by Susan J. Elliott, J.D. , M.Ed. Copyright 2014
I receive a lot of email and can’t answer them personally so I ask that those who write give me permission to publish the email (with identifying information removed) so that others with similar issues can benefit from the discussion. Lately I’ve received a lot of emails and comments on the this blog about breaking up with narcissists. This letter represents a lot of themes I have heard throughout the emails and comments.
This response was to the person who wrote and much of the response is for her and for others who write similar things. It reflects me and how I respond to these situations. If you need kinder or gentler advice, please look somewhere else. There are many articles on the internet by an array of therapists. There is a style to suit you if mine doesn’t. Take what you like and leave the rest.
If you want to write me with your situation please do so at email@example.com
I lived across the street from my ex who seemed to be watching me, as well as his mother who visits him often. I moved out of there 3 months ago after taking a trip to the US to visit family. My mother and I have never really gotten along and the trip was no different. We had a huge falling out and have not spoken since.
Please keep in mind that during the past few months I have been struggling with the break-up with my ex, who is a full-blown narcissist. I am not exaggerating and he meets, I believe, 8 of the criteria for narcissism. I joined the support group on the net called The Web of Narcissism and this seems to be helpful. I even find myself giving support and helpful advice (I hope so) to others who are just coming out of their relationships.
My problem is this: Even though I have:
- moved away from my ex,
- realized that he is personality disordered (personally, I think it’s more of a moral disorder) and a true narcissist that will never/can’t change,
- I am slowly meeting new people and more focused on work
I find that some days I am still so angry at him for his mistreatment towards me when all I wanted to do was love him. This morning I sent three nasty text messages to him, to which he hasn’t responded and I’m glad. I just wanted to vent towards him and hopefully, release some of my anger. While rationally, I know that he is sick I find myself on certain days full of anger towards him. I don’t want my rage towards him and distrust of him to carry over into future relationships. Those of which I am not searching for right now.
I know that I have work to do within myself. I came here to Europe to live my dream. I feel like sometimes I am numb. I don’t know if it is from him or perhaps I was a little numb to start with and that’s why I was attracted to him in the first place.
Please let me also add that I know that I am a raging co-dependent and that’s why I found myself in this situation in the first place. All of my life I have been building up to “finding the great narcissist” of my life so that I could FINALLY begin to learn my life lesson and stop degrading myself. Being around my mother last summer made me realize so many things and parallels between my own childhood growing up and the situations that I found myself in during my relationships. Realizing the similarities gives me hope that I am growing as an individual.
My main questions are: 1) When will the anger and feelings of injustice about his behavior towards me and the rotten treatment that he received from his childhood (which ultimately affected our relationship) go away? …And,
2) Why is it that I am (supposedly) living the dream that many would like to have here, but yet I can’t seem to get out there and enjoy myself? It’s like I am afraid to live…I mean really live…full of joy. Does that sound weird or what.Any ideas, suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so very much Susan! ~ CONFUSED LADY!!!
Dear Confused Lady,
Thank you for writing.
Your experience is very common after breaking up with a narcissist.
I think the first thing that you need to remember is that codependents fall in love with people they think they can “save” so there was something in it for you. The biggest challenge you have is your codependency and you really need to stay focused on that and recovering from that.
It sounds like you still have a lot of raging codependency going on. I say that because the clearest sign of codependency is confusion over boundaries, confusion over who owns what.
It really helps, a lot, when you get clear on what you own and what he owns. I know that you feel like a victim and on many levels you are, but it helps to know that you are in control of some things. Like you I felt like the victim of an abusive person. While I absolutely WAS the victim, I also had a hand in my own victimization. If you don’t take responsibility for your part in it, you can never recover. So what I’m about to say is meant to EMPOWER you, not to add to your misery. But there are things you can absolutely do something about.
Here you’re confusing several things.
- You need to get clear, very clear, on who owns what. You’re very jumbled in this regard, which is normal after coming out of a relationship with a narcissist who probably told you down is up and up is down and everything is your fault. It’s time to get clear on who owns what and what you need to do about what you own. Step back and journal. You have to get readjusted to the new reality without him. Narcissists and sociopaths and other corrosive people can twist our heads inside out. But the first order of business is getting clear again. Journaling helps.
