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How to Recover After Leaving a Narcissistic Relationship

Updated on May 16, 2012
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© 2012 Katina Davenport

The word narcissism stems from the mythological Greek entity, Narcissus. He was said to be very young and handsome; forever to be in love with his own reflection after he rejected the advances of the nympho, Echo. The term is used today to describe individuals that exhibit behaviors such as:

  • Extreme self-love or self-centeredness
  • Problems sustaining relationships
  • Difficulty with relating to the problems of others
  • Oversensitivity to insults or imagined insults
  • Shows no remorse
  • Extreme exaggeration of one’s ability
  • Willing to use other people without considering their feelings
  • Difficulty with the word “no”
  • Believes nothing is wrong with them, everyone else is wrong
  • Failure to accept responsibility for one’s action
  • Pathological lying


Those with narcissism are undiagnosed; partly due to their unwillingness to seek professional help because they believe nothing is wrong with them. Nonetheless, their symptoms are still very much noticeable. Some may have a very grandiose sense of self-worth, while extremely sensitive. They will overcompensate for their sensitivity by belittling others.

Many are intolerant to other’s sensitivity, making it easy for them to be controlling and manipulative. Those that exhibit these traits are extremely hard to deal with in relationships. Anyone that enters into intimate relationships with narcissists should expect to never have their needs met, to always serve them, and to avoid criticizing the narcissistic partner. These individuals tend to act out in rage and abuse when they feel shamed or criticized.


What Causes Narcissism

Researchers have found factors indicating possibilities for the cause of this disorder; however, the cause still remains unknown. Here are some factors:

  • Some researchers have found children to be born with the disorder siting oversensitivity from birth
  • Receiving an imbalance of praise and not enough criticism
  • Parents that overindulge their children could produce a narcissistic adult child
  • Children that have been severely emotionally abused
  • Unpredictable care from parents or care givers

Regardless of the cause, I will agree that being involved with a narcissistic person is emotionally dangerous and can be physically damaging. Women that find themselves dating or married to one will testify that is a miserable existence. Majority of the relationship is spent trying to make the other one happy to avoid confrontation or violence.



How they Gain their Victims

Narcissists are often great talkers. They deem themselves to be experts on everything and everyone. They have a keen ability to make themselves seem like victims; in my case my ex-husband appeared to be a victim of bad relationships. Narcissists often display the same tendencies as con artists. They have the same ability to manipulate, find your weak points, and capitalize on your weakness. Unsuspecting women usually fall for the manipulation because they see themselves as rescuers.


Breaking up with a Narcissist

There is a line in a song that says “breaking up is hard to do.” I have found that line to be true as I tried to leave my ex-husband several times. Each time I tried, he would convince me that I was the cause of the problems in the relationship in order to get me to stay. Since narcissists like to be in relationships with those that can inflate their egos, getting the other one to stay becomes their main objective.

The best way to break up with a narcissist is firm rejection. Ignoring them will no longer make them the “star” of the relationship to allow them to stay in the limelight.


I experienced mixed emotions of relief and guilt after I left my ex-husband. I didn’t feel guilty about leaving him, but about being in the relationship. I asked myself, “How did I get into this?” I must have asked myself that question a thousand times.

Recovering from a normal break-up is a lot different than the recovery I experienced. I required counseling to heal from the mental impact of emotional and psychological abuse. I was not social for a year, not even with my family due to the trauma of psychological abuse. I didn’t go anywhere or speak to anyone outside of my home. I prayed a lot; and allowed myself to grieve for the loss of the relationship. Writing was my therapeutic outlet to release my feelings. With professional help, I established personal boundaries for myself that no one would ever be able to cross.


I often reflect on my decision to marry my ex-husband against my own intuition and advice from my mother. Recovering from a narcissistic relationship can be difficult without professional help. Professional help will allow you to deal with your wounded emotions to help you move forward, set boundaries, and help you to avoid these types of relationships.


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    • profile image

      Lee 2 years ago

      I appreciate your kind and geeonurs advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

    • profile image

      mikeydcarroll67 5 years ago

      Yep no problem. Thanks for writing it. I needed to read it today (although not sure as to why yet).

