  • Cut off all contact with your ex; block them if they continue to reach out – don’t give them “another chance.”

  • Allow yourself to grieve the end of a relationship, even if it needed to end.

  • Lean on trusted friends and family with whom you’re able to speak openly about your experience.

  • Seek help from a professional counselor.

  • Read through your journal entries as if you’re reading a book – detaching yourself from the experience can help you understand how abusive it was.

  • Don’t jump into a new relationship just to feel like you’ve moved on; take this time to enjoy life outside your past relationship.

  • Identify what you want in a partner when you decide to start dating again.

Closing Thoughts

Ending any relationship isn’t simple – ending a relationship with a narcissist is all the more challenging and painful. Making a plan and sticking to it, seeking out a support system, and journaling through the breakup process are essential in making sure we follow through with ending things.

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