If you have recently ended a relationship with an individual who displays narcissistic tendencies, you can expect to experience a range of emotions: grief, anger, depression, confusion, as well as anxiety, fear, and shame. Keep in mind, whatever you’re feeling is normal. Even guilt.
Already, you probably sense this is different from any other type of breakup you may have experienced in the past. While recovering from narcissistic abuse, you first need to recognize that you are not at fault. Do not blame yourself for the relationship ending, nor for being manipulated or mistreated, however long it lasted. Don’t listen to lingering, self-criticizing thoughts. Rather, work to practice self-compassion. You are brave, first and foremost, for taking the initiative to make space and move on.
Abuse can take many forms, from physical and emotional to legal and financial. While characteristics vary, narcissists on the whole tend to lack empathy, and they are both manipulative and self-centered. To have been in a relationship with someone like this and to see it end will inevitably take a toll. Take the necessary steps to ensure that you are safe, supported, and healthy in the weeks and months ahead.
You likely felt isolated from others during your relationship. Your ex may have played a direct role in that, keeping you distanced from friends and family. Narcissists, after all, have a tendency to control their partner’s time. In turn, you may find it challenging, at least at first, to open up and trust people, especially potential partners.
Open up about the experience, however you feel comfortable. Share with a friend or family member. Get your support system in place. This may be particularly challenging if you share children or a close network with your ex, but you need to find a way to open up.
There are outlets to connect with others, such as support groups, who have been similarly impacted by toxic relationships. For example, Narcissist Abuse Support is dedicated purely to supporting individuals who are working to recover from such abuse. Even if you aren’t ready to discuss your experience just yet, you can get more informed on what you have been through.
Consider reaching out for professional help in the form of a therapist, especially if you are struggling with depression or mental health symptoms. A therapist will offer a toolkit to help you navigate this experience, to point out unhealthy habits surrounding the toxic person, and to recognize past signs and triggers so you can avoid them moving forward. These appointments are a safe space, where you can freely open up. Ultimately, through professional guidance, you will gain personalized insights into what the best steps are for healing and moving forward.
The most immediate way to begin to recover and to feel better is to start focusing on your mental and physical health. Ensure you are eating a healthy diet, plant-based as much as possible, with plenty of fruit, greens, and protein.
Incorporate exercise into your weekly, if not daily routine. Take a power walk, or practice a 30 minute yoga video. Try whatever seems manageable that will get your blood pumping. Per experts at the Mayo Clinic, exercise in almost any form can act as a stress-reliever and improve your mood. Especially now, forming habits to put yourself in a good headspace is necessary.
Finally, look into practicing mindfulness techniques. Deep breathing is one option. It will help slow you down and focus you back in the present. Likewise, getting healthy amounts of sleep will support your ability to manage stress and anxiety.
Spend time thinking about what you enjoy, what makes you happy — and do whatever helps put you in a good mental place. For example, take a hot bubble bath or read a good book. Make time for your hobbies.
Perhaps your life was unconsciously steered in a direction that you no longer identify with. It’s time to hit the reset button, but also, to reflect on where that sense of being “off course” exists in your life. For example, think about your wardrobe. Do you like what you wear? Do you feel confident in your clothing? Perhaps your former partner insisted you look great in turtlenecks, and yet you never loved the way they hug your neck. Part ways with them. You shouldn’t have to carry over any physical manifestations of the relationship. Put your preferences first again and determine how and with whom you want to spend your time.
You need to figure out who you are and what drives you as a person before you can fully move on, or at least be ready to move on. This won’t happen overnight, not realistically. In turn, consider spending some time each week to decompress this. Journaling is a great tool to recognize patterns in yourself.
It is understandable, if you still love your ex and have strong feelings for them. Even if they have hurt you, happy memories will come to mind. However, in order to move forward in your recovery, you need to recognize the importance of disconnecting from them, emotionally and physically.
Depending on your situation, there may be legal ties to the other person, close friends in common, or even shared children. Whatever the case, when the relationship ends, it will be more beneficial for you to cut off contact, at least at the start.
If you do need to continue long term contact, put a barrier in place. Enable your ability to detach. You can be respectful and cordial and ultimately transactional with your ex. For example, plan to meet the following Wednesday for 15 minutes to deliver personal items or documents in a public place.
This road toward recovery will not be easy, nor will it be quick. The most important part is that you take care of your own health, and you seek out support and help when you need it.