How can she say she loves me and wants the relationship to work and then do that?
He says he doesn’t want a committed relationship, but keeps calling. It doesn’t make sense.
How can she have changed so much? When we first met she told me I was the most amazing man she’s ever known. Now she acts like she can barely tolerate being in the same room with me.
How can he go from calling me multiple times a day to not answering my calls?
I gave her everything she said she wanted, and now she’s posting pictures of herself and her new soulmate on Facebook. What did I do wrong?
If only I’d gone over there that night. If only I’d been more patient. If only I’d been more understanding of her or his issues. If only I’d tried harder.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. These kinds of thoughts, feelings, self-doubts, self-recriminations and ruminations are very common after a relationship with a narcissist, borderline, psychopath, histrionic or other emotional predator. Ruminating is one of the first stages of the healing process and it’s a painful one. Many people get stuck here. It’s not only painful for those who are stuck, it’s also painful for loved ones to witness.
Narcissistic abuse is a mindf—k. There are more clinical terms to describe it, but mindf—k is the most evocative and accurate. During the devaluation and discard stage, most victims are in a state of shock and awe. Gaslighting and projection condition victims to blame themselves for their narcissist’s abuse. You torture yourself trying to figure out what you could’ve done differently in order not to have lost the narcissist’s love. You’d do anything to go back to the love bombing or idealization stage when you thought you had an endless supply of the narcissist’s seeming unconditional love and admiration.
What many victims don’t realize is that love bombing is nothing more than a seduction tool used to create an emotional dependency. Some people are relatively immune to love bombing and, in fact, find it creepy. Yes, creepy. They experience it as over the top and too much, too soon. While other people are especially vulnerable to love bombing, i.e., the personality disordered and the codependent. I’m not here to help the personality disordered, so let’s focus on the codependent.
To many codependents, love bombing feels like the unconditional love you didn’t get as a child in your family of origin with the added adult bonus, in many cases, of a lot of sex — at least initially. At long last, it seems as if you’ve met the woman or man of your dreams who truly appreciates and loves you. And they know it within the first 15 minutes of laying eyes on you or swiping right. (Or is it left?)
In reality, it’s an instance of the old adage, “If someone seems too good to be true, don’t believe it.” While love bombing feeds the wish to be loved and adored, it’s smoke and mirrors. Bait and switch. Narcissists give in order to get. It’s like a drug dealer giving you a free supply of cocaine. Once you’re hooked, you pay and pay and pay and, in essence, become the dealer’s bitch, regardless of gender.
Once the mask is removed and the devaluation begins, most codependents desperately look for ways to return to the love bombing stage. This is the root of the ceaseless ruminations with which many victims torture themselves while being devalued and discarded post break-up. For a time, you don’t understand there’s no going back because it was never real in the first place. These ruminations typically occur in stages.
Stage One: The Land of If Only or How to Gaslight Yourself
Especially effective narcissists condition you to gaslight yourself. After awhile, they don’t need to project or blame shift. You readily take responsibility for things you did and didn’t do, real or imagined, without their prompting. Basically it’s just good time management and delegating to subordinates [Sarcasm.]
During this stage you blame yourself for not being able to turn a narcissist or psychopath into a decent, loving human being. If only you were better, more handsome, prettier, thinner, more athletic, more patient, learned not to flinch when abused, understanding of her or his infidelities, younger, taller, shorter, did yoga, texted at 7:05pm instead of 7:00pm or explained things in a way he or she can understand it could work!
No, it can’t.
By the way, you shouldn’t have to explain how to behave like a decent human being to an adult. Unless she or he was raised by wolves or is a real life version of Jodi Foster’s Nell, they should know that it’s wrong to lie, cheat, steal, tantrum and be an a–hole.
You’re blaming yourself for not being good enough to turn a narcissist into a decent human being. Think about this. I mean really, really think about this. Would you blame yourself for not being able to change a rattlesnake into a teddy bear? Of course not.
