“Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed” – Kahlil Gibran
These famous words describe the unconditional nature of love. But, if you find yourself more on the giving side, reconsider your decision. When we are deeply in love, we tend to overlook the red flags in the relationship. This also holds true for relationships with a narcissist. Since we become emotionally vulnerable and trauma bonded to them, breaking up with a narcissistic partner can be tricky. Self-doubt, gaslighting, and codependency make it challenging to get out of such relationships. This article will guide you to overcome this emotionally draining experience. Scroll down to learn more about how to break up with a narcissist.
In This Article
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
“Narc” is a term that loosely describes a difficult or toxic person. Narcissism is a medical condition studied extensively; however, there are no tangible diagnostic tests to detect it. A licensed therapist can psychoanalyze, but still, it is challenging to profile a person as a narcissist.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, a person needs to exhibit only 55% of the identified characteristics to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (1). Some common traits associated with NPD are
- Grandiosity (an inflated sense of self or an exaggerated feeling of being superior to others)
- Lack of empathy
- Arrogant and demeaning (often mentally or verbally abusive)
- Selfishness and entitlement
- Emotionally unavailable or inability to be vulnerable
- Need for constant admiration
- Lack of boundaries and possessiveness
- Dismissive of other’s feelings
- Repressed shame
- Manipulative, controlling, and exploitative
- Preoccupied with fantasies, beauty, or power
- Easily threatened
- Lack of responsibility or deflecting blame
- Fear of rejection
These characteristics fall under the umbrella category of narcissism and related disorders. Identifying them can help you better handle the breakup.
Breaking Up With A Narcissist
1. Do Not Put Off Leaving
Another classic mistake people make is to postpone the breakup. There can be multiple reasons – you are not ready to break free, have formed a bond with your partner, or scared to be alone. The feeling of codependency may create a doubt that you cannot survive without them. This happens because narcissists isolate their partners from their friends and family. Do not let anyone guilt trip you to stay in a toxic relationship.
Some narcissists have a fake persona for the public, making it hard for their partner to convince people how terrible the narcissistic is towards you. They may even tend to lash out verbally and turn physically abusive, especially if they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. You might be scared to leave them because you believe you are in danger.
In such cases, it is important to walk out quietly without a confrontation. Plan ahead, save money, and pack your stuff. Ensure they do not know you are leaving and find a safe place where they do not have access. Confide in someone who can be there for you during this tough time.
2. Snap All Contact
Once you have decided to leave your partner, avoid all contact for at least 6-8 months. This means no texts, phone calls, or stalking on social media. It might be the hardest part of the breakup, but you will come out wiser, happier, and stronger.
Make sure you do not speak to mutual friends or relatives, as narcissistic people might get vindictive and spread rumors about you. They might “hoover” over you, send ambiguous messages, call you incessantly, even beg forgiveness to get back together. It is best you draw firm boundaries and do not give them any chance to manipulate you. Beware of their false promises and crocodile tears. They will do whatever it takes to get back together.
3. Do Not Try To Hold Them Accountable
The inflated sense of self and lack of empathy in a narcissist prevent them from having any sensible discussion. They will not accept any criticism and may even flip everything on you. They may lie to convince you that they will change only to keep you from breaking up.
Don’t be surprised if your narcissistic partner takes credit for the breakup. It is their way of saving face. They have an intense fear of rejection, making them want to create their narrative about the breakup. They will have a twisted logic behind every action and shift the blame on you. They will never take responsibility for anything unless it serves them an ulterior motive.
4. Believe In Yourself
Hold on to those moments of clarity – collect voice recordings, text messages, or videos. Record your thoughts and events of the day in your journal. This will help keep you sane and combat gaslighting, manipulation, and self-doubt.
Remember, it takes a lot of strength and conviction to walk away from such a relationship. Try to hold on to reality and be kind to yourself. Never blame yourself for staying so long or being vulnerable. You are your own person with a distinctive identity, and you do not exist to serve the interests of the narcissist.
5. Do Not Rationalize Or Make Excuses
Nobody is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. This can be true but dangerous when it comes to a relationship with a narcissist. Such kind of reasoning will give them more power to get away with unacceptable behavior. It is important to acknowledge that both of you made mistakes and need to work on them.
Do not blame yourself for judging them harshly or get unnecessarily hard on yourself. When it comes to a narcissist, the lines are pretty blurred, and you may be subconsciously making excuses to justify their behavior. It can be a part of the trauma bond, or you might be scared to confront the reality.
6. Never Fall For The Love Bombing
Love bombing refers to the initial phases of a relationship when everything seems rosy and romantic. Most narcissists try to sweep you off the feet with flattery. They become attentive and make you feel like the only person in the world. This kind of behavior is often repeated whenever you threaten to leave.
It is normal to romanticize the good memories in the relationship, but it can be detrimental if you want to move on or have a clean break. Instead, focus when you had to walk on eggshells around your partner or were hurt. These incidents will bring out the skewed perspectives common in narcissistic relationships.
7. Do Not Blame Yourself
Often you end up blaming yourself for not trying hard enough in the relationship. Do not hate yourself for not recognizing the red flags or toxic patterns. The truth is that it takes two to make the relationship work. If you find your narcissistic partner has moved on pretty quickly, do not take it too hard.
It is a common tactic to show that they have are fine without you. They might date someone who is “better” than you to trigger your insecurities. Do not compare yourself to anyone, as it might lead to jealousy, self-doubt, and self-loathing. Build yourself and focus on your healing, goals, achievements, and dreams.
8. Do Not Let Them Get To You
They might seem very happy with their new partner, doing everything you used to do. But it is a twisted way to punish you for leaving them. They will put on a show for you. This is all a façade – the truth is most narcissists are unhappy deep inside. They build these happy bubbles to delude themselves and others. Therefore, do not stalk them or their partner.
It might turn into an unhealthy obsession as you will compare yourself why it didn’t work out with you. On the other hand, you might feel tempted to warn the new partner, which may come across as sabotage or inappropriate. You do not owe any responsibility, and it is better to stay away from the drama.
9. Grieve Properly
The entire relationship, especially the breakup, can be emotionally and physically exhausting. You might be drained and feeling like losing a huge chunk of your life. Thus, it is essential to acknowledge your past and present feelings. Accept your decisions and embrace yourself.
Grieve in whatever way that helps you cope with the situation. Take a break from your job, move to another city, or stay with friends or family. Recover at your own pace – the very fact that you got out of a narcissistic relationship is commendable. Acknowledge the good parts, but remind yourself that they no longer serve you. Surround yourself with people who cherish and love you for you.
10. Rediscover Yourself
There can be a sense of identity crisis when you are in a narcissistic relationship. The constant gaslighting and manipulation and the dismissive and humiliating comments might break your confidence. So, give yourself time to recover.
Focus on building yourself and do things that make you happy. However trivial they may be, pursue things that you enjoy – wear that low-neck shirt or grab your favorite ice cream. Go and meet new people, and do not be cynical or pessimistic about relationships.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a broad term that includes specific psychological and behavioral traits. It is difficult to identify selfish, narcissistic people because there is no clear consensus clinically. However, grandiosity, lack of empathy, entitlement, fear of rejection, and manipulative behavior are common characteristics of a person with this condition. The most effective way to break free from such people is to stop all contact and claim your agency back.
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- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic and Clinical Challenges