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.

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Repeatedly Falling For Narcissists

So far my entire blog has more or less been dedicated to the experiences I made with one particular person – namely the narcissist I recently dated during the course of several months. What I’ve only mentioned in passing until now is that I’d already fallen for a narcissist before I met that particular guy. Back then I wasn’t aware of the fact that he was a narcissist. I only knew that he used me, toyed with my feelings and broke my heart. Fortunately, our interactions were limited to a very short amount of time and consequently, the damage I took from him was not too overwhelming It took another painful experience to finally see that there was a pattern in my behavior and that I tended to attract and be attracted to shady guys who were unable and unwilling to offer a healthy and committed relationship to me. As I’ve learned through reading a lot on narcissism, many of us repeatedly fall for narcissists or other kinds of unavailable people. It often takes us several very painful episodes to realize that there is something wrong with our attitudes towards relationships and that we need to reassess our behavior. In my case, it took two painful experiences to see that I showed clear codependent tendencies, was willing to give to the point of self-sacrifice, allowed myself to feel too much too fast, and generally allowed others to overstep every boundary of decent human behavior without being able to disentangle myself.

About one and a half years ago, I started dating a very overt narcissist. Back then I didn’t know anything about narcissism and therefore never really questioned my willingness to go out with him. I met him at work, where he stepped by once in a while to fix our computers. At first, I didn’t even like him. He seemed to be incredibly arrogant and impolite – talking to all of us as if we were imbeciles and clearly feeling superior and very sure of himself. He was extremely handsome and also very aware of that fact – which only added to his aura of haughtiness. After a certain amount of time, he seemed to be showing an interest in me. He sent emails to my work email address in which he soon began to ask rather private questions. Eventually, he asked whether I was interested in having lunch with him. I somehow felt flattered and agreed – despite the fact that I thought of him as an arrogant ass. After that lunch he began to pursue me more adamantly. I wasn’t really interested in seeing him again anytime soon. I went on a three-week vacation and during that time he sent me a message every day – becoming ever more flirty in his wording. Again I felt flattered and replied to each and every single one of his messages. It was like a little game for me: I enjoyed the attention, but wasn’t that emotionally involved. My friends repeatedly advised me against getting too involved with him, because they too thought of him as an arrogant ass who would eventually only break my heart. I didn’t listen to them…and it turned out to be a grave mistake.

When I came back from my vacation we went on several dates together, and after only about a week he invited me to his apartment. Without giving the matter much thought I agreed. I was very aware of the fact that the game had turned into something more serious and that I had begun to fall for him. There was something about him – and his aura of aloofness and smartness – that I found highly attractive and I was looking forward to meeting him at his apartment. We had an incredible time together, I spent the night at his place and I was feeling elated and happy. I thought I had just witnessed the beginning of something great and incredible…Little did I know that I was being used only to be discarded once he had gotten what he wanted. When I arrived back home and contacted him, he told me without further ado that it was over, that he wasn’t prepared to enter into a relationship…and that was it. I never heard from him again. He got what he wanted, he managed to get me into bed…and that was all he was ever looking for. He just failed to tell me so beforehand. For him it was all about the chase, and as soon as he had managed to “conquer” me I was no longer interesting for him.

I was devastated, because I had seriously begun to fall for him and I had been convinced that he had been genuinely interested in me. His pursuit of me was so persistent that it seemed perfectly clear he had more than just a passing interest in me. It had never occured to me that he just wanted to make a conquest to get a boost for his ego. I was too naive and convinced in the innate goodness of others to realize that I was being used only to be discarded and that I had just made my first experience with a full-blown narcissist. I immediately blamed myself for what happened – thinking that there must have been something wrong with me, that I was just not attractive enough, that something about me has turned him off and that he therefore decided to end things between us. I started to lose a great deal of weight to feel better about myself and turned into a very skinny creature in the process. It never crossed my mind that he was a narcissist and that his pursuit of me was only meant to satisfy his own short-term needs. I tried to move on as fast as possible and never really throroughly processed what had happened to me. For me it was a one-time mistake and I was convinced that something like that would never happen to me again.

My failure to really process what had happened caused me to make the same mistake again. When I met the last guy I dated I ignored all the red flags. In contrast to the guy before him he wasn’t an overt narcissist but a covert one – a fact that made it all the more difficult for me to spot the warning signals. He acted like a genuinely nice guy – and even complained that his tendency to worry too much about other people’s feelings made his life difficult. I believed in his claims that he was a sensitive guy who cared very much about others and never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. I still had trust issues because of what had happened earlier and he blamed me for them – telling me that it was not fair of me to let our relationship be affected by my previous experience. He urged me to let go of any past hurt and to finally realize that he was not at all like him and that he never intended to break my heart and use me the way he had done. I again felt elated…I felt like I had just won the lottery and let my guard down (Oh how I wish I hadn’t). I was convinced that I was getting involved with a genuinely nice guy who deeply cared about my feelings and who could never hurt me. I was gravely mistaken…He would eventually turn out the be the guy who nearly drove me insane with his ambiguity, unavailability and covert narcissism.

I somehow managed to walk straight from one narcissist to the next – from an overt narcissist to a covert narcissist. This last relationship left me so shattered and broken that I couldn’t just go on like I did before. Having had too humiliating and heartbreaking experiences in a row, I felt so down and low that I had to take action and reflect on what had happened to me. I started reading books and articles on love addiction and codependency, as I tried to figure out why all that drama was repeatedly happening to me – and finally came to realize that the guys I had been dating were most likely textbook narcissists. Because I was able to put a label on what had happened, I could start processing the painful experiences and move on. I began to question my attitudes towards relationships and realized that I first needed to take care of myself before I could ever enter into another relationship again. It took two heartbreaking and frustrating experiences for me to see that I should be the one giving affection and affirmation to myself and that I shouldn’t seek to get validation from outside sources only. Besides, I was made aware of the fact that I needed to set up boundaries and look for red flags right from the beginning. My desire to be loved and appreciated led to me ignore all of the red flags that were staring me right in the face. I was warned against getting involved with those men…I even thought of the first narcissist as an arrogant ass. And still I was too flattered by their attention and their apparent interest in me to save myself by keeping my distance to them.

A lack of awareness of narcissism and codependency often leads us to jump from one unhealthy relationship to the other. We never really process what happened and just try to move on as fast as possible. It often takes one really eye-opening, shattering experience to finally question our behavior. We need to be thrown into a seemingly bottomless pit to finally become aware of the fact that we need to change. Because I failed to properly work through my first experience with a narcissist, I was very vulnerable to falling for the same tricks again. In my case it was all the more impossible to see the red flags in my second encounter with a narcissist, because he was very covert with his narcissistic tendencies and pretended to be a genuinely nice and caring person. After I had nearly fallen apart, I’ve finally learned my lesson: I don’t deserve to be disrespected and neglected. I don’t deserve to be exposed to manipulation and triangulation. I think I’ve managed to overcome my addiction to love: I no longer need the approval of men to feel good about myself. I choose to believe that the eye-opening experiences I made with two narcissists will shield me against falling for the same tricks again in the future. I was forced by despair and frustration to thoroughly work through what happened to me…I’ve learned so much while doing so that I think I am finally able to spot the red flags and to save myself from further harm.

In order not to get stuck in a loop made up of unhealthy relationships we need to take the time to heal, reassess our attitudes and learn to realize that we don’t deserve to be used, manipulated and disrespected. We should not let go of our kind and loving hearts and turn into bitter and defensive beings, because we’ve been hurt too many times. I know that our willigness to be kind, to do good and to sacrifice for others makes us especially vulnerable to being used and manipulated. We should still be proud of our ability to love with all our hearts and to feel so genuinely and deeply for others. It is a precious gift. However, at the same time we have to learn to shield ourselves better and to extent kindness only to those who can appreciate and value us the way we deserve. Loving people with all our hearts who never intend to return our feelings will in the end only leave us damaged and questioning our own worth. We should save our love and willingness to give for those who deserve it.