If you were a child of abusive parents, you probably developed the magical belief that you could change your parent’s behavior if you were good enough, worthy enough and lovable enough. It’s less scary than the reality, which is that mom or dad was an out-of-control, angry train wreck. As a child maybe you told yourself that if you made all A’s, kept your room clean, explained yourself better, made mom happy and didn’t bother dad after he’d been drinking they’d be nicer. Do you see the similarities to the self-blame you’ve been engaging in with your narcissist? It didn’t work with your parent(s) and it isn’t going to work with your adult abuser.
What can you do? Reality test, reality test, reality test! Also, go No Contact. If you have kids, go Low Contact. Just like actual gas poisoning (e.g., carbon monoxide), you need to remove yourself from the gas leak or gaslighting gasbag as the case may be. It takes time and distance for your head to clear from the FOG (fear, obligation, guilt). Challenge your cognitive distortions and self-delusions about how soulmatey your narcissist is. She or he isn’t your soulmate, that is if such a thing even exists.
The sex probably wasn’t as amazing as you tell yourself it was either. Selfish, self-absorbed jerks are typically selfish, self-absorbed lovers. They may howl like Traci Lords, but then she’s a two-bit lousy actor, too. Identify the similarities between your narcissist and your mother and/or father. Talk to your friends and tell them what happened. In other words, stop protecting your abuser and allow your support system to help keep you on track. If it’s difficult to keep yourself honest, let your friends or a therapist help you to do so.
Stage Two: WTF or Shock and Awe
Now you’re moving out of abject despair and heartbreak and feeling the first rumblings of anger. Good. Yes, good. You can’t bypass the anger that results from narcissistic abuse and heal. To anyone reading this whose narcissistic or borderline parents made you feel wrong or bad about expressing anger when abused or treated unfairly, it’s okay to be angry. It’s as useful a human emotion as any other. It means you’ve been hurt, betrayed or treated unjustly. You’re supposed to be pissed when someone repeatedly and unrepentantly treats you like crap.
It can be incredibly difficult to wrap your mind around the crazy, nasty, dishonest, breathtakingly selfish and entitled behavior of abusers. Even when you’ve experienced it firsthand over and over and over and over, it can still be tough to grasp.
It’s not a very intellectually or emotionally satisfying answer, but disordered people do disordered things. People lacking empathy and integrity do astonishingly cruel things. Emotionally immature adult toddlers and teens are pathologically entitled and simply don’t think beyond their own wants, needs and feelings the majority of the time. That’s the WHY. It’s just the way it is and no amount of patience, love, self-sacrifice, unconditional positive regard or radical acceptance is going to change that.
What can you do? Stop doubting what you’ve observed and experienced with your own eyes and ears. When you find yourself slipping back into the wallowing of stage one, answer the question who does that? Narcissists, psychopaths and other abusive personalities that don’t give a flying fudge. Then challenge yourself — why do you miss and want to be with someone who treated you like that?
Stage Three: That A–hole!
Now you’re good and angry. Angry at your abuser and angry at yourself. You’re angry at the narcissist for all the shitty ways she or he treated you and angry at yourself for either tolerating it or sinking to their level after being provoked. This isn’t a pleasant time, but it’s a helluva lot better than stage one and two.
You swallowed a lot of poison or abuse, now you’re sucking it out. When in an abusive relationship, many people learn to stuff their natural emotional responses to the abuse. Narcissists and other abusers don’t tolerate being held accountable. They have narcissistic rage episodes when confronted with their atrocities or gaslight and blame shift, which is crazy-making. These painful experiences and memories don’t go away just because you ignore or block them from your immediate awareness as they happen.
It’s safe for these memories and emotions to rise to the surface now that you’re out of the relationship. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get stuck here. As bad or uncomfortable as it may feel, it’s a gift. You’re getting the opportunity to do the emotional work now that you didn’t do then. There’s no reason to be afraid. As long as you don’t act out inappropriately, the only consequence to this stage is healing.
