Why Does It Take So Long To Recover From Narcissistic Abuse?

In order to be able to recover from the deep-seated feeling of worthlessness and humiliation resulting from narcissistic abuse, I often felt the need to connect with others sharing the same fate. In doing so, I found out that it generally takes victims of emotional abuse a very long time to get over all the horror. Sometimes, we have been in a relationship with a toxic person for only a very short amount of time – and still the experience continues to haunt and depress us long after the relationship has ended. I was involved with the narcissist for about five months, and even though it has already been more than two months since he left the country, I still find myself struggling and feeling the effects of having been continually treated with distance, ambiguity and dishonesty. The problem is that the people around us are often unable to understand why we are still stuck, why we are still trying to make sense of what has happened to us, why we are still struggling and feeling so much pain. After all, shouldn’t we be able to get over the narcissists pretty fast given the fact that they couldn’t give us what we wanted and only tortured us instead? Didn’t they expose us to so much drama, pain and disappointment that it should be very easy to move on? Shouldn’t we feel glad that we are finally out of that mess and that we can start to heal?

Unfortunately things are not that easy. When my relationship with the narcissist ended I indeed felt strangely relieved at first. I had suffered so immensely from all the ambiguity and drama that knowing that it was over felt liberating. I knew that from that moment on I no longer had to endure his lies, his detachment and inconsistency – I no longer had to rack my brain trying to find the rationale behind his behavior. I was emotionally and physically ill from having been with him for five months and therefore the end of our relationship was the best thing that could have happened to me. However, as I have already mentioned before, things are not that easy. The five months of being pushed aside, of having to beg for attention and of being continually disappointed have left a lasting impression on me – maybe even irreversibly changed me. I still feel the effects of having been caught in an exhausting emotional rollercoaster. There are countless moments in which I realize that I am no longer the same person than I was before the relationship. And there are also many moments in which I still find myself struggling, feeling the pain as if it was still fresh. Sometimes the pain is so overwhelming that I have to make an effort to compose myself.

Often it doesn’t matter that much whether one has been in a relationship with a narcissist over a longer period of time or only for a few weeks or months. It takes a very long time to heal from the pain and drama they exposed us to. We often get impatient with ourselves, and reproach ourselves for not possessing the strength to heal faster. We despise ourselves for not being able to let go of what happened and for grieving because of someone who didn’t treat us with the bare minimum of respect and consideration. Often we are not even struggling because we miss them so much or long to be with them again. What we are struggling with is the disprespectful and distanced treatment we received at their hands. We are despaired because we didn’t get what we wanted even though we fought so hard for it, and because we think of ourselves as undeserving of affection as a result of it.

When reflecting upon it more deeply, it shouldn’t really seem so odd that we need a very long time to heal and move on. First of all, being with a narcissist often causes us to completely lose touch with ourselves. We repeatedly endure their negligence and cold indifference and go out of our ways to adjust to their schedules, without paying attention to our own wishes and desires. The fact that we are falling apart while trying to make things work often escapes our notice. After the relationship has come to an end, we first and foremost need to reconnect with ourselves, assess our behavior and try to find the reasons for our willingness to cling to someone who couldn’t value our affection. It is a long, painful and eye-opening journey which often leaves us deeply changed. We realize that we cannot go on as if nothing had happened – and still we find it hard to change. It takes a very long time and a lot of reflection to arrive at the end of the tunnel and to emerge as a stronger and recovered self.

Another reason we find it so hard to move on and feel happy again is that we need to overcome and process a shitload of humiliation, cold indifference and disrespect. Being treated with neglect over a longer period of time and being exposed to drama, deceit and triangulation cannot just be accepted and forgotten. Our self-esteem has been severely damaged by the fact that we had to beg for attention and affection, and as a result we are often in doubt about our worthiness of love and care. We are sad and disappointed because we once more haven’t gotten what we wished for. The same questions keep revolving in our heads: Why can’t I be part of a loving, healthy and committed relationship? Why do I always end up with people who exploit my willingnes to give and sacrifice without giving anything back to me?