Being With a Narcissist Can Be a Hazard to Your Health

It is more than obvious that becoming a victim of emotional abuse can be very damaging to your emotional well-being. Everyone who has already been in a relationship with a narcissist  – or with an otherwise distanced, unavailable and abusive person – knows all too well that they can tear us apart and leave us broken, despaired and frustrated. However, there is far less talk about the fact that narcissists cannot only wreak havoc to our emotional balance, but can actually be a hazard to our health. I made this experience while I was in a relationship with a narcissist. The constant agony of being treated with distance, inconsistency and neglect led me to treat myself in a very unhealthful way. Besides, after a certain amount of time, the stress and pain were taking their toll on my body. The worst part was that I didn’t even care that much about the bad physical state I was in. I felt so down and low that I couldn’t have cared less. Looking at my complete indifference in retrospect leaves me shocked and in disbelief. At times, I feel extremely ashamed and angry at myself because I treated myself so neglectfully. Back then, I completely lacked the clarity of mind to put a stop to my bodily decay. I was so engulfed by pain and drama that I didn’t give much thought to my health.

During the first few weeks of being with the narcissist, my body was still able to handle the stress quite well. After a few weeks, however, the drama and stress were beginning to reflect in my physical state. First of all, I began to feel stinging pains in my chest, which reminded me all to clearly of the fact that my heart had already taken enough damage. At times, my entire chest felt so tight and constricted that I had trouble breathing. On top of that, the agony that came with all the disappointments and the insecurity led to an extreme loss of appetite and to insomnia. I often lay awake for hours, being tortured by unpleasant thoughts, and being kept from falling asleep by my efforts to make sense of his behavior and to find the rationale behind his detachment and unavailability. The lack of sleep, malnutrition and constant exposure to emotional stress caused me to feel extremely despaired, tired and exhausted. Every little task suddenly became strenuous and trying. Despite the constant feeling of exhaustion I still had trouble falling asleep.

I began taking sleeping pills and calmatives in order to be able to function in my daily life and to find some sleep at night. However, since they soon lost their effect, I began to take more and more of them, steadily increasing the dose without giving it much thought. I know that to some of you this might sound like an exaggerated reaction to a solvable problem. After all, I could have just left him. However, things are often not as easy as they seem. I was convinced that I had already invested too much to just let go and opt out. I wanted things to work out so desperately that I lost sight of myself in the process. I not only started taking pills, but also drank more alcohol and smoked more cigarettes than I used to. Before meeting the narcissist, I was only an occasional drinker. After I had been with him for some time, I started drinking more and more. I never lost control, I never drank far too much, but I began to rely on the calming effect that came with drinking a class of wine in the evening. Looking at if from today’s perspective I am very aware of the fact that I was slowly losing control – and that I was on a downward spiral towards complete decay. Back then, I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing to myself, because I didn’t really care all that much about it. I felt so low that I couldn’t have cared less about what I was doing to my body.

After a certain amount of time, the constant exposure to stress and my tendency to treat myself with neglect were beginning to show. I lost weight and my hair began to fall out. Besides, I was beginning to generally feel unwell and unhealthy. What greatly added to my indisposed state was the fact that I began feeling really depressed. At times I couldn’t stop crying; at other times I felt completely apathetic – being unable to get out of bed, not caring at all about what was going on around me. Additionally, I became very irritable, and every triviality could cause me to get angry or to start crying. I guess I wasn’t much fun to be around at the time – and still my family and my best friend were treating me with nothing but patience and understanding. I can’t put enough stress on the fact that their unconditional support was saving me. I don’t know where I would be without it. The depression could get so overwhelming that I at times really lost the will to live. As the narcissist sucked all the joy out of my life with his penchant for drama, ambiguity and triangulation, I fell deeper and deeper into a seemingly bottomless pit. The only thing I longed for was sleep, and waking up in the morning began to feel like a giant slap in the face. I guess this indifference towards life greatly contributed to my tendency to treat myself with neglect. Why should I have cared that my health was going down the drain? At this point it is important to emphasize that I was never suicidal, I never really contemplated putting an end to my life. However, I stopped being enthusiatic about life and a strong apathy and feeling of hoplessness were taking possession of me.

I know that some of the things I related in this post make me sound like a pathetic mess. I often felt that way about my own behavior and was ashamed that I allowed someone else to gain so much power over me. One could say that my pursuit of affection went way too far and made me lose control over my own body. In my exhausted and depressed state, I didn’t really care all that much about my physical well-being and therefore couldn’t bring up the determination to save myself. I’m certainly not proud of myself and it was not easy to talk about it and to admit my own failure. I am still shocked that I let things get out of hand to such an enormous extent. Back then, I wasn’t taking my mental and physical decay all that serious because I was just too apathetic. Now, I am very much aware of the fact that I was actually endangering my health, and that I was driven by emotional abuse to hurt and neglect myself. On the one hand, my physical state was negatively affected by the stress and drama the narcissist exposed me to. However, I also began to turn into his accomplice when it came to destroying my health. I was led by his ambiguity and distance to treat myself with neglect and indifference. I simply couldn’t find the strength and determination to take better care of myself. I was simply too depressed to give my health much thought.

Being with a narcissist can therefore be a real hazard to your health. I nearly lost control, and I don’t even dare to think about what would have happened if the relationship hadn’t ended so soon. I presumably would have continued on the downward spiral until I would have done some real damage to myself. Earlier, I often reacted with lack of understanding towards people who allowed themselves to be damaged by love. Now, I know better than that: I know how it feels to be defeated and to still not find the determination to opt out. I know how it feels to be damaged by a willingness to love, give and sacrifice. I know that emotional abuse and addiction to love can lead you to fall into a bottomless pit – to completely lose control. From an outside perspective, my reaction to the narcissist’s unavailabilty may seem exaggerated and unreasonable. Being caught in a dramatic and unhealthy relationship, however, greatly affects your ability to think rationally and impairs you to such a degree that you cannot muster the strength and determination to do what would be best.

Even though I feel ashamed about my lack of determination and extreme loss of control, I still felt the need to talk about it. I know that there are many people out there who made similar experiences – people who sacrificed their own health in their efforts to make an unhealthy relationship work. It is important to raise awareness that being the codependent partner in an emotionally abusive relationship can actually lead to physical decay (or even worse). My addiction to being loved and appreciated caused real damage and I’m happy that I managed to get back on track. I can finally sleep again, I eat regularly and I feel healthier and happier every day. My hair is no longer falling out, I stopped drinking, and I started taking yoga classes to increase my physical and mental well-being. I’m convinced that the experience of bodily decay was a wake-up call for me: I don’t think I will ever again let things get out of hand. I choose to belief that in the future I will have the strength to opt out of relationships with people who are sucking the life out of me and leave me sick and broken.

Being Kind to Yourself to Counteract the Negative Effects of Narcissistic Abuse

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is extremely harmful to our well-being – both physically and mentally. We are readily exposing ourselves to high levels of stress and drama in a misguided belief that our self-sacrificing efforts will one day be rewarded. We are, thus, not treating ourselves very considerately. We neglect our own wishes, needs and desires; we are bending our morals and modes of behavior, because we are so focused on the narcissists and are more than willing to do whatever it takes to keep things going. Even though it is often a futile endeavor to try to make things work, we are neverthess prepared to neglect and sacrifice our emotional balance, and end up feeling exhausted, frustrated and drained of all joy and energy. Generally speaking, one could therefore say that being with a narcissist makes us treat ourselves neglectfully and accept a high dose of stress and drama.

However, paradoxically, we also feel the need to treat ourselves with increased kindness when finding ourselves in a relationship with someone who is emotionally abusing us. It is true that I was neglecting my own needs and lost touch with myself while I was dating the narcissist. I allowed him to overstep my nearly non-existent boundaries thousands of times and I changed my morals and modes of behavior to make things work. Yet, at the same time, I also felt the need to be extremely kind to myself. One could say that I tried to counteract the narcissist’s neglect and cold indifference by giving myself the comforting and kind words and treatment that he was unable to give to me.

Being constantly confronted with disappointments and heartbreak you really need a survival strategy in order to not go completely insane. During the entire time I was in a relationship with the narcissist I was investing so much, giving all I had to give, dedicating myself a 100% to someone who never had a real use for my affection and commitment. I got almost nothing in return – just empty promises and words that were never followed by actions. I was repeatedly pushed aside, disrespected, ignored, lied to and turned into a secondary option, and this treatment was clearly taking its toll on me. I somehow learned that I had to give to myself what he was so unwilling and unable to give to me. So in order to be able to deal with all the frustration and heartbreak, I turned into the one person extending kindness to myself. I realized that if I wasn’t kind to myself then no one would be, and that, as a result, I would surely turn insane.

