What To Expect When You Leave A Narcissist

There are some common stages a victim of narcissistic abuse goes through after leaving the narcissist; I thought it might help some people to know what to expect because many victims seem surprised by the intensity of their emotions and how they are feeling. Intense feelings are scary.

The victim of narcissistic abuse needs to know what they are experiencing is normal and they will get past it. Here are 10 common steps victims take after leaving the narcissist. They are not in sequence and you may feel them alternately, or feel past a stage only to relapse and feel like you haven’t healed at all.

1. IN CONTROL. Initially you may feel energized, almost on a high, …… empowered; because you are taking your life back and finally standing up to the narcissist. But that is short lived I am afraid. 

2. MISSING HIM. As reality sinks in you will miss the narcissist as if a body part has been cut from you. You will feel like the desire to contact him is so strong it is out of your control. You figure that if he would just give you closure you could start to heal but he blames every thing on you and refuses to take any blame.

3. WITHDRAWAL. Like anyone going through withdrawal, the ache is a physical pain, you will come up with dozens of reasons why you NEED to call him. Things that really are of little importance all of a sudden must be dealt with by him and only him. A flat tire, the cat has a fur ball, a letter came in the mail for him. 

Fight the urge!!! Go for a walk, call a friend, anything but contact him, check his social media or contact his friends and family. 

4. BARGAINING .You “bargain” with yourself, all you need is to hear his voice, or see him…… you will be strong. Or you just HAVE to tell him what you think of him or try to hurt him like he hurt you. But just like a junky, you can’t “do just a little”, you  will fall into his toxic web again because it hasn’t been long enough. 

When will it be long enough to not affect you? When you no longer want to see him, when you have nothing more to say to him, when the love is gone, the anger is gone, and you actually never want his pathological toxic fog hanging over you or any where near you. 

5. CRYING! You may cry none stop for days on end. I couldn’t believe how many tears a body can produce!! I sat for hours, unable to even focus on TV, staring blankly into space, I had to remind myself to blink and breath. I even thought I could die if I just forgot to breath. (No. It doesn’t work. You can’t will yourself to die)

After a while you will be able to function a little bit, go to work, grocery shop, get dressed. I used to allot myself time for a really good cry before putting my makeup on. I could go all day without breaking down for the most part but on the way home I would be sobbing.

Sometimes I would go for a day or two without crying and then out of no where it would hit me like a bolt of lightening and I would have tears streaming down my face.

Relax! It is normal no matter what other people might say about you needing to “just get over it and move on”.  Trying to NOT cry or feeling bad about crying only compounds the problem. Then you are berating yourself and feeling bad about feeling bad.

6. OBSESSING.  You become obsessed with figuring him out, what he is doing and why. You are hooked on the “game” of solving the real live game of Clue life with a narcissist becomes. You read all about narcissists, compare notes with other victims on supper forums, you feed off of the shared stories; “OMG!that’s what my ex did!” Or “you think that’s bad, MY N did this……!” 

You may try to talk to old friends face to face about what he did or doing but you will quickly notice people turn away from you and minimize what you went through or simply don’t listen. 

You talk about him and the relationship ad nauseum, even you ate sick of talking about him. But he is all you think about. You relive the whole relationship over and over again. You analyze why he did the things he did, you try to “catch” him treating his new woman badly or cheating on her. 

You feel you have lost all your social skills. You have forgotten how to make small talk, it all seems so trivial and pointless. You fear you will never find your “old self” again.

7. MOURNING. You mourn the death of the relationship; your dream, your fantasy, your hope. He may be an asshole and lying to the new woman but he used to be your asshole and now she is the one with hope, even if it is false hope. You long for the those brief moments when he was “loving”, you knew he was lying but he cared enough to lie. I used to pray he would tell me any lie, no matter how feeble and transparent it was; so I could continue to lie to myself. 

