How I Found Incredible Love AFTER Narcissistic Abuse
I was super thrilled to be interviewed recently about my recovery from narcissistic abuse by Kaleah Laroche on her podcast Pandora's Box. We discussed how I overcame some of my toxic relationship patterns. You can listen to the podcast interview here.
When we originally discussed collaborating I was going to share a blog post on the subject, but in the end we went with the podcast interview. Since I'd already written the blog that walks through a lot of helpful information if you are looking to heal from narcissistic abuse and totally transform your life, I thought, why not share it anyway! So here it is below! I hope you enjoy it. x
Like most people, I always dreamed that one day I’d meet the person of my dreams, fall in love, and live happily ever after.
But instead, I met a narcissist.
The beginning was like a happily ever after story. But you probably guessed it. It ended really badly! My beloved soon became controlling and abusive; emotionally, financially and verbally. The experience left me with little sense of myself.
Narcissism. It’s all about them
It was 2008 and an online search brought me a name for what was happening to me, ‘Narcissistic abuse’. It was a revelation.
I learned everything I could about narcissism. But I was still suffering, and I was addicted, to a narcissist! I mustered up the courage to go no contact. And I broke it, three times. How on earth was I going to get through this?
Healing – It’s all about YOU
Narcissists do not change. We do. Each time I returned to the relationship, the ‘high’ became shorter and less believable. I could no longer live a lie.
The Four Stages of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
I found my healing occurred in four stages. The first stage involved recognising that I was in a relationship with a narcissist. The second stage involved removing the narcissist from my life by going ‘no contact,’ and taking my energy back.
The third stage involved recovering emotionally and repairing the core wounds within that initially attracted me to the narcissist. And in the fourth stage, (which I think is sometimes overlooked) I redesigned my life. I created the vision for an amazing life for myself, and then I set about manifesting my vision. My new life included becoming a travelling nomad (!), changing my career, and welcoming amazing people into my life (Well, Hellllloo, Mr. husband!).
I think all four stages of healing are necessary. I would not have been able to emotionally heal if I'd have stayed with the narcissist. And it was only after healing my inner wounds that I found my happily ever after. I met a caring, positive and handsome gentleman and we have been married for almost three years!
In the following paragraphs, I'm going to share with you some of the steps I took to heal from narcissistic abuse and totally transform my life, so that you can too.
Recover from the Trauma, Move on and Reclaim your life
Whilst initially untangling myself from the toxic energy of a narcissist, it helped me to adopt the following beliefs and guidelines:
We all deserve to heal
When the narcissist strikes, we have very little energy remaining. The feeling of worthlessness can be overwhelming. I found comfort accepting the belief that everyone deserves to recover. YOU deserve to heal.
Check your expectations
After narcissistic abuse, allow for your energy/productivity/happiness levels to be less than usual. Stop comparing yourself to how you normally function. Narcissistic abuse isn’t normal. It's much more than a broken heart, which is already incredibly painful. Considering what you have been through, your response IS normal. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
The beauty of no contact
The more time that passed after removing toxic people from my life, the more I realised the benefit of no contact. Narcissistic abuse is complex and takes place on many levels. You need to call time out from toxic people, in order to gain perspective. I had many struggles going and staying no contact, so in other words, I’ve had lots of practice! I found the following helped me to successfully go, and stay, no contact:
View the relationship holistically, always
With a narcissist, you cannot have the good without the bad. So I forbad daydreaming only about “the good stuff.” Compartmentalising the relationship in this way is futile. If I thought of good memories with the narcissist, I thought equally of the bad ones. If I re-lived the romance of how we first met, I recalled the unsavoury happenings that followed, like how he criticised me. I wrote the negative things down, which came in useful for the next guideline…
Motivate and prepare yourself for no contact
I used the list of negatives about the relationship as motivation to stop having contact with the narcissist. During moments of weakness I reviewed them to remind myself why I had no contact.
I prepared for no contact by collecting up reminders of the narcissist and removing them from my environment. I cut the psychic energetic chord of attachment I had to the narcissist. I explain this attachment in terms of how we often 'lean in' to the people close to us, given them our energy. In a healthy relationship this is mutual. With a narcissist, it's not, and when the relationship ends, the attachment, and therefore the energy 'leak', often continues. Breaking the energetic attachment was so powerful. My energy no longer seeped out of me. I repeated this practice regularly.
Create new memories
A hard part of moving on from any relationship is that our current lives are a reminder of them. I recommend to build new memories of your narcissist free life right now. Changes to your routine and schedule, however small or large, help create new short-term memories. Your life is moving on. And so will you.
