Congratulations! You have finally seen all of the red-flags that you have been denying, and have decided to end this destructive relationship, begin the healing process, and welcome a new life. Now what?
It may have taken you years to get to this decision. It is hard to leave someone who seems so charming. You have formed what is clinically known as a “trauma bond”. You shared many intense emotional experiences, both good and bad, and they have “bonded” the two of you. He has been the “center of your world” for a very long time. You may still love him, making it even more difficult to leave. You may be married to him, presenting legal issues. You may have children with this man, which will necessitate custody agreements and monetary support.
Statistics show that it typically takes seven break-up attempts for you to finally be free. Make no mistake, the breakup will be an emotional roller-coaster, and you will need to be prepared.
A normal breakup is very difficult. Breaking up with a manipulator is even worse. You must make a clean and final break, and it will take some advance planning.
A breakup will start a grieving process for both partners, very similar to the grieving process detailed by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her landmark book “On Death and Dying”. A breakup is a death of a relationship, an end to a planned future, a perceived failure.
Initially, you have probably been in a lengthy state of denial, making excuses for your partner’s bad behavior, blaming yourself, exhibiting self-effacing behavior. You are moving past that, but now the denial phase may shift to your partner. As a narcissist, he lives in a very self-centered world, and may initially deny that you are breaking up with him. How could you possibly not want him anymore, when he is such a “great catch”?
Denial will rapidly advance to bargaining. He will not let you go easily, because it is a blow to his ego. He will make promises “to change”, he will start doing things that you have repeatedly asked him to do. He will try bargaining, pleading and even begging. He may suddenly stop drinking, or agree to counseling. He is losing control, so he won’t let you go easily. Everything may appear to be “wonderful”, but do not be fooled. Be wary of your partner being extra warm and affectionate. As soon as he feels comfortable that you will not leave him, his old behaviors will creep back in. A narcissist wants control, and they will not relinquish it for long. He may resort to telling you that “you will never find anyone else”, or that “you are the problem in the relationship”. Remember that he does not feel any guilt, shame or regret for his behavior. His verbal attacks may escalate to physically abusive attacks.
Please do not allow yourself to be the bargaining partner, telling yourself that “if I could only change” then things would be “perfect”. You will only prolong the inevitable. You are going to miss the person that you thought you knew, the person that he pretended to be. You have been addicted to this person, and withdrawal for either of you may be prolonged and very painful. In the end, the reward you are seeking is to get your life and your self-esteem back.
Typically, the next phase will be anger. When narcissistic anger and rage happens, you could be in great danger. It might even be best to break up with a narcissist by text, so they can’t manipulate you any further. This will not be possible if there is a marriage or children involved.
When you decide to end this relationship, it must be done safely and with no further contact. If marriage or children are involved, work through a lawyer. In the meantime, cut off all phone calls, and block him on all social media sites, and from your email accounts. Also consider removing people that you have in common, like friends and family, from your social media sites. If your ex moves on quickly, he may use social media to make sure you know all of the details, and see all of the photos.
Spare yourself this heartache.
It can be best to not clue him in to your planned departure until you are ready to make your move. You must have a physical safety plan in place before you break up with him. Get your finances in order. If you were sharing finances, locate all important papers and bank account information, and move them to a secure place.
Engage your friends for emotional support during this phase. This is especially important because he will try to lure you back into this toxic relationship, and friends can remind you of why you need to get out.
Understand that his friends and family will hear a much different story about why this relationship ended, and will typically side with him, so don’t attempt to convince them otherwise. If you were married to this person, they will bring these stories, true or not, into the courtroom. He will always see himself as the victim, and may drag out the process for as long as possible, just to spite you.
He may threaten to harm your children, pets, or a family member. He may threaten to take your children away from you. He may destroy your personal possessions. He may stalk you or show up, unannounced, at your place of work, or when you are out with your friends.
Do not ever open the door to an angry ex. A woman is no physical match for an angry man.
Depression is often the next phase of grief. During this phase you will both mourn the loss of the relationship. You will be lonely. You will miss the sex and the attention. Your heart will be broken. You may cry until you cannot imagine where the tears keep coming from.
This is a dangerous time when you might feel the need to get back into the relationship. It is easy to romanticize the good times that you once shared, while minimizing the real damage that this relationship did to you. It might be helpful to seek the advice of a trained counselor who can help you to see things more clearly. You may have to constantly remind yourself, and be reminded, of why this relationship needed to end. Good memories can be totally unrepresentative of the total relationship.
Depression for the narcissist can lead to threats to harm himself. This will be discussed in the next blog entry.
Eventually, both you and he will reach a point of acceptance. He may have rapidly moved on to his next victim. You might find yourself jealous when you find out he is with another woman. Try to remember that an abuser does not know how to love. There is nothing to be jealous of. When he finally realizes that he can no longer use you, he will leave without remorse. He never really cared about you in the first place. I know that is hard to hear. He is not capable of love. It really has very little to do with you.
You will arise from this experience a wiser woman, who knows more about what she wants in a future relationship. You will definitely know what you don’t want. You will learn to set boundaries and recognize red flags.
Don’t waste time beating yourself up. You did what you did because you did not know any better. As Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better!”