Part of the narcissistic relationship cycle involves an eventual discard. The narcissist’s inability to make strong commitments and get close to loved ones means they will often discard you at some point. It’s equally as likely, however, that they will come back into your life after doing so. That means you’ll want to prepare for that likelihood, and you’ll also need to heal your wounds.
When the narcissist cuts you off, take steps to heal the effects of the emotional abuse you’ve endured by allowing yourself to grieve and taking the time to heal. You also need to prepare for when the narcissist comes back. That means shoring up appropriate boundaries and considering your response.
It’s not surprising that a narcissist would discard you and cut off all contact with you, but you shouldn’t believe that will be the end of the story. It’s likely they will come back, but before they do, you’ll want to take time to heal from the emotional abuse they heaped on you and you’ll need to prepare for their eventual return. Read on to learn more about exactly what you should do.
The Stages of a Narcissistic Relationship
There are three recognized stages of a relationship with a narcissist. These are the 1) idealization stage, 2) the devaluation stage, and 3) the discard. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you are likely familiar with at least the first two of these stages. Let’s discuss each of them.
1. The Idealization Stage
This is the stage where you might truly believe you’ve found your soulmate. The narcissist is interested in everything about you and makes you feel as though you’re the only person in the world they care about. They are loving, supportive, attentive, and kind.
But they are also learning all about you, and that includes learning about your weaknesses and fears. You likely opened up to them during this stage because they just seemed so perfect. This is the stage where you fall in love with them, but unfortunately, because of the nature of narcissism, this stage can’t last.
2. The Devaluation Stage
Once the narcissist has learned what they need to know about you, they can no longer sustain the focus they have put on you. In fact, they want you to start focusing on them instead.
As a result, the narcissist begins to make increasingly unrealistic demands on you and your behavior toward them. They have high expectations, and the reality is that you will never be able to meet them; no one could.
When you begin to fail them (in their eyes), the narcissist will begin to criticize and devalue you. Suddenly, the person you thought was so perfect is criticizing you all the time and making you feel worthless. It’s difficult to reconcile the two faces of the person you were sure was your soulmate.
You may first make excuses for their behavior — they’re going through a hard time or it’s just a rough patch in your relationship, but soon you’ll see this is the new normal. No matter how much you adjust your behavior to try and meet their needs, it will never be enough.
Very soon you find yourself walking on eggshells, and you’re trying hard to get the person you fell in love with back. The problem is that person was never there to begin with. This is the stage where you might make the decision to break it off with the narcissist, but if you don’t, they will usually make that decision at some point.
3. The Discard
Once the narcissist has gotten everything from you that they think they can — whether that means draining all your accounts or draining you emotionally — they will likely prepare for the discard. They will first line up your replacement so that they won’t skip a beat when it comes to narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply is that steady flow of adulation they need to prop up their self-esteem. They can’t do without it, and they will surely have someone lined up to provide that for them after they discard you.
Once they feel secure in a constant flow of narcissistic supply, they will discard you. Sometimes, they may even simply disappear from your life without telling you they’re going. The discard can be done in a very cruel manner because the narcissist feels you no longer serve their needs.
They will become so cold and cruel that you simply can’t believe you’re dealing with the same person. It feels as if nothing about your relationship was real, and you can’t understand how you could have been so blind.
Why Do Narcissists Usually Come Back?
After such a cruel discard, you might believe it’s over forever, and that might be true for you, but it’s not usually true for the narcissist. They usually will come back at some point in time because they cycle through friends and lovers on a regular basis.
Because they regularly emotionally abuse the people in their life, the narcissist has learned that people will only put up with so much. They know that there is a limit to how much they can get from the people around them. That’s why they typically have backups in place, and they cycle from one person to the next.
The same is true for their romantic relationships, and though they might have discarded you in a cruel and seemingly final manner, they will likely be back. Even if they cut off all contact with you, they will likely make their way back into your life at some point in time.
You might not be able to believe this and you might think you would never take them back, but remember that charming person you originally fell for? They’re still in there, and the narcissist will begin to ‘hoover’ you back into their drama when they make a reappearance in your life.
Hoovering refers to the suction of a Hoover vacuum. That’s how the narcissist will approach getting you back. They will start love-bombing you and doing everything they can to suck you right back in. That’s why it’s vital that in addition to healing from the emotional abuse you suffered, you need to prepare for the narcissist’s return after they cut you off.
What Should You Do When the Narcissist Cuts You Off?
When the narcissist cuts you off, you will probably feel like you’ve been picked up by a tornado, thrown around and around with all kinds of other debris, and then suddenly dropped out of the sky. It’s been a whirlwind of a ride, and you’ve taken your fair share of knocks along the way.
When you finally land and the narcissist is gone from your life, you’re going to need some time to grieve the loss of what you initially thought was the best relationship in your life. You’re also going to need to grieve the idea that you didn’t see it coming.
Make no mistake about it, there’s no way you could have known unless you know in advance exactly what to look for to spot a narcissist. It’s not your fault, but it will feel like it is. You’ll blame yourself, and you’re going to need some time to see the truth.
You’ll also need to heal from the significant amount of narcissistic abuse to which you’ve been exposed. There are some specific steps you’ll want to take to help you do that, and after that, you’ll have to make sure you prepare for the likelihood they will be back. Let’s look at several things you need to do to recover from this toxic relationship.
Step #1: Grieve
When you’ve suffered the loss of a relationship, no matter how good or bad it was, you need to take the time to grieve that loss. It’s an important step, and that’s particularly true when the relationship involved a narcissist.
