Getting closure after having been in a codependent relationship with a narcissist is really hard to achieve for several different reasons. First of all, because his behavior has been so ambiguous, damaging and inconsistent, we are unable to make sense of it. However, we feel that in order to be able to get closure, we need to figure out why he treated us the way he did. Only if we find the rationale behind his conduct, will we finally find the capacity to let him go and move on – at least that is what we assume. As we are unable to find the answers to the questions that are still holding us back, and that still keep our minds focused on the narcissist, we cannot move on. Throughout the relationship the narcissist has been unable to provide us with satisfying explanations for his damaging way of treating us. Consequently, we still try to find the answers we are looking for ourselves – a very futile endeavor! Long after the relationship has ended we still rack our brains with agonizing thoughts and blame our own inadequacy for its failure. Even when our most trusted friends or our family members tell us that we are not to blame, but have simply been involved with an unavailable exploiter of our affection, we refuse to fully believe them and are still convinced that we are undeserving of love and affection.
Another reason why getting closure after narcissistic abuse is so difficult is that they often left us completely confused, shattered and on the brink of a nervous and emotional breakdown. Because they have been manipulating us for a long time, have treated us with disregard, neglect and distance, and nearly drove us insane with their mind games, ambiguity and inconsistency, we feel completely drained of energy after the end of the relationship. In our fragile state we are unable to assess what has happened to us with a clear and calm mind. Instead, in our confusion and exhaustion, we tend to downplay the damage they have done to us, idealize the “wonderful time” that we had with them, and nearly lose our minds longing for them. It takes a very long time to gain the ease of mind to finally be able to rationally assess the role that both we and the narcissists played in the relationship.
A third reason why getting closure is enormously hard to achieve is that they often abandon us very suddenly without offering a satisfying explanation for their conduct. After we have been struggling for months to keep the relationship alive, sacrificing everthing we had – including our own emotional well-being – we are shocked and paralysed when they just leave without even having a comforting word to offer to us. Their sudden withdrawal and abandonment of us is the final proof of their cold indifference, and we are utterly devastated – feeling discarded, disrespected and lonely. The damage done to us by their sudden disappearance and apparent carelessness will keep our minds busy for weeks – and even months – to come, as we try to find the answer to the question of why we deserved to be treated so disrespectfully. After all, haven’t we endured their unavailability, ambiguity and deceit for months? And this is how they repay us and how they reward our patience and endurance? We just can’t deal with the pain coming from the realization that while we were prepared to give and love to the point of self-sacrifice, they don’t have a problem with abandoning us. We often don’t even get a proper goodbye or an apology (or explanation) for their unavailability and the endless pain they inflicted on us.
This is exactly what happened to me, and even though I have already come a long way on my journey to recovery, I still find myself struggling because of the careless way in which he abandoned me. It came so suddenly that it brought me to the brink of a complete breakdown. He had made plans to spend two days at my place with me and my family. However, just a few hours before he was supposed to arrive, he told me he couldn’t leave because his exgirlfriend was hysteric and freaking out due to the fact that he intended to spend time with me. He apologized and told me he would visit me the following weekend to make up for it, and that he would tell his exgirlfriend that he would be visiting his sister in Berlin (in order to avoid further confrontations). However, when the weekend finally arrived, he decided to actually go and visit his sister and cancelled his plans to come to my place again. He assured me he would really make up for it and visit me once he got back from Berlin. He promised that he finally wanted things between us to be relaxed, fun and easy-going, and that he valued and respected me, and genuinely cared about me and my feelings. However, once he got back from Berlin, he told me – without offering an explanation for it! – that he had decided to leave Germany for good and fly back to the U.S.
I can’t find the words to describe the pain I felt at that moment. I allowed him to cancel on me three times in a row. However, I still clung to the hope that he would finally follow through with his promise to come back for a visit to me and my family. Being so suddenly confronted with the fact that he intended to leave was completely paralysing and sucking the life out of me. He told me he wanted to keep an open mind about the future and that he would maybe be able to offer me a place to stay in the U.S. I communicated the wish to see him before he left in order to say goodbye. However, I would never hear from him or see him again. He just ignored my last message and left three weeks later without uttering one word of goodbye – without offering an apology for all the pain, disappointment and heartbreak he caused me.