What can you do? Feel your feelings. Be compassionate with yourself. Work at a pace that is comfortable for you. Don’t contact your narcissistic ex for closure. I can’t think of a single client who’s done so that hasn’t regretted it. When has your narcissist ever given you anything that benefited you? Give it to yourself. Try journaling as a way to take the thoughts and feelings out of yourself and into a container. Physical exercise is a good way to release the emotions, too. Acknowledge just how badly you were treated, and do it without making excuses for your abuser. Then let it go.
Stage Four: Health and Happiness
You may think of your narcissist from time to time, but it won’t pack the same emotional or physical wallop. You’ll periodically be reminded of her or him, but it won’t destabilize you like it once did. In fact, you may even have a chuckle at how far away and ridiculous your old life seems to you now.
For example, two years after my relationship with my narcissistic ex ended, I was was doing my quarterly CostCo toilet paper – paper towel run. During checkout, my membership card was declined. My first thought was that it was time to pay the annual dues. No big deal. As it turned out, my ex was the primary membership holder (even though I’d always paid the annual fee) and had booted me off the account to add his new bride, the buck-toothed, mullet-haired, bisexual former child actress with whom he cheated on me.
At first, I was mad. It was an unexpected punch to the gut. He had intruded on my day. There he was where he wasn’t supposed to be. I took some deep breaths and thought about it. I remembered the day we enrolled at CostCo together. He made a big deal about it, like he was bestowing a special honor and privilege onto me. What was the honor? While he sat at home Facebook Like masturbating, I got to drive through ridiculously bad traffic, wade through crowds and wait in long lines for the privilege of purchasing bulk toilet paper for him to wipe his ass. Isn’t she the luckiest!
And then I began laughing. Full on body shaking, crossed my legs so I didn’t pee laughing. I may have even snorted. Then I felt exquisite relief and gratitude that that is no longer my life.
You may think of your narcissist or borderline from time to time. It’s to be expected. If your home was destroyed by a tornado, you’d think about that years later, too. However, it doesn’t have to hurt you or impact your emotions anymore. You can roll your eyes, laugh and say to yourself, “What the *#^@%@$ was I thinking!” and be on about your day.
What can you do? Count your blessings and enjoy your life. You’ve earned it. Healing means giving yourself the love and acceptance you didn’t get as a child, or were doled out conditionally based on how well you met your disordered parents’ needs. Once that happens, the vulnerability to emotional predators is gone. The next person who tries to love bomb you will be a major turn off, not a turn on. And you will be in control of your thoughts and feelings instead of at their mercy.
Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides individual services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Services page for professional inquiries.
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Touché Dr T! You have once again hit the nail right on the head. Thank you so much. I know a lot about narcissism now,and have been no contact for over 2 years now. But I always enjoy reading every new article you post. Each one gives me a new insight,a fresh perspective,deeper clarity of what I went through. I really like the analogy you use of trying to turn a rattlesnake into a teddy bear. That really clarifies what I spent 2 years of my life trying to do! Seems silly now,but when a codependent like me is caught up in that situation,you can’t see the forest for the trees being in the way. I had to laugh at the rattlesnake analogy. It made me think of my own analogy. I was trying to turn Charles Manson into Mother Theresa! And guess what Doc? It didn’t work! So now I just let the rattlesnake Be a rattlesnake. And I just let Charles Manson be Charles Manson. I just stay the hell away from them! NO CONTACT! Thanks again so much Dr T for all that you do. God bless.
Stage Four is important to envision and talk about. I hardly think of my XNP/BP anymore, excepting to acknowledge that she’s likely STILL
buried under her Momma’s SuperNPness, and to shake my head in disbelief that I ever got sucked into their web out of my unknowing.
CostCo Entitlement must be a thing with NPs. I busted my ex using my acct a couple years after we broke up. (CostCo asked me if
she still had permission.) She had never paid any dues and I verified that with CostCo customer service.
