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Moving On and Moving Up from a Narcissist

Healing and thriving after abuse is a slow but realistic process.

Key points

  • Narcissists are often intent on controlling their victims and erasing the person they once were, which renders them dependent on the narcissist.
  • Boundaries and limited contact can protect victims while they grow and heal from narcissistic abuse.
  • Narcissists are generally unable to feel remorse, nor do they have the ability to apologize or make amends.

Healing from a narcissist is a complicated process. It is a journey unlike any other that may cause you to question your sanity, your morals, and your beliefs. Narcissistic relationships are characterized by the constant whiplash of emotions and push/pull dynamics of control. This type of lifestyle can wreak havoc on psychological health and stability, which in turn makes a victim easier for the narcissist to control.

Unfortunately, this also gives the narcissist power to not only rewrite the narrative but also star as both the hero and the villain of the story. A narcissist’s victim is going to be too tired to keep up with maintaining the relationship and the happiness of the narcissist to worry about countering the stories being told. This opens the door for the narcissist to ruin their partner’s reputation and defame their character. Soon, you may find yourself isolated from friends and family, questioning your own recollection of events, and getting tied closer and closer to the narcissist.

It is possible to break free from a narcissist, although it won’t be easy and will take strong boundaries and consistency.

Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are necessary for establishing distance between you and the narcissist and creating a demand for respect. The boundaries are not built to keep people out, but rather to protect you from abuse. You have a right to say to the narcissist, “You cannot treat me like this” or “I do not have to listen to your abuse.” Boundaries can also be physical by using the blocking option on your phone, social media, and email accounts. Rules are another important aspect of boundaries which narcissists hate. Narcissists truly believe that they should be allowed to say or do whatever crosses their minds, regardless of the consequences for other people. They believe they are correct and truthful and that their narrative is gospel. Boundaries and rules stop the narcissist from controlling, or attempting to control, their victim.

Boundaries also encourage personal growth in the victim by reminding them that they are worthy of respect and kind treatment. By intentionally practicing self-care, you will realize the boundaries have protected you. One former victim recalls their ex-husband wanted to complete the divorce and then get back together. "He was leaving me destitute with no child support, demanding the house be sold, and wanting half ownership of my car and belongings, but then telling me he just wanted to 'close the chapter' with the divorce and restart our relationship after. He harassed every man I dated after we broke up and then said it was out of love and he missed me. Why would I put myself and the kids through a divorce to get back together? My ex ruined me financially and emotionally with the divorce, but looking back I realize it was to prepare me to go crawling back to him. He thought that by dragging me into the dirt, breaking me financially and taking everything away from me, I would have to go back to him. Mu boundaries and self-respect saved me from the continued abuse."

Anete Lusina/Pexels
Source: Anete Lusina/Pexels

Deciding on No Contact

No contact is a complete limit on the type of conversation allowed. If possible, it is best to block a narcissist completely. Unfortunately, this is sometimes impossible if you share children together or are going through other legal matters. But you can still place strict limits on the type of conversation or contact allowed—for example, only allowing contact in case of emergencies with the children or limiting interactions to a parenting app.

Narcissists often hate no contact and limited interaction and they may try anything to get a reaction out of their victim. The best thing you can do is to ignore them. They may alternate between insults and accusations to suddenly sending screenshots of old photos of you two or forgotten love notes. All you can do is ignore them and, if necessary, seek an order of protection from the legal system.

Don’t Expect Apologies

A narcissist will never apologize for their behavior, nor will they change. The person they present to you — the rage, the anger, the lashing out with insults and accusations and attacks when they don’t get what they want — is who they are. The calmness and peace and affection of the good moments only exists when they are served and catered to. It takes two people to make a relationship happy and functional, with both parties giving and receiving. One person constantly coddling the other or showering them with gifts and attention to maintain the peace is not a healthy relationship — it is servitude.

A victim will never receive an apology from their narcissist. Likewise, a narcissist will never believe they need to change or make amends for their behavior. Instead, they will project all the blame and fault onto their victim. The best thing a victim can do is practice self-forgiveness and self-care to move on and heal.

Getting Outside Help

A good therapist or life coach is an important part of your healing plan. A properly trained counselor can encourage you to grow, change for the better, and improve your thinking. Beware counselors who support your desires to stay stagnant or don't challenge your negative thinking.

Source: Cottonbro/Pexels

Find and Embrace Gratefulness

Life is scary and complicated and messy, but it is also beautiful and funny and full of surprises. Whether you lost six months or 15 years to a narcissist’s control, you have to remember you are now free of that and life is — once again — full of opportunities. In your bad moments, focus on your breathing for several minutes and identify five people or pets that you love and love you in return. When faced with a challenge or a fork in the road, choose the path that will lead you to growth and the bigger picture. If one option means you stay small and quiet and unappreciated, turn away. Embrace the fear of the unknown, turn your back on the abuse, and see where the new path takes you.