Since the beginning of this blog, I have toyed with the idea of writing this post. On one hand, going no-contact with a narcissist is an extremely personal journey, and is often frowned upon. On the other hand, going no-contact with a narcissist in your life can be the most healing thing you can do for yourself. Like most survivors of narcissistic abuse, I also don’t want to draw too much attention to myself from my narcissist or any flying monkeys.
In the past few weeks, however, it has become more apparent to me that this post is necessary. Going no-contact (or NC) has been the best decision I’ve ever made for my mental health and sanity. It was the first time I stood up for myself and made it clear that I would not tolerate abusive behaviors any longer. Many who do not have a close family member or friend who is a narcissist like this cannot understand the toll they can have on you. During any time of strife, but particularly during this pandemic, many people are saying “life is too short” and implying that being NC is just a little squabble that can easily be solved. It’s not. Now, more than ever, it’s important to stay no contact for your own mental health.
Before we start, I just want to note that I am not a mental health professional and this post is just based on my own experiences and research. If you are feeling suicidal or hopeless, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are seeking individual mental health, please seek professional help. More info on narcissist abuse can be found here.
Why should you go no contact to begin with
First of all, here are the signs of a narcissistic abuse.
Anyone who is dealing with a narcissist knows this pattern. They do something truly awful, like spread insidious lies about you. You are understandably upset and make it clear that it is upsetting to you. The narcissist twists your words and turns others against you, making you feel like maybe you are the problem. Then, they shrink you down and kill your self-esteem by constantly comparing you to others or themselves and putting you down, belittling you, making you feel small and unimportant. They think of reasons they are mad at you. Wanting to keep the peace, you apologize to them for the millionth time, and things go back to “normal” until the next time. Things are good for a while until they aren’t. You never get an apology from them, and they show no remorse for anything they’ve done to you.
This is classic narcissist behavior and once you see that you’re in it, it’s truly disturbing. Narcissists will make you feel like you are the bad one, and constantly place blame on their victims. They specifically choose victims who are empathetic and kind. To a narcissist, this means you are weak and are perfect for manipulation. If you have shown that you’re not willing to stand up for yourself, a narcissist will capitalize on that.
If you find yourself in this constant pattern, it’s time to get out. For most people who have gone NC, there’s usually a “final straw” situation where it becomes imperative to break contact. Something people who have not dealt with this don’t understand is that going no contact is never a first resort, it’s a last. Nobody wants to break contact with someone close to them. It’s uncomfortable, stressful, and awful. It sucks. It’s incredibly important, however, if nothing is changing and other methods have not worked. Going NC is the ultimate sign that you have boundaries that aren’t being respected, and that you respect yourself and refuse to be walked all over. Most people are fairly broken by the time they make the decision to go NC.
The art of going no contact with a narcissist
If you are dealing with a narcissist and other tactics have not worked, i.e. therapy with the narcissist, low-contact, and grey-rocking, no-contact might be right for you. Before diving into that, here are some helpful tactics to try before going no-contact. As I mentioned, most people are willing to try just about anything and everything before totally cutting a person out of their lives. It’s a big and scary change that is not done lightly.
Okay, so you’ve decided to go no-contact. There are a few different ways to do it, and it’s really up to personal choice. Some people choose to inform their narcissist that they will be breaking contact and give them specific reasons why. Although this does provide you with some closure, it also opens yourself up to more abuse and invalidation of your feelings and experiences. Remember this: narcissists can’t be reasoned with. They do not use logic and they do not see outside of themselves. They literally can’t, and that’s what makes them narcissists.
The best way to go no-contact is to rip the band-aid off and do just that: go no contact. Stop contacting them. Do not answer their calls, and block their number if you can. Block them on social media, even though it’s tempting to keep tabs on them. Do not look back. If they send a letter, throw it away and don’t read it. Contrary to popular belief, going no-contact is not to “teach them a lesson.” It’s to protect yourself from them so you can heal. Distance yourself from anyone fighting for you to contact them as well. They don’t and will not understand your position and letting them make you feel guilty will not help you.
Ok, I’ve gone NC with my narcissist. Now what?
Congrats, you’ve done the hardest thing you’ll probably ever have to do! What now? Prepare yourself for a bunch of BS. Prepare yourself for family and friends to tell you what an awful person you are for “just” cutting someone out like that. It doesn’t matter what they did to you; you’ll always be expected to apologize because you always have. It will take a while for those dynamics to change, so buckle up for a while of some very tender relationships in your life.
