When You Can’t Quite Break Free From a Narcissist

Weekends are especially tough.

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

“How was your weekend?”

It’s an innocent enough question. It’s superficial. Mundane. Routine.

It depends on who you’re talking to, but if the other person is not in your “inner circle” of people closest to you, the equally-superficial, -mundane, and -routine answer is “fine; how about yours?”

No matter how you answer the question, your mind does flash back briefly to how your weekend actually was. And that’s where some of us get into trouble.

Weekends–they mean different things to different people, elicit different emotions, don’t they? They do for everyone, and they may (or may not) hold different meanings for those surviving narcissism, or having to live with it.

[In my case, it’s both — I’ve been married for 20 years (the last two of which it was an open marriage) to a “Neglectful” narcissist, and I’ve also broken off a relationship with a Grandiose/Covert narcissist.]

Weekends could bring a potpourri of emotions:

  • Sighs of relief
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Spurts of grief
  • Bouts of anxiety
  • A get-out-of-jail-free card for a glorious slacking session

Some people live for weekends, while others dread them.

Narcissists occupy a lot of your time, so even if you don’t live together, you may be joined at the hip from morning until late at night. Depending on their personality, they may also pack those weekend days with fun and exciting things to do. You’re always occupied, always active, and there’s always something on the calendar to look forward to.

After a breakup, weekends can be particularly tough, especially in the beginning. That go-go-go fun-fun-fun would be replaced by…a void. This is especially true if you have another narcissist in your life who is more avoidant and bland.

I was left with just…my husband and I, in separate rooms, watching separate videos, doing and thinking about separate things.

There would be an emptiness, I knew that. And that only makes the acute grieving stage even tougher.

“Illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within.” ~ Arthur Ericson

The first weekend without my ex-partner was by far the hardest. He had a long-term extracurricular project to work on, which kept him occupied, distracted, and focused, but I did not.

Occupy yourself

Do not text your ex. You might not be able to stop yourself from thinking about them, but engage in active activities that are focused on you.

  1. What you need to get done — chores, tasks, projects, errands, or appointments.
  2. What you need to do (for you) — self-care such as physical activity or meditation, that hair or spa appointment, meet up with friends, call your mom, or something similar.
  3. What you want to do — hobbies, recreation, and leisure activities.
  4. What you’ve always wanted to do — go to a certain restaurant or other attraction, take up something new, or take a class at a community education center.

Chances are, there may be items in any one or all the above that had gotten neglected while the narcissist was happily vacuuming up all of your time, and there may be a slight backlog to catch up on now.

Some ideas include…

  • Get a few adult coloring books and some colored pencils or markers and color.
  • Catch up on your favorite Netflix series that your ex wasn’t into and you set aside.
  • Visit the local farmer’s market with your best friend.
  • Sign up for karate or self-defense classes.
  • Teach yourself Linux from resources around the web.
  • Go walking around your favorite park, and only use your phone for snapping pictures of flowers or insects.
  • Learn to make some of your own body care products with essential oils.
  • Give your living space a probably-much-needed deep-clean.
  • Take a trip to somewhere you’ve never been, whether it’s a day-trip to a small town nearby or a transatlantic flight to a different country.
  • Do not text your ex!

Meanwhile, your narcissistic ex will likely do one of two things:

  1. Find a new “partner” (translation: source of narcissistic supply) right away, if they haven’t already, or
  2. Dive head-first into an abysmal, catastrophic downward spiral

No matter what, do not text your ex!

Mine spiraled downward, and I did make the mistake of texting him. It was devastating. I felt worse rather than better. Each text made me feel worse and worse, but I felt like I couldn’t stop. Eventually, I did. And I felt awful.

But, live and learn. Trial and error.

My life has been more error than trial lately. But that’s impermanent; everything is.

Everything is temporary, if you give it enough time. ~ Jewel

And that’s what I told myself throughout the first weekend. Somehow, through the tears, you make it through. Best friends, new acquaintances, and household pets can pull you through.

A break in the clouds…

Nothing is completely set in stone. The second weekend will likely be different, and it definitely was for me. Each weekend improves, especially with the passage of time and the putting of one foot in front of the other, even if only a few inches at a time.

The bulk of the painful lessons are usually learned in the beginning. And thus, we usually experience the bulk of the pain in the beginning, too.

We learn much the hard way, learning through a potent blend of hindsight and self-awareness what is correct and what is a mistake.

“Experience is the best teacher.” ~ Frances M. Whitcher

So what is correct, and what is a mistake, and how do you tell the difference? The litmus test is simple; ask yourself: did it make me feel better or did it make me feel worse?

That’s all you have to go on, in the beginning. Beyond the beginning is not something I can speak for yet; I haven’t gotten there.

On my second Friday after the breakup, I had felt pretty strong. I was on the right track. I was building emotional muscle.