The kindness and compassion I extended towards myself became evident in my strategy to use positive affirmations. I talked to myself in a very comforting and affectionate way, saying kind things to myself as a way of encouragement. It may sound ridiculous, but at times I stood in front of the mirror, looked myself in the face and told myself that I deserved so much more than what I was given at the moment; that I was deserving of love and respect. I had to remind myself of these simple facts because the narcissist had me continually doubt them. He treated me with such distance and neglect that I, at times, was convinced that I was completely undeserving of love and consideration. To counteract the feeling of emptiness and frustration stemming from his distance and detachment, I had to cheer myself up by being kind to myself.

I not only talked to myself, but I also started writing a journal with some of the entries being composed as letters to myself. In those letters I complimented myself for my stength and tried to comfort me as good as I could. I sometimes talked to myself as if I were a vulnerable child needing comfort and positive affirmations. I felt the need to do so, because the narcissist often left me feeling vulnerable, empty and unwanted. To fill the inner emptiness and lessen the negative impact of his emotional abuse, I had to be the one being kind to myself. Whenever the situation became absolutely unbearable, and I was suffering from extreme depression, I would fall asleep in a fetal position, hugging myself to give myself the strength and comfort that I needed. As I said before, it sounds sad – almost pathetic – but narcissists can hurt you to such an extreme extent that we need to take such measures in order to prevent being swallowed by darkness and hopelessness.

I not only started writing a journal because it enabled me to strenghten and be kind to myself. It also counteracted the feeling that I was losing touch with myself. Through writing down my feelings, I was somehow reconnecting with myself, giving a voice to my wishes, my disappointment and the frustration that came with being a victim of emotional abuse. In my journal entries I was brutally honest and I could vent my anger and say nasty things about the narcissist. I never would have dared to say these things to his face, because I was still too afraid of losing him. In some of my entries I would directly address him and thereby I had the opportunity to let go of all the pent-up anger and frustration. In our interactions I kept swallowing my pain and disappointment – in my journal entries I could finally express what I so desperately needed to express and it felt like an enormous relief. If I hadn’t written those entries, I’m sure I would have lost control far more often and said nasty and hateful things to his face that I would have regretted later on.

During the time I interacted with the narcissist, I not only felt the need to be kind to myself, but also to others. In my everyday encounters with others, I was all the more friendly because their positive reactions gave me the affirmation that the narcissist couldn’t give to me. As others were responding to my kindness by being equally kind and friendly I got the positive reactions that I needed and that I was denied by the narcissist. I could put all my energy into being compassionate, kind and loving to the narcissist and I almost never got any feedback at all. It was extremely frustrating to give to the point of self-sacrifice and to never get any kind of validation in return. I therefore started to search for validation in my interactions with others. I needed it in order to see that I was not completely without value and that my efforts were indeed appreciated and could lead to positive feedback. I desperately wanted to feel appreciated, because the narcissist constantly made me feel small, pushed aside and unworty of any kind of positive affirmation.

I never felt truly loved or cared for by the narcissist. Not even in the most intimate moments that we shared did I feel carefree, satisfied and happy. I could lie next to him, caressing his face, looking deep into his eyes, and still feel empty and sad. Normally, in such moments, everything should be engulfed by an enormous feeling of bliss, gratitude and carelessness. That one moment of intimacy should be so strong and magnificient to erase all worries and doubts. In my relationship with the narcissist, I was never even allowed to feel true bliss. There were always dark feelings lurking underneath the surface and it was eating me up alive. So in order to not completely lose touch with myself and be swallowed by darkness I had to be the one being kind to and comforting myself. He constantly made me feel so damn small by lying to me and treating me like a secondary option that it really took its toll on me. I had to be kind to myself to stay strong and to not be drawn into an abyss.

It was a relatively new experience for me. I had never before felt so low and so down that I had felt the constant need to encourage myself. Never before had I felt the need to be so considerate and kind to myself. However, if you are constantly being faced with ambiguity, insecurity and distance, you really have to come up with a survival strategy in order not to completely lose your mind – and my strategy consisted of giving myself the loving words and signs of affection that I was denied by the narcissist.

Considering all the aspects mentioned above it really is a paradox situation: On the one hand, while being with a narcissist you are inflicting enormous damage on yourself by allowing the narcissist to repeatedly hurt you and by coming back for more long after the situation has proven to be hopeless. We tend to sacrifice everything for the narcissists; we bend our morals and modes of behavior and we put all of our energy and dedication into a relationship with someone who has no use for our affection and commitment. Consequently, one could well say that we are treating ourselves with neglect, pushing aside our own needs to keep the narcissist satisfied. However, on the other hand, time spent in a relationship with a narcissist can also turn out to be a time of increased self-awareness and self love. As we try to counteract the cruelties and damage inflicted upon us by the narcissist, we often extend an enormous amount of kindness to ourselves. We are so in need of positive affirmations that we need to give them to ourselves in order not to go insane. As a result, we end up talking to ourselves, writing journal entries in which we pour our hearts out and are therefore able to reconnect with ourselves. The narcissists make us lose touch with ourselves through their detachment, drama and manipulation, and we feel the need to counteract that development by taking those different measures pointed out above.

Whenever I look back at my relationship with the narcissist, I see a lot of darkness and despair. However, there is always also a glimmer of light, and it stems from the fact that I was able to stay strong through my willingness to give myself the comfort and kindness I needed to counteract narcissistic abuse. This willingness to treat myself with kindness and consideration has stayed with me long after the end of my interactions with the narcissist: I still try to be good to myself, I still am very keen to treat others with kindness and respect, I try to enjoy my own company and to keep myself busy with meaningful activities in order not to be swallowed by feelings of regret and emptiness. In a certain way, being with the narcissist has taught me to reconnect with myself and to pay careful attention to my own needs and wishes. I will never go so far and be thankful for the abuse and all the pain and heartbreak. But I try to see the light…I try to point to those little islands of positivity in order not to be swallowed by darkness.

Falling in Love with a Narcissist Changes You

Being involved with a narcissist on a closer level inevitably changes you. You not only change your daily routines for them, but also adjust your morals, views and behavior – a necessary measure in order to be able to live with their deceit and manipulations. In addition to that, you tend to become easily irritable, depressed and not much fun to be around. Your willingness to change in order to please the narcissist and survive in a narcissistic relationship can reach worrying levels. After a certain amount of time, you begin to feel as if you are slowly losing touch with yourself. However, since you are usually so busy with catering to the narcissist’s needs and dancing to their pipes, you don’t spend too many thoughts on your own well-being. You might be aware of the fact that you are changing and that you are no longer your old self. However, you don’t really pay much attention to it. All of our attention is focused on figuring out the narcissist’s ambiguity and on trying to make them act with more consideration and commitment towards us. Our own wishes, desires and ambitions are turned into concerns of secondary importance next to our unconditional dedication to the narcissist.

When I started dating the narcissist, I almost immediately turned into a completely different person. Before meeting him, I was doing fine. Sure, I have always been a people pleaser and my lack of self-confidence has repeatedly caused me to be very insecure in my interactions with others. However, no one has ever exploited my tendency to be self-sacrificing to the same extent as the narcissist did. In my interactions with him I felt like a leaf being blown around by winds: I completely adjusted to his schedule. I changed my daily routines, my morals and behavior in order to keep him satisfied and to be able to survive in a narcissistic relationship. In the back of my mind, there was always the nagging thought that I was completely losing touch with myself and that I was throwing all my core values and beliefs overboard. However, I was usually too busy making sense of his behavior and dancing to his pipe to really take those thoughts seriously enough. I was apparently fine with losing touch with myself, as long as it enabled me to stay with the narcissist. I made the ultimate sacrifice: I willingly threw away my integrity and emotional well-being, in order to be able to hold on to an unhealthy and damaging relationship.