The biggest thing you have to prepare yourself for is the ever-classic smear campaign. While this is a truly awful period of time (I’m 3 years into one), it will become apparent to you and validate your reasons to go NC in the first place. The narcissist will try every tactic to get a rise out of you or to get you to break contact. They are hungry for their supply, and you’ve taken that away from them. Many narcissists get much much worse once you’ve broken contact with them. This is good because it’s a reminder to you that you did the right thing. They will go after friends and family members that don’t see them for who they are and try to get them to join their campaign against you. If that happens, it’s okay. Those people probably didn’t have your back in the first place.
Now you can heal
You will understandably have a lot of emotions when you go no-contact, and that’s fine. You need to feel and understand all those feelings. The only way to the other side is through. I strongly recommend using a journal and seeking therapy to make sense of it all post-NC. Personally, I felt anger, indescribable pain, sadness, happiness, and finally, relief. My life started to stabilize after I went NC. I was having frequent panic attacks beforehand, and those magically disappeared afterward. I felt like my life made sense again and that my world wasn’t spinning out of control.
Many memories will pop up after you go NC. Some are about the bad things the narcissist did to you, memories that are painful. For me, I realized how bad the gaslighting was, and how the narcissist made me feel like everything was my fault. They made me feel like I was constantly starting fights, but I had worked hard my whole life to be a good person. For the first time in my life, I felt like I knew which way was up and was able to trust myself and my experiences.
Most of all, however, the healing came from being able to breathe easier. Once I was over the worst of it, it felt like a large elephant had been lifted off of me. Finally, I was able to live my life without constant second-guessing. My narcissist had always determined what I could or couldn’t do. They made me feel like I was never enough. I was too dumb, weak, lazy. I had bad hair, bad posture, and made bad decisions. They made me feel like I was a bad person who lived for drama. Turns out, I’m just a normal person trying to do good things and live my life how I want to.
You will have moments of weakness
There will always be good memories, too. These are especially hard – almost harder than the bad memories. Presumably, you were close with your narcissist at some point. Some you’ve been around your whole life, and maybe they were fine at one point but got worse as time went on. Maybe you met them when they were already bad, but they hadn’t shown you who they were. Narcissists are notoriously charismatic when they want to be.
These memories could break you down and make you want to break contact, apologize, and go back to how things used to be. This is extremely dangerous. One thing you will need to remind yourself is that narcissists never change. They may pretend to have changed, but they are still the same people. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, as it were. Two realities can exist: you can have good wholesome memories of that person and they can be bad people who you can’t have in your life any longer. Keep journaling to sift through your feelings. Remember this: things cannot go back to the good times, not because you’ve gone NC but because the narcissist in your life does not care about your well-being and refuses to maintain your boundaries. It’s okay to mourn the relationship and want things to go back to how they used to be.
“Life is too short!” (to have a narcissist ruin it)
On top of the pain of having to end a relationship with someone you were once close to and healing from their abuse, there will be plenty of opinions on you going no contact. People who have no clue what you’ve gone through or are going through will put in their two cents. They will say “life is too short!” and make you feel like you’re being an asshole for breaking contact. Stay strong, though. These people have no clue what your life is like and what hell the narcissist can do to it. You have fought tooth and nail to escape and the last thing you need is some Nosy Nelly telling you you’re being petty.
Just remember: you did everything you could to maintain a relationship that wasn’t harmful to you, and the narcissist made the choice to ruin that. They disrespected your boundaries, so you did what you needed to do to protect yourself. You didn’t just do this lightly or because of something small. This was years in the making, and you’re better off now. You are finally taking the steps to make boundaries and keep them, and that’s a good thing. Never apologize for doing the right thing for yourself and your own healing.
I’ll leave you with this last little piece of advice: trust thyself. Going NC can be an extremely lonely path. You will likely lose some other relationships in the process. Is it worth it for your mental health? Absolutely. For me, three years in, I have found peace. I still have some absolutely hard days. The holidays, this pandemic, randomly hearing music that reminds me of my narcissist. This is why journaling is important. Write yourself reminders of why you have done this and what’s at stake. For me, that’s freedom. And I’m not willing to let that go and continue being abused by someone who will never change and lacks empathy, who lies about me, who turns me into a villain for their own entertainment.
The draw of a narcissist is strong, but you are stronger.