8. ACCEPTANCE.  He goes on a smear campaign. Little had you known he was slagging you long before the relationship ended and now no one believes you because he has convinced them you are a paranoid psycho butch that made his life hell. After all, he seems so happy with the new woman, it must have been your fault. And if it was so bad, why did you stay so long and not say something sooner? Huh? 

Anything you say at this point is just going to sound like sour grapes and revenge. 

You are going to have to accept that the only closure you are going to get is that you were involved with a personality disordered person who will never make sense or admit to any wrong doing.

9. PARANOIA. It will seem like you are surrounded by narcissists. At every turn you run into another one trying to take advantage of you. This is a very vulnerable time, the first narcissist that comes along and tells you how fantastic you are will take away all your insecurities, you will feel renewed, healed from the N by this honest loving guy who treats you with kindness and understanding. You will have forgotten that is how it always starts with a narcissist and before you know it you are out of one frying pan and into another one. That is why it is vitally important to not date too soon.

You are not being paranoid when you think you are surrounded by narcissists. More than likely you are going to realize that some family members are narcissistic AND a victim is a narcissist magnet. 

As you start living true to your core self you will notice some family members and friends will not like the new you. The people who have always been able to manipulate you and used you for passive supply will try to stop your personal growth and self awareness.


10. FINDING YOUR BEST SELF INSTEAD OF YOUR OLD SELF. Number 10 is strictly your choice. You can bury the pain, continue to do what you believe other people want you to do, like pretend to move on and find a “nice” guy who treats you right. (As if you were looking for an asshole last time). It has been useful to research narcissists and learn what you are dealing with.  It helps to know they can’t be healed and their brains are deformed. It helps to hear the stories of other victims and know you aren’t the only one who got sucked in. 

But, you will never find your old naive self. Remaining a “victim” by continuing to obsess about him, stalk him, “out” him, and expecting that telling people how hurt you were in your last relationship is going to somehow protect you in the future is futile and self defeating.

Some people get stuck in victimhood. In many ways it keeps them attached to the narcissist and being a victim has become their identity.

Personally the last thing I wanted was to be an eternal victim, living in fear of being unable to protect myself from the narcissists in the world. You really can’t get away from them so how do you protect yourself?

Well THAT shold be enough reading material to keep you busy for awhile.

There are more things you go through, I have included links to some posts that delve more deeply into some of the topics but there are more Posts throughout the blog.

And one more for good measure.


18 thoughts on “What To Expect When You Leave A Narcissist

  1. Momof2

    I went through some of these. Mine never did a smear campaign. Not what I saw. I didn’t mourn over him being gone, I was relieved. I didn’t see narcissists everywhere. I didn’t even know what it was then and I didn’t cry for days.


  2. Sleeping Tiger

    This made me laugh: (As if you were looking for an asshole last time). In all this seriousness I found a small nugget to laugh at. It’s so true right?

    Definitely describing Complex PTSD here. You go through a crisis and that is why you can’t focus on anything including just watching mindless shit on TV.

    (This was me below:)
    The house became a mess, I didn’t care about anything like I used to, including where shit goes or belongs in your house. (And I was somewhat of a neatnik.) I ate a lot of take-out because I had barely any energy to get out of bed let alone prepare my own food. The last place I wanted to be was in a grocery store. I spent time escaping into weed and alcohol with certain people. (At first I did get out in nature at least with those people because I had such an urge to run from myself.)

    You are basically in shock, even if it doesn’t logically make sense. Even if things happened that made it obvious that this was going to happen, you will still be in shock. In my case, I should’ve seen it coming, but I denied it. The brain is a complicated thing. Especially when you’ve grown up with emotional abuse. A lot of fucked up things are normalized by your brain.

    When he was gone and I would ruminate repeatedly on something and ask why, why, why, it helped to think or even say or shout, “Because he’s a narcissist!” And that would stop my ruminating. Like your tag line says Carrie, there is no rhyme or reason. Simply giving myself that reason: “Because he’s a narcissist” would quiet my mind and for that time being I would stop the ruminating.