First of all, when you are dating a narcissist you often have to change your daily life, your routines and schedule in order to adjust to their needs – because the narcissist sure as hell won’t adapt or pay attention to your needs. If you want things to work out, you have to be the one making the sacrifices, being flexible and changing your plans to meet his schedule. As all of our energy and brain capacity is usually focused on them, we tend to neglect all the other areas of our daily lives: We cancel dates that we had arranged with friends and we neglect our hobbies, because we want to be constantly available in case the narcissist suddenly communicates a desire to see us. More often than not, they don’t, and we cancelled our plans in vain. It starts to get frustrating and heartbreaking very soon, but still we are often unwilling to adapt our behavior in order to shield us from further pain. We spent a lot of time sitting in front of the phone, waiting for a call or a tiny message – and turn into frustrated, irritated beings in the process. While I dated the narcissist I adjusted my entire schedule to his needs. I neglected my friends, I didn’t go to my sports courses anymore, because I jumped at every opportunity to see him. Of course I was often the one having to do all the travelling, spending hours on trains just to see him for a short time. My mind was so constantly occupied with making sense of him and obsessing about his ambiguous behavior that he started to define my entire life. Everything was always about him, he was constantly on my mind and the thoughts of his unavailability and distance were keeping me busy. In short, I was completely losing touch with myself, as I was turning him into the center of my world, changing my ways to adjust to his will and schedule, doing everything it took to make things work.

However, far worse than changing your schedule and your daily routines is the fact that you also tend to change your morals, views and behavior. In order to be able to hold on and survive in a narcissistic relationship, you begin to accept things that would have seemed unimaginable to the sane mind you had still possessed prior to being with the narcissist. I’m still amazed at the extent to which I was willing to adapt my values in order to be able to stay in a relationship with a dishonest and manipulative man. I submissively accepted the shady treatment received at his hands and repeatedly downplayed his ambiguous and shameful actions. I would never have imagined that I would agree to following a guy to a hotel room in order to have sex, and then to allow him to send me back home after he got what he wanted. As it turned out, I was prepared to go to that hotel – only feeling slightly uncomfortable – and was able to swallow my frustration over the fact that he sent me back home pretty easily. I still can’t believe that I was willing to bend my morals to such an enormous extent. I’m ashamed that he made me lose my integrity and that he brought me to do things I never thought I was capable of. You might feel assured of your values and beliefs. However, the narcissist is still able to make you change them in order to adjust to his shadiness and unavailability.

I always considered lies and deceit to be absolute deal breakers. However, being with the narcissist I slowly learned to live with deceit, and I even allowed him to draw me into his world made of lies. When I realized that he was lying both to me and his exgirlfriend I was outraged and felt humiliated. Yet, I was again able to live with it after only a short amount of time. I somehow came to the conclusion that in order to be able to stay with him, I had to learn to come to terms with the lies. I not only accepted it and tried to live with it, but I was also turned into a liar myself. When I talked to his exgirlfriend on the phone, I tried to evade her questions and didn’t stick to the truth. I so desperately wanted to avoid getting the narcissist into trouble that I hid the truth from her. I knew that telling her the truth would have made her freak out and possibly throw him out of her apartment. To save his skin I was throwing my scruples overboard and served her with lies. I felt like shit, but didn’t know how else to solve the problem. I never chose to be drawn into their interactions with one another and to become a part of the unsolved conflicts between them. With his penchant for triangulation, the narcissist drew me into their craziness, and I lacked the resolve and integrity to withdraw.

Apart from adjusting your daily routines to their needs and bending your morals and core values, you also change because the narcissist’s behavior turns you into an easily irritable, depressed and frustrated mess. As an effect of enduring their ambiguity and of being repeatedly dealt with harsh blows, we are no longer our old, happy selves and annoy others with our gloominess. It doesn’t really come as a surprise that our frustration begins to show after we have been hurt and humiliated repeatedly. Narcissists suck all joy out of our lives and everything around us suddenly causes us to either get sad or irritated. I was always on edge and on the verge of crying while I was dating the narcissist. My best friend got an earful whenever we met. And even though she didn’t really show it, I know that I wasn’t much fun to be around at the time. I’m still thankful for the patience and understanding both my best friend and my family extended towards me. My constant sadness and gloominess was making me very aware of the fact that being with the narcissist was enormously damaging to my emotional balance. Yet, even though I was aware of how miserable he was making me with his unavailability and ambiguity, I still held on to him, because I was too afraid of being lonely again.

However, narcissists not only make us change for the worse, but after the end of the relationship we often find the strength to change our lives for the better. Because they have left us broken and shattered, we feel the need to completely reassess our attitude towards relationships and ourselves. We are so paralysed by pain and exhaustion that we realize we need to change in order to never feel that way ever again. While I was with the narcissist, I definitely changed for the worse. But now, looking at everything in retrospect, I can say that all in all, being with the narcissist made me change for the better. The pain he caused me and my willingness to accept his shadiness were eye-opening and made me question myself. I started trying out new activities in order to distract myself from the heartbreak: I’m now taking yoga classes and I generally try to be good to myself and to be optimistic about life. Sure, there are still setbacks. But I’m thankful that the pain of being with a narcissist forced me to reassess my attitudes and my willingness to sacrifice. I guess it is true: being thrown to the ground often makes you re-emerge as a stronger and better person. So instead of just being frustrated and sad about what happened to me, I’ve also learned to appreciate the opportunity for personal growth offered to me by going through emotional abuse.

Leaving the Door Ajar for the Narcissist

Another phenomenon that is connected to being in a relationship with a narcissist is that we tend to leave the door ajar for them, and invite them back in, long after the relationship has started to emotionally destroy us and suck the life out of us. On some level we desperately want the drama and insecurity to come to an end, we want to be able to breathe freely again, we no longer want to be tortured by their ambiguity and inconsisteny. However, we can’t seem to manage to disentangle ourselves from them, and instead we allow them to inflict further harm on us. No matter how many times they have already broken our hearts and shattered our trust, we are still more than willing to give them another chance. We cry, suffer and are tortured by agonizing thoughts, and still we allow them to do even more damage. In my case, my willingness to endure even more pain led me to suspect that I was on some level getting hooked on it. At any rate, I was convinced that enduring the pain and working through all the drama was still better than having to face the emptiness of being alone. Now I know that I was gravely mistaken.

The narcissist I dated disappointed me and broke my heart on an almost daily basis. I suffered tremendously due to the ambiguous and distanced treatment I got from him. I don’t know how many times I longed for the agony to end and wished for the ability to regain my ease of mind. Hundreds of times, I made the decision to put an end to it, to disentangle myself from all the madness…and still I never found the strength to follow through with it. I was broken and despaired and still jumped at every opportunity to see him again. I longed for the strength to opt out, I was trying to go No Contact on various occasions, and still I always invited him back in and accepted even more of the pain he was causing me.

The first time I was seriously doubting his dedication to me was when he sent me back home after having slept with me in a hotel room. He told me he couldn’t spent the night with me, because his exgirlfriend would just freak out and probably throw him out of her apartment. He didn’t care to mention that detail before he slept with me, and I was feeling enormously humiliated. Had I known earlier that he would sent me back home, I would never have agreed to go to that hotel room in the first place. However, he had first taken advantage of me, before he dropped the bomb. The normal and reasonable thing to do would have been to tell him to go to hell. However, after only a short time of intense anger and frustration, I was prepared to meet with him again. I’m ashamed at how little relf-respect I had at the time. I allowed him to humiliate me and cause me intense pain, and still came back for more. I was so hurt after the experience in the hotel room that I contemplated putting an end to my interactions with him. However, I left the door ajar, lacking the resolve to follow through with it.

Through my willingness to invite him back in, he learned that he could take advantage of me without having to suffer any consequences. After Christmas I didn’t get to see him for four weeks, and I barely heard from him during that entire time. He repeatedly cancelled on me, telling me that he was sick or too busy. Once I was already sitting on the train to meet him, when I got a message that he got a sudden bout of fever and had to cancel on me again. I spent two hours on a train for nothing and had to return back home without having gotten to see him. I was so extremely frustrated as a result of it, that I again longed for the emotional rollercoaster to end. I wished for the strength to let go and to disentangle myself from all the pain and disappointments. However, as had been the case before, I sill agreed to meet with him only a few days later and readily forgot about the heartbreak he had caused me earlier.

