Separating from someone is always difficult; it takes time, effort, and energy (both physical and emotional). But when the person is a toxic narcissist, divorce becomes so much more complex.
It’s no longer a secret that toxic relationships are dangerous: the emotional, mental, and often physical consequences can be severe. In all cases, such a relationship leaves you feeling depleted, deflated, confused, frustrated, and very often hopeless and at the end of your tether. The longer you’ve been in it, the worse your symptoms and feelings will be. When you are going through a breakup with a narcissist – or at some point after the split – generally one of two things happen (and very often both):
- Your emotions run at an all-time high and can quickly spiral out of control. Anger, depression, and even suicidal thoughts – I’ve heard it all, and I’ve been there myself.
- You need to deal with the fact that they have already moved on to someone new, especially if you are unaware of how toxic people operate, which likely leaves you asking yourself questions such as:
- Why does she/he get the life that was promised to me?
- Why was I not good enough?
- What could I have done differently to make it work?
In both cases, one of the things I hear most often is a desire for revenge. The way people indirectly express this is by saying and/or doing things like:
- “I really want to find a new partner so the next time my ex sees me, they see how happy I am and will regret ever letting me go.”
- Posting a ton of happy (sometimes half-naked!) pictures on social media in the hopes your ex will see them and want you back.
- Continuously talking to all your friends about your ex and/or stalking your ex on social media.
These actions, however, are only confirmation that your ex still has complete control over you (which is exactly what they want). The harsh truth is that the narcissist does not care about you! They never did! They have no empathy and, as such, they cannot relate to/care about anyone in any meaningful way. So, how do you actually become a narcissist’s worst nightmare?
Become a Narcissist’s Worst Nightmare During and After Divorce
The opposite of love is not hate: it is indifference. And that is the one thing a narcissist doesn’t want because when you are indifferent towards them, they can no longer control you. Indifference, however, does not mean merely saying you don’t care about them anymore. It means actually being totally indifferent towards them. What does this look like? Well, if no children are involved, it means no contact. Ever again. Any and all connection to them is wiped clean — their phone number deleted (and blocked), all social media connections broken (and blocked), and all their stuff is gone (returned to them or donated if they don’t come to pick it up)… You get the picture. If children are involved, and you have decided on parallel parenting, then all of the above still applies – except for the phone number. However, unless there’s an actual emergency, you should still avoid any direct communication. Make all arrangements upfront in a comprehensive parenting plan via your lawyer, mediator, or the parenting expert you are working with to finalize your separation/divorce. And when your ex diverges from that agreement (as they inevitably will do), go back to your lawyer, mediator, or parenting expert to sort it out. If for whatever reason it is not possible to go through the third party at any point, then stick to written communication only so that everything is documented. Whatever you do, do not answer the phone call! Consider using a co-parenting app (CoParenter or OurFamilyWizard, for example) to help keep communications civil – in part because they keep a record of your communications that cannot be erased and can be used as evidence in court if necessary. These apps allow you to propose, respond to, amend, and memorialize agreements without having to speak to one another. With all that in mind, your next question is probably: “How do I become indifferent when I still care so much?” Good question. Here are the key steps to becoming indifferent to your narcissistic ex.
3 Steps for Becoming Indifferent to a Narcissist
- The first thing is to understand what really happened. Educate yourself about narcissism, the abuse cycle, and the toxic tactics they use (here is a resource to help you do that). As you go through this process, you will likely have many “Aha!” moments as you begin to recognize the behaviors you’re now reading about. Moments that didn’t make sense at the time or that you thought were so odd will all of a sudden make sense once you understand who and what a narcissist really is and how they function.
- Know that what happened is not your fault. Your love was real, and so all the emotions you are dealing with now are perfectly normal and healthy. Recognize them. Acknowledge them. Process them.
- Accept that it is your responsibility to change your life now. You have the innate ability to give yourself everything you’ve ever needed or wanted. I know this sounds scary at first, but remember responsibility means the “ability to respond.” When you think of it that way, it becomes empowering rather than scary.
Healing from Your Marriage to/Divorce From a Narcissist
Up until now, you have been searching, expecting, and hoping for someone else to fill certain needs — whether those be emotional, financial, or of any other nature. You have given love, time (often lots of it), respect, commitment, compassion, and many other things to someone who gave you none of those in return. Whilst empathy is a beautiful quality to have, it often comes without boundaries. That is why it is time to heal now. It’s time to become a narcissist’s worst nightmare by uncovering the root cause of why you ended up in such an unhealthy relationship to begin with. Identifying the origin of your patterns will allow you to heal old wounds and begin reforming from the inside out. Separating from someone is always difficult. It takes time, effort, and energy. But when the person is toxic, things are so much more complex. The trauma bond is real, and the longer the relationship was, the deeper that bond will be. So be patient and compassionate with yourself. The fact that you are divorcing is often the first step towards breaking that bond – and an essential step at that, because you cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick. Your friends and family may tell you you’re better off without your ex. And while that is true, it often does not feel that way in the moment because of the trauma bond. Your feelings are the most real thing you have. The narcissist has conditioned you to believe your feelings are either wrong or don’t matter. This article is here to let you know that they do matter. You matter. And a better life awaits if you’re willing to direct all that love and energy you put into your past relationship toward yourself.