How to Leave a Narcissist For Good

How to get out with your sanity intact.

Posted Jun 16, 2016

Javi/"Freedom"/Flickr Creative Commons License
Source: Javi/"Freedom"/Flickr Creative Commons License

You've decided you just can't live with the suffering and mental torment of being in a relationship with a narcissist.  Leaving a narcissist is one of the toughest things you'll ever do.  In my book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People - and Break Free, I have entire chapters devoted to people who find themselves in a relationship with a narcissist or gaslighter. Here's how to get out with your sanity intact. 

1.  Go no-contact.  And I mean absolutely no-contact. 

Block their cell number.  Block their home number.  Set up rules on your email so that any email from the narcissist goes in your junk folder.  The narcissist will try to contact you.  You have cut off their narcissistic supply, and they have a knee-jerk reaction to get it back. 

Note:  If you have children with a narcissist, it is recommended that you immediately work out a "parenting plan" with a qualified therapist.  A parenting plan is a legal document that details solid boundaries about time-sharing, financial responsibilities, and even the method of contact required (text, email, phone) for both parties.  

2.  Just go.  No lingering goodbyes. 

While I usually don't advocate for breaking up with someone over text, this may be your best option with a narcissist.  Let them know that you are done with the relationship, and wish them the best.  That's it.  Now block their phone number.  Any other attempt at contact may result in you being "hoovered" back into the relationship. Narcissists are masters at hovering.  They tell you exactly what you need to hear, and once you are back in the relationship, things are back to the way they were—except maybe worse.

If you left something at the narcissist's house, unless it has great sentimental value to you, let it go.  Just consider it a very small price to pay for getting out.  

3. Consider blocking friends-in-common.

If you have friends that are prone to tell you why you made a mistake leaving the narcissist or updating you on the narcissist's life, tell them you no longer want to talk about the narcissist.  If they continue talking about the narcissist, block them.  Your mental well-being depends on getting as far away from the narcissist as possible—and that includes not hearing updates or having someone persuade you to return.  Narcissists tend to send a mutual friend to try to get you to come back to the relationship.  Remember, these "friends" don't know the narcissist like you do.  

4.  Write down why you left.

You may be prone to remembering just the good times in your relationship.  It's also important to remember the times in your relationship with the narcissist that caused your self-esteem to drop; caused you to constantly question your sanity; made you take a ride on the guilt-trip express; and/or become cut off from your family.  Write these times down. Especially remember when you were lied to by the narcissist. You knew you were being lied to, yet the narcissist told you that you were just remembering things incorrectly.  

5.  Assume the narcissist will move on quickly.

Narcissists do not take time to heal from a breakup—they need to find another source of narcissistic supply right away.  You may have even discovered they had an exit strategy already planned, or had someone waiting in the wings.  This is not personal—it is the only way the narcissist knows how to conduct relationships.  

6.  Give yourself time to grieve.

You are not only grieving the end of a relationship - you are grieving the person you thought your partner was.  Once the narcissist's facade falls, you see the real person—and it can be quite a shock.  The narcissist "love-bombed" you when you first met them—they swept you off your feet and pursued you like none other.  You didn't see the real person until later into the relationship—and by that time you had already formed an emotional bond.  Remember, if you had stayed with the narcissist longer, you would have had more of an emotional deterioration.  Be glad you got out when you did.  

7.  Keep Yourself Busy.

While it is important to let yourself feel the emotions of loss over your breakup, it is also important to keep yourself occupied.  Write an "emotional first aid" list of things to do when you need a distraction.  Exercise, take up a new hobby, learn more about your interests.  Learn and grow.  While you were in a relationship with a narcissist, your needs were pushed aside.  Now it's time to focus on what makes you happy.  Find a group with similar interests—there are several websites for finding social meet-up groups.  

Enjoy your freedom.  What you are going through right now is temporary and worth your sanity.  

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