Last but not least, we tend to feel the pain long after the end of the relationship, because we will never get closure from the narcissists – and we will never get the answers that we are looking for. We are racking our brains trying to find out what went wrong and why we were treated the way we were treated. Not being able to get closure and find answers makes it harder to move on and let go. On top of that, the narcissists seem to handle everything very well and not give the matter much thought at all. Only if we finally learn to accept that we will never learn the truth and get the answers we are looking for can we start to heal and erase those nagging thoughts out of our minds. However, it often takes a long time to accept that we have to stop looking for answers in all the wrong places and that we are the ones responsible for our own recovery.

I have already come a long way since the end of my relationship with the narcissist – and I realize every single day how profoundly changed I am as a result of my brief interaction with him. There are days when I feel confident and strengthened, because I know that the relationship was an eye-opening experience that caused me to thoroughly engage with my own thoughts and attitudes. I don’t think I will ever again fall blindly and naively for a guy having nothing to offer but drama and ambiguity. I also don’t think I will ever again be able to ignore all the red flags staring directly at me. However, there are also still days when I feel extremely low and when I become aware of the fact that some of my wounds have not yet properly healed. Sometimes, when I hear a certain song, see a book on my shelf that reminds me of him or hear someone mentioning his name, I feel as if someone was sucking the air out of my lungs. I am immediately reminded of all the humiliation I had to endure for months and it makes me want to throw up.

Sometimes there are long strings of days on which I feel confident and healed –  a feeling which causes me to give in to the illusion that I have finally managed to reach the end of the road to recovery. However, my illusions are often violently destroyed by those days on which I feel extremely gloomy and sad, and on which every task seems like a huge burden. As I said before, I am past the point where I still miss him and idealize the time we spent together. I have learned to accept that I shouldn’t shed a tear for someone who used me and deliberately exposed me to pain and drama. However, I find it hard to rid myself of the feeling of emptiness and humiliation resulting from my time with him. Certain questions are still ever-present in my mind: Why was it so easy for him to discard me and be so detached? Am I so unlovable that he readily exposed me to pain and humiliation? Why did I hold on to him for so long? Why was I longing for him long after he had sufficiently proven that he was unwilling and unable to give me what I needed? Why was I so weak that I kept coming back for more of the drama and pain he manufactured?

Two kinds of negative feelings are basically still haunting me: Regret and self-reproach because of my weak and codependent behavior throughout my relationship to the narcissist. And sadness and disappointment as a result of being treated with neglect and indifference. It will still take time for me to fully recover, but I try to appreciate every single step of my way to recovery – partly because that journey also leads to increased self-awareness. I also try not to be too hard on myself for needing time to get better. I’ve learned from experience how important it is to be patient enough to thoroughly heal. If we don’t grant ourselves the time to deal with what happened we will likely end up in other abusive – or otherwise unhealthy – relationships. We also shouldn’t be unsettled by other people’s inability to understand the gradualness of our progress. We have to do what is best for ourselves, and while it certainly isn’t healthy to drown in self-pity, we should never be too hard on ourselves if we sometimes can’t find the strength to be a hundred percent optimistic and happy. I’ve learned to accept the darker days and not to reproach myself for still giving in to gloomy thoughts…I am still conviced I will eventually reach the point where I’m fully recovered – and I will just take the time it needs to get there.

25 thoughts on “Why Does It Take So Long To Recover From Narcissistic Abuse?

  1. Yes my ex has been married to a narcissist for 19 years. He is still looking for answers that he will never get. He is a gorgeous man with almost no self-esteem. But he chooses to stay in the abusive relationship so nothing anyone can do.