After that one date, I again had to wait four weeks to see him again. He continually told me he was too busy to see me, because he had to teach an intensive course. However, that course only took place on four days a week, six hours a day. I knew that he wasn’t too busy to see me, but never dared to confront him with that knowledge. After a certain amount of time, he didn’t even offer any more reasons for why he didn’t want to meet with me. It seemed as if I just had to be fine with not seeing him. He didn’t have the decency to at least offer an explanation – apparently it was too exhausting to do so, or I wasn’t even worth the energy to come up with an excuse. I never got an apology, some soothing words or at least an assurance that things would get better soon. I learned to live with being in a relationship attuned entirely to his schedule. I accepted that he was in charge and that I had no say in what was going on. Of course, I was almost losing my mind during those four weeks, and again, I longed for the pain to end. At that time, I tried to go No Contact in order to find the strength to opt out. For the first time, I took the task of disentangling myself seriously. I even managed to convince myself that I indeed had the strength to follow through with it this time. My frustration was so intense at that point that I really thought I could finally let go. However, I was once more gravely mistaken. When I heard from him again and he told me he wanted to see me as soon as possible, I jumped at the opportunity and my resolve evaporated immediately. I was too weak, too lacking in self-respect to save myself and let got. I found my weakness and willingness to leave the door ajar enormously frustrating, and still didn’t take appropriate action.

When I saw him again after those four weeks he came to my place and left after only a few hours, because he didn’t want his exgirlfriend to find out he was seeing me. It was humiliating. I hadn’t seen him in four weeks and he had to leave early so that his exgirlfriend wouldn’t freak out. I felt used, pushed aside and made a fool of. By then, however, I had gotten so used to the pain and disappointments that I didn’t even waste many thoughts on what had happened. I just accepted it and let him go without even giving voice to the fact that he was breaking my heart with his neglect and triangulation. Instead of showing some respect for myself and tell him to go to hell, I allowed him to come back to my place only a few days later. He kept breaking my heart over and over again, and I left the door ajar for him. He could come into my life whenever he felt like it, and leave me like a discarded piece of trash whenever he had no use for me, or his exgirlfriend was causing him trouble.

During my relationship with the narcissist, I always wanted the misery to end and longed for the strength to let go. I often clung to the illusion that I was in possession of the resolve it took to opt out. I often avoided any contact with him for days and started to feel proud of myself for being able to do so. However, as it turned out, no matter how hard I tried, I could never manage to disentangle myself. Whenever he communicated a desire to see me, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. He could basically ignore me for days without offering an explanation for his silence, and I would still jump whenever he contacted me again. I never managed to follow through with my resolve to leave and to try to regain my ease of mind. He treated me like shit, took me for granted and toyed with my feelings, and I was still too weak to let go. Looking at my willingness to leave the door ajar from today’s perspective, I feel intensely ashamed of myself. No wonder he didn’t treat me with respect, when I repeatedly invited him to trample all over me.

The narcissists can repeatedly expose us to pain and agony, and we still can’t manage to finally close that door. No matter how much they humiliate and disrespect us, we leave the door ajar and invite them back in to inflict even more damage on our already fragile emotional well-being. They always make use of the opportunities we offer them: As long as we allow them to overstep the boundaries of decent human behavior and let them get away with everything, they won’t respect us or see the need to change their behavior. They shamelessly exploit our willingness to forgive and forget until we either can muster the self-respect to close the door or are hurt and damaged to such an extent that we can’t take any more of it.

I felt so despaired, exhausted and imbalanced that it almost came as a relief when I learned that he intended to leave the country. The fact that he would move thousands of miles away from me offered me the opportunity to finally breathe freely again and accept the end of our relationship. It was exactly what I needed to be able to close the door for good. If he hadn’t left the country, I would probably still be leaving the door ajar for his manipulation, drama and inconsistency. Being with the narcissist was an eye-opening experience. In the course of processing all the pain, I learned to enjoy my own company. Besides, I realized how damaging my willingness to hold on to him was for me, and as a result I started to question my own views and motives, as well as my attitudes towards relationships. I never again want to be so in need of affection and company that I am willing to allow people to repeatedly trample all over me. Being on your own is definitely better than slowly being destroyed by pain and insecurity.

Inflating Your Emotional Airbag for the Narcissist

During the entire time I was interacting with the narcissist he was feeding me with a seemingly endless supply of his sob stories, lies and excuses. Every single time he presented me with one of his countless tales of woe, I inflated my emotional airbag for him. I felt deeply for him, and his sorrows became my own sorrows. Even after he had already disappointed me hundreds of times, I still felt sorry for him and his supposedly tragic life. This compassion made it nearly impossible for me to be angry with him, to show resistance against his inconsiderate and uncommitted way of treating me, and his fondness for creating drama and a feeling of insecurity. I was always too busy trying to ease his pain, showing compassion and feeling miserable for the “complicated situation” he was in that I never really paid attention to the pain he inflicted upon me through his inconsistency, triangulation and ambiguity.

Narcissists are particularly talented at presenting us with sob stories. After having listened to some of them, we are convinced that their life is indeed very tragic, that they have become victims of unlucky circumstances and that they have been dealt some really harsh blows. We also start to believe in their conviction that none of the drama they find themselves in is a result of their faults or flaws. Everything bad that happens to them always seems to be beyond their responsibility. As we are usually very compassionate beings that are deeply affected by the pain of others, we genuinely feel for them. Their pain becomes our pain and we begin to suffer from having to listen to their endless supplies of sob stories. The narcissists can’t seem to lead happy and unburdened lives – and we feel deeply for the bad luck they supposedly have to deal with. As we are so busy trying to absorb their pain, we often forget to be compassionate towards ourselves. We feel so sorry for their pain, that we neglect looking after ourselves, and therefore allow them to emotionally abuse us without showing resistance. More often than not, their sob stories are exaggerated fabrications – something they present us with to create drama, to make themselves seem interesting, to makes us feel compassion towards them and to get us hooked. They know that our hearts go out to those in pain, and they coldly make use of that knowledge. Some of their tales of woe might indeed be true, and they never get tired of wallowing in their pain, pointing out over and over again how miserable their lives are – and they are drawing us down with them.

While I was interacting with the narcissist, I was constantly faced with his pain and unhappiness. It was affecting me to such an enormous extent that I was getting more and more exhausted and completely lost touch with myself. I was so busy racking my brain over his “miserable life situation” that there was no more energy left to think about my own wishes, desires and ambitions. I kept feeling sorry for him, and forgot to look after myself in the process. Whenever we spent time together, he fed me with his never-ending sob stories, and I never stopped feeling compassionate. My heart went out to him when he told me he had always been a loner, spending most of the time alone playing guitar in college. He told me he didn’t have a girlfriend until he reached the age of 23 because he was not attractive back then and because of his strict religious upbringing. He repeatedly told me how messed up his childhood was and that his parents were absolutely unavailable – which had the effect that he was the one who had to bring up his little sister. He complained about the fact that he had always been too worried about other people’s feelings, that he was tired of being the good guy because it often led him to having to do damage control on women hurt from previous relationships with assholes. Listening to his tragic tales I immediately inflated my emotional airbag. I felt deeply for him, I was sorry for his tragic fate, and I was convinced he was a blameless victim. It never would have occured to me that he was one of the assholes he tried to distance himself from.

On a daily basis I was informed how unhappy he was in Germany, how unstimulating his job was, how powerless he felt because he didn’t know any German, how he couldn’t take it any longer. His unhappiness deeply affected me and I tried to show up possibilities for him. I gave him advice on how to get ahead, on how to improve his situation. He never really took my advice seriously. He enjoyed being the miserable victim too much to try to improve his situation. However, even though he never took action to improve his “miserable living situation”, I still felt sorry for him. It never crossed my mind that it was his responsibility to bring about change, and that there were indeed plenty of opportunities to do so. I still thought of him as a blameless victim of very unlucky circumstances and my emotional airbag stayed inflated.

My willingness to show compassion took on such self-sacrificing proportions that I still felt sorry for him after I had become a victim of his manipulation and triangulation. He repeatedly pushed me aside and cancelled on me to keep his exgirlfriend satisfied. He kept telling me about her – he basically shoved her presence in my face. His changing attitude towards her was driving me insane and the fact that she always seemed to have priority over me was breaking my heart. However, even though I was deeply hurt and confused, I still felt sorry for him whenever he complained about how she was turning his life into a mess, and how living with her had become unbearable due to the fact that she was mentally imbalanced. When he finally told her about me, she threatened to throw him out of her apartment. By then I had been turned into a secret for weeks and it was about time that he put an end to all the secrecy. However, I still felt so bad about myself for supposedly putting him in such a difficult situation that I apologized a hundred times for it.

