The end of any relationship is painful but breaking up with a narcissist, especially an emotionally abusive narcissist, can be even more hurtful to process because of their self-centered behavior and deep insecurities. It’s never a pleasant experience to be in such a relationship. Their manipulative nature, lack of empathy, and codependency can leave you both physically and mentally exhausted.
This makes it important to leave a narcissist and free yourself from narcissistic abuse. However, pulling the plug on such a relationship is far more complicated, and a narcissist can make coping with the breakup that much harder.
To help you navigate this emotional roller coaster, trauma-informed counseling psychologist Anushtha Mishra (M.Sc. Counseling Psychology), who specializes in providing therapy for concerns such as trauma, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, grief, and loneliness among others, writes about the right approach to breaking up with a narcissist, along with tips on how to prepare yourself for future relationships.
What Is A Narcissist Personality?
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We usually tend to associate talking about oneself often or posting a lot of selfies on social media with narcissism. However, narcissism is far more complex. To understand it, let’s first differentiate between narcissistic traits and narcissistic personality disorder. We all have a few traits of different personality types, including narcissism, that represent our patterns of thinking but when they become rigid and maladaptive is when they can be labeled as a personality disorder.
Narcissism is a set of personality qualities that include thinking very highly of oneself, needing admiration, believing others are inferior, and lacking empathy for others. A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance.
People afflicted by this disorder are so self-centered that they usually tend to dismiss or fail to recognize others’ perspectives, needs, and problems. Some of the signs of a narcissistic partner in a relationship are:
- They were extremely charming in the beginning – almost too good to be true (manipulative tactics)
- They hijack the conversations to iterate how great they are
- They manipulate you, especially by gaslighting
- They live off of your compliments
- No empathy whatsoever toward you or anyone
- They don’t have any long-term friends
- They never apologize because they believe they’re right about everything
- They lash out or pick on you when you point out a mistake
7 Tips For Breaking Up With A Narcissist
For Maria (name changed), who was in a relationship for 3 years with a narcissistic partner, things were too good to be true at the start. She described it as having found “prince charming” or “man of my dreams”. She felt she had a really strong emotional bond with her partner. You can, however, predict what came next.
Her partner started getting easily hurt and angry, which drained her self-esteem. She started feeling lonely, confused and disconnected. She started thinking if all of their relationship problems were somehow her fault, caught in a perennial self-blame cycle. When she brought up her problem, her partner directly related it to something that happened to him; her story would fade into the background as he took over the narrative. He exhibited classic traits of pathological narcissism.
She knew, then, she had to run away from this narcissistic abuse for the sake of her mental health and she reached out to therapeutic space to explore the ways to do that. Below are a few tips that helped her that I would suggest to anyone who is planning on breaking up with a narcissist:
1. Write down reasons for why you are leaving
Breaking up with a narcissist? Take your experiences in this abusive relationship as a reference point for yourself. Individuals with personality disorders usually cope with the world in a very dysfunctional manner and also tend to distort their reality. This can usually make you question your reality. Believe in your reality and not the one they make up. That’s how to break up with a narcissist.
You may feel like you are ready to leave, but the very next moment, your partner may annihilate your resolve with their guilt-tripping and pleading. That’s when writing down the reasons ahead of time can come in handy. When you do this, give yourself examples so that you can see through their ulterior motives and ground yourself in your reality during the process of separation. Keep reading that list of reasons to yourself as a resource to remind yourself that you need to leave and maybe prepare for what to say when breaking up with a narcissist.
2. Leave as soon as you have your reasons ready
Don’t make the mistake that Maria made by postponing the breakup and staying in the relationship for as long as she did. There were multiple reasons that she didn’t leave. She wasn’t ready to break free and had formed a trauma bond with her partner. The feeling of codependency created a sense of doubt that she couldn’t survive without her partner.
It is important in this case that you leave quietly, without a confrontation. Plan ahead of how you’ll leave, seek support from your empathetic friends, save money, and step out as soon as you can. Hiding the fact that you might leave them is the best idea because confrontations with them can get out of hand.