Getting ‘Stuck” between the stages of recovery
Once we have worked through and gotten over the initial trauma, it is so easy to go back to life as we know it. There is no definitive roadmap telling us how to heal. But if you have dated a narcissist and are navigating your way through it, do not stop there. Like I did….
I recovered from the heartbreak and trauma of the relationship, but I still had an unshakable insecurity and I really didn’t really know what to do about it. So instead, I started to wonder, (quite desperately!), “where is my husband”?
Enter a second narcissist.
I was soooo keen (desperate) to meet ‘the one’ that I ignored my gut instincts. This narcissist was darker than the first (he was more than narcissistic). I was punished with silent treatments. After one year he broke one of the only boundaries I had by being physically abusive and even though I was half way around the world, I ran away, my legs literally like jelly.
But that’s a whole other story. Despite, or maybe because of the trauma, moving on was relatively easy. I had experience now. But it was a big wake up call. The unveiling of the second narcissist churned up a memory I had long repressed. When I originally discovered narcissism, I recognised aspects from my childhood. But back then, the idea that I was primed for narcissistic abuse was too much. Now I had reached the point where if I wanted to heal, I had to consider everything. I had to look into my past.
Healing the core wounds within and developing a healthy relationship with ourselves and others
This stage of healing was not as obvious to be as recognising and removing a narcissist. We all know when our lives have been torn apart by a narcissist. But it’s not so easy to see the underlying reasons why it happened in the first place.
This stage is where you tap into and reveal these reasons, and find ways to heal them, so you may go out into the world, confident, whole, knowing you are truly narcissism free.
I think it's normal not to have a clue where to start! I wasn’t even sure what a healthy relationship was, let alone how I was going to have one! Nevertheless, I embarked on a very deep personal healing journey. During this healing, the following really helped me.
Commit yourself fully to healing
Make a commitment to yourself to recover from narcissistic abuse. This commitment transformed my life. Before that, I collected information about narcissism, codependency and how one might heal, but I never applied it.
I was an expert on my problem but an amateur at solving it. So for a whole year, I wrote, in advance, for every page in my diary – “I am committed to my healing journey.”
This was the first thing I saw every time I opened my schedule. There was no getting away from it! I was healing from narcissistic abuse! It was my priority. It was happening.
Understand your childhood primers
There is a lot of literature in psychology that traces our adult problems back to our childhood. But it can feel taboo, or cliché to question our upbringing. I was oblivious to a root cause from my early years. However, deep down, for as long as I could remember, I had a feeling that something was off.
To come to terms with the role of my childhood, I took baby steps. I started to look for ways I may have inadvertently been pre-disposed to narcissistic abuse. I realised I wasn’t always seen or heard as a child. I didn’t learn to recognise my own worth. And this led me to crave attention, which I received from a narcissist.
Also, I never learned how to support myself through my emotions. Instead, I ignored feelings such as anger and sadness, I avoided feeling shame or guilt and I definitely avoided confrontation too. So in a relationship, I was codependent. I desperately wanted to maintain the status quo and the comfort of feeling seen that the narcissist had originally brought. But of course, over time, this came at the expense of myself.
In a nutshell, the value of repairing the gaps of our early experience should not be overlooked when healing from narcissistic abuse.
Take Responsibility for your healing
My childhood might have contributed to my situation, and that was unfortunate, but it was my job now to turn my life around. I didn’t want to do the work, but no one else was going to do this for me! I took responsibility for healing myself (at the time, I really disliked that!)
Heal your Inner child
On my mentors advice, I struck up a relationship with my inner child. I got in touch with a sense of a much younger me that had no outlet for her feelings. I gave her a voice. I made her a part of my life. I asked her opinion, on everything. I asked her needs and I did my best to fulfil them. As she began to feel safe with me, I began to feel safe in the world. When I gave myself this attention, I no longer craved it from a narcissist.
I developed clarity around behaviour I would no longer accept. For example, I wouldn’t accept verbal abuse. I prepared how I’d communicate with someone if they were rude to me. If they continued to be rude, I “pre-made” a decision that I'd walk away. I got comfortable with the idea that voicing my boundaries was going to feel very uncomfortable at first. But I did it anyway. Surprisingly, I actually started to enjoy implementing boundaries sometimes because I felt empowered.
Make friends with your journal
I cannot recommend journaling enough. For around a year or two my journal was my greatest companion. It brought me in touch with my feelings. It brought me in touch with myself.
Practice Radical self-acceptance
I practiced accepting everything about myself. In order to be whole, I had to be connected to all of me. I accepted all my thoughts, feelings, and the parts I did not like about myself, like how I get insecure in relationships, carry extra weight around my stomach, and can be greedy: if I’m offered a slice of cake, I often choose the biggest one for myself (which probably explains the extra weight rounding my middle!)
