It seems like every day another person crosses my path who is looking for support in recovering from being in a relationship with a narcissist. Whether the narcissist was their parent, boy or girlfriend, wife or husband, or boss, it seems that the number of people suffering the after-effects of being in a relationship with a narcissist is epidemic!
(If you believe you might be one of those who has suffered from being in a relationship with a narcissist, learn more HERE.)
In my experience working with those who have been in a relationship with a narcissist, there are two kinds of narcissists – those who were likely abused themselves and who are suffering from an extreme case of arrested development and who are narcissistic in their behaviors, but not necessarily intentionally cruel. Then there are those who are true sociopaths and who engage in their narcissistic behaviors so as to purposefully do harm to another person. Narcissism is a clinically defined mental illness which unfortunately, is difficult to diagnose because narcissists are masters of disguise.
Narcissists, usually because of a very deep inferiority complex, likely unknown to them, create an external persona that they present to the world and that they have convinced themselves is their truth. Only those closest to the narcissist, or the unwitting and innocent victims of the narcissist’s truth when it comes out sideways, are the wiser. To everyone else, the narcissist is the kindest, most generous, thoughtful, helpful and supportive person on the planet. To the innocent, narcissists are nothing if not charming! To those who have been caught in their web, the narcissist is a monster.
It has been said that there are three stages of being in a relationship with a narcissist – idealize, devalue, discard. Narcissists are magnetically charming to those they are trying to bring into their web. They will convince you and others that you are the greatest thing since sliced bread. You rock their world and they have been waiting their whole life for a child, lover, employee, like you. Typically, narcissists seek out those they know they can manipulate – typically those who are truly generous, kind, helpful, supportive and empathic. Once they have charmed you into their web, the abuse begins. Slowly, subtly, surely, the narcissist begins to devalue you, whittling away any sense of self-esteem, confidence and self-worth. Everything you do is wrong. Everything you say is wrong. Nothing is good enough. If you wake up and begin to take care of yourself, learning about the abuse you have been in and work on getting help, when you can no longer be manipulated by the narcissist, they start to look elsewhere for their “supply.” (narcissists are parasites, succubi who “feed” on other people’s kindness, goodness, generosity, etc.) Once they have found someone else to manipulate, then you will be discarded….left with what remains of your soul (if there is any left), and wondering what the hell happened.
Narcissist cannot be cured because they do not believe there is anything wrong with them. (a “cure” is only possible when the narcissist admits they have a problem and are willing to do the work of stripping off the mask to unveil the vulnerable truth within and then work to heal those vulnerabilities, unhealed wounds, etc.) To themselves and those who do not know their truth, narcissists are perfect. They are the masters of their destiny. Everyone loves them. At least that is what they believe (and what they want others to believe). Only you (and others who have seen the truth behind the mask) know differently.
Recovering from a relationship with a narcissist is not easy. First, one has to realize that the symptoms of narcissistic abuse are akin to PTSD and require the same kind of support. A combination of therapy, trauma release (EMDR, Brainspotting and SEVA Acupressure have all been shown to be effective in releasing the effects of trauma) and medication may prove helpful. Secondly, in recovering from a relationship with a narcissist, one has to accept all the things they cannot and will never be able to heal or change in the relationship:
- An active narcissist will never admit they are wrong or at fault and will never say they are sorry.
- A narcissist will never let you win. If you were married, plan that you will be financially devastated and never get your “fair share” of the assets, etc. Know that it will take years to rebuild after leaving a narcissist and that you will probably have to go into debt to get there.
- The narcissist will never stop trying to manipulate and control you. In their eyes, you will always be wrong and everything you are doing will be wrong. (For the sake of your own mental wellbeing, ZERO contact is recommended when leaving a relationship with a narcissist. If zero-contact is not possible, then minimal contact is advised).
- If you try to defend yourself, speak your truth, ask for what you deserve, the narcissist will retaliate. You will not be heard, you will not get what you want and the narcissist will use what they know about your vulnerabilities to reduce you to nothing for trying to name and claim your needs, your opinion, or assert your value.
In short, with a narcissist you can never win (not in the way that winning is measured in our culture anyway).
But, there is karma. There is justice. And the Truth always wins out in the end.
In the end, the narcissist will always dig their own grave. Truth cannot remain hidden forever and the narcissist will eventually be found out for who they truly are. The narcissist can only create so much carnage before others become wise. Their “success” begins to fail. Their “fame” begins to fade. Their charm no longer works because too many people have viewed the carnage in their wake. While this does not heal the pain of being in a relationship with a narcissist, it does provide a measure of comfort in knowing that truth will win out in the end.
And, you will be the ultimate victor for having the courage, stamina, self-love and tenacity to successfully leave, unravel from and heal after being in a relationship with a narcissist.
If you are or have been in a relationship with a narcissist, please seek outside support in dealing with and unraveling from the relationship. Seek out mental health professionals, a good attorney and financial advisor to help you in unraveling and recovering. Narcissistic abuse is real and if you have suffered from this, please get help!