Related Reading: Struggling To Get Over Someone? Here Are 13 Expert Tips
3. Remove them and all mutual connections from your social media
Now that you have decided and planned to leave your narcissistic partner, remove and block them and every mutual contact through which they can reach out to you for at least a few months if not permanently. No texts, no phone calls, or stalking them on social media.
This can be the hardest part of the breakup but a very necessary step to ensure your happiness and safety, and to let go of the possible guilt trip. When you walk away, a narcissistic partner will try everything in their power to win you back. They might tempt you to contact them, or get vindictive and spread rumors about you. They might even come over to your place, call you repeatedly, or even beg for forgiveness. But it is important you set firm boundaries, giving them no chance to manipulate you. This is how to end a relationship with a narcissist and move on from one-sided love.
4. Do not make excuses for your narcissistic partner
I understand, every one of us makes mistakes and nobody is perfect. But this notion is harmful when it comes to a relationship with a narcissist. The excuses you make for them would give them more power to get away with their inexcusable behavior.
You may be making excuses to justify their behaviors in part because of your trauma bonding or you might also just be scared of confronting the reality of narcissistic abuse, which is very natural. Make a conscious effort to steer clear of this tendency. Do not blame yourself for things that your partner, who is a toxic person, said that you did wrong. Evaluate yourself but also remember that this is an abusive relationship and with a narcissistic partner no less.
Related Reading: What Is An Enmeshed Relationship? Signs And How To Set Boundaries
5. Constantly remind yourself of why you left
A narcissist would always want to feel special or create the impression that you are special to allure you toward them. This tendency can make it hard for you to remember the reasons why you left and can shadow the pain of the dark times.
To be able to break free, remove the reminders of the relationship from your life and maybe list down the reasons why you left them. You may want to go back and read that list every time you feel you can go back to them because you can’t remember the hurt at the moment. Be mindful not to slip into thinking that things “weren’t as bad” as you feel. Start your breakup healing process.
6. Don’t fall for love bombing
Love bombing is the initial phase of narcissistic relationships where everything seems daisy and romantic. Most narcissists try to sweep you off your feet with sheer flattery in an attempt to blind you to the red flags in their personality. This phase of love bombing returns whenever you threaten to leave.
It is a very natural tendency to romanticize the good memories of the relationship but it can be harmful if you want to move on. Focus on how you had to walk on eggshells around your partner. These incidents will remind you of how bad it was and would keep you from getting manipulated by your narcissistic ex.
7. Get support from a mental health professional
A mental health professional can help you identify issues, even when unpleasant, in a supportive way. They can help with the denial and help you deal with the experiences of being criticized, ignored, exploited, and mistreated.
Speaking to a trusted, qualified, and licensed therapist will help you rebuild your reality and also explore what makes you vulnerable to falling for a narcissist so you can be mindful to avoid it in the future. At Bonobology, we offer professional help through our panel of licensed advisors who can help you embark on a path toward recovery.
What To Expect After Breaking Up With A Narcissist
Narcissists usually have a defense mechanism that keeps them from feeling intense emotional pain or guilt. So it’s important to acknowledge that you are not in a relationship with a fully developed person who has an authentic self.
What happens after breaking up with a narcissist depends on what type of narcissist you were dating and the state they are in during the breakup. Being in a relationship with someone who’s constantly criticizing, belittling, gaslighting, and not committing to you may feel emotionally exhausting. Therefore, it is important to expect the right things after the break up so that you can be prepared for it when you finally leave.
Related Reading: How To Leave A Toxic Relationship – Know From The Expert
1. They will move on easily – and they’ll make sure you know it
Most narcissists don’t need time to heal from a breakup and move on to future relationships. This happens because their initial feelings about the relationship were likely insincere and it was a fake relationship. It’s not unusual for a narcissist to have someone already waiting in the wings as a new source of support or have their own plan of leaving elaborately charted out.
What to expect after breaking up with a narcissist? Expect that they will poke you on social media by posting loved-up selfies. In actuality though, what they might be doing is simply love-bombing a new target of their narcissism. This is probably one of the signs a narcissist is done with you. This is what you need to expect while leaving a narcissist.
