If you still believe you love your narcissistic, borderline or psychopathic ex, practicing and maintaining No Contact can be very difficult initially. Excruciatingly, painfully difficult. Many of my clients compare it to withdrawing from a drug. Neuro-chemically speaking, there are similarities.
You’re hurting, and you want the pain to stop. To ease the pain you engage in wishful thinking. You believe that maybe, just maybe, things will be different if you try again. If you “love harder” (sorry, I just threw up a little in my mouth). So you call, email, text or stage an “accidental” run in.
You probably feel a sense of elation and exhilaration at the first contact. Like standing in front of a warm fire after feeling all alone in despair and desolation. There she or he is [cue harp strings sound effect]. Maybe it’ll be different this time.
Within a matter of weeks, days, hours, minutes or seconds the Lizard Queen or Lizard King once again removes their human suit and the bullying, tantrums, lying and general craziness begin anew. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But you feel special and amazing again, if only for a short while. It’s confusing. It feels like exquisite relief, until the abuse starts. The gaslighting, the projection, the blame shifting, the lying, the false accusations, the no-win situations or double binds, the self-absorption — the usual. Nothing has changed.
And nothing will change until you realize that the pain of being with this person is greater than the pain of ending the relationship with them. But know this, if you stay in the relationship the pain will be endless. If you walk away, it will likely hurt worse than anything you’ve heretofore experienced, but it will eventually pass.
Continued contact with a narcissist, borderline or psychopath is the poison. No Contact is the antidote.
If this describes you, No Contact will hurt for several weeks or maybe months, but you have to go through the pain in order to move past it and heal it. If these issues go back to your childhood, the longing and pain isn’t just about your current trainwreck ex, it’s the longing and wish for the love, acceptance and adoration you didn’t receive as a child. I call it archeological grief work because there are layers of grief.
If this doesn’t apply to you and you’re having difficulty practicing No Contact, perhaps it’s the childish insistence that life and people are supposed to be fair. That if you’re a good person and do everything right, your abuser will realize it and treat you better.
This simply will not happen.
Your abuser isn’t going to make things better. There won’t be any epiphanies or leaf turning. Riding out the pain of separation and whatever the core issues are will help you to feel better. No Contact gives you the time and distance to come out of the FOG — the feelings of fear, obligation and guilt engendered by abusers — to see and think more clearly. To see that not only can you live without Ms. or Mr. Crazypants, but that you will do much, much better without them.
If you’re living in a house with a gas leak, it will eventually make you sick. Naturally, you feel better when you leave the house to go to work or to do errands. Each time you return to the house, you inhale more toxic fumes that make you feel nauseated, dizzy and confused all over again. Being in a relationship with Crazy has the same effect. You won’t be able to think clearly and feel better until you get away from the toxic gasbag. Permanently.
Perhaps No Contact is difficult not because you still believe your sociopathic ex is your one true “soul mate,” but because you find it difficult to resist The Bait™. What is The Bait™?
The Bait™ are the provocative and ridiculous emails, texts and voicemails designed to push your buttons. You think you’re setting the record straight when you break No Contact to JADE (justify, argue, defend and explain), but you’re not. What you’re really doing is taking The Bait™, which is exactly what your nasty/pitiful/crazy ex wants you to do. She or he wants your attention. Positive or negative — it doesn’t matter.
And really, when have you ever been able to reason with your crazy girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse or ex? To get them to be rational and concede your point in any lasting, meaningful way? Do you really think that’s going to happen now? The only thing crazier than Crazy is arguing with Crazy.
I get it. I know how hard it can be to resist the compulsion to have the last word in the face of the kind of extraordinary bullshit spewed by narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths and other garden variety bullies and UFCs (Unidentified Flying Crazies), especially when they routinely egregiously lie, twist and distort. You can have the last word. It is your silence.
Your silence is how you win. Not by making Crazy lose whatever is left of her or his mind, although, that will likely happen until she or he moves onto their next target. But because you are stepping out of that toxic dynamic and pattern. You will get your peace of mind back and see how silly it was to ever argue with that type of person in the first place. Go No Contact. It might take some time, but eventually you’ll probably want to kick yourself for not doing it sooner.
Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women who trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.
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Great article, as usual Dr. T! I found your site a few years ago when I was dealing with never-ending, off and on relationship with my Crazy. I voraciously read all of your articles. Your input, along with help from my therapist, gave me the strength to finally go no contact after 3 years of insanity with Crazy.
After going no contact, she did all of the things that you predicted. Texts, e-mails and showing up in places where she would run into me. She would randomly contact me if she needed help or some sort of information she could allegedly not get on her own. Looking back on it, she was always condescending and demeaning in those contacts, just as she had been throughout the relationship. After 6 months of no contact, she e-mailed demanding that I return her beach chairs (*2 crappy Walmart chairs that were several years old and were $20 at the time of purchase) as she needed them for Memorial Day weekend. Of note, I had bought just about everything for us during the relationship, and these chairs were the only items of hers left at my home.
I spoke to some friends about it and decided to ignore her as the chairs were worthless and I felt she was just using this as a way to reopen contact. About two days later, she had a male friend approach and physically threaten me at the gym for her chairs. When I explained things to him and showed him photos of the chairs, he said, “well there’s two sides to a story.” Later that day, I drove to her home and placed the chairs on her lawn to avoid further problems – I e-mailed her telling her that her chair were returned – I said nothing else in the e-mail. The following day, she sent me an e-mail about how immature and petty I am, and that it was sad that I had to behave this way. That night, she showed up at the gym, stormed over to me and grabbed my arm. When I tried to walk away from her, she followed me to the water fountain and ripped my ear buds out and screamed at me in front of a packed gym. I feel that if I had reacted the same way, the police would have been called. At the urging of friends, I made a written report about her behavior to the gym and management spoke to her. It was only after this event, and me leaving that gym, that she stopped contacting me.
When I was in the fog of our relationship, I could not see clearly. It was only after months of no contact that I began to feel like myself again, and was able to see her behavior for what it was. Emotionally abusive, purposeful and completely toxic to me. I cannot thank you enough for all of your articles. It caused me to examine my own family of origin issues (*a verbally abusive older brother who would berate me at home and in public for not playing up to par in sports…he was also physically violent at times) and to make that connection with my relationships. It’s funny, because I would always tell crazy how much she reminded me of my brother! Today, I have been in a healthy relationship with a caring and supportive woman. As you have written, it’s taken time to get used to dating a healthy person – I found it boring at first – but as time goes on, I have learned to really enjoy the care and support that I get from her. And it’s nice to be able to talk to her openly and not have to watch every word I say for fear of triggering a catastrophic BPD reaction! Thanks again, Dr. T! You have helped me tremendously.
Kenneth Macauley says
Have I had enough? The hard part seems to be drawing the line in the sand, but I feel it approaching. I have been verbally, mentally, emotionally and physically abused for far too long . I have hoped for too long that this was just a phase and things will start to get better. Last night, after another physical attack I walked and staid at a hotel for fear of having the police called or just more attacks. I will go back tonight and have to listen to nonstop berating until she lays her head down.
I have recently started to confide in friends and they are all telling me to run. As I write this I cant understand why it is not easy to make that choice.
Of course outwardly she appears to everyone to be the perfect saint, but I get the flipside and my kids (16 and 14) get to witness. Im starting to make plans to exit secretly, but I still have hope. (silly me) My plan is to just move out, seperate all shared financial accounts (but of course I will still end up paying all the bills), in the hopes that she will come around. Is this sound reasoning or do I need to really pull the trigger? Do I have to go full steam ahead and walk and file, in one fell swoop.
Firstly thank you for this site …It’s a amazing and brilliant service.
i am in “no contact” phase at the moment going through divorce proceedings and i am ok majority of the time and but then the guilt comes in.
My partner is going to community leaders trying to pursuade me to give her one last chance as she has seen her ways and may see a good change as she knows it’s come to an end. I am a naieve guy and i respect my elders and community leaders and causes me grief and anxiety thinking of what to do.
Do i or don’t i.
This is emotionally draining.
Thank you so much for this article, Tara. I am sometimes tempted to speak to my STBX, but I have to remind myself that she is too good at manipulating me.