I just had to laugh…. she was STILL stuck, clinging to memories and unwilling to really let go. So BP.
I’m no longer unknowing. The Number 1 Thing I avoid is….. immodesty. In some way, NPs will nearly always express a kind of immodesty.
Kevin Flynn says
I would say that humility is a better delimiter. Immodesty is really more of a person’s comfort with various external boundaries.
A lack of humility (and especially accountability) is what I see germane to the NPD types.
Either way, there’s no sure thing with screening other than time and managing distance.
Time is the best protection because most won’t go through the trouble of waiting or pretending long enough to be worth it for them. They would view it as the love bombing is ill effective and go on to someone who they perceive as more susceptible.
Personally my struggle is not looking back or holding on. I have a cognitive awareness of her danger and consistency etc. I know logically that the person is dead wrong for me. I have however, no control over feelings that happen when I see her w/ her new man who apparently is 100% perfect etc.. because she’s willing to do things for him she never considered with me. Etc.. I assume those are the trappings of a gaslight.
I don’t want to seem conceited thinking she’s rubbing him and her new self in my face for my benefit (or misfortune) but it seems that way.
Who really knows.. Either way, there’s no going back for me for many reasons even if she was single.
It’s more about, I do not wish for her to have any effect on me. I don’t ever want to feel anything or be bothered by anything but I don’t seem to be able to have any influence on that.
I have zero contact and have have ZERO desire to pursue or be with her again or any of that. In that sense I am over her and the relationship. If anything I feel swindled and am somewhat vexed about the whole thing. Getting duped is not something I am cool with.
It’s more about feelings. That’s all. I want to be unphased regardless of chance encounters at the market or whatever…
I think NPs/BPs can feign modesty, or humility, when it may be socially expected (and they’ve learned it’s expected…).
Eventually tho… they’ll reveal a personal profile with a few toooo many selfies, or talk over others in conversation a little tooo consistently, or show a bit tooo much boob too often when out on the town, or drop stink-bombs into conversation tooo often just to throw others off, or dance toooo suggestively at your company party, or fail to ask meaningful questions about you for the too-many-th time, or talk up their recent accomplishments is a little tooo embellished manner, or hit you with a giant WTF revelation like they are handing you an ordinary piece of mail, or demonstrate toooooo much proclivity for sex, or dress a bit too smartly and wear too much cologne for the office, or reveal too little empathy, or, or, or….
These external boundaries are what we think of as…. social norms. NP/BPs deviate from social norms, in ways worth making note of.
Think about the future, Kevin. Think about the day when you’re in a relationship free of these maladies. Visualize, positively, what that will be like.
Hi first time writing here, I have 20 years of experience dealing with these types of women. About 6 weeks ago my live in partner of 3 years broke up with me horribly. She was moving out while I was going to be at work. I called out and didnt tell her, I came home and she was packing her stuff with her father. She was surprised I came home and didnt even say anything to me while she packed. She just looked at me with anger and disgust. She did it because I had placed an ultimatum on her, treat me better or move out. She had also threatened to leave me on several occasions and throughout the years had nasty fights spread apart by several months. The first demand was she was going to get a loan for an apt, but I would just pay her rent, my name wouldnt be on the title. When I told her that was unfair, she called me a blood sucker, that I wanted to keep her inheritance amd started crying. The last demand on her part was that we move from our 1 br apt and rent a 2 br apt to live with her brother. I like her brother but asked her about our privacy. She said is that all you think about. She had been withholding sex from me for a long time now and used to say I was sick for wanting to have sex more than several times a month. I agreed to move out but told her my name has to be on the lease also and we have to pick the apt out together, she laughed and said who do I think I am some kind of prince. I know I am extremely co dependent and didnt want to lose her despite all the times she abused me emotionally and at the end hit me a couple of times because of my arguing, I didnt hit her back. Her reason for moving out, not that she gave me any, is because I was fighting with her too much, basically not saying yes to everything she wanted even if it was unreasonable. I also found a message she wrote some guy last year where she told him she was moving out, breaking up with me and after she came back from our vacation they would meet up for drinks. Her excuse was that she thought I cheated, which I never did, I adored her. She also knew that by the way she was leaving it was going to cause me so much pain. It was her fathers idea to move in with her brother, and it was her fathers idea for moving out when I was at work. Every time her father came into our lives he would turn her against me and even told me I should drop out of college and work 80 hrs a week so she didnt have to work and I could buy an apt and a car. After she left I collapsed crying and sank into the deepest darkest deppresion ever. I took all the