    I question the victim thing…the victim mindset that is. I have questioned for so long why I can’t get my shit together. I went through another on-going traumatic time a year after my break up so that put me back a lot.

    I kept thinking, maybe I’m ‘playing the victim.’ All I need to do is ABC or XYZ and then would try, hard. And then get overwhelmed, get pissed off at myself and so it would go.

    I have a decent therapist at this time and yesterday in fact, I told her about a goal I had set for myself, to completely stop take-out for 30 days and then failed a week in. (I know not everyone has the same problem with food and certain behaviors vary but this is my weakness because when I’m feeling really down and really scattered and really overwhelmed by all the stuff I’m behind in life in, I have no motivation to do anything because I become paralyzed and freeze. I go hungry at times because of this and then the blood sugar drops and that has its own problems and I’m in a downward spiral.)

    My therapist explained to me that I’m still in crisis and the brain does not organize its thoughts in a logical self-caring way when it thinks its in survival mode.

    I had not even thought of myself as being in crisis anymore. It was a true reality check. Thankfully she was really compassionate and it helped me a lot to not feel so shitty about failing a week in on my goal.

    I was like, “FFS, it’s been 4 years since the last traumatic event. What is wrong with me?” But guess what, I have not had the proper support or help since it happened. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Believe me I worked hard to find a therapist that could help me. You don’t just magically come out of trauma and it takes more than just time.

    Some people never recover from trauma but I don’t think that’s necessarily victim mentality, it’s because some of us don’t know how and, our brains are stuck and need the proper help. If your determined enough you may be able to do it on your own, but as much as I tried to do it from programs, books, videos, blogs, etc. I could not get it together enough to be able to organize myself and focus. I was too scattered to do it on my own. And I remained stuck in trauma.

    Thank God for the therapy I’m getting now, but it’s long overdue and recovery is long.


    1. Diane

      I could’ve wrote most of this myself Sleeping Tiger…I’ve had therapy my whole life and for majority of time I was with the Asshole. I Had (Or decided to Choose) To be the Peacemaker to make the misery go away…just accept at all times during 15yrs together that I was “Too Sensitive” That I couldn’t “Take A Joke” That I “Made things up” and Twisted his words around to make him the “bad guy.” But Feeling In My Heart Pain and in my Gut Sickness & A Feeling of disgust! I Can’t tell this group how many x’s I said to him “I feel like your just using me for sex& you don’t care.” I would be told “well,if that’s how you feel then lets breakup” His Go to Every time. This Truly Can’t Be A Normal Response can it? This Can’t Be normal right? As Stated I hate that my life has turned to complete darkness at times & I feel like I can’t move to save my life…it’s really messed me up and I can’t FIND A Good Therapist right now I’ve been trying for months & None Take My Insurance. So, It’s a challenge to finally go to sleep and Then Getting up Good lord That is hard….I Want to Text, or call so bad after 6 months no contact and either tell them How they’ve ruined my life, or cuss them out just anything you know?…but yes I allowed it thinking I COULD Change Them! I Feel Like They Should suffer in some way for what Hell I’ve been living through and hell feels like an understatement. Every day I tell my self “This is a New Beginning” but then I fall Right back in to a black hole….So it sucks and I wonder When Will I Ever feel better, get myself together again…I’m not the same person I was before we met…my friends & family don’t understand they simply say “your doing fine,it will get better,quit thinking about it damn it’s been 6 months now.” Which is No Help at all. Just wanted to vent and maybe get Some True Support.