For every yang there is a yin

On Saturday, I saw the flip-side. I did everything wrong. I texted with him for most of the day, instead of having breakfast, blogging, doing yoga, or establishing some kind of cuddling connection with my husband.

And I paid for it. I hosed most of the day, and I felt it. Luckily, I felt it immediately instead of experiencing a delayed reaction–or worse, not even realizing why I felt the way I did.

“We all crash and burn. Some of us just burn a little brighter.” ~ Curtis Tyrone Jones

An idle mind is the devil’s plaything, and mine was indeed idle. Mentally paralyzed is more like it. You know the story…

  • Needing some more closure to certain loose ends.
  • Getting wistfully jaded, or jadedly wistful.
  • Trying to coach and help him see the light as though he’s helpless. Maybe he is, maybe he’s not. Maybe there’s not even a light to see, at least for him.
  • Spending time attempting to decode what’s really going on. Narcissism is a black hole, in many ways.

A black rabbit hole.

Earlier on Saturday, I’d grown hopeful, almost optimistic when he’d texted me that he had actually begun to start taking some of my advice. I already knew that was one of the oldest tricks in their book, but it’s hard not to take bait that tasty.

By Saturday late-afternoon, it dawned on me that I didn’t feel good. I hadn’t accomplished anything, other than to wrap myself up tight in another mental and emotional pretzel, and that simply won’t do.

Fortunately, I had plans for that evening with my best friend, so I went over to her house for the evening and we hung out, which was healthy for me. I did feel much better on the way home than I had on the way there.

Lesson learned…

And I promptly typed up a to-do list for Sunday, as Sundays are even more random, blank, and formless than Saturdays, and I knew I needed structure. My to-do list might seem ridiculous to some, but sometimes it’s what you have to do. Sometimes your to-do list needs to include things you might otherwise often forget, such as eating breakfast or lunch, or brushing your hair, or exercising, or getting groceries, maybe even with approximate time slots to keep you on track.

#TrueStory.

So when Sunday morning rolled around, I hit the ground running.

  • I watched Netflix until 9am, at which point I took care of personal hygiene (that was actually on my list), breakfast, and doing the dishes (so were those).
  • I made sure to type up some blog posts while spending time my new kitty.
  • Then I engaged in some housecleaning with my husband, which felt amazing, particularly after it was done (!).

What surprised me was how fast the day went! And how stable I felt. And how much I/we accomplished. And how balanced life felt to me. A definite improvement.

I also realized that every time I long for my ex’s arms around me, I need to remind myself that I couldn’t even count on that happening when I was with him.

Increasingly, it didn’t happen because of some discussion that morphed into a Discussion, ugly and confusing and hopeless and bleak, with no resolution.

He operates a resolution-free zone, always having the upper hand, despite being less wise and less mature.

How does that happen? Somewhere along the line, I had allowed it to. I had given him that upper hand because I loved him as a person and he thrived on me as supply.

Peace in the Negative Space

By “negative space”, I don’t necessarily mean “bad vibes” in the living space. Rather, this is an artistic concept that refers to the space not used. Whenever you begin to paint or draw something, you now have the form of the image itself, and you also have the space around it. One can’t have one without the other.

And so, there is a silver lining to glean from those early days after breaking up with a narcissist. You’ll miss their “love-bombing”, vibrant energy, and the flurry of activity (the “object” of the “painting”).

However, you’ll be able to bask in the chaos and abuse that aren’t there (the “negative space”).

The good and the bad are a package deal, and you can’t extract the good and leave the bad.

So, we must remind ourselves that even though we know we’re not going to be in their arms tonight, or any night, we also know what is not going to happen.

For me,

  • I knew I wasn’t going to get a cold shoulder because of something that happened at work, nor was I going to cry over a fresh emotional wound yet again.
  • I knew I wasn’t going to get locked into a go-nowhere discussion that solves nothing.
  • I knew I wasn’t going to waste the evening getting pummeled and leave feeling confused, exhausted, spent, or unbalanced.
  • I knew I wasn’t going to get tossed in Word Salad.
  • I knew I wasn’t going to get dizzy on the merry-go-round.

And that is a beautiful thing. It may not be the most exciting or exhilarating, but it is beautiful. To have that guarantee. To have that stability. To be able to chill, in peace.

Life with my husband is bland and bleak, though. Should my financial circumstances change and I can exist independently without him, I’ll certainly look into leaving him so that at least I can be free to pursue a true healing journey and a healthy relationship.

But until then, this is my life, today. It’s One Day At A Time, and today is all I have. And today, I will be okay.

“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.” — Guy Finley

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Relationships, love, fascination. Narcissism, psychopathy, sociopathy. LGBT, open, unconventional. I’ve been through it all. Maybe you have too?

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The Silent Wave

The Silent Wave

An integrative medicine doctor on the autism spectrum who has survived a 20-year marriage to a controlling mastermind, now widowed, starting out all over again.

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