What’s even worse is when you have children with them and you’re facing a lifetime of dealing with their antics and abuse.
The important thing to remember is that having kids with a narcissist doesn’t mean you are “trapped” in an abusive relationship with them. Even as you struggle to parent your child with a narcissist, you can still break free from their grasp and begin the process of healing.
Healing from narcissistic abuse involves taking control of the situation and learning how to let go of the blame and shame you feel.
This is something I had to come to on my own, having spent years not even realizing what I was dealing with.
I had to struggle through many a challenge with my narcissistic ex before I could even begin to come to terms with what happened and how to move beyond it.
If you are coming out the other end of a relationship with a narcissist, here are some ways you can begin the healing process:
What Does Narcissistic Abuse Look Like?
Oh man, it looks like a lot of things.
The effects of narcissistic abuse are vast and complex. The abuse can be emotional, mental, physical, financial, spiritual, or sexual – or a combination of all six.
Here are signs of narcissistic abuse:
- Verbal abuse (bullying, threatening, raging, insulting)
- Manipulation (covert aggression, demeaning behavior, hostile intent)
- Emotional blackmail (threats, anger, warnings, intimidation, punishment)
- Gaslighting (creating distrust of your perceptions of reality)
- Sabotage (interfering in your life out of revenge or personal advantage)
- Exploitation (taking advantage of you)
- Lying (deception to avoid responsibility)
- Withholding (money, sex, communication, affection)
- Slander (spreading malicious gossip)
- Violence (physical or sexual)
- Financial (controlling your money or using up your finances)
- Isolation (keeping you away from friends, family, and support)
Because Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a broad term to explain an entire spectrum of symptoms, the effects of their abuse are vast as well.
How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse
Healing from narcissistic abuse is a process that involves a lot of self-control, self-reflection, and self-forgiveness.
It’s not easy, and things will never end up being perfect, but the more you work on your healing process, the less you feel anxious and stressed about dealing with your narcissistic ex.
1. Learn About Narcissism
The majority of the comments I receive on my post about parallel parenting with a narcissistic ex are from individuals who had no idea what they were dealing with until they realized it was called “narcissism”:
I still remember the moment of clarity I had when I came across an image on Pinterest that described narcissism. It was like a sigh of relief – I finally had a name to put to what I was dealing with.
This made all the difference. I could then learn more about strategies for dealing with my narc ex as well as how to heal and stop blaming myself.
The more you learn about narcissism, the more you will see that the situation was not your fault. It’s not you, it’s them – and this is one of the major signs you’re healing from narcissistic abuse.
2. Block the Narcissist Out of Your Life
Okay, I know, easier said than done when it comes to parenting with a narcissistic ex.
Notice how I said to block your ex out of your life. This means that you can still parallel parent when it comes to your child, but your ex does not need to know what is going on in your life.
A lot of this relates to limiting communication. Conversations should be written (by text or email) and pertaining strictly to your children.
A recent commenter introduced me to the term “Gray Rock”:
“Gray Rock” refers to the idea that you make yourself about as interesting as a gray rock to your ex.
Block them on Facebook and other social media. Don’t engage in conversation (no matter how “pleasant” it may seem). Don’t share details about your life.
Become boring as a rock.
Narcissists are emotional vampires, so they will drain you of whatever sentiment or attention you give them. The less you feed into their “supply”, the less interest they will take in pushing your buttons.
3. Remove Toxic People from Your Life
It’s unfortunate, but some people in your life may side with the narcissist. The narcissist is a master manipulator and may have charmed others in your life to believe their story.
Guess what? If they believe your ex over you, they are not worth your effort.
I remember feeling so angry and defensive when my ex tried to put me down. I worried about what the people he was talking to would think about me.
When I started to learn about narcissism and came to terms with the fact that this wasn’t my fault, I stopped caring. If people wanted to believe him, they didn’t know me well enough and didn’t deserve space in my life.
If people in your social circle have sided with your ex, you are not going to win this battle. In fact, it’s not even one worth fighting.
4. Learn From Your Mistake
I hate to call it a “mistake”, because you did nothing to deserve the abuse you received, but it is a faux-pas in your life that you can definitely learn a lesson from.
The first step in learning from this experience is not to jump into another relationship right away. You need time to detox from your ex, rediscover yourself and heal.
No one else can do this for you.