2. It will be hard to have a narcissistic ex
A central part of narcissism is rooted in enormous amounts of insecurity. They can go back and attack you if they cannot find a way to save their face after someone left them. They tend to lean toward dramatic emotions, they feel offended and then may end up taking all their rage out on you. This can be difficult especially if you’re an empath. Again, a way to avoid this is to not engage them and maintain strong boundaries.
3. Expect grief and embrace it
Grieving will be an important experience you’ll have to go through when breaking up with a narcissist. It’s paramount to embrace it when it comes. You will have a lot to grieve, the end of the relationship and the idea of the person you thought your partner was. They love-bombed you and these feelings are bound to be there as they are intense and strong. However, still, be glad that you ended things when you did. Go back to that list of reasons and remind yourself that this pain is temporary. Moving on from a toxic relationship isn’t easy.
4. A covert narcissist will poke you now and then
Breaking up with a covert narcissist can be tricky because they live in the shadows but indulge in their partner to feel important themselves. They will likely be infuriated that you left them feeling undervalued and might act helpless and reiterate that they gave you everything. They will poke you as the mean one who abandoned them selfishly. They may even threaten self-harm or suicide or do other things to undermine themselves when they feel abandoned.
Related Reading: 8 Signs Of Covert Narcissist Hoovering And How You Should Respond
5. They can turn verbally abusive toward you
American Psychological Association states that feelings of superiority and entitlement can lead narcissistic people to attack others aggressively. People high in narcissism are especially likely to act aggressively when they are provoked, insulted, humiliated, shamed, criticized, or threatened by others and a breakup is considered a huge provocation. If your narcissistic ex turns violent, reach out to your local helpline or call 911. Even when you see all the signs a narcissist is done with you, they can still come after you. Stay in a safe space.
Few Tips To Cope With The Breakup
Any breakup is hard but breaking up with a narcissist can be twice as difficult. This is because your whole idea of the relationship and your ex-partner has been shattered. However, once you understand how to break up with a narcissistic male or female, healing is possible. Here is the best advice I can give you on how to cope with leaving a narcissist to aid your healing process:
- Don’t hold back your tears and let yourself express how you are feeling
- Believe in yourself and do things that make you feel better. You are the only person who matters here
- Constantly remind yourself you deserve better
- Try not to obsess over them – the breakup happened for the best
- Even when it’s tempting, do not open any communication channel with them
- Prioritize self-care and take care of your emotional needs
- Rely on your support system and reach out to a licensed therapist if it gets overwhelming
- Narcissism is a personality trait that includes thinking very highly of oneself, needing admiration, believing others are inferior, and lacking empathy for others
- Some tips on how to go ahead with breaking up with a narcissist are to write down your reasons, leave as soon as you can, block them, don’t fall for manipulation, and lean on your support system
- Be prepared that the breakup can lead to your narcissistic partner behaving violently
- There are ways to heal after the breakup and know that this is temporary and it will pass
I hope this brings some clarity on who is a narcissistic person, and if you find yourself dating one, this advice can help you figure out how to break up with a narcissist and cope with it.
To summarize it all, I’ll quote Bree Bonchay, an author who puts it quite accurately, “Relationship with a narcissist in a nutshell: You will go from being the perfect love of their life to nothing you do is ever good enough. You will give everything and they will take it all and give you less and less in return. You will end up depleted, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably financially, and then get blamed for it.”
Breaking up with a narcissist? Expect them to become defensive, passive-aggressive, violent even, and more controlling. Your narcissistic partner might fail to comprehend your needs and values. They are so focused on their egos that they do not account for how their actions affect others, including you. They are so self-centered they might start to manipulate you by love bombing and gaslighting you, which will drain your self-esteem.
Narcissism is rooted in deep insecurities but their defense mechanism is dealing with it by expressing their grandiose self to others and projecting themselves as perfect. They don’t usually tend to feel deep emotions like pain and guilt because then their human imperfect self will be exposed. They can be capable of feeling guilt through therapy but without it, they don’t feel guilt as much. Even when a narcissist breaks up with you, they don’t usually feel any emotions as they have stunted themselves from experiencing them.