Can we still be friends is a common question among people who have been romantically involved with a narcissist. The first question you must ask yourself is “what qualities am I looking for in my friendships?”
The more we learn to love ourselves the more discerning we become of the type of people we allow into our personal lives. Since loving and caring about ourselves is our priority, we must also surround ourselves with people we know love and care about us.
The truth of a narcissistic person is s/he only really cares about his/her own interests and friendships serve the purpose of providing some kind of supply, i.e. admiration, adoration, sex, money, or emotional energy. However, your needs are still not important to the narcissist. In fact, your needs are a burden. You only have value in his/her life in terms of what you can do for him/her. Is this really the type of friendship you want?
When your relationship with a narcissist ends, the suggested method of recovery, if you don’t have children with him/her, is “No Contact.” We cut the narcissist out of our physical lives in order to give our emotional lives a chance to recover. Narcissist have no problem toying with our emotions and continuing to do what serves them; without concern or consideration for what is good or right for you. You can draw boundaries and spell out to the narcissist what your needs are, and although that person may seem to respect your request at the time, you will quickly realize it is STILL all about him/her.
Narcissists will often try to keep you “on hold” after your relationship ends because you still may be useful. Most of my clients, out of their own need to believe the narcissist really loved them, will agree to be in that holding pattern. They hold out for the 2am booty call or the desperate immediate need for supply. Some will interpret every little contact from the narcissist as evidence s/he still loves them. But in my ten plus years of working in this field I have not heard of one case in which a relationship with a narcissist is actually healed or repaired. One simply gets tired of being used and eventually cuts that person out of his/her life; or they may eventually, after years of time, space and healing, be able to have that person in their life, casually, if it benefits them.
I had a relationship with a neighbor who lived right next door to me and he took up with another neighbor without first breaking off his relationship with me. It was emotionally devastating at the time. Luckily for me, his fling with the other neighbor was temporary, however I still had to live next to him. After a while I was tired of being angry and avoidant and I decided to forgive him. Forgiving him didn’t mean forgetting what he did, or allowing him back into my life on the level he once was, but I could be neighborly, say hello, have small talk across the fence, ask for help with my lawnmower and even pop over for a backyard party to mingle with the neighbors. I was able to find healing within myself so there was no longer a “charge.”
My neighbor was mildly narcissistic, he was not “over the top” as many narcissists are. What was possible with me and my neighbor may not have been possible with others and if this guy lived across town, instead of next door I would not likely have seen him again.
In some cases, you may work with the narcissist whom you have been involved with. Eventually, after you heal, you may be able to be on “friendly” terms with that person, but being on friendly terms doesn’t necessarily mean being friends. Sometimes, energetically, it is easier to be friendly then to ignore the person. But ignoring the person for a period of time, one to two years, may be necessary for you to completely withdraw your emotional energy and heal. Once you truly move on within yourself you are no longer attached to what is going on in that person’s world. You are too busy with your own world.
If you have children with the narcissist and you are eventually able to heal enough to be on “friendly terms” it would make sense to do so. However, some narcissists are hell bent on making your life miserable, even if they have moved on to another relationship. Sometimes even a casual friendship is not possible. Narcissists can be very competitive and have a strong need to “one up” you every chance they get, or they have a need to prove something to you. Some narcissists have a need to continually remind you where your “place” is…beneath them. However, there are some narcissistic people who are a bit milder and still want to associate with you, simply because you are a great person.
If my neighbor was angry or hostile towards me or didn’t like me as a person, I wouldn’t be casual friends with him. But he repeatedly lets me know what a beautiful person inside and out, he believes I am and even admits what he did with “the other woman” was stupid. He would fit into a more “mildly narcissistic” category. Although certain qualities such as “compassion and empathy” are still lacking.
Normally there is no value to YOU in staying friends with the narcissist. For your own health, sanity and well-being it is usually a good idea to cut off all contact and focus on your own healing. I would recommend, if you still have a “charge” with the narcissist; meaning if s/he still provokes PTSD symptoms in you, if you are still obsessing about that person, if you are still broken hearted and hurting, and don’t feel you have moved on in your life yet, it is best to avoid all contact. After years have gone by, you may be able to run into that person on the street and not feel anything. This is where you want to be. This means you have recovered yourself.
The warning I issue at this point is to remember where you came from and the likelihood that this person has “changed” is still extremely low. Don’t do it over again. Don’t go back! Don’t allow yourself to be seduced.
I have worked with so many women who do go back and they are so angry with themselves. Even when I am in a counseling relationship with these women they tell me they feel they have it under control. They feel they can handle it. But it never quite works out that way. We can be easily destabilized by a narcissist who can come on strong and convince you that you are the only person he ever really loved; only to turn around, devalue and discard you again, and run off with someone else. When this happens the woman finds herself right back at the beginning, having to go through recovery all over again. This is the biggest danger in remaining friends. Because the truth is, you are not really friends, you are a source of supply.
When you are a source of supply for the narcissist, you may easily be pulled back in when his/her current relationship fails and s/he is without a primary source. What most don’t realize is that they are just being used to fill an empty place in the narcissists life. It isn’t about love.
When healing from narcissistic abuse, it is best to let go completely! Let go of all hope that you will ever have what you want and need with that person. Remember once a narcissist, always a narcissist. Devote yourself to becoming narcissism free and building a life of self-love, purpose and healthy relationships.