I also brought all my great qualities into the light and I accepted those too. I am a very empathetic person and I love helping people. Not everybody in the world has these qualities! But if you have those qualities, you might assume that others also have them when they really don't! Own your amazing qualities! Use them wisely. You deserve your own empathy more than the narcissist deserves it. Don't give it away so easily that there isn't any left for yourself.
Once I accepted all parts of myself, they could no longer be used against me as manipulations. I was becoming ‘narcissist proof.’ I was becoming more myself!
It takes a bit of time, but it gets really exciting when you start to see your progress! I noticed my signs of progress around three months into making my healing commitment, after many days of wanting to give up! But it doesn't really matter how long it takes, if you make the commitment, its going to happen, its only a matter of time.
Deal with toxic shame
I spoke back to the toxic voice I had internalised, the one that shamed and guilt tripped me and told me I was selfish for my feelings, when the truth was I was doing necessary work to heal from abuse. I installed a new, positively encouraging voice, this time, it was my own voice.
In the past I've struggled to express my anger, I had beliefs like, “little girls shouldn’t get angry.” Well, if they are being abused, they should! I brought my anger right to the surface and I found healthy ways to express it. Anger deserves a place in our life, the same as every other emotion.
Turn up the volume on your gut instinct
I gave my gut instinct a big HUGE voice. I walked away from people and situations that didn’t feel right for me. Every time I took care of myself in this way, my sense of self grew.
Healthy relationships repair the damage of unhealthy relationships
Working with a mentor that understands healing narcissistic abuse was invaluable. I received validation that what I went through wasn’t healthy, and I got working examples of a healthy relationship. In addition to professional help, support forums, facebook groups, and sharing with trusted people can be a great way to feel validated and part of a healing community.
It can seem like narcissists are everywhere, but don’t let that put you off the world, because it is also filled with just as many beautiful souls that will enrich your life.
Use everything in your life as a mirror
Every moment in your life is an opportunity to get more in touch with yourself. Whoever I was with, my intention was to focus on my thoughts and feelings. And if my focus wavered, which it inevitably did, when I returned home, I returned back home to myself. I’d recount my day and ask; how do I feel? How did I feel around this person, or that person, or when certain things happened? At times healing can be tedious, but instead of seeking a safe place on the outside, by creating your own safe place within, well then, its always available. Totally worth it!
The blur between the healing Stages
For a longest time I repeated a cycle: I'd date a narcissist, recover by barely getting over it, only to move on and meet another narcissist! I fell into old habits. I didn’t always speak up for myself. I dated people I knew were not right for me. I wanted to be making healthier choices for myself, but much as I knew intuitively what was right for me, I still had lots of programs running that were keeping me from living a completely healthy life.
So I honoured that this was my journey right now. I returned to my commitment and I made journaling a constant. I wasn’t the person I used to be, but I wasn’t yet the person I was becoming either. I was shedding skin. This is part of the process.
The more I took time out of my day to reconnect with my feelings and support myself through whatever was going on, the easier I got through it. The frustrations of ‘not being healed yet’ can actually propel us into the next stage of healing.
Dating after narcissistic abuse
In my most devastating relationships, I was often “all-in” at early days in the relationship. I made poor decisions around who got close to me. I decided I wanted to feel calm, loved, and valued in a relationship, rather than wired and anxious.
I began to reserve judgment in relationships. I assessed how I felt around others continually, not just once or twice upon initially meeting them. I used my gut, logic, and the test of time to inform who I got, and stayed close to. A narcissist fails the test of time because their true nature is revealed. It is much easier to move on when you are getting to know someone than when you’ve already decided they are the one.
Dipping a toe into the dating pond
I had stints where I took time out from dating altogether. Other times I experimented with dating. Dating allowed me to gauge, to a certain extent, how far I had come in my healing. If I wasn’t satisfied with my progress, for example, if I didn’t express my feelings and make good judgments, I'd stop dating and refocus on myself. Eventually it became more natural for me to feel centred and calm communicating all of me when dating.
It was my goal to show up as my real authentic self everywhere, but especially in dating. I looked for people that were able to see, hear, understand and support me. If they were not able to take my feelings seriously, why waste my time? By this stage, I could sit at home taking care of myself emotionally. I needed someone to meet me where I was. I wasn’t prepared to accept anything less than amazing support in my life.
It pays to persevere!
Over time, the quality of people I dated improved. At first this wasn’t really noticeable, but it pays to persevere! I meet some incredible people, but even then, sometimes, for whatever reason, a relationship does not work out.