When his exgirlfriend tried to call me for the very first time, I answered the phone because I didn’t know it was her. I talked to her for about an hour and was made very much aware of the fact that the narcissist was feeding both of us with an endless supply of lies. However, instead of being angry because of all the lies and deceit, I was far more worried that I had said things to her on the phone that would get him into trouble. It sounds absolutely insane, but at that time my emotional airbag was so fully inflated that instead of standing up for myself, I was too busy worrying about him. My compassion for him was so endless, that I failed to realize that he was disrespecting me, using me, and manipulating me with his lies, drama and triangulation. I had been repeatedly humiliated and played like a puppet on a string – and still my only concern was for his well-being.

Once he sent me a long email, telling me how he much he suffered due to his exgilfriend. He pointed out that she was harrassing him with tons of hateful text messages and that he couldn’t take it much longer. Only a few days earlier he had again blown me off because of her, and now he was complaining about her hatefulness and malignity. Instead of standing up for myself and telling him that it was his own responsibilty to solve the problem and that he could have moved out of her apartment ages ago, I felt sorry for him. I even offered that he could stay at my place if he liked to. A short time later I again had to realize that he was making a fool of me. Only one day after presenting me with his complaints and after calling her “mentally imbalanced”, he posted very intimate looking pictures of the two of them on Google Plus. When I confronted him about it, he told me he was just trying to make a nice gesture. But why did he have to make nice gestures towards a person who was supposedly turning his life into a mess through her hatefulness and totalitarian wishes? I had answered his complaints with nothing but compassion, and in the end I felt like a fool. Just as it had been the case numerous times before, his sob stories about his exgirlfriend were only meant to secure him of my compassion and to play the role of the blameless victim. I inflated my emotional airbag for him and got slapped in the face for it once more. He played both of us like puppets on a string, and I refused to see it because I was too busy feeling sorry for his “unbearable living situation” and for the fact that his exgirlfriend treated him with nothing but contempt.

It took me a very long time to realize that through my absolute focus on his supposed misery and unhappiness, I was neglecting myself and allowed him to turn me into a fool. I had been let down and disappointed countless times, and I still felt more sorry for him than for me. My unconditional compassion for him led me to take every single one of his sob stories to heart and to believe that he was indeed a blameless victim of unlucky circumstances. I was deeply affected by his somber mood and constant depression and genuinely wanted to make him feel better. However, he was obviously never interested in improving his living situation or his mood. He enjoyed dishing up his tragic sob stories and being the victim too much to take positive action. I can’t find another explanation for the fact that he never even tried to get ahead in Germany, or to move out of his exgirlfriend’s apartment. For each and every single one of their problems there is often a relatively easy solution available and it drives you crazy that they don’t seem to be interested in taking the opportunity. We measure them by our own standards, and therefore we can’t really grasp the idea that they are not interested in solving their problems. They want to continue rubbing them in our faces. In the end I nearly lost my mind because of it.

During the entire time I was in a relationship with him I blindly believed that his life was indeed miserable and felt genuinely sorry for him. This absolute compassion makes it nearly impossible to see behind the facade and to realize that he is not the blameless victim, but an emotional abuser – using his sob stories and tragic tales of woe to keep you hooked. The people he claims are turning his life into a mess are more often than not victims of his emotional abuse, ambiguity and inconsistency. They are “hysteric” and “mentally imbalanced” because he made them this way through his shameful behavior. I wish I could have seen all of this while I was still being with him. It is heartbreaking to offer so much genuine compassion to someone who is just playing with your feelings and manipulating you. He never had any use for my affection and consideration and, as a result, all of the energy, dedication and affection invested in him was just wasted. I believed I could have a positive influence on his life and help him get out of his misery. I was gravely mistaken: His sob stories were just one of the tools of his narcissistic manipulation and her never was interested in finding salvation. Being a loving and compassionate person I was an easy prey for him, and had to pay dearly for my naivety and blind self-sacrifice.

The Narcissist’s Silence

I don’t really know why I haven’t addressed the issue of the narcissist’s penchant for using silence as a means of control earlier. After all, it was one of his modes of behavior that affected me the most and that turned me into an obsessive mess. The fact that I often didn’t hear a single word from him in days was a constant source of nearly unbearable pain, as it was ample proof of his distance and lack of concern. I constantly felt the desire to message him or give him a call. For me it was a sign of a healthy relationship that you wanted to stay in touch as often as possible. Not hearing from him over long periods of time was signalling me that my relationship to the narcissist was not in the least committed, and that he basically decided how close I was allowed to get. Through his silence and his control over our communication he kept me at bay and dictated the terms of our relationship. As a result, I felt completely powerless and dependent. Spending days in a row staring at my phone in the vain hope of receiving a message was a humiliating and nerve-racking experience, and I began to hate myself for making my entire happiness dependent on his inconsistent and uncommitted behavior.

I was confronted with his tendency to stay silent right from the beginning of our interaction. I got clear signs for his unavailability and inconsistency right from the start and nevertheless refused to see the red flags or to save myself while I was still not that emotionally involved. Our first date was pure perfection: There was an instant connection, we seemed to have so much in common and our minds seemed to be in tune. He already kissed me on said first date and I was swept off my feet, feeling as if I had just won the lottery. However, this feeling of bliss wasn’t supposed to last very long. When I met him again at work the following day, he just ignored me and didn’t even say goodbye before he left. I was shattered and couldn’t make any sense of it. I had to wait three days to hear from him again. Those three days were a time of extreme self-doubt and frustration. How could it be that he just stayed silent while I was floating on cloud number nine? Had I done anything wrong – anything that could justify his silence? As you can imagine, I was looking for an explanation in all the wrong places and it never occurred to me that he was just unwilling to offer commitment, or at least an interaction based on sincerity.

When we finally went on our second date he was all over me again – dragging me into deserted streets to be able to kiss me. Again I was completely swept of my feet and convinced that his previous silence had had no meaning. However, I was soon proven wrong. After our second date I again waited in vain for a message from him. It was so agonizing and heartbreaking that I contacted him two days later. I just couldn’t stand the silence any longer and asked when I would meet him again. Things would go on like this until the end of the relationship. I constantly had to wait several days for a call or a message from him. I could write the most heartfelt emails, pouring my heart out to him, and still I had to wait for several days for a reaction. He completely dictated the terms of our interaction, he was in control of every channel of communication, and I didn’t have a say.

The devastating effects of his silent treatment reached ist peak after several weeks. He had once again cancelled on me in the last minute, telling me that he was just too exhausted from work, and that he would make up for the missed date on the following weekend. However, when said weekend finally arrived, I just didn’t hear from him. I tried to contact him, but all my messages and calls were just ignored. I had been looking forward to that weekend for days and had cancelled all my other plans, just to find myself being ignored. It was devastating and I spent the entire weekend lying on the couch, crying and shaking all over, obsessing over why he ignored me, and scared shitless by the thought that something might have happened to him. When he contacted me again once the weekend was over he acted as if it was the most natural thing to not follow through with one’s plans and to not even inform the other party involved about it. He told me he hadn’t ignored me on purpose and had just been too busy to get in touch with me. Well…he couldn’t have been too busy to at least leave a message telling me he wouldn’t be able to see me after all. From that moment on everything was changed…I no longer could find any excuses for his silence and distance. I basically knew that he was utterly unattached and uncommitted, but refused to let that knowledge inform my behavior. I kept holding on to him, waiting for his messages, and was slowly losing my mind.

At the beginning of our relationship, when I was still not aware that he controlled our communication, I often couldn’t take the silence any longer and just contacted him. However, after a certain amount of time I cut down my efforts. First of all, it made me feel extremely needy and clingy to always be the one seeking contact. Secondly, I gradually gained insight into the fact that he wanted to be the one in charge of communication. I just tried to accept that he was in total command, that he expected me to patiently wait for him to contact me, and that he thereby controlled how close I was allowed to get. He contacted me whenever it suited his schedule, or whenever he felt like seeing me again. What I wanted never seemed to matter at all. I was slowly going crazy longing for him, waiting for the next opportunity to see him, and he didn’t seem to mind. If it didn’t fit into his schedule or if he didn’t feel like it, I just wasn’t allowed to see him. I accepted it, but of course it made me feel small, unwanted, pushed aside and undeserving of affection and care.