blame, felt guilty for not agreeing with her to move out, and desperately wanted her back. Felt guilty about all the times we argued, fought and for I texted her every day to silent treatment, and few responses where she said she was very hurt and that she didnt deserve the way I treated her. Its been close to 2 weeks since I texted her. I have to take responsibility and say that at the end before she left, I was arguing with her in a very emotional way and it was wrong because I was sinking to her level and losing control of my emotions. I have allowed myself to be abused emotionally and physically in the past and I developed an issue with controlling my anger whenever my partner starts hurting me in any way. This happened several times, throughout the years with her. I would start yelling, and act aggressive, and never beat her up, or hit her but I scared her with minor force and made her cry. I would stop and be in shock at myself, I would cry and be so disgusted with myself, I would apologize and it would plague me with remorse. This only happened when I would be abused emotionally or physically and it wasnt every time they did this to me. Usually after several times when I would calmly protest to the abuse and then after it continued I would get like that. I hated that about myself because I would say to myself, Im being abused, allowing it to happen, holding it in, and after time exploding at them after another abuse incident. So now Im acting abusive with them in retaliation. Yet I still stayed with them. Never have I ever acted this way with her or any of my exes without any provocation and many times, I would not react this way. I have dated other women, who never abused me in any way and they can never say I was violent or aggresive with them. I have always been very sweet, romantic, affectionate, and tried to please them in every way. If I was in a bad mood, I would just be quiet. Once again I will say there is no excuse to use force against a woman, you have to run away from them. I have several scars on my body and face because of them. But the worst scars I have are my emotional and psychological scars. I know I need a lot of help and this site has helped me. But its been 7 weeks of hell. I loved her more than any of my exes because she was the one who abused me physically and emotionally the least. But I see now she did the same damage if not worst, because she knew how much I loved, trusted her and used to tell her every day and she would tell me every day she loved me too. I had told her about my past and when we first started going out, told her not to get loud, or abusive in any way. There are many more details that are too long for this comment section. All I can say is that yes I feel some relief that she is gone, but I feel anger and sadness for throwing my life away. 20 years of several relationships from hell, have left me at the edge of insanity and even death. Its been 7 weeks now where I cry every day, and wish I would never wake up again. I might even have to withdraw from my college semester, due to the fact that this has been all I think about. I have lost 10 lbs; and struggle every day to eat and live. I go to work, go to school and come home but feel like a zombie. I am isolated from my family since they live in another state and country, and they call me or text me. But it isnt enough. I wish I could pack all my stuff and move far away. I remember when I had the illusion that things were finally getting better with her, I was in college about to graduate from a career that has been my childhood dream. I worked out and rode my bike over 12 to 20 miles a day every day. I had so much pride in myself because I had overcome 2 previous abusive relationships. Now I am hopeless and so mentally sick, I dont know what to do. After she left I would have done anything to get her back. But now I see how evil she was with me, what made it worst is that she wasnt like that every day and there were months when things were calm and happy and we were even talking about going to therapy. We never really followed up on it, I was willing to go but she didnt show interest, she went once by herself and didnt go back because the psychologist told her that she was extremely spoiled and her solution was finding a rich man to take care of her. This has hurt me incredibly, its sad to say, that I felt the happiest with her than any of my exes. I felt so alone and empty when she left. Like Dr Tara said its like a heroin addiction. I go from crying to not feeling anything at all. On my days off I stay home, sleep barely eat and try to reread all the articles on here. I wish I had my family near me, but feel ashamed, that they have to see a grown man reduced to this, If I were to live with my mother again. It hurts to know that they cant understand the pain I feel. People tell me just get over it, you are lucky she left, and deep down inside I think, yeah you are normal. I am completely broken and often say to myself, if only I had done everything she wanted, I would not be feeling this bad. Yeah I would of felt bad with her sometimes, but not like this. I feel completely brainwashed, like I lost my soul. All the things that used to make me happy dont anymore. Im tired of crying and tired of feeling like I want to die. Im tired of feeling like a victim, she used to tell me, stop playing the victim. Even told me I wasnt a real man in front of her friend because I couldnt pay the rent by myself and on another occasion called me a rat in front of my friend because I got her mad. I keep going back to the past and feeling so much guilt for allowing myself this to happen to me. Thanks for making this site and helping me.
