18 Steps to Heal From a Narcissist Relationship
Coming out of a relationship with a narcissist can leave you confused and devastated.
Narcissists work really hard on shattering your confidence and self-esteem, and making you feel at fault and responsible.
Having been abused emotionally and verbally, and maybe even physically, no wonder grieving and healing can take a long time.
This article contain 18 steps you should learn to help you heal from a narcissistic relationship and move on with your life.
Ready? Let’s get started!
- How To Heal From A Narcissistic Relationship?
- Ending The Relationship
- Letting Go of The Relationship
- Change Your Life
How To Heal From A Narcissistic Relationship?
Ending The Relationship
#1. Understand Their Source of Rage
It doesn’t matter if it was the narcissist leaving, they will be angry and even enraged because their delusion of how things were supposed to be hasn’t worked out and it’s your fault because you didn’t follow their script.
Why is the narcissist so angry at you?
Being faced with failure, the narcissist feels shame, which is one of the worst feelings that narcissists experience.
They feel afraid and out of control, so they need to be the persecutor to keep from feeling like the victim and to keep from emotionally collapsing.
#2. Don’t Rescue Them
Having spent a great deal of time in the role of rescuer with the narcissist, it’s hard for you to quit rescuing them. But doing so is definitely against your best interests.
In fact, now that the narcissist sees you as the enemy, any comforting and pacifying skills you used before, might be interpreted by the narcissist as you trying to control and take advantage of them.
Your rescuing behavior can also be a signal to the narcissist that you are still willing to give in to his wants.
#3. If You Have Shared Assets, Get A Legal Help
When your relationship is about to end, make a plan to help you leave this relationship safely. Get a lawyer or legal assistance to help you have control of your assets and get a way to support yourself ahead of time.
#4. Protect Yourself From Their Rage
Don’t let the narcissist’s rage, blame, and menacing and intimidating comments and predictions about your future make you feel threatened and anxious.
Recognize that these are his ways to lower your self-esteem and get you to easily give in to what he wants.
Protect yourself both physically and psychologically as soon as possible:
- Change the locks on the doors,
- Open a separate bank account,
- Remove your name from your joint credit cards,
- Stop asking them for help,
- Don’t respond to their hostile e-mails or texts,
If you feel intense feelings of anxiety, try calming yourself down by breathing deeply and reaching out to your loved ones or a therapist.
#5. No Contact Rule
The best way to protect yourself from the narcissist rage is to go no contact.
- Quit responding and interacting with the narcissist,
- In case of a divorce, do all communicating through a lawyer,
- Disengage emotionally by unfollowing/unfriending or even blocking them from social media,
- Ignore e-mails or texts from the narcissist to talk things over, find closure, or give them explanations,
- If you have to meet face-to-face, use a public place to avoid either of you triggering old feelings.
Any interactions you need to have with the narcissist should be businesslike, meaning emotional responses should be relegated to the background, and only the specific issue at hand should be discussed.
This also includes no name-calling, rude remarks, hostile body language, crying, begging, or sharing your inmate feelings.
#6. Take Excellent Care of Yourself
If you’re not used to putting yourself first and take care of your physical and mental health, then this is the best time to start doing so.
Make sure you get enough exercise, healthy food, sleep quality, and “me” time.
Actively taking care of yourself improves your self-esteem, keeps you from shutting down emotionally or dropping into depression, and makes mentally stronger to handle challenges.
- Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings to help reduce confusion and figure out what you want to next,
- Get a massage, sit in a hot tub, or do whatever makes you relax,
Remind yourself that self-care isn’t selfish, it is good sense.
#7. Find Support
Dealing with this kind of situations alone can be very painful. It’s important to reach out for help and support.
You don’t just need talk about it, you will need validation that you’re not crazy the way the narcissist made you feel:
- Seek a therapist with extensive knowledge about narcissism,
- Reach out to nonjudgmental, non-advice-giving friends,
- Read books on narcissism and healing from a narcissistic relationship,
- Join a support group.
Letting Go of The Relationship
#8. Change Your Perspective
One of the ways to help you get closure and let go of the relationship is to come to terms with accepting that the person you loved is “emotionally disabled,” and that their emotional disability is not going away no matter how many promises they will make to change or when their False Self is in place and they appear normal, relaxed, and even charming.
#9. Let Go of Winning and Losing
The narcissist is all about control and looking better than you. You might have engaged with them in this competition before.
The only way out of that rivalry is to step away and let go of trying to control outcomes – you can’t lose if you’re not in the game.
The narcissist can be very determined to keep you in the game. He might send you photos to show you how happy he is in his new relationship or spend extra money on a new car to show you how well he’s doing.
Remind yourself that they’re using these things to make you feel like a loser and let go of comparing yourself in any way to the narcissist.
Instead work on creating the life that you want for yourself.
#10. Don’t Hide—Let Others Know What You’re Going Through
The narcissist might have worked hard to make you en feel ashamed, humiliated, and responsible for the end of the relationship.