    Liked by 3 people

    • A lack of self-esteem often makes people stay for far too long in toxic relationships…It was exactly the same for me. All my life I’ve been struggling with low self-esteem…and this struggle has driven me into damaging relationships in which I was far too dedicated. Thank you for your comment! It always breaks my heart when I hear that people are wasting away in bad relationships…especially kind people with good hearts.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. It does take time, and the humiliation is one of the worst parts to overcome. Even more difficult, though, is the deep self-reflection that you will eventually begin to do once you are ready. This is tough but very rewarding, and yes, you will be different: better, seasoned, more mature.

    Mine lead me to the realization that I am an ACON (adult child of narcissism), and this has helped me enormously.

    Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Don’t worry about those who don’t understand. They can’t, really. Your process is your process – it will run its own course. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’ve often read that victims of narcissistic abuse are very likely to have at least one narcissistic parent…In my case, however, this is not the case: My mother is the most caring and self-sacrificing person I know…and I think I got my penchant for self-sacrifice from her. I haven’t yet found a real explanation for my tendency to end up with toxic people.
      Thank you for the encouraging and kind words. You are definitely right: I shouldn’t worry too much about those who don’t understand. And yet it is not easy not to struggle with self-doubt when you see the lack of understanding in their eyes. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was with a narcassist who was also a scientologist. I started communication with him on a dating site

      . He was a master at manipulation. Iam in the first stages of recovery. I have been left traumatized by the experience. The hardest part is to face the truth that he has a personality disorder that can’t be cured.

      Scientology also enhanced his manipulative skills. He is still on dating sites and I feel for those that will get caught in his web.

      Online was a very strong arena for him to play and manipulate through words and phone. We never met. I did however meet him on Skype. This meeting did alert me -His persona was different. This meeting was late in the communication. I was already caught.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I fell in love with an N, without realising he was one, even though he had given me this information when we had first met (“I don’t like people” and “I love to play mind games”). I took the moments of easy rapport for affection. Luckily, I’d learned to put myself out there and not be attached to the outcome and by the time he hurt me with his words, I was ready to let him go. I was not surprised when he suddenly contacted me (I did not contact him on my own after) to ask if I had called him to impersonate someone. Typical Darth Shader/Mega N, they can’t be wrong, so when I didn’t run after him, he made accused me of not respecting his space. I knew exactly what to say to shut him down.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank tou for following my blog. I feel your pain that is so similar to my own. I am glad that you have identified the problem since that’s the first step toward change.
      I was (an am still) married to an emotionally abusive man but was literally blind to the reality of the situation until more than 30 years into the relationship. My psychologist wanted me to figure it out on my own which was wise since I never believed that he was controlling me when anyone else pointed it out.
      I just read some of my journals from 10 years ago and couldn’t believe what I allowed him to do to me. He is now disabled and has come to respect the boundaries I have established, but it takes constant vigilance to avoid falling into his traps.
      Continue to be self aware and to build your confidence. The struggle is worth it.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thank you very much for your comment and for following my blog. I am very glad to hear that you have gained self-awareness and set up some boundaries. And you are definitely right: i also believe that the struggle is worth it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for this. I am sorry to hear that you had to endure so many hardships over such a long period of time. I often struggle with my friends and their failure to realise that they are being mistreated. But, I find that it’s better to allow the person to arrive at their own understanding rather than trying to force them to act, even if I feel it’s in their best interest. x

        Liked by 3 people

      • You are so right…people who are mistreated have to find out on their own…My friends and family kept telling me to break up with the narcissist…I didn’t want to hear any of it. It took me a lot of heartbreak and disappointment to finally reach that conclusion on my own. So every endeavor by friends or family to tell us what is right is usually fruitless until we reach the point where we can finally see it ourselves. Thank you for your comment. ❤

        Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad to hear you had the strength to let go once he started to hurt you…I often wish I had had the same strength…I always chose to come back for more of his drama and ambiguity. You seem to have handled everything quite well. And by the way: I love the term “Darth Shader”…it made me laugh out loud 😉 Thank you for that!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Everything you said is true, every last word I can identify with. I didn’t realise the “breakup” was still so fresh for you, I thought it had been longer so give yourself credit for having come that far already. However I agree that a relationship with a narcissist is something you never *fully* recover from. I am generally over the whole thing myself but there are days, totally out of the blue, when I am reminded of something he did or said, and it hits me all over again: this crushing pain and humiliation that just comes back seemingly out of nowhere and i then think: “there you go, you think you’re over it and you’re fine now but look, look at what he can *still* do to you. So I get where you’re coming from with your good days and bad days – it’s gotta be worse for you as it’s a lot more recent than it is for me. And the other point: closure. That bloody closure that a narcissist will never ever give you and yes, it makes it SO much harder to move on because every other break up includes a closure of some sort. We, however, never get it. As you know my narcissist is still in my life and we’ve been talking, it’s all been fine because I see him for what he is now: someone who used to be my good friend but turned out to be emotionally damaged and beyond repair when we moved on from friendship. So we’re okay, but the other day he said something and I just saw red…I couldn’t believe he would be callous enough to mention something he shouldn’t have so I let him have it: I was like, how can you, after everything you’ve done to me, and I let you back in my life even though you do not deserve it, I don’t think I can be back in contact with you after all. He freaked out in typical narcissist fashion and went with the: “You can’t let go of the past, can you? You have to keep bringing it up, I said sorry so many times, how are we ever going to move forward if you hang on to the past? I want us to leave the past behind and make new memories, happy fun ones”. Well, that was so typically cold and selfish and well, narcissistic, that I didn’t reply to him for a couple of days. And I really do wonder if him and I being back to friends is ever going to work out because I still harbour SO much resentment. But anyway, I digress, sorry, my point was that you’re gonna keep having bad days here and there but it’s okay, you just have to ride it out and they’ll get rarer and rarer over time.
    And no, your friends can’t understand, they never will. Mine were the same: how can you be that upset over someone who treated you like that, you should be happy you’re rid of him and so on. Nobody gets it unless they’ve been there. Again, a relationship with a narcissist is not the same as any other so how can they understand? No closure, mental and physical health destroyed and self-esteem pretty much evaporated – nothing like a normal breakup.
    But it’s okay, you’ll get there, you really will. Just give yourself time, I understand the urge to blame yourself for being so “stupid” because I did the same, I still think that from time to time but if I catch myself thinking that now, I give myself a shake and tell myself to snap out of it. Because, we were not stupid, we *cared*, that’s all. Hugs ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much. It gives me real consolation to see that others can relate and have similar stories to tell. I really admire you for your strength to be able to still be in contact with your narc and for how well you seem to handle everything. I’m not sure I could still be in contact with my narc. I’m devastated because of the way he just discarded me without another word…and yet at the same time I realize that it is probably for the best. It gives me the opportunity to focus on myself and keeps me from giving in to moments of weakness triggered by his presence.
      And yes you are absolutely right: others just can’t understand unless they’ve been there. Still it adds greatly to the feeling of isolation if you cannot really share your feelings with people around you. One of my friends even told me I was no longer allowed to utter his name in her presence…of course it added to my general frustration. Thank you again for always sharing your insights with me and for always having some encouraging words to say to me. It gives me great comfort. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. One of the first things I realized about the narcissist after we split was that he had created some sort of addiction in me. I was “addicted” to the highs and lows, the hot and cold, the value and devalue cycles. It was sad, really, because it’s crazy to be hooked on such an erratic emotional pattern – and yet there I was.

    It didn’t take long for the withdrawal symptoms to manifest. That was the hardest time for me to maintain no-contact. To be honest, I broke my no contact a couple of times, each time with hurtful results that left me feeling even worse than before. The narc wouldn’t grant me any closure nor let me forget that it was me who had chosen to leave him so “what did I want from him”?

