When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, everything is about him (or her—but for this article we’ll use “him” as an inclusive pronoun). It’s confusing and exhausting. One day you get it together to leave. You’re finally ready to take the steps required to make your life and energy revolve around you and your needs again. Hooray!

While this is an exciting time, and you are to be congratulated on moving in a positive direction, you also need to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the adjustment period right after your breakup, which is likely to present some challenges.

All breakups are difficult, but this type is often the hardest. You feel up, then down, over and over—it’s as much of a roller coaster as your relationship itself. Understanding the patterns you are likely to encounter can really help during the early months after a breakup with an emotionally manipulative person. Here’s a list of 10 common patterns plus ways to cope with each one:

1. Obsessing

Trying to have a relationship with a narcissist is nearly impossible, so you spent a lot of time analyzing his behavior and character to try and make sense of the curve balls he kept throwing you. After you leave your abusive relationship, this habitual pattern of analysis will continue until you force it to stop.

What works for me:

Whenever thoughts about what’s wrong with my ex arise, I remind myself that I am no longer concerned with him and force my mind to think about something else. I do this again and again. Most experts say it takes three months to change a habit.

2. Rationalizing

This is another one you will have practiced a lot. To get through all those dysfunctional trials with your narcissist, you had to make excuses for his behavior, minimize his abuse, reinterpret his lies, and tiptoe around his self-delusions, in order to keep the peace and justify staying with him. When you miss him now—and you will—you’re going to start rationalizing again, thinking, “Oh, he’s not so bad.”

What works for me:

I don’t call or text and maintain zero contact. There’s a reason this advice is given by all the experts. I’ll explain that further at the end of this list.

3. Feeling anxious

This is another familiar feeling. Your narcissist kept you on edge for months or years and your nervous system is still firing along those lines. Leaving may also be feeding into new stresses or fears, making your anxiety even worse. On top of all that, sex has stopped, so you don’t have the dopamine that was helping keep your head above water.

What works for me:

Long, slow deep breathing, yoga, dancing, swimming, and other types of exercise. Do something every day, every time you need it.

4. Feeling blah

With narcissists, a relationship is always about power. They have it; you don’t. You scurry around trying to normalize everything, but you never succeed because they want to keep you scurrying, so they can jerk your chain whenever they feel like it. This sounds really unpleasant, and it was, but it did fill the time. Now that no one is doing that, there’s a big, empty void in your days. Life just isn’t as exciting anymore.

What works for me:

I keep trying new interests, activities, and friends, and a lot of them are paying off. When I do stay home, I meditate to calm my mind. I know I don’t need to always look outside for fulfillment; it can be found within.

5. Shame

Now that you can clearly see your ex for the narcissist he was and recognize how unhealthy those patterns you participated in for all those years were, you probably feel ashamed that you let the wool be pulled over your eyes for so long. How could you be so naïve, stupid, and gullible? You may especially feel ashamed when you are with family or friends who were tuned in long before you were.

What works for me:

I give myself a pass. Narcissists are experts at seduction, and I’m only human. If you are like me, you have some codependent and self-esteem issues you’ll need to examine when you’re in a better place, but for now, just forgive yourself. Know that your innocence is a good thing. It means you have an open and trusting heart—something your narcissist will never have.

6. Self-doubt:

Since one of the narcissist’s strategies is to put others down to elevate himself, it’s unlikely you ever heard any compliments, support, or appreciation once the seduction phase wore off. You may have suffered verbal abuse as well. Narcissists want you to stay insecure, so feeling sure of yourself is foreign territory for you right now. Your trust in your own judgment is pretty messed up too. Where to begin?

What works for me:

There are therapists, self-help programs, and groups that can help you focus on self-love, which is what you need to practice in order to restore your self-esteem. I meet weekly with a group of people working on the same type of personal growth I’m interested in.

7. Sexual frustration

Research shows that many dysfunctional relationships rely on sex because intimacy and emotional fulfillment aren’t available. Narcissists especially like to use sex as a power tool because they are junkies for desire; they need to be wanted. The way they maintain your desire is by doling out sexual “affection” according their own power-driven agenda. But if your relationship was hot, you’re still going to want him sexually; it’s just a fact.

What works for me:

My vibrator. That piece of plastic isn’t any more devoid of human love, empathy, or compassion than my emotional vampire of an ex was.

8. Jealousy

Most narcissists replace their exes within weeks—if not days—of breaking up, often from a stable they’ve kept full throughout your relationship. Remember, they must have a source of energy to feed on at all times. They always make sure their supply is secure. Since they don’t have real emotions like the rest of us, you are an arrangement that ceased to be convenient when you stopped accepting abuse. Whomever they trap next will simply be a better business deal. My ex actually ran his prospects by me during our last encounter, as if he were looking for the best credit card deal.

What works for me:

When I feel jealousy, I remind myself that those poor women are getting set up the way I was and are sure to suffer in the long run, which converts my jealousy into compassion for them.

9. Regret

If you stayed with your narcissist for any length of time, you may be looking back and wondering why you wasted so much time on him. And if you racked up a bunch of debt for him or had his kids, you’ve got a lot more than wasted time on your plate. But the important thing is that you made it out.

What works for me:

I try to stop looking back and keep my sights set on what I am creating for my future. As any wise elder will tell you, it’s impossible to get through a human life without any regrets. On the other hand, your narcissist is probably regret-free. Sound enviable? It’s not. It’s inhuman.

10. Grief

Everything I’ve written in this article will not relieve your aching heart, but it will change behaviors and put new dynamics in motion to help you avoid backsliding. The healing of the human heart is a long and tender process known as grieving, which comes and goes, sometimes for years.

What works for me:

I take time to honor my grief by going beneath my anger and finding the sadness. As I comfort myself, I acknowledge the process of welcoming myself back home. I feel grateful for the emotions I had to keep bottled up for years—even the difficult ones. They can now bubble up because I’m finally with someone who loves and accepts all of me—myself!

So, why is zero contact the only way to go?

My own final encounter with my ex showed me exactly why this mandate is so important for these types of breakups.

Suffering with many of the feelings listed above, I convinced myself that I missed my narcissist as a friend. I actually believed that if we could convert our relationship to a friendship, all would be well, so I sent him a text and he came over.

When he started in with his usual self-absorbed, entitled routines, I wasn’t surprised; I had seen them a million times. What did shock me, however, was how easily I flipped right back into scurrying around, fetching him this and that, tiptoeing, soft-pedaling, rationalizing, even lying … you name it, I did it. Within the first hour, I lost all the gains I thought I had secured over the months since our breakup.

My self-respect, inner knowing, integrity, power, and boundaries all flew out the window in the face of his allure. I almost fell for his sexual seduction, but, somehow, I repeatedly said no until he finally left.

As soon as he was out the door, I started hating him. I remember this pattern from when we were “together.” I only felt drawn to him when we were in each other’s presence; as soon as he was gone, I would start to doubt and despise the whole thing and my role in it (that was my gut speaking to me, of course). After this last encounter, it took me an entire week to shake off his slime and begin feeling like myself again.

As you can see, preparing yourself with ways to get through your low moments is totally worth it. You don’t need to set yourself back like I did. Just keep on truckin’ ahead, and eventually you will re-become the person you were before you ever fell into the narcissist’s trap. Only you’ll be wiser, stronger, and better for having conquered it.

Source: www.mindbodygreen.com

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