  3. Leigh

    As an empath, how should I present myself to the world without attracting narcissists while still being genuine? I am always myself when I meet knew people, so I don’t really know what about me is attracting the bad ones. This upcoming year I want to try dating again since surviving my ex and I am a little apprehensive. Also, if I attract the bad guys, does this mean I don’t attract the good ones? Or do I attract both? Is there an common image empaths put out into the world that we just don’t realize?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carrie Reimer Post author

      Leigh, the problem is not that you attract narcissists any more than anyone else. The problem is; you stick around longer than most people.
      Empaths are known to be very forgiving, the giver of 2nd chances and 3rd and 4th chances.
      Empaths aren’t judgemental and fear judging someone unjustly
      Empaths tend to assign normal human emotions to the narcissist instead of taking his actions and lack of a conscience at face value. We want to see the good in everyone even if there is no good in them.
      Empaths have stronger than normal intuitivity but we don’t listen to our gut instincts because if we did we would have walked away from the N before the 2nd month of dating.
      Tell me Leigh, didn’t you have some gut feeling something wasn’t right with the narcissist but you ignored it, told yourself you were being too sensitive, or excused it somehow? Be honest.
      What an empath has to do to protect themselves is to stop using being an empath as an excuse to be taken advantage of. Now, before you get offended; I am an empath and am speaking honestly from experience, my experience and this may not apply to all empaths. I have not studied empaths other than to understand where I was coming from.
      Being an empath does not have to guarantee being a victim or a target but we have to stop saying, “That’s just the way I am. I wear my heart on my sleeve.”
      If we recognize certain traits in ourselves we are able to protect ourselves.
      I was always told by my family that I was TOO sensitive, too emotional, that I over reacted, over analyzed things. Like being sensitive is a bad thing. I always felt I was flawed because I had feelings. I found out in my 50’s that there are other people like me and we are not “flawed” we are very needed in the world. If not for the empaths where would the world be? We are the champions of positive change in the world. Only an empath would fight for equal rights etc but we can’t change the world when we are being victimized. We have to use our special abilities wisely.
      We have to recognize the things that work against us, like;
      We always want to save every sick puppy and lost soul
      We think our special love can save everyone
      We never want to give up on anyone
      We put the needs of other before our own needs, often to our own detriment
      We are afraid of appearing selfish
      We own our mistakes and make amends
      We are governed by our emotions, we feel responsible for other people’s happiness and tend to “read the room” to get a sense of what other people are feeling.
      We have to learn to not just read the world around us from an emotional level. We have to use our greatest gift, our instincts and intuitiveness to our advantage.
      We have to set firm boundaries, true to our core self. And then we have to protect those boundaries no matter what without guilt or self doubt. We have to believe our gut when it tells us something is not right. We have to learn to take someone at face value and not make excuses for their actions or assign them the emotions we think they should be feeling. We have to stop trying to be the kind of woman the man wants and start asking ourselves, “Is this a man I want in my life?” We have to stop seeing everyone’s potential and ask why they aren’t living up to their potential without our help. We do NOT have to save everyone else. Let them save themselves. We need to save ourselves.


  4. Only Me

    Very good article Carrie. Well done. 7 years past the breakup with a narc, much of it, I have to struggle now to remember. I barely think of him anymore. I will say, that when the breakup just happened, I was determined to get past the pain, and heal.

    It seemed like I needed to focus on being good to myself. I started a journal to write my feelings down, went out for a hot fudge sundae to soothe myself, and went for a vigorous swim workout at the local athletic center to release pent up energy. It helped that the pool water was indistinguishable from my tears.

    After that, I went out learning all I could about pathological narcissism and yes, did some snooping to find out what all he was up to! I joined forums to discuss my experience and learn how others were coping with theirs!

    Nowadays, I rarely, if at all, wonder about his life…I know it would all be just him bitching and complaining out it! LOL, so why bother? He hasn’t changed, and he’s’ not going to. I already know that.

    In truth, I find my own life much more interesting and fascinating! He’s nothing to me now. Just an old faded memory that grows even dimmer all the time. I’m just not that interested in his life anymore! There’s nothing I want to know about him.

    There was a time I couldn’t say that, but now I can, and mean it! Good luck to all going thru this kind of suffering. You can survive and thrive if you really want to. If you are reading this and Carrie’s articles, that shows you do and you will! Hang in there! Love to all!



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