    I beat myself up for a while about that and everything else. I guess I just had a hard time, in the beginning, accepting that he really was a narc and that the person I had loved did not really exist but was a projection of my own ideals, and because of that I would never have a “clean and dignified” breakup from him. That, for me, was what made letting go and starting on my recovery so hard – my need for a dignified break up. I finally let go of the notion after a lot of emotional suffering and realized that I would just have to make peace with myself, by myself, for myself, about the way things are. It’s been a difficult self revealing process for me, but I’m making progress and I’m in a much better place than I was in the beginning.

    I hope you’re keeping well and keeping the faith strong, Hugsy. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I struggled with the same kind of addiction after the end of the relationship. I realized that I was hooked on the endless stream of highs and lows and the fluctuation between bliss and pain. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness that came after the breakup only intensified my longing for the emotional rollercoaster I had just escaped. It was a very painful and confusing time. Just like you I’m in a better place now. I no longer feel a longing for the drama because I’ve realized that it was eating me alive. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It is almost uncanny how familiar all of it sounds to me 🙂


  6. I started my painful journey in June last year and only have come to terms about what’s going on 9 months later and ur posts have provided so much valueable information. Just want to know are u still active on here and how u r doing now?


  7. I just ended a relationship with a narcissistic. I was constantly walking on eggshells. No matter what I did or said it was never good enough. The closer I tried to get to the person the more. I founded myself being treated like shit. Disrespected, degraded, worthless, unloved ect….
    I’m now dealing with the aftermath. I find myself depressed, questioning my self worth. There are days I feel as thou. I’m losing my mind. The signs were there from the very beginning. But I choice to ignore them . Because of the love I had for this individual. Who in hindsight didn’t give a damn about me or my feelings. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever get pass this. I feel like a fucking fool for staying. I’m truly broken hearted..


  8. Please help me , I am losing my mind with this marc. Boyfriend I have. Been dating him for 1 year and didn’t even know what a narcissist was until I started reading about it just trying to find out what was wrong with him! He is giving me the silent treatment now , but. At the same time ,keeps contacting me just enough to keep me holding on , I can’t imagine life without him but at the same time I know he is slowly killing me inside, please every one pray for me that I can let go and go on with NY life , I am 63 and he is 61 I have outlived. 2 husbands and never experienced this type of man in my life , sorry for rambling

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am 66 years old and been with the narc for 27 years. He finally discarded me 9 months ago. I am a hopeless wreck and it should bring some consolation that there are so many others affected by this. I have maintained no contact for 6 months and thought I could keep it up. We both live in a small village, really small, and jut to have gotten past the smearing campaign and humiliation of fining out now what he was up to, is extremely difficult for me. I am living like a hermit, friends do not come here anymore as I am always depressed and crying and do not know how to start healing. On top of it I made contact with him with a stupid excuse that I had problems with my car. BIG MISTAKE. We try to be friends or as he put it, he will always be there for me no matter what but that we cannot ever be together again. He has found a new supply and it irks me as this was somebody I knew!!!! Finding that as others have stated, the reasons why I was not good enough, any form of closure. The loneliness is driving me crazy. Nobody to take care of, nobody to share a song or every day happenings. He just tells me to move on and yet he still comes here all the time on some excuse or the other. I have tried to have no contact again with him BUT I miss him so much and just cannot let go!!!!!! I just give up totally. Every morning when I wake up I actually feel sad that I am still alive.


    • Thank you so much for sharing. First of all I feel deeply sorry for the misery that your narc has put you in. I know how it feels to have all joy sucked out of your life. There is nothing worse than waking up every morning dreading the waking hours ahead of you. I’ve felt the same way for month in a row and it really puts you in a dark place. I wish you lots of strength to get through it. It may seem like it will never end, but eventually, you will get better…There were times when I didn’t believe it would ever get better, but miraculously it did.


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