This shame might push you to hide and not tell anyone what is happening.
Recognize that the narcissist wants you to feel this shame and hide and start sharing what is going on in your life with a family member or a close friend you trust – you need their support.
This doesn’t mean that you need to share every anecdote or portray the narcissist negatively or start labeling and name-calling.
With your nearest you can be more open about your experiences and feelings.
With more casual friends it’s okay to share how you are doing in general terms, such as “I’m having a tough day today,” or, “I’m feeling anxious today.”
With acquaintances you might say “William and I are separating. It hasn’t been working out for a while.”
In our hurry-up-and-get-over-it culture, most people assume that grief should only last a couple of months and be over.
However, the end of the relationship with a narcissist involves mourning many losses, which requires more time than you might expect.
You haven’t just lost a spouse/lover/partner, you’ve also lost the dream of what you believed your life would be like with that person.
Your self-esteem and confidence have been damaged as a result of the abuse of the narcissist.
You might have lost property, money, and friendships.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says that there are stages for grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Owning your grief allows you to be aware and heal your heartbreak.
#11. Dealing With Denial
1. Acknowledge the Harm That Was Done
Admit to yourself and others the full extent of the damage you’ve suffered in your relationship with the narcissist.
Explore your own pain, by counting up all that you have lost (your goals, dreams, self-esteem, confidence, friendships, money, time, etc.)
Acknowledge that the narcissist isn’t going to change, no matter how many promises they make to get help or to change.
Don’t feel embarrassed to admit that you have been abused and abandoned.
But also affirm to yourself that you’re not to blame for the way the narcissist treated you – you did not make the narcissist treat you badly. The narcissist chose to blame you and treat you that way to avoid feeling bad himself.
2. Experience the Feelings
Denial of your feelings is what kept you from being aware of the reality of your abusive situation and kept you in the relationship longer than was healthy for you.
Acknowledge your own feelings of hurt, pain, frustration, and whatever else comes up for you. Write about it and talk about it with someone you trust.
If you can’t think of a supportive friend who’s going to listen, try 7cups of tea. It is an online service with thousands of volunteer listeners stepping up to lend a friendly ear.
#12. Opening To Anger
It’s normal for you to feel angry – it’s a natural response to being harmed and controlled. Allowing yourself to feel this anger is extremely important for the healing process.
Anger is what’s going to push you to action to protect and take care of yourself.
#13. Letting Go of Bargaining and Delaying
Becoming aware of how you have been victimized and bringing your anger and hurt to the surface can help you let go of bargaining.
However, be aware not to avoid these feelings and start fantasizing about going back to how things were.
Acknowledge that it’s wasn’t all bad, and that it’s okay to miss the enjoyable, maybe even wonderful times. But also evaluate and look back from a new perspective – a more aware perspective.
#14. Dealing With Depression
1. Take Time to Grieve
You can’t force yourself to get through your grief quicker. So use your grieving time to take care of yourself and self-reflect.
Examine your concerns, feelings, and losses. Write about them, or talk about them with someone you trust.
Use the following questions to help you reflect:
What specifically are my losses? What emotional/physical/financial costs am I feeling as this relationship ends?
What are the feelings I’m having about these losses? What can I do about these?
What makes this difficult for me? How can I make it easier on myself?
What do I need to learn about myself in order to feel better?
What changes do I now have to face? What strengths do I have to deal with these changes?
2. Dealing With Despair
Despair can be an incredibly disturbing experience. But it can also be a healing experience. It solidifies that the past is being left behind and lead you to final acceptance.
1. Being Present
Being present can be a very hard task when you’re still angry and depressed. Present can also seem too scary to face.
But eventually, you’ll have to face the present, get back on your feet, and create a new life plan.
Being present helps you gain more clarity, evaluate your choices more effectively, and adjust to what you’re feeling more easily.
2. Accepting What Is
Accepting means that you can see clearly that there is no going back to what was, that the narcissist isn’t going to change, and that things won’t be the same.
Acceptance gives you the insight to move forward. It also brings a sense of freedom and relief.
Change Your Life
#16. Tune In to Yourself
This can be a good me to look inside, figure out who you are and reevaluate your life.
What parts of yourself, goals or dreams have you given up to please and accommodate the narcissist?
What negative beliefs about yourself have you incorporated from his abuse?
Reconnect with yourself and embrace who you are, what you love, and the feelings and experiences that bring you joy.
#17. Embrace Your Emotional Growth
We humans tend to resist change, especially if it comes suddenly and not of our own choosing.
However, with change come better experiences.
Get out your journal and reflect on the changes you noticed since the separation and what other changes you need to do to improve your life.
Notice how you feel about these changes (fear, excitement, dread, curiosity).
#18. Reach Out to New Opportunities
Every crisis comes with new opportunities.
The end of your relationship with the narcissist can bring new options, new people, and new possibilities that help you grow, advance, and open up to more of who you are and what you want in your life.
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- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Healing from a Narcissistic Relationship, © 2017 by Margalis Fjelstad. All rights reserved.