11 Critical Steps To Follow When Breaking Up With A Manipulative Narcissist

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woman crying with man walking away

Breaking up with someone is hard to do but when it’s with a narcissist?  You have to have a plan in place or else things could go really, really badly.

See, narcissists like to be in control, they expect admiration from you while giving next to none in return, they lack empathy and are all about getting their way and feeling superior. By breaking up with one, you’re taking away all of the things they get off on.

When it is time to break up with a narcissist, strategy is key. There are things you need to know about how to break up with a narcissist to protect yourself and get out with minimal damage.

Here are 11 critical steps to follow when breaking up with a manipulative narcissist:

1. Try to distance yourself first

Before the actual breakup, there are strategies you can put in place to soften the blow. Narcissists like trophies and shiny things and if you start to look, feel, or behave a little less shiny? It’s called the Gray Rock method and it involves making yourself just about as interesting as a gray rock. Talk about boring stuff like laundry or weather, don’t take the bait when they try to provoke you, and even start to dress more plainly than usual.

This may sound stupid but narcissists love drama and attention and if you give them neither, you’ll become less interesting, making the breakup part slightly easier.

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2. Reconnect with the people outside of your relationship

If you’ve been dating a narcissist, there’s a large chance you’ve been isolated from relationships outside of your coupledom. This could be because your friends haven’t liked your partner and you’ve distanced yourself from them to avoid the criticism, or because your partner has subtly tried to put a wedge between you and your support network.

Now is the time to start mending those relationships. You’re going to need good, strong supportive friends to help you through this breakup.

3. Honesty might not be the best policy

Don’t forget that narcissists are master manipulators so it might be best not to be 100 percent honest about your reasons for breaking up with them. You know you’re leaving because this person has damaged you by their controlling, egocentric, and possibly aggressive behavior, but accusing them of this could backfire badly. Talking about their faults will fire them up and lead to another one of those fights where they deflect, point out your faults and before you know it you’re apologizing for being such a terrible girlfriend with no idea how you got here.

Framing the breakup as what’s jointly best for both of you without laying blame will make it much more difficult for them to talk to you in circles.

4. Just go — no long goodbyes

You need to make this breakup as clear and concise as possible and then go. Do not pass go, and do not collect $200. No lingering hugs, no arguments, and no opportunity for a crafty narcissist to talk you back into the relationship. You need to make this as clean a break as possible. Make sure that anything you need to pack is done in advance so that they can’t make you feel guilty while you’re sorting through your things.

5. Go cold turkey 

You can’t have contact with these sorts of people post-dumping. And by no contact, I mean no contact. Narcissists will say or do anything to get you back so you need to put distance between yourself.

If you live together and need to sort out your separation, get a friend to act as an intermediary. Your friend will be impervious to all guilt trips and emotional manipulation. Oh and if after it all you remember you left something at your ex’s house? Unless it has immense sentimental value, leave it behind. In summary, contact of any kind with a narcissist post-breakup = is bad.

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6. Do not forget why you need to leave the relationship 

After the initial, fleeting feeling of relief, you’re going to get sad and start mourning the death of your relationship. It’s now you need to remind yourself of all the reasons why you ended it in the first place.

Narcissists pick on your faults and use them against you to keep you uncertain and in your place. They whittle away at your self-esteem. They withdraw affection to make you work harder for their love. Think of every time he made you feel bad, sad, mad, or guilty. This is where your friends that you’ve reconnected with come in. Have them remind you of all the times you called them in tears or texted them in a ball of anxiety about something your now-ex said or did.

You’re going to be tempted to only remember the good times. Be strong. Remember why you felt you needed to leave in the first place.

7. Expect backlash

Believe me, nothing is scarier than a narcissist scorned. They could try to bring you down by complaining about you to mutual friends or trash your reputation in some way. Make sure you prep your friends in advance (without bad-mouthing the ex of course, that’s stooping to their level). Just explain you’re extricating yourself from an unhealthy toxic situation and that your ex may try to retaliate. You’re all going to have to brace for the fallout. There might not be any, but forewarned is forearmed right?  

8. Remember: it’s not your fault

You’re going to be tempted to beat yourself up and ask questions like “How could I have fallen for his lies?” “Why didn’t I notice he was emotionally manipulating me?” “How stupid must I be?” This is not your fault. Narcissists are chameleons and they can turn themselves into exactly what you’re looking for. He is a master of manipulation and you are not somehow dumb or defective for not realizing this.

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9. Realize that you’re grieving what you never had

You’re going through a breakup so you’re going to be sad, that’s natural. But remember, the relationship you’re mourning wasn’t real. You haven’t really lost the relationship so much as your version of reality; the relationship you hoped for, dreamed of, and thought you’d finally found. It’s bloody horrible to think of the fact that it never really existed in the first place, so let yourself grieve the end of the dream. Just don’t grieve the loss of the person. That guy was a jerk to you.

10. Go easy on yourself

You need to give yourself all kinds of free passes in the time after your breakup. You’ll be raw, possibly a bit shell-shocked, and emotionally drained. Self-care during this time is priority number one. You’ve been put through the wringer so all your energy reserves (mental and physical) have been totally depleted, not just through the breakup but through the whole relationship. Now is the time to relax, chill out, and give yourself a break.

Do things that you enjoy, energize you, and make you happy. You may not be at full capacity for some time, and that’s okay. Let yourself off the hook for being below capacity at this time.

11. Give yourself time to process

You’ve just been in an emotionally (and possibly physically) abusive relationship. That stuff takes time to sort out in your head in a way. You could be prone to obsessing over it, overthinking what you could have done differently, wondering what you did that made your exchange all of a sudden. Stop. This is not your fault. There was nothing you did that brought on the damaging behavior.

Processing this healthily involves reminding yourself of all your good qualities and knowing your value. Directing your thoughts from external questioning or anger to internal affirmations and love will help you slowly regain the self-esteem you’ve been stripped of. You will get through this, you will start to believe in how awesome you are again, and you will know for sure that you deserve better.

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This article was originally published at SheSaid. Reprinted with permission from the author.