After narcissistic abuse, meeting someone amazing AND have it not work out because of reasons such as bad timing, can be a pretty hard blow. I let myself feel all the emotion it brought up. It was incredibly painful. As much as it hurt, those relationships mirrored to me how amazing I am, and how I was on my way to meeting someone amazing. I started to feel like I was getting closer to finding true love.
Happily ever after, after the narcissist
The healing journey from narcissistic abuse is a journey of self-love. Through the process of uncovering and tending to our inner wounds, we become kinder to ourselves. I grew to appreciate myself, everything I went through, and the courage and bravery within me to overcome it. I learned to love myself. (I smile gently as I reread that :-).
Stage 4 Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse – Creating your amazing life
Over time, I created an amazing life with exciting plans for my future. I changed my career and adopted a lifestyle where I lived, worked and travelled around the world. I still desired to share my life with someone special, but first and foremost, I would not compromise myself. A relationship would have to add to the existing amazingness of my life, not take away from it.
I focused on the qualities I wanted in a partner. They included kindness, empathy, patience and a deep love and commitment to me. I didn’t have time for narcissism, lying, negativity, a short temper or addictions. I got clear on who I am, what I offer in a relationship, and my shortcomings. When I met a potential partner, chemistry alone wasn’t enough. In fact it was often a warning! I needed to know if they matched the qualities I was looking for and if we worked together. It took time.
Keep your feet on the ground
When I met my husband. I observed. I saw him in various situations including at work with colleagues and clients, at home with housemates and outside socialising with friends, family and even strangers. Our relationship seemed great, but then it often does in the beginning, doesn’t it? I needed to know, what would this relationship be like in challenging times? Would I feel comfortable communicating with him? How would he support me if I were upset? What if he was the one who had upset me? How would he respond then? Was he consistent?
My previous experience dating was a great practicing ground up until this point. I'd gotten so used to speaking up about my needs it became second nature to me and I believed I deserved them to be met. I’d explain to prospective partners I get vulnerable at times, so I feel more secure if I get regular contact from them. I would get mixed responses from this. But as I grew more comfortable accepting this about myself, I no longer felt the need to ask for this reassurance and amazingly, my outer world changed.
My husband naturally ‘gets’ or compliments my sometimes anxious attachment style. He often messages me throughout the day to tell me he is thinking of me, without me ever having explained that I’d like that! I feel like I have a deeper appreciation for him because of what I have experienced.
My life is no longer ruled by the highs and lows of a narcissistic relationship. I feel heard, valued, safe and secure. And more loved than I ever imagined. I am (almost!) as comfortable working through challenges as enjoying the good times. I loved our first ‘problem’ because it showed me how we work together as a team. Which sounds weird, but it was a milestone in establishing our relationship. We communicate really well (for the most part!) and I feel a sense of ease around him.
One remarkable thing I noticed is that people around us are delighted to see us together! I receive many comments that he is a really amazing man and that we are well suited - validation without even asking for it! Even strangers say they can feel the love between us. I never had that response when I dated narcissists.
Life isn’t perfect, it never will be, I still have challenges because of my past and moments of low self esteem or social anxiety, it doesn’t all of a sudden go away. But I do have a very low tolerance now for ‘nonsense’ and ‘narcissism.’ For a long time on my journey I was very strict, I always spoke up for myself. Other times, I picked and choose when to speak up, because I know that not everyone can hear me. I must say even though its more uncomfortable at the time, I’ve had better experiences from speaking up. So that’s the challenge, in always loving yourself to have your own back and to speak your truth. It’s not always easy, but what’s the alternative?
I truly believe that there is a healing revolution and the world needs you to join it. Once we heal, the narcissists of the world will have no choice but to go within and take the healing journey. But right now, it is your turn. I hope this helps in your own recovery and empowers you to continue on your own healing path, one step at a time. Your future holds infinite possibilities.
I will leave you with a question you can ask yourself over and over: “How can I support myself today?”
If you are interested in working with me, Marie-Claire, in your own healing journey, you can find out more here.
Have you received your free workbook to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse and become a self empowered healer? The free pdf guide is chock-full of exercises and tips to help you get in touch with and heal yourself, you can get yours here.
You can find Revelation Therapy on most social media: @revelationtherapy. I love posting inspirational quotes and messages as small, but powerful healing reminders.
And if you didn't catch it yet, here's the link to the podcast interview I did with Kaleah Laroche on my healing journey from narcissistic abuse. Learn about some of my struggles and how I overcame them.
Let me know if you have any questions about my healing journey, narcissistic abuse, or anything else. That way I can be sure to answer your questions in my future blog posts and you tube videos (which are coming soon!). Sending hugs and positivities, Marie xx Contact: email@example.com