His cold indifference and disgraceful abandonment of me completely ripped my heart apart. I spent weeks racking my brain, trying to find an answer or explanation for his wordless, sudden departure. Because of his disrespect and inconsideration, I was completely convinced that I was undeserving of affection. After a few weeks I was so hurt by his silence that I wrote him one final email, pointing out to him how disappointing, cowardly and disrespectful it had been of him to just leave without saying goodbye. I am not proud of writing that email, but considering how hurt, angry and despaired I was, it doesn’t come as a surprise that I couldn’t resist the urge to tell him. Of course it was a futile endeavor, because a narcissist will never give you the answers that you are looking for. He replied that it was wrong of me to accuse him, that I had hurt his feelings with my email, and that I was disgraceful for having forwarded his emails to others – something I had never done, and had never even considered for a moment. So as I could have expected beforehand: He didn’t provide me with explanations, he didn’t offer an apology – but instead, he accused me of things I hadn’t even done.
I had the final proof that a narcissist will never help you to finally get closure and move on. They cannot provide us with answers and explanations. All they ever do is deny their own responsibility, shifting blame to others, and feed us with lies and excuses. I held on for too long to the idea that I would get an explanation – maybe even an apology – from the narcissist I dated. However, even my final act of trying to get these things from him didn’t yield any satisfactory results – in fact I had to deal with the additional pain of being called disgraceful for something I hadn’t even done in the first place.
Consequently, you have to be the one providing closure and peace of mind to yourself. The narcissist will never help you get closure, as he is unwilling and unable to offer explanations for his behavior, or to provide you with an apology for turning you into an emotional wreck. It took me a long time to realize that it was the wrong strategy to hope to get closure by turning to the narcissist for an explanation or an apology. After receiving that final email I was completely assured that only I had the power to make me regain my strength and emotional well-being. As I was so completely shaken and despaired because of his cold indifference and my complicity in my own emotinal abuse, I decided to read a lot on the topics of codependency and narcissism. Finally being able to put a label on what had happened to me was the most important step on my way to recovery. While I was still in a relationship with him, the thought that he might be a narcissist never occurred to me. However, I was immediately willing to attach the label “codependent” to me after the breakup. Reading a lot on codependency, I learned that we often attract narcissistic men who regard us as perfect target group for their manipulations and ambiguity. Because I could finally assess the nature of my relationship rationally, I had completed an important step to getting closure.
Getting over a codependent relationship with a narcissist can be extremely difficult. As a result of all the ambiguity, disappointments, deceit, and manipulation, we are often completely confused and paralysed at the end of the relationship. We are desperately looking for answers, and in our despair, we think that the only one who can provide us with them is the narcissist. However, just as was the case during the relationship, the narcissist is unable and unwilling to provide us with a satisfying explanation for his shameful conduct and his sudden departure. We can therefore only get closure, if we finally realize that we are the ones responsible for our own well-being and emotional advancement. We have to let go of the misguided belief that only the narcissist can provide us with solutions. We also have to see that we will likely never get the answer for why we were treated with neglect and disrespect – more often than not, the narcissist doesn’t know the answer himself. We can only gain peace of mind if we manage to let go and focus all our energy on ourself. We have to try to find the rationale behind our own behavior and understand why we allowed others to abuse us so shamelessly without showing much resistance. The only persons we have the power to change is ourselves. Realizing that only we can provide ourselves with closure is pramount to our ability to heal.
Another important lesson we have to learn in order to be able to get closure is that there is nothing unlovable about us, and that we were not abandoned because we are essentially bad people who do not deserve to be cared for and respected. The only mistake we ever made was loving someone with all our hearts, who didn’t know how to reciprocate those feelings. The fact that we were abandoned in such an inconsiderate way does not reflect badly on us, but on the narcissist who was unable and unwilling to value the genuineness and purity of the love we had to give. Realizing this has, for me, been one of the most important steps to getting better.