This was a really good post. I have been going through so much emotion. I have recently been doing research on my live in boyfriend and realized that he is a Narcissist. Full BLOWN. I LOVE HIM. I can’t see my life without him. He’s my best friend and just his mere presence makes me happy. He is like my safety blanket and others say he’s my drug of choice. I don’t want to leave him. I can’t envision my life without him, BUT he hurts me emotionally. He puts me down and calls me names in our arguments. I simply have been telling him that I want his attention and that I want to feel important in his life. I feel that in a normal relationship, we would be able to tell each other what we do and throughout the day call to see how each other is doing. In my mind, in only takes a few minutes, if that, to say I Love you and hey Babe I was thinking about you. He makes himself out to be so important and that everything and everyone else is far more important than me. I expressed my feelings several times. It got to the point where he was now working 2 jobs and I would spend less and less time with him. He also starting hanging out with friends after the second job and even spend all night out supposedly going to the Casino. I couldn’t take it any more and I exploded. I felt hurt and we got into several arguments. Some lasted hours in the middle of the night or early morning. He lives with me, and doesn’t really pay bills. I pay for everything. He has helped out here and there but hasn’t put in his fare share. I have always found myself helping him out and he always makes me feel like I haven’t done anything for him. He spends his money on expensive and lavish things and doesn’t put money in for living expenses. Recently, after telling him that my home is not a hotel for him, we really got into it and he said so many hurtful things to me. He didn’t care that I cried. He gave me this look like thank God, now go to sleep. He doesn’t care about me. He then gave me the silent treatment for over a week and told me that this is what I wanted. In our arguments I would constantly tell him, what are you doing here? If you don’t love me then just leave. “Why don’t you just leave??? If you can’t love me the way I deserve to be loved then why are you with me? Just GO!” This happened a lot and this last time he said he finally had it and ever since then he’s been giving me the silent treatment, and of course still no attention. He even went to the extreme and didn’t come home for a whole day giving me the excuse that he was checking a place to move to. I said to him, “Why are you behaving like this? All that I have done for you and it is so easy for you to just leave?” It’s not like I was asking for so much. I just wanted to feel special and important to him, remember, to me he was my everything. I would work, clean the house, cook and give him all the power. Until I went online and researched what a Narcissist was and found out that the emotional imbalance I am going through is Narcissist Abuse. I’m having a hard time and feel like I’m not going to make it. I’m scared and think no one is going to love me anymore. I felt alone with him and feel even more alone without him. I keep giving myself excuses and faulting myself that perhaps I just should have kept quiet. I just want to thank the people who commented on here and those who write articles like this as it keeps me hopeful. I now know that I am not the only one who is going through this and that I should have faith and believe that I can move forward. It is hard and sometimes I feel like my heart is going to jump out of my chest. Pray for me. Thank you.