    • davenstan profile image
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      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Hi mikeydcarroll67. It is interesting how women can have the same personality disorder. I have to look into it more as it found in women also. Most narcissistic people never change. Thanks for reading.

    • davenstan profile image
      Author

      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Thank you so much Denise! I hope to have a large following. Thank you for reading.

    • profile image

      mikeydcarroll67 5 years ago

      Yep I see this in my mother and a little in myself. But I don't see my mother changing any time soon.....

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Katina-I understand what you mean to think that this is your cause. It very well could be. Keep up the beautiful writing and I'm sure you will have a large following here, as well as in other areas of the internet.

    • davenstan profile image
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      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Yes Audrey! It certainly sounds like you were dealing with a narcissist.

    • AudreyCB profile image

      AudreyCB 5 years ago from Colorado Springs

      I believe the first man I ever dated was the type you describe. I tried breaking up with him twice in a week's period. We dated for a year and at the end of that year, when I expressed interest in the Marine Corps Band, I received a slew of insults and attacks and attempts to keep me from joining.

      Unfortunately, it didn't end there. I broke up before leaving to boot camp. We wrote letters and I thought he changed. We got together within two months after I graduated boot camp.

      When I finally decided to let him go, it was about three months later. I didn't care if he didn't understand why. I owed him no explanation. I just had to do it and get off the phone.

      I promised myself I would not call him or answer his calls, no matter what.

      It was very hard for me to do; but it was necessary for me, like it was necessary for you.

    • davenstan profile image
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      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Sometimes I feel as if this is my fight, to help other young women stay away from guys like this, or leave a narcissistic relationship. We all deserve the best in life and in love.

      Thanks for reading Denise.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Bravo to you, Davenstan, for having the courage AND the strength to not give up leaving the narcissistic relationship with your ex. Not an easy feat. It is a damaging situation to one's self esteem and leaves one confused and 'in a fog' during the relationship.

      Very useful and well written. Voted it up and U/I

    • davenstan profile image
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      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Thank you for reading Al. Continue to stay strong.

    • profile image

      Al 5 years ago

      Thank you. I just left a relationship of this kind, it took me 1½ years, friends warnings, etc to actually realize the structures of our reationships. Im trying to learn from others mistake and read up a lot on the internet to keep my boundaries, and to keep my streangth not to contact him. This article has really hepled me.

    • davenstan profile image
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      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Thank you Briana! I am glad you found this useful.

    • Brinafr3sh profile image

      Brinafr3sh 5 years ago from West Coast, United States

      Great article, I needed to read this, it helps a lot. This is also "Pin it" worthy. Thanks you.

    • davenstan profile image
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      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      That's the plan. I hope this hub helps a lot of people. I understand the fear and the guilt. I am so happy that the anxiety decreases with every passing moment. Thanks for reading.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 5 years ago from Minnesota

      I really appreciate you opening up about your relationship with a narcissist. My sister who also writes here, was with a narcissist for thirteen years. She knows that without therapy, she may have stayed because of fear and guilt. It is a hellish existence and it broke my heart to see her living this way. They have children together so she will always have to deal with him, but at least she is not living day in and day out in this energy. Your wrote this very well and very clear. I know you will help many with this hub.

    • davenstan profile image
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      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Thank you! I couldn't imagine having a narcissistic mother. It is better to avoid anyone of this personality to keep your own sanity. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Green Art profile image

      Green Art 5 years ago

      The narcissist in my life is my own mother. I rarely see her because of the cruel things she still says and does.

      I am so happy for you that you were able to leave such a destructive relationship. The less you are around negative people like that the better you will feel about yourself and get on with living a better life.

      Take care. Voted UP!

    • davenstan profile image
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      Katina Davenport 5 years ago

      Thanks Lipnancy! I certainly hope this hub helps someone. This is a personal story that is not finished as I am still recovering. It helps that I have someone to talk to about my feelings of fear or anger. I feel these emotions less now that I have help.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      You taught me something new today. I am sure that you will help many people with this hub.