In many ways, the after-math of a relationship with a narcissist is just if not more damaging than the relationship itself. This is Part 1 of my series called "So You Dated A Narcissist. Now What?" (Clever, right?)
The first thing you need to do as you start on your path to recovery is forgive yourself. Many people - including me before I became certified in trauma recovery - would wonder why you stayed with someone for so long despite their toxic ways being so evident. Trauma bonding is real, y'all, and it explains why many people fail to remove themselves from a relationship with someone who has an anti-social personality disorder. A trauma bond is one formed between two people who go through an intense, often dangerous, experience together. (Remember that scene in Speed where Keanu educates Sandra on the likelihood of their attraction becoming anything serious because of that whole bus on a bomb thing? He wasn't lying.
In the context of a relationship, Psychology Today describes a trauma bond as being similar to Stockholm Syndrome, where a prisoner develops an emotional connection to their captor. A romantic relationship with a narcissist is cyclical; things are great, then they're not, then they're great again. This kind of push/pull dynamic is designed to keep someone off-kilter so they don't know they're being abused and manipulated. A narcissist will blame their partner for someone that's actually their fault. Because their partner is so taken aback by the 180 degree change in the narcissists attitude toward them, they begin to wonder if, in fact, they are to blame for the rift in the relationship. This goes on, back and forth, up and down, throughout the relationship with a narcissist. If this is something you've experienced when dating a narcissist, it's important to understand that you can not be expected to make sense out of their behavior. after that much turmoil. It's supposed to confuse you. That's why narcissists behave that way: to make you easier to control. They tear you down to bring you back up to tear you down again.
Go Cold Turkey
Ugh. This part is THE WORST.If you've been fortunate enough to remove yourself from a relationship with a narcissist, it's critical to understand that you're going to experience some truly crippling waves of emotional pain.Depression, low self-worth, inability to sleep or concentrate are all common side effects of narcissist withdrawal. THIS IS NORMAL! This is not heartbreak or longing or just you missing your ex. Your identity has been so shattered after dating a narcissist that you truly don't know who you are any more or think the most awful, the most unkind things of yourself. In fact, in many cases, the self-loathing can consume you. Withdrawal from a narcissist is similar to withdrawal from any drug. Narcissists feed us the most profound level of attention and ply us with admiration and affection. It feels amazing, like you're the most desirable person they've ever met. Hello, dopamine overload.When that rush subsides, if you've become dependent upon it, you'll likely try to seek it out again rather than go through the discomfort of not having it. Maybe you contact them - just an innocent email or text, you say! And then they respond and the addiction flares. Or they don't response and you hate yourself. What makes it worse? Why, checking up on your narcissist, of course! Thanks, Facebook! You're already beating yourself up for being with this person, why not pour some salt in the wound and see them living their best life with their new partner? All righty! Bring it on! This is why you have to do whatever you can to avoid your Ex. That might mean cutting off relationships with anyone connected to them. In no way do you want them to have any access to your life, even through friendly chit chat with mutual friends. You don't owe anyone an explanation. If a mutual friend reaches out to reconnect, just explain that you feel it's best for you to avoid anything to do with your ex for the time being. No need to go into detail, particularly because most won't believe you when you reveal your mutual friend is abusive. That narcissist you dated is skilled at convincing people they are someone they aren't, namely a decent human being.
Next up is to block them on social media. Send their email and phone number to spam. You might even want to remove yourself from social media all together until this phase of the recovery is over or until you feel strong enough that you won't be tempted to look them up or contact them. Keep in mind that you don't just want to block them from you, but you from them. Make no doubt, they are checking up on you, desperate to see their work. They want to see you writing in pain and sad. They want to read your cryptic posts and updates. They want to know you're still thinking about them. They crave that level of attention, even from afar. It's their life force.
Welcome to your new life, for now. The thing to remember is that this period of time does not last. It feels like it will, but it won't, not if you take the steps necessary to push through this muck. You got this. Remember that. You can do this, and once you do, you'll be able to do ANYTHING. You'll be Sarah Goddamn Conner.