- Your anger belongs to you. It doesn’t belong to him. He mistreated you because he’s a narcissist, pure and simple, and he doesn’t care about you or your anger. Stop telling him you’re angry. He doesn’t care and he doesn’t have to. It’s not his to own. It’s not his to deal with and it’s not okay for you to spew at him. You own it. Deal with it.
Go no contact and stop going to him for some reaction he’s never going to have. Stop venting at him or trying to “release” your anger by blowing up at him. That is unhealthy and unhelpful. You need to talk to others, write, read, break dishes, hit a heavy bag, exercise, run, walk, scream into a pillow….ALL those things about it. What you don’t need to do is go to him with it. Not good. Not helpful. Not healthy. Read and re-read the No Contact Chapter in Getting Past Your Breakup. You must commit to NC if you want to heal and move on.
- When “all I wanted to do is love him” is a classic codependent/martyr refrain. I know it “feels” that way, but it’s not a helpful thing to think about. Lose this refrain.
Who owns this? You do. You fell in love with and gave love to someone completely incapable of loving you back. So even if you had love (the feeling) and expressed it (as in love is an action), it went nowhere. It was wasted. And it was wasted because you made a poor choice in picking who to give it to. Who owns that? YOU DO.
You had terrible things happen in childhood. You have a narcissistic mother to deal with. When we pick people who reflect those we’ve had difficulties in the past it is to recreate our struggle but this time to WIN. On a subconscious level, you picked a narcissist to recreate the struggle with your mother. When you work through your issues with her, you’ll stop doing that.
There is a long road to go, but you have to start understanding that “I only wanted to love him” works against you. Lose this idea. You have to be loved back. If that is not there, it’s worthless. You cannot love a narcissist into being loving or fair or kind. It’s not in their DNA. They are programmed to act like jerks. That is part of the disorder. Get it into your head and get over it. It will help you to understand that “love” is NOT part of the equation with narcissists; they are not capable of it.
- Anger over his mistreatment in childhood. Who owns this? He does. Not you. Don’t get angry about it. It doesn’t matter why he is the way he is. It only matters that he IS the way he is.
He’s never going to be angry about it and even if you’re angry about it, it changes nothing. Only he experienced it and only he internalized it. No sense in being angry at what happened to him. Understand that when a person has unresolved issues that they refuse to deal with, there is nothing you can do about it.
That stuff doesn’t belong to you and is an over-empathic reaction that will harm you in the end. You should not care more about what has happened to him than he is and he’s not. Remember, we “make up” for that which is lacking in our partner. He’s completely devoid of empathy and you have too much. Too much empathy = enmeshed boundaries. Cut it out. It’s not yours to be angry at. You have to look at your own stuff and leave his baggage at the side of the road. It’s not yours to carry. You can drop it now.
- It sounds like you have to work on your grief and anger and work your way through it. Do the Relationship Inventory in Getting Past Your Breakup. Do the Life Inventory around your mother. You have issues with her that is most likely driving a lot of your unhealthy choices. Figure it out once and for all.
- You are never going to feel the JOY at your living situation until you work through your stuff and take care of YOU. And I am almost never envious of someone else’s opportunities, but I can say I am envious of you living in Europe and pursuing your dream. That is SO GREAT and you need to stay mindful of how lucky you are and how much that means to you.
- Spend each day where you are journaling, walking, getting out and trying to observe and be, REALLY BE, where you are. Turn off the electronics, stay away from the phone and computer and spend some times each and every day being quiet and getting comfortable with being you. Codependents are famously uncomfortable with themselves which is why they find saving others so attractive. It’s time to go inward and save yourself.
- Write gratitude lists every night. Learn to be happy and grateful for what you have in spite of it all. Learn to appreciate that you are no longer with the crazy narcissist and his mother.
- You cannot give it away until you have it. Keep listening to others and sharing but try to stay focused on your stuff first. It sounds like you’re leaping to “helper” before you have your own stuff resolved. Be careful in “helping” others when you are still so raw yourself. The time will come to pass it on, but for today you need to take care of you.
- And CONTINUE to take care of you. Remember to deal with what you own, leave the ex alone and work on your codependency and boundaries. Spend time giving yourself credit for the courageous steps you’ve taken and will continue to take. Spend at least one day or night each week doing nice things for you.
Continue your progress! You can do this!
Other GPYB articles on narcissism:
Copyright 2014-2017 Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
“I Teach What I Know. I Have The Degrees, but I Have The EXPERIENCE and I don’t ask anyone to do anything I have not done ~ SJE .”
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