Narcissists make you feel absolutely worthless, and they can cause significant damage to your self-esteem. You need to recognize that and grieve for what you’ve been through. If you push the feelings you have about what happened aside, you won’t be able to let them go. They will come back again and again, and they will cause problems for you in future relationships.
To truly grieve, go into your feelings and let yourself experience them. Let yourself feel the pain and cry, and let yourself release that stored emotional energy that has been building up over the course of this relationship. It’s only by truly letting yourself sit with your feelings that you can let them pass through you instead of sticking to you.
Step #2: Process Your Feelings
It’s critical to process your feelings to truly be able to let them go. Try this exercise to work through your feelings about the relationship that just ended:
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes;
- Focus on your breath and take 10 deep breaths that expand your chest and your belly;
- Now bring your attention to the grief you feel over the loss of this relationship;
- Where do you feel that grief in your body? Breathe deeply into that part of your body;
- Now, identify the story you’re trying to tell yourself about your grief. It might be something like, “I was so stupid. Why didn’t I see what this person truly is like?”
- Challenge your negative beliefs about yourself. Are you really stupid? How could you have known you were being deceived? Our culture conditions us to blame ourselves when someone lies to us, but how can we know and why would we? Why is it your fault?
- The answer to the previous question is that it’s not your fault if someone is lying to you. They are the ones who made that choice so stop carrying their baggage. It’s time to let those feelings of self-blame leave your body.
- Now that you’ve identified these feelings, let them go. Envision them leaving your body as smoke rises from a dying fire. Watch as they pass through your body and move on.
- Take that child inside you who feels cheated into your arms and let them know you will also tell them the truth and you will always be on their side. Feel the self-love flowing through you.
- Focus again on your breath and take 10 more deep, belly-expanding breaths. When you’re ready, open your eyes.
Do this exercise often until you feel you can move on.
Step #3: Remember the Good Times
Now that you’ve processed your negative feelings about the relationship you had with the narcissist, it’s time to remember what was good about it. There were good times and those happened to you just like the bad ones.
So, take those in and let yourself smile when you remember them. Everything truly happens for a reason, so it’s important to remember the fullness of the relationship. It wasn’t only bad things that happened, and you shouldn’t solely focus on the negative.
Let yourself laugh at the fun times you shared or feel the warmth of the tender moments when you felt loved. Those were real feelings on your side of the relationship and you should enjoy them. Another trend in our culture is to assign black and white qualities to everything. If the relationship ended, it must have been all bad, but that’s not true.
No relationship is all bad or all good. There’s a mix of good and bad in everything we experience in life. Your relationship with the narcissist ended, but when it was good, it was probably really good. Take that in too, because it helps you with the next important step in the healing process.
Step #4: Take the Lesson
Everything we experience in life, we experience for a reason. We learn something from it, and it makes us ready for the next stage in our life. That’s why no relationship is a failure. It served its purpose even if it didn’t last.
Ask yourself what did you learn from your relationship with this narcissistic person? Did you learn something about your boundaries? Did you learn something about what you really want from a relationship? Did you grow and become stronger?
The answer to all those questions is yes. You learned what you expect from a relationship and what you will and will not put up with. You definitely became stronger, and you need to acknowledge what exactly you can take away from your relationship with the narcissist. As personality disorder expert Sharie Stines writes, “Perhaps the answer is that you should have left this person long ago yourself because you saw red flags you chose to ignore, etc.”
It’s helpful to write these insights down in a journal so you can reference them from time to time. It will help to stay focused on your own needs and maintain your appropriate boundaries. It will help you treat yourself better in the future so you don’t let yourself be drawn into the drama web of another narcissist.
Step #5: Prepare for the Narcissist’s Return
The final step in this process is to prepare yourself for the likely eventuality that the narcissist in your life will return someday. It’s a common occurrence, but if that narcissist doesn’t return, this will also help you to be prepared should you encounter another narcissist.
To adequately prepare for that possibility, you’ll want to ask yourself what you wish you would have paid attention to in the beginning stages of your relationship. Were there any telltale signs you might have seen as red flags? If you’re honest with yourself, there probably were a few worrying signs that you brushed aside because everything else seemed so great. Make a list of those red flags and the emotions you had when those incidents occurred.
Next, it’s time to set the boundaries that you will enforce in any relationship. You need to determine your limits. Name them specifically. For example, one boundary might be name-calling. Write it down like this: I won’t accept name-calling even during an argument.
Then, determine what the consequence will be if that boundary is violated. For example, if someone begins to call me names, I will immediately leave the room and go somewhere I can calm down. I will not return to that conversation until that person has apologized and agreed to continue talking in a civilized manner.
Do this for every boundary you determine to be appropriate for yourself. Then, write out specifically how you will tell any future partner about your boundaries. Writing a script can help you say it in a kind, but firm way. When the time comes to use this list, you can even make a copy for your partner. Being prepared will help you stick by your own rules and take proper care of yourself.
It’s not uncommon for a narcissist to cut off and discard you in an often cruel manner. They can make you feel utterly worthless and as though they never cared for you at all. It’s a traumatic event, but it’s one that brings a lesson for you for future relationships, including when the narcissist comes back.
To fully prepare yourself for that eventuality, you need to properly grieve the loss of your relationship. Though you are undoubtedly better off, you still have suffered emotional abuse. You need to process those feelings to let them go and learn the valuable lesson the relationship brings to you. Once you’ve done that, you can adequately prepare for the likely return of the narcissist or for any future relationships you might have. You deserve love and happiness, but you have to insist on those things for yourself.
If you’re going through a breakup with a narcissist, you’re probably wondering if they do this to everyone. Check out the article about why narcissists typically marry multiple times to see that it’s a pattern for them. It has some great insight into how narcissists think and act.
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