Also, narcissists thrive on the emotional pain of others. If you try to jump back into the dating scene too soon, you risk hooking up with another narc who can sense your weakness.
It’s best just to take a break.
The next step is to be honest with your experience. You can’t sweep this under the rug and you can’t deny it happened – you may as well accept it for what it was and learn the signs you initially missed.
I’d suggest writing your experience, thoughts, and feelings in a journal – this will help you sort out the mess that is going on in your head.
5. Give Yourself Time to Heal
This kind of goes part-and-parcel with the last point but it is crucial in healing from narcissistic abuse.
You need to give yourself time – and not just time before you start dating again. You have to accept that you are not going to get over this overnight.
It could take months or years to reconcile with what your narcissistic ex has put you through. This is completely okay.
Even from the day I learned what I was dealing with, it took a couple of years to feel like I was finally moving past it. Is everything perfect? Not at all, but I finally feel like I’m back in control of my life and the situation.
And you know what? You may never get there, but if you can experience anything “better” than what you did at the height of the abuse, you are doing great.
6. Don’t Fuel the Narcissism
I mentioned above about the narcissist’s “supply”. This is a term used to describe their need for attention and conflict.
Narcissists will intentionally pick fights and arguments simply to get a reaction out of you. When children become involved, this becomes more prevalent as often they will attack your parenting skills or make accusations against you regarding your children.
Not fuelling a narcissist is probably one of the hardest things to do, since your first instinct it to defend yourself and correct them.
It’s not going to work. You’re only giving them what they want.
Instead, hold your ground and only address issues (in writing) when necessary. Use clear and emotionless language and don’t address their response unless it’s civil.
For example, and I’ve mentioned this in another article, I found out my ex had let my daughter watch an inappropriate Rob Zombie video.
I addressed this simply: “[Daughter] tells me she watched [inappropriate video]. I don’t think this is appropriate for a 4 year old.”
He went on a rant about how he didn’t (my daughter described everything that was going to happen in the video before it did), how I’m messing her up because I let her talk about zombies and death and how she once told him my mom drank a beer if front of her and how that was inappropriate.
Can you guess how I responded?
With dead air.
I had nothing more to say, so I didn’t.
He has also thrown insults and accusations at me randomly. I don’t respond.
Over time, the frequency of these attacks decreased. They still happen, but not as often, and they don’t cause me the anxiety they used to before.
So, stand your ground. Not only will this diminish his supply, but it will give you a much needed sense of strength.
7. Prepare for Complex Emotions
You’re going to deal with a lot of emotions following abuse from a narcissistic ex and you’re going to feel things you probably can’t even put words to.
This is totally normal and just a part of sorting out what happened and how to move on from it.
While most breakups involve pain, grief, shock, and anger, ending an abusive relationship with a narc comes with:
That’s a lot to deal with and can actually cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While my PTSD is not debilitating, it characterizes how I deal with a lot of conflict in my life. I find myself shutting down and running away from problems – sometimes it’s a good thing, but sometimes I need to deal with them.
These are all normal emotional experiences but working through them alone won’t be easy.
If you feel you need to talk to a professional, feel free to seek the help of a therapist. Otherwise, you can keep seeking out articles like these, leaving comments and connecting with others who have shared the experience of your abuse.
I found a huge part of my healing was actually writing these articles and helping other people who have suffered narc abuse.
However you choose to do it, you need to work through these complex emotions. Find a method that works best for you.
8. Forgive Yourself
There’s no doubt that you are going to harbor guilt and shame – narcissists are good at convincing you that everything is your fault.
I’m going to tell you right now:
None of this was your fault.
You were a victim, which means that someone else took advantage of you. It doesn’t matter how they try to turn the situation around to avoid being the villain – they are.
With that in mind, it’s time to forgive yourself.
You didn’t wake up one day and decide to make a baby with someone who is abusive and manipulative.
Narcissists are pros at being charming and sucking you in. You simply fell into a trap you could never have seen coming.
All you can do is deal with the current situation as best you can and refuse to repeat this pattern with anyone else in your life.
You Can Move Beyond This
If you have a child with a narcissist, it’s likely and unfortunate that you’re going to have to put up with this individual for a long time.
However, you can take control of the situation and get your power back. It takes perseverance and a sense of peace, but you can do it.
Over time, you can overcome the effects of narcissistic abuse.
How do you deal with a narcissistic ex? Share your tips in the comments below!