The 8 Stages Of Emotional Pain You Go Through When Breaking Up With A Narcissist

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breaking up with a narcissist

Breaking up with a narcissist is one of the hardest and most painful things you will likely ever do. You just went through one of the most intense relationships of your life with someone who alternated between making you feel like queen of the world one minute and making you suffer through nightmares that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy the next.  

Recovering from this toxic relationship will send you on a roller coaster of emotions that can test your capacity for functioning well in the rest of your everyday life. The emotions feel so intense, it may seem as if they will last forever and you will never be happy again. They will come to an end, however, and you will find happiness again.

RELATED: Breaking Up With A Narcissist Is Hard, But These 8 Steps Will Help

You're likely to experience these normal emotions before things start getting better. You may not experience them in order and you may move back and forth between them. All of them fade over time though, and if you're experiencing them, you're on the path toward healing from the relationship.

1. Anxiety

There is no closure with a narcissist. He will either discard you, rage at you for rejecting him, or plead with you nonstop to try to get you to come back because he doesn't like taking "no" for an answer.

Regardless of how it happened, the ending was likely abrupt and painful, and now you’re on edge. You don't know whether to be more anxious about if he will try to contact you or if he won't. He has been a big part of your life, and the sudden end may seem overwhelming. You'll have to reassure yourself that it's truly over.

2. Obsession

You will ruminate over the relationship and find it hard to concentrate on anything else. There are so many unanswered questions: Did he ever really love you? Did he know he was hurting you? Which parts of your relationship were real? How could he have moved on so quickly?

You'll go over everything that happened in the relationship in your mind, trying to make sense of all the things for which you don’t have answers.  

3. Grief

A feeling of despair will sometimes overwhelm you when you think about the close bond you once shared with your ex. You can’t help but miss him. It was likely the most intense romantic connection you have ever had with another person and the thought that it was never real in the way you thought it was or wanted it to be fills you with sadness.

You will have to grieve twice: once over the loss of the relationship itself, and once over the loss of your understanding of what the relationship represented.

4. Loneliness

The scope of the abuse you experienced in this relationship is difficult to describe and can be hard for others to understand or even sometimes believe if they haven't been through it themselves. In addition, you may feel different from other people because of what you've gone through and it may be difficult to relate to others right now. 

As a result, you may feel like you are alone with your experience with no one to talk to, or you may even feel like withdrawing from social activities altogether.

RELATED: How To Leave A Narcissist

5. Doubt

There were so many times during the course of the relationship when he twisted the things he had done back onto you. You were blamed for his actions, you were gaslighted, and your angry reactions to the abuse were used as excuses for why the relationship fell apart.

You were called jealous and crazy, emotions he purposely manufactured in you. Now you may start to second-guess everything. Am I making a bigger deal out of all this than it really was? Was it as bad as I thought? Was I being unreasonable? Is he even a narcissist? Maybe it he was right and it was my fault.    

6. Shame

When he wanted to hurt you or control you, he knew just what your insecurities were and what to say to try to put you down. That verbal abuse accumulated in your head over the course of the relationship and crept into your thoughts occasionally.

In the back of your mind, you sometimes wonder if he’s right. After all, what was wrong with you that you stuck around and let someone say those things to you for so long? Maybe you really are worthless, you may begin to think.

7. Anger

Over time, the doubt, anxiety, shame and sadness begin to fade and you acknowledge the magnitude of the wrongs that were done to you. You allow yourself to feel indignant over the pain and suffering you went through, how that pain and suffering were denied while you were still in the relationship, and how you have continued to suffer because of it.

You are no longer in denial about everything that happened and start to accept the relationship for what it was.

8. Relief

The longer you're not in contact with a narcissist, the more his influence starts to fade. Slowly, you will begin to feel your mind clearing. The confusion about who you are without him in your life melts away as the world starts to make sense again.

The relationship also takes on a dream-like quality as you continue to process it. You know you still have a long way to go, but you feel the first glimmer of hope that you will be past all of this someday. You will never be the same person you once were before breaking up with a narcissist, but you will be stronger knowing that you survived this relationship.

RELATED: 5 SERIOUSLY Messed Up Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head

Kristen Milstead is a writer, researcher and advocate in the area of toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse. She's passionate about empowering people who have been in psychologically and emotionally abusive relationships, and about raising awareness about hidden abuse. Follow her blog