Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book,“The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” (Sounds True, 2017)
In my psychiatric practice I’ve seen how hard it is for my patients to break up with a partner who’s a narcissist. Narcissists can make you fall in love with them so hard that it feels like you're giving up a part of your heart to leave them. And they use every manipulation in the book to get you to stay.
On the surface narcissists can seem charming, intelligent, caring—knowing how to entice and lure their way back into your life. But once they reel you back then they revert to their egotistical selves. Their motto will always be “Me First!” Everything’s all about them. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, crave admiration and attention. They can also be highly intuitive, but use their intuition for self-interest and manipulation.
Narcissists are so dangerous because they lack empathy, have a limited capacity for unconditional love. Sadly, their hearts either haven’t developed or have been shut down due to early psychic trauma, such as being raised by narcissistic parents, a crippling handicap both emotionally and spiritually. (The damage of narcissistic parenting is outstandingly detailed in Alice Miller’s Drama of the Gifted Child). Hard as it may be to comprehend, these people have little insight into their actions, nor do they regret them.
To find out if you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, ask yourself the following questions from my book, Emotional Freedom.
QUIZ: HAVE I BEEN IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A NARCISSIST?
If you answer “yes” to one or two questions, it’s likely you’re dealing with a narcissist. Responding “yes” to three or more questions suggests that a narcissist is violating your emotional freedom.
Narcissists are hard nuts to crack. With these patients, the best I can do is align with their positive aspects and focus on behaviors that they agree aren’t working. Still, even if one wants to change, progress is limited, with meager gains. My professional advice: Don’t fall in love with a narcissist or entertain illusions they’re capable of the give and take necessary for intimacy. In such relationships you’ll always be emotionally alone to some degree. If you have a withholding narcissist spouse, beware of trying to win the nurturing you never got from your parents; it’s not going to happen. Also, don’t expect to have your sensitivity honored. These people sour love with all the hoops you must jump through to please them.
If you’re trying to break up with a narcissist, use these methods from my emotional freedom book to get your power back.
Don’t Fall For Their Manipulations
They will use every trick in the book to get you back so be prepared. Narcissists are really convincing. When you are ready to leave, stick to your convictions and move on to a more positive future filled with real love.
Since narcissists have no empathy, nor can they really love, you must leave them cold turkey and endure the pain. Set limits and say "no" to them and in your heart. Then gather all your strength and keep walking into the unknown towards something better.
Focus on the Future
Once detached from a narcissist it is extremely important than you focus all your positive energy and thoughts on doing good things for yourself and the world. Don't let your mind wander to the past or to what he is doing.
Be Kind to Yourself
Treasure yourself. Be very kind to yourself and know that you deserve a loving relationship with someone who can reciprocate that love.
My view on life is that every person we meet along the way, loving or not, is meant to help us grow. Do not beat yourself up for getting involved with a narcissist. But please learn what you can from it, including setting healthy boundaries and saying "no" to abuse, so you don't repeat this lesson again. It is very emotionally freeing to heal any attraction to abusive people so you can have more true love in your life.