Being in a narcissistic relationship can take a toll on your mental health. It can drain you emotionally, shatter your self-confidence, and cause you to question your judgment. You may begin to wonder if you are the one to blame for your once-storybook romance burning to the ground.

Chances are you tried every approach humanly possible to navigate the choppy seas of your partner’s moods, behaviors, accusations, criticisms, shaming, and more, twisting yourself in every direction to create harmony. Finally, realizing the toxicity was too much to bear, you have decided to leave.

First and foremost, I applaud you for taking that step. It’s extremely difficult and often traumatizing. Second, it’s important to keep in mind that narcissists are master manipulators who wield tools like charm, guilt, fear, and pity to keep you from leaving.

So you may be wondering, “What now?” “How do I pick up the pieces and move on?” A good place to start and an essential piece of the healing process is to recognize the characteristics and tactics of a narcissist.

Understanding how they operate can validate that you are not “crazy.” It can alleviate any nagging self-doubt and reinforce that the dysfunction in the relationship was not your fault. So let’s start by taking a look at the profile of a narcissist.

Common Characteristics of a Narcissist

It is important to note that these individuals fall on a spectrum and do not necessarily have a diagnosis. Here are some of the highly recognized signs of narcissism.

  • Arrogance and self-importance
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Lack of empathy
  • Disrespectful of boundaries
  • Openly humiliates and shames others (most often a partner)
  • Preoccupation with power, success, beauty, and having “the best”
  • Name-dropping (boasting about high-status associations)
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Uses others with no remorse to get what they want

Typical Tactics of a Narcissist

Although no two narcissistic personalities are exactly the same there are common patterns and mind games among them. In most cases, this person seems “too good to be true” at the start which only adds to your confusion when they very gradually deploy these psychological weapons.
1. Gaslighting- This is a hallmark of the narcissist. They will try to make you believe you are crazy, saying things like “I never said that,” “Don’t you remember what we talked about?,” and “You must be losing it.” They will spin reality to throw you off balance and make you question yourself and your sanity.

2. Control and Intimidation- These individuals can be bullies. They play on your worst fears and insecurities, such as not seeing your children or losing your home, in order to maintain their sense of control.

3. Triangulation- The narcissistic partner will try to isolate and alienate you from your friends and loved ones. They will manipulate the truth in order to pit you against each other.

A narcissist will lead you to believe that your friends and family are on his side and don’t actually care about you. He will try to convince you that others think you are unstable and responsible for any problems in the relationship.

4. Lying- Narcissists are pathological liars who won’t hesitate to lie about anything in order to get what they want.

5. Love Bombing- A narcissist will pursue the object of their affection with lavish gifts, compliments, and other elaborate romantic gestures until he has won her over. This stage is temporary and eventually, that same person becomes the target of abuse.

If you were involved in a relationship with a narcissist many of these characteristics and tactics likely appear to be all too familiar to you.

The good news is that although healing from narcissistic abuse can be extremely challenging and difficult, it can be done. You are a loving and worthy human being, deserving of so much more. Please keep that in the forefront of your mind.

So let’s take a look at some of the strategies you can put into practice today to begin the healing process and start living your best life.

Strategies to Heal from a Narcissistic Relationship

1. Acknowledge the Situation- The first step towards healing is to accept your current reality. You have been in a relationship that became unhealthy and ultimately toxic.

Try to make peace with the fact that there is no fixing it, and no going back. For the sake of your safety (emotional and possibly physical), you needed to leave and now you must commit to your decision.

2. Learn about narcissistic personality disorder- There are many helpful books, podcasts, and articles on the subject. Once you understand the tactics of these individuals things will become much more clear about what you experienced. You will feel less alone and begin to resolve any self-blame you may be harboring.

3. Disconnect- It is essential to cut off all modes of contact with the narcissist, in person, by phone, email, and social media. Unfriend your ex from Facebook and unfollow them on Instagram.

Avoid confiding in mutual friends to prevent triangulation. If you must stay in contact with your former partner due to sharing children it is important to set firm boundaries.

4. Set Boundaries- If you have to communicate because you are co-parenting keep your communication to a minimum. Maintain a calm and businesslike tone and stick to the topic at hand.

Always avoid talking about your relationship or any other personal matters, and consistently redirect him if he attempts to do so. Let your ex know that you will terminate the conversation if he becomes disrespectful.

5. Practice Self-Compassion- Above all else be kind to yourself. Be proud of the courage you have demonstrated by removing yourself from a toxic relationship.

Think about how you would talk to a close friend and remind yourself that you are worthy of love and respect. Try to avoid self-blame and guilt by reminding yourself that narcissists are adept manipulators that prey on others. You are not a victim but rather a survivor.

6. Stand Firm- Now that you have made the decision to leave, stick to your plan. A narcissist will typically pull out their bag of tricks and try to reel you back in.

This may initially include apologies and promises to change, which can later turn into anger and insults once they realize you don’t intend to cave in. Do not engage in any of their histrionics as that only gives them the power they are looking for (stay calm and cool no matter how difficult it seems).

7. Exercise Self-Care- You may not have the emotional energy to care for yourself at this time which is exactly why you need to now more than ever. Your physical and emotional health are intertwined. Make every effort to eat healthy foods, get adequate sleep, and include some form of daily exercise. Spending time in nature is always rejuvenating.

To nurture yourself emotionally consider practicing mindfulness or yoga. There are many resources online. Journaling is another great way to sort out your emotions. It can also be used to express gratitude for people and things that bring you joy.

8. Seek Support from Friends or Family- The people in your life who truly care about you will be relieved that you have stepped away from your narcissistic partner. Lean into their love and support. They will be there to validate your decision and your worth as a human being.

9. Seek Professional Support- The right therapist can navigate this process with you. They can help you better understand the manipulative nature of a narcissist and work with you to establish effective responses, boundaries and strategies. Your therapist can also identify any underlying mental health concerns such as PTSD from narcissistic abuse.

10. Focus on Personal Growth-
Now that you have separated from this person take a deep breath! Even though they may still be present to a certain extent, you no longer have to tolerate the daily emotional minefield.

Use this time to cultivate friendships and explore activities you enjoy. It can be something as simple as watching a movie you have been wanting to see. Or think about taking a class, exploring a hobby, joining a gym, or starting a book club. The possibilities are endless!

Remember worthy relationships should bring you ease and joy, rather than self-doubt and fear. We can explore setting healthy boundaries and building confidence and resilience. Together we can navigate this new beginning toward a fulfilling and healthy future. One that you so rightfully deserve. I am ready when you are, and am only a phone call or a click away!

Until the next Opening the Doors post.

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