Here's everything you need to know about breaking up with a narcissist, including how to do this right and what to expect along the way:
6. You can't talk it away.
A major problem I see is when clients tell me how they've been trying to talk things through for years in therapy, and nothing's changed. It may have even gotten worse due to repeatedly re-experiencing of the trauma, and life doesn't feel safe anymore.
You can rationalize everything away, and that's not a good thing. Yes, there's a reason the narcissist is the way they are—genetics, family dynamics, substance abuse, etc. It's not your job to analyze why or to get caught in the smoke and mirrors. When it comes to narcissists, the root of the problem is them, and the reason we call it a "personality disorder" in psychiatry is because it cannot change. Nor is it serving you to rationalize your feelings or trauma away or to scold yourself for feeling a certain way, expecting yourself to "just move on." Trauma is stored in our bodies and doesn't disappear simply with logical or positive thinking. The only way through is to process and release it rather than analyze till the cows come home.
7. Comparing their "progress" to yours will cripple you.
Narcissists move on very quickly, even if they abruptly U-turn and tell you it's only to forget you while they struggle with how much they love you. Words are cheap, and the narcissist thrives on messing with your head, knowing that you'll be fixated on them rather than healing yourself and meeting someone who deserves you.
Many clients tell me they are upset by how the narcissist seems to be unscathed while they themselves are a hot mess. They question why they are "weak and useless," and they want to give up. Here's the deal. Narcissists move on to distract themselves, prey on a new source of attention, or punish you. More importantly, they have no affective empathy—the ability to feel what another person is feeling—much less have compassion for others. This is why they move on so easily. So stop stalking them on social media or asking mutual friends about them. Your progress is yours and yours alone. I also advocate that my clients block the narcissist from all forms of contact if possible.
8. You will blame yourself.
For walking away, getting involved, not walking away, not seeing the red flags— basically, everything. It'll play out in a way where you feel damned if you do and damned if you don't. Marshall explains that from the start, the narcissist capitalizes on your tendency to self-blame. They'll increasingly make you responsible for the fact that their world isn't good.
"Once you leave, you continue to assume you're to blame because that intimate person in your life has a voice in your head, speaking in your own language because that's what they do," he says, adding, "it's not obvious that it's their voice playing; it sounds like your own."
Many of my clients who attract narcissists tend to be both type A and empathetic. This means they are tough on themselves and expect themselves to overgive, blaming themselves for the times they never gave enough. Instead of dedicating resources and attention to healing, they're often ruminating and beating themselves up for everything they did wrong in that relationship, as if any modification would change the past. Here's the deal: Every time you blame yourself, your narcissistic ex wins. They continue to abuse you because you are abusing yourself.