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So You're in a Relationship with a Narcissist. Now What?

Part 3 in a series on how to cope with the narcissist in your life.

As you learned in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, being in a relationship with a narcissist is emotionally draining and can cause you to question your sanity. You're feeling guilty about things that aren't your fault; you're told that you don't remember things the way they really happened; you have to follow "rules" that don't apply to the narcissist.

Things are just getting worse in your relationship. Promises aren't kept and the fights keep getting bigger. Let's say you've decided you can't handle the stress of being in a relationship with a narcissist anymore.

Now what? Here are recommendations from my book, Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People—and Break Free.

1. Be Aware of Hoovering

In Part 2, we talked about the concept of "hoovering." When the narcissist senses that you are leaving the relationship, they will try to suck you back in. This is done by voicemail, email, even messages from friends and relatives. The narcissist will promise you the world. They tell you things will be better this time. (Note that they never actually apologize to you.) This is a common pattern in abusive relationships: There's an abusive episode, then a reconciliation phase, then a buildup of tension, then another abusive episode. The cycle doesn't end. With a narcissist, the blowup gets worse each time you reconcile. And that blowup is coming.

2. Get Thee to Therapy

Start attending individual therapy — just you and the therapist. It is important that you have a neutral third-party with whom to talk. It's time for you to focus on what you want and need, not what the narcissist needs. You may not have even realized how much you have become focused on the narcissist's needs and ignored or squashed down your own. Counselors can help you start feeling like you again, and help you learn healthy boundaries.

3. Go No Contact

When you leave the narcissist, cut off any contact. (If you have children, consider working with a parent coordinator regarding custody.) Block their phone numbers. Block their texts. Block their email address. You need to do this for every way they can contact you. Don't pick up calls from unidentified numbers. If friends and family start telling you that they're relaying a message from the narcissist, stop them in their tracks and tell them that you aren't interested in hearing it. If they continue to push, walk away. Contact from the narcissist can lead to hoovering.

If you are concerned for your safety, leaving an abusive relationship is when you are most at risk. The ex can be volatile. Contact your local domestic violence shelter if you need to, and always call 911 if you are immediately in danger. Consider having an "emergency bag" packed with a change of clothes, medication, and toiletries. Keep it in your car trunk in case you need to get out of the house immediately.

4. They May Drop You Quickly

When the narcissist catches on that you may have been drained of your "narcissistic supply," they may drop you like a hot potato. Narcissists are always looking for their next "fix" of attention. The narcissist may inexplicably drop out of sight or leave you a blistering voicemail with a level of anger that is way over the top. This is when you go no contact. The narcissist will be back when they can't find a new narcissistic supply or that new narcissistic supply runs out. Narcissists are pros at keeping their options available and on the back burner. Avoid being hoovered back in. Also consider getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases, as narcissists often have an "overlap" of relationships (also known as cheating).

Copyright 2015 Sarkis Media.

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