Whenever I heard from him or saw him again (often after several days or even weeks), he would treat me like a princess, telling me how nice it was to see me again, being all over me. He acted as if it was the most natural thing to keep silent for days and then just pick up from where he left – as if nothing had happened. It was like riding an emotional rollercoaster. One day I was suffering from his silence and seriously doubting his dedication. The next day he would sweep me off my feet again, showering me with compliments, caressing me, treating me like a cherished treasure. It was so confusing that I began to doubt my own sanity: How could he shower me with affection and then again ignore me for days? How could I be so assured of his affection one day, and then again be convinced that he was absolutely distanced and uncommitted? He was blowing hot and cold and I was falling apart from the constant insecurity about the nature of his feelings towards me.

After a certain amount of time the frustration had become so unbearable and his silence so humiliating that I had to take action. In order to get out of my obsessive frame of mind, I had to force myself to not check my phone or my emails for several days. I stashed away both my phone and my laptop in order not to completely lose my sanity. Sometimes I followed through with this tactic for several days in a row. Whenever I checked my phone again, I usually had a message waiting for me – and I therefore spared myself the agony of staring at my phone in vain for days in a row. My friends and family thought I was losing my mind because I stashed away my phone. For me, however, it was a necessary precaution to not feel like a needy and dependent mess and to not be constantly frustrated because of his torturing silence.

On one occasion I could finally muster the resolve to tell him how much his silence was hurting me – how unsatisfying and frustrating it was to receive no messages in days. In his reply he accused me of “measuring the depth of his feelings by the word count of his email”. He somehow couldn’t grasp that it was absolutely nerve-racking to have to wait for several days for a message (which often consisted of only a single sentence).

Now that the relationship is over I’m relieved that I can finally let go of obsessively staring at the phone, waiting for a message of him. All throughout our relationship, I was constantly on edge, waiting for him to get in touch and severely disappointed whenever he didn’t do so. Over the course of time I had worked myself into such an obsessed state of mind that I had to stash my phone away to keep myself from not going insane. The narcissist doesn’t care that he is slowly ripping you apart through his silence. He wants to stay in charge, he wants to dictate the terms of the relationship, and in order to be able to do so, he controls every aspect of our interaction with him. Everything is always according to his schedule, and he only contacts us when he feels like it or when it fits into his plans. After a certain amount of time you begin to accept their silence and you try to handle the realization that you have no say at all in what is going on. They often keep their silence for days and when they contact us again they just pick up from where they left. Instead of showing resistance, we tend to jump whenever they contact us again. All the frustration and agony is suddenly forgotten once they are all over us again. Moments of bliss alternate with extreme depression and disappointment, and we are often exhausted and drained from all the ups and downs.

I’ve finally learned to interpret silence as a red flag. In a healthy and committed relationship you don’t have to constantly beg for attention and submissively accept to be treated with silence. Besides, you never should have the nagging feeling that you have no say at all in what is going on. Being ignored for days in a row is a humiliating experience that makes you feel powerless, unwanted and worthless. I never want anyone to make me feel that way ever again…I never again want to beg for attention. It should be given freely and not be withheld as a means of staying in control and of determining how close you are allowed to get.

Losing Control Over Your Life As a Result of Emotional Abuse

Once the narcissist has drawn you into his drama-laden world of deceit, ambiguity, triangulation and inconsistency, you begin to gradually lose control over all areas of your life. They confuse, hurt and frustrate us to such an extent that we can no longer function properly in our daily lives. The ensuing feeling of inadequacy, weakness and powerlessness adds greatly to the general frustration until we reach the point where we think we cannot take it any longer. If the worst comes to the worst, we can lose the will to live and even catch ourselves thinking that it would be a great relief if a giant bottomless pit could just swallow us up whole. It takes a very long time to recover from the pain and despair we are left with as a result of being in a relationship with a narcissistic emotional abuser. In some cases, we can no longer manage to get back on track on our own and are dependent on emotional support. As it often takes so long to recover, we tend to be too hard on ourselves – thinking that it is another sign of our weakness and dependency that we cannot manage to regain our emotional well-being faster.

During the entire time I was involved with the narcissist I felt as if I was standing on the edge of a yawning abyss that I could fall into at any moment. I’ve never before felt so drained of energy and joy, and so close to completely going insane. The fact that my well-being and emotional health was so deeply intertwined with the narcissist’s behavior made me question my entire being. How could it be possible that someone else had gained so much control over me? Why was my happiness completely dependent on him? Why was I so deeply affected by someone who clearly wasn’t nearly as attached as I was? Why did I care so genuinely and deeply about someone who was exposing me to so much pain and who disappointed me over and over again?

All the drama and insecurity made it nearly impossible for me to get on with the daily concerns of my life. Both at work and at university, I found it incredibly hard to keep my focus. My thoughts kept revolving around his ambiguity and inconsistency as I was trying to make sense of his behavior. I sometimes felt so down and frustrated due to the many disappointments that came my way that I had to invest all my will power to keep me from bursting into tears. At the time I was involved with the narcissist, I was supposed to decide on what I wanted to work on in my Master’s Thesis. However, I found it completely impossible to find the energy and brain capacity to do so and consequently completely neglected my studies. As you can probably imagine, my inability to get ahead with the things I was supposed to do led to an enormous amount of self-doubt and self-loathing. I hated myself for being so weak and for not being able to get my priorities straight.

What also greatly contributed to the feeling of losing control was the fact that my physical and emotional well-being deteriorated so drastically as a result of being with the narcissist. I felt constantly on edge, drained of energy. I suffered from insomnia, stinging pains in the chest and a loss of appetite. It seemed as if he had completely sucked all joy and resolve out of me. I spent entire days on the couch, unable to move, shaking all over, agonizing over his thoughtlessness, his indifference and distance. Whenever I had worked myself into such an emotional state I was completely apathetic about all the other areas of my life. I was no longer interested in my studies, I no longer cared about reading books…I couldn’t have cared less about everything that was going on around me. My mind was completely occupied with his drama and the pain he caused me through his unavailability.

As a result of repeatedly being pushed aside and of having to deal with so much insecurity I got severely depressed. I felt as if I was a complete failure, absolutely powerless, dependent on the affection of someone who was incapable of giving it to me. Trivial matters could bring me to start crying, and often the only thing I longed for was falling into a dreamless sleep – something that had become almost impossible due to my insomnia. In addition to feeling frustrated and depressed, anger was heaping inside of me. The inconsideration, distance and indifference with which he treated me caused me to get extremely angry at times. However, since I never dared to give a voice to it out of a deep-seated fear of losing him, I swallowed and almost choked on it.

The narcissist’s strategy of keeping us in the dark and the deep feeling of insecurity that arises from it often drives us into a state in which we are tortured by obsessive thoughts. I spent a lot of my energy and brain capacity on trying to find answers and excuses for his behavior. I refused to accept that he just wasn’t as attached and that he enjoyed torturing me with his drama and ambiguity. In my obsessive mindset, I started to blame myself for what was going on – dwelling on the same questions over and over again: Why am I so damn weak and dependent? Why do I allow him to blow me off and disrespect me? Are my anger and frustration even justified or is he right when he says I’m overreacting? Am I expecting too much? Where is all of this headed? Why do I get so attached to someone who is unable to offer stability, security and committment?

In my case, what greatly contributed to the feeling of losing control was the humiliating experience of becoming a victim to triangulation. I was constantly pushed aside because he prioritized his exgirlfriends feelings. He often cancelled on me because his exgirlfriend didn’t allow him to meet with me and threatened to throw him out of her apartment. As if this hadn’t been enough to handle, I also was harrassed by her, as she constantly tried to call me and sent me text messages in which she reminded me of how much power she still had over him. Once she even had the indecency to point out to me that she would do everything in her power to keep him from spending the night at my place. It was nerve-racking, humiliating and just plain crazy. He repeatedly assured me that there was nothing romantic or physical about their relationship and that the only reason he still lived with her was that he felt responsible for her. In the end, I didn’t know what to believe anymore. The deceit, craziness and bullshit accusations that were a fixed part of the triangle, were sucking the life out of me. I couldn’t stop obsessing about the nature of their relationship, and I couldn’t stop loathing myself for allowing him to expose me to so much humiliation. Being consistently treated like a secondary option left lasting marks on my psyche. I was never really in control of what was going on and the resulting feeling of powerlessness was paralysing me.

