People will often ask me how long it will take to get over a narcissistic partner. That is a really tough question. Do we ever really get over the death of a loved one?
Going through the pain and grief caused by the separation from a beloved partner is a process regardless of if the separation is caused by death or divorce. Separation from a narcissistic partner is usually much more painful and challenging then separating from someone whom one has had a “normal” relationship with.
I recently began writing my story about my long personal emotional journey through narcissistic abuse with the man I once considered to be my “true love.” The more deeply I dropped back into the story and allowed myself to feel those emotions that at one time consumed me, the more I picked up pieces of the truth that I had not wanted to admit to myself.
I realized there was a part of me that would always love him and would never truly be “over” him. I have moved on with my life and found love again, but he marked the loss of innocence in my life. He was the one I had been waiting for and now that the dance is over I am no longer waiting. I am no longer waiting for Mr. Right; for my prince charming; for the other half that would complete me. My prince charming led me to the gates of Hades and then abandoned me there. I was left to go through hell on my own. And one just doesn’t forget such a journey.
There is no longer any blame or anger towards him. But sometimes there is sadness that I had to lose someone I had considered to be such a close friend. Like losing a loved one through death, we will never forget that person and will always reminisce about them when something triggers the memory. In my case the triggers no longer cause post traumatic stress symptoms as they once did. They now simply trigger a melancholy ache, somewhat like a very dull headache that gets my attention but doesn’t require that I go running for the Excedrin. Those moments pass and life goes on.
Recenly I traveled to my old hometown where I lived with former narcissistic love. It has been ten years since I left him and a lot had changed. I found myself missing so many different things while I was there. I missed the freshness of the ocean air, the lush green of the Northwest and the accompanying smells. I missed the little boy that was once my son. I had a lot of memories in that town where he was born. As I write this, he is eighteen and his innocence left when he got his man voice and pectoral muscles. Funny how I never really lost my son, he just changed from a little boy into a man. So I find myself reminiscing about the times spent with that innocent young lad.
While in town I couldn’t help but reminisce about my ex as well. I sat in a corner coffee house wondering what I would do if I saw him pass by. Would I just let him pass, or would I say hello? He had contacted me several times over the years and I attempted to develop a friendship with him, even though I knew I could never go back or have a true friendship with this man. I tell myself I did this for the sake of research, so that I could have a deeper understanding of myself in relationship to narcissism and also to offer greater insight to those I help. But I must admit that I was also very curious about him and even more curious about myself! I wanted to see how far I had come, how strong I was now, and what impact he still had on me.
When I saw him again for the first time, after five years of no contact, I had hoped there would be no impact at all, but it was almost as if I was caught in a time warp and sent back five years. As we spent time together, it felt like old times. We laughed about stupid, silly things that didn’t mean anything. His daughter took photos of us and we posed like a couple of clowns. We all went out to eat together and I had a beer with him in the evening. We talked about our relationship and I told him it didn’t matter anymore. It was over! I told him it was one of the worst experiences in my entire life but I got through it and I am strong now. I stood outside of myself and observed him as he searched for a door back into my life. But I had each doorway carefully guarded. He told me that he never had another committed relationship since me. I told him I was in a relationship and I was happy in my life. I was honest with him. I told him I never thought I would ever fully move beyond him and how deeply traumatized I was by our breakup. And I told him that the process of getting through that trauma is what made me stronger.
The next day we had planned another outing but I called and cancelled. I realized that I was tired from always being on guard and I knew seeing him was putting a strain on my relationship. I was honest with my boyfriend and told him this was something I needed to do for me, but I could tell it concerned him.
I saw this man two more times since. Each time left me feeling empty and confused. Even though I had all this knowledge and experience around narcissism I still could not prevent myself from feeling. It was not that I loved him in the same way and wanted him back in my life. It was something deeper. I still felt a draw to this man and there was absolutely no logical reason for it. When I observed him from a higher perspective he was distant, aloof, non committal, secretive, distracted, and really not present at all. I would look closely and ask myself “what do you see here?” And I would answer “I see a frightened man! But I feel something beyond that! I feel something insanely familiar. Not only had I unconsciously associated this man’s energy with all my hopes and dreams of the past, but there was some kind of family connection here. Being with him was like being in my family of origin where I felt somehow overlooked. That old game wanted to play out that said “see me! I want to be noticed. I want to be real. I want to matter, I want to be heard!” As much as I had grown and understood the dynamics they were still subconsciously playing out to some degree. But not to the degree that they once did when I was completely unconscious. I knew this man would never “see” me. He would never know me! He would never truly acknowledge my depth and my beauty. He would only want to possess me energetically. And that was one thing I would never let him do again.
The last time I was in town, about a year ago, we had lunch and he was distracted as usual. I left my sunglasses in the restroom and went to retrieve them. When I came back out I had my sunglasses on my head and he asked me if I had found them. I said “no.” He said, “Huh! I wonder where they went. Do you think someone took them?” I then said “look at me!” And after he figured it out he started laughing and seemed to feel a bit stupid.
After I left I didn’t hear from him again for six months when he wrote to me and told me he apologized for being distracted the last time he saw me, he was busy with some projects yada, yada, yada, and he really hoped to see me again soon. I started to answer him “You are always distracted. That is who you are!” But I realized that anything I wrote wouldn’t matter because even after all these years he still would not hear me. So I didn’t respond at all.
Although I still felt the strangeness of being back in town knowing he was probably there somewhere, it didn’t take up my energy. I really enjoyed myself and enjoyed spending time with my friends who lived there. I enjoyed visiting some of my favorite places and hanging out in coffee houses checking my emails. He was more like a ghost, in the distant past who would always be there, but didn’t have to be a drain on my energy any more. That was a thing of the past.
Do we ever really get over a beloved who is a narcissist? I think we get beyond them. We can’t really scratch people completely out of our lives who meant so much to us. We can’t completely forget the emotional impact a narcissist has had on us. And if we truly love someone that love will always be there in some capacity.
We recover our energy! We stop going back for something we can’t get. We stop blaming that person for where we are in our lives and perhaps even begin to thank him/her for being so instrumental in our awakening to who we really are. I know that I did! Without him I would not be who I am today! I have to admit! Although I appeared strong and confident so many years ago when I met him. There was a part of me that was running scared and never truly committed to myself. Before I met him I never recorded a CD, or wrote a book, or traveled to a foreign Country by myself. I was sheltered and protected and afraid to really take risks. But after meeting my beloved, I did it all! I had lost it all! And there was nothing more to lose!
The true beloved is the part of ourselves we have cast into the shadows of our own psyche. The narcissist mirrors that part of us. He shows us where we are weak, and fragile, and insecure. He shows us where we are needy, and hungry and dependent. He shows us the parts of ourselves we have abandoned and the parts of ourselves we need to love and embrace in order to truly be whole. I never needed him to see me and hear me. I needed to see myself and to hear the song of my own soul. Because of him, I have found myself! And I will always love who he was to me, both the good and the bad, the dark and the light. I will never forget the impact this man had on my life. Because of him, I could be here today, writing these words to you.
Note: In the above story I talk about reconnecting with my ex but I feel it is important to note that this was after six years of “no contact” and a great deal of personal and spiritual growth. The period of “no contact” is what allowed me to regain myself and find my strength again and I still feel it is the best method of recovery, if you don’t have children together.