Now that the relationship is over and all the drama and insecurity has finally evaporated, I need to work hard on regaining my inner balance. It will probably still take some time to regain the control over my life that he has so completely taken away from me. He left me so completely shattered – a shell of my former self – that it will be hard work to fully recover. I will never get back the time I lost due to the exposure to drama. I will probably hand in my Master’s Thesis later than I planned to, because I have been unable to focus on my studies for such a long time. I try to not put too much blame on myself for failing to get ahead in all areas of my life. I consistently need to remind myself that given the amount of stress and drama I was exposed to, it is only natural to not find the energy and mental capacity to function the way I was supposed to. However, I still find it hard not to loath myself for prioritizing an unavailable man over academic achievement.

I’ve already come a long way and am glad that I’ve learned a lot during my process of recovery. I am incredibly thankful for the emotional support given to me by my family and friends. They have always been patient and understanding with me, allowed me to talk to them about my worries, and therefore helped me regain my balance. I really don’t know where I would be without them. Knowing that there are people out there who genuinely care about you and want to see you get better really lessens the impact of the fall. He was almost successful at completely breaking my spirit and making me lose the will to live. In the end, however, I was strong enough to recover. He couldn’t break me in spite of the fact that he tried his hardest to do so – and it is thanks to my family and friends that he failed.

Dealing with the Disillusionment Caused by the Narcissist

One of the many reasons why narcissists can do so much damage to our well-being and sense of self worth is that their behavior is violating almost every maxim of decent human conduct. Prior to meeting a narcissist we often still hold on to the belief that humans are innately good and always try to avoid causing others pain and agony. After all that is one of the rules we try to stick to as good as we can. We tend to measure the narcissists by our own standards of good conduct and therefore – especially at the beginning – we give them the benefit of the doubt. It takes us far too long to realize that narcissists don’t abide by the rules of decent human conduct. They can overstep our boundaries hundreds of times, they can break promises, manipulate us, expose us to drama and break our hearts, and we still try to find the rationale behind their behavior. We never really lose faith in their innate goodness. We rack our brains trying to find an explanation for their disrespect and inconsideration – thinking that they have probably just temporarily gone astray and will soon treat us with the affection, commitment and stability we are looking for.

We refuse to let go of our belief in the innate goodness of humankind. We don’t want to stop measuring them by the standards of what we think constitutes decent behavior. Our refusal to let go and accept their cold indifference for what it is can become very harmful over time. In the end, we are only drawing out the inevitable through our willingness to rationalize their deceit and impudence. When the relationship is finally over we have to deal with the disillusionment that comes with having to say farewell to our belief that people try to avoid causing each other pain and stress. We are finally forced to realize that not all people are interested in being considerate of the feelings of others. I was greatly disillusioned after the end of my relationship with the narcissist. All the time I had been measuring him by the standards of good behavior I had set for myself. I somehow didn’t really believe that he didn’t act according to the same maxims. It took me a long time to realize that I was not capable of making sense of his behavior, because he was not sharing the same values and outlooks.

While I was still in a relationship with him I always gave him the benefit of the doubt and refused to see his distance, inconsistency, unavailability and deceit for what it was. After all, he occasionally showed me clear signs of affection, interest, care and dedication and I was convinced that he wouldn’t bother to do so if he wasn’t genuinely interested. I didn’t get my head around the idea that he wasn’t sticking to the rules of decent human conduct and that his signs of affection might just be part of his mind games and manipulation. Because of my naive belief in the genuiness of his conduct, I allowed the emotional abuse to go on for far too long. I always had nagging feelings of doubt and insecurity, I consistently feared that he might just abandon me. However, I always dispelled my doubts, telling myself that he wouldn’t have bothered doing this or saying that if he just planned on abandoning me. That prospect always seemed too cruel to me to even be a possibility. In the end, when the full scope of his shameful conduct had finally revealed itself to me, I had to pay dearly for my naivety. As my beliefs have been completely shattered, I was deeply disillusioned and had to adjust my views accordingly.

The narcissist I dated gave me reasons to hold on and to feel that there was indeed hope for a future. He spent an entire weekend with me and my family, he had inspiring conversations with my parents and my brother. He told my mother that he wanted her to teach him how to cook and how to knit (no kidding!). He leafed through old photo albums with me and my mother. After the end of the weekend, he hugged my mother goodbye and told her what a sweet lady she was. He not only met my parents but also my friends. He held my hand and kissed me in their presence. He behaved like a proud boyfriend who couldn’t keep his hands off me – a fact that let my best friend to remark that he was clearly “marking his territory”. He told me on several occasions that he cared about my feelings and respected me immensely and therefore wanted to make sure to treat me with the respect and consideration I deserved. He also assured me that he always wanted me to feel protected and to not have to worry about anything at all. He even urged me to stop my anxiety and worries, because he wouldn’t just leave or disregard me like the guy I dated before him did. Through some of his actions he signalled genuine interest and so I thought that I had every reason to hold on, in spite of my many doubts and the fact that I often felt disrespected, pushed aside and neglected. Judging from some of his actions I was convinced that after all he cared about my feelings, and that his signs of affections weren’t just fake. After he had met my family and friends and spent several days at my place, I never would have though that he could just leave without saying another word…

I don’t know if I could ever convey the depth of the disillusionment I felt after he had flown back to the U.S. without contacting me again, without saying another word (not even goodbye) and without giving an explanation for his sudden decision to leave Germany. The pain I felt was so intense that I had trouble breathing and thought that someone had stabbed a giant sword into my heart. I guess, in some sense, one could say that he really made me lose faith in humanity and completely destroyed my innocent belief system. Through his conduct he introduced me to the corruption, deceit and malignity of narcissism. He drew me into his world of lies, cold indifference and manipulation – a world in which you could just leave without saying goodbye, where you could obviously trample all over the people who had shown you nothing but care and affection.

After all, he didn’t just disrespect and damage me, but he also hurt my mother’s feelings. My mother was unbelievably hospitable towards him, did everything in her power to make him feel comfortable and at home, and she really grew to genuinely like him. Through his sudden and wordless departure and his disrespectful conduct he broke her heart as well. Just as it was the case for me, she also had a hard time accepting the fact that nothing about his conduct was genuine and that his signs of interest and affection were not heartfelt. We both had made the mistake of measuring his conduct against the standard of decent human behavior. I spent weeks trying to find an explanation for everything he had done – for all the drama, ambiguity and disappointments, for the triangulation and manipulation. In the end I had to admit defeat. I couldn’t figure him out because we were not playing by the same rules. Disrespect and cold indifference were not part of my innocent world view and consequently I found it hard to evaluate his behavior.

By now I have finally learned that there is no use in trying to find an explanation for the narcissist’s behavior. If we desperately cling to them, hoping that they will eventually follow the rules of decent behavior, we are only drawing out the inevitable. The only thing we as victims of narcissistic abuse can do is learn to deal with the disillusionment and try to get past it. We will never find satisfying answers, and investing our energy and time to figure them out will get us nowhere. There is nothing wrong with us; it is not because we are full of flaws and not worthy of love that they can just abandon us without showing consideration for our feelings. Some people just can’t behave in a decent way and they have no use for our love and consideration. They don’t know or care about what they are doing to the feelings of others. We have to accept it and no longer try to measure them by our standards or apply our rules of decent behavior to them. Instead we should try to come to terms with the lesson they taught us: Not every person is considerate and honest. There are people who show no respect and can’t value or handle genuine affection and care. It is not our fault that they can’t. Instead of trying to find the rationale behind their behavior, we should feel sorry for them. At least we have the chance to eventually work past the disillusionment they left us with. The narcissists will, however, always have a hard time reciprocating love and settling down in a healthy, committed relationship.