Victims of NPD Relationships: Stages of Recovery

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“Narcissism is an evil that masquerades as good. Like a Pied Piper this master illusionist can lead you to Hell all while making you feel flattered to be chosen to go there. Only when you wake up in Hell do you realize the real evil that existed in his fluted song. By then it’s too late; not only have you fallen victim, but most likely you have paid for the flute, as well.” ~Tigress Luv

Stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse can be viewed in two different ways. The first is four stages, or levels, which are based on time/distance from the narcissist as well as on actions-things you need to do to leave the narcissist. The second is based on the stages you will go through with your feelings as you leave the narcissistic relationship behind.

Levels of Recovery

Level One: It has just dawned on you that you’ve been in a relationship with someone who has the traits of a narcissist. You may or may not have left the relationship but are clearly intending to. You have gone to a therapist or a recovery group to get support in leaving and coping with your current situation. You are probably in a lot of pain but at this point you just want some relief from the toxic interactions and abuse. The therapist or support group should provide you with lists of contacts– help organizations, law enforcement agencies, other women in similar situations, domestic violence shelters, and victims’ support groups both online and in your city. Seek to learn everything you can about narcissism. Knowledge will empower you as well as reduce your sense of isolation and worthlessness. Education is a very important tool in the recovery process. You need to become aware of the prevalence and nature of violence perpetrated by narcissists, stalking, warning signs and red flags, legal rights/procedures if needed, as well as coping strategies.

Level Two: You are out of the relationship and have truly ended it. It has been less than three months since the relationship ended. You have cut off all possible contact with the ex including Email, Instant Messaging, Phone, Letters, and Third Party Communication. (This is essential). The only exception is if you have children. If you have children you have set up some kind of third party mediation to handle all business. You are still in a lot of pain but feel you are making some progress.

Level Three: You have had no contact with the narcissist for at least six months. You have regained some degree of sanity and feel you are back in control of your life. You may have weak moments and difficult days but feel you are progressing It is important to stick with counseling or the support group to help you through the difficult days..

Level Four: You have had no contact with the narcissistic personality for at least a year. Your life has moved on and you are feeling so much stronger than you did when you first started.

Stages of Recovery- Feelings

(The following is adapted from the NPD site on MSN

1) The Road kill Stage: The first stage is when you hit bottom due to your experience with a Narcissist. You are exhausted from the constant turmoil, lies and abuse. You are tired of walking on eggshells, living in fear of setting off his rage and abuse.

2) The Realization Stage: This is when your questions begin to get answered and you now have a name for what you have been dealing with all this time. You begin to research everything you can find on Narcissism. Although you feel better that you know, the sense of betrayal begins to painfully sink in. Unfortunately, you start to feel angry at yourself for letting it go on for so long.

3) The Anger Stage: The full impact of what you went through hits home and all hell breaks loose! You are angry at the narcissist but also at yourself. Anger is uncomfortable, but it is a necessary step towards healing. At first, it feels like an erupting volcano but then it decreases and you can focus on how to get through.

4) Taking Affirmative Action Stage: This is when you begin to effectively focus your new-found knowledge into making life decisions. This is also when you begin to learn- and practice- techniques on how to protect yourself from the Narcissist. This is the stage where you may decide on divorce, relocating, changing jobs, or other lifestyle changes. This is a time of great upheaval, because the Narcissist knows that the “gig is up” The Narcissist will fight you tooth and nail to win. This is a crucial stage in healing, because it is at this stage that the Narcissist will also try to “put on the charm” in an attempt to return things to how they were. However, when the charm doesn’t work, the Narcissist can be very vicious at this stage.

5) The Fall-Out Stage: At this stage, you become more comfortable in your knowledge of how to deal with the Narcissist. It is where you begin to forgive yourself and begin to feel better about yourself and your abilities. You are actively planning your future, getting to know “you” again, and you notice how much better you feel, physically and emotionally, out of the presence of the Narcissist. Although you begin to get your confidence back, you may still experience the waves of the prior stages; it seems to come in cycles, but these will diminish in intensity over time.

6) The Mirroring Stage: Not everyone goes through this stage, it is a personal decision. This is when you mirror the Narcissist’s behavior back at them, effectively scaring them off. It allows some people to siphon off the anger and project it back to the person who caused it. It is quite effective in scaring off the Narcissist, but sometimes it takes many sessions of “mirroring” before the stubborn Narcissist finally “gets it”. Unfortunately for many victims, many Narcissists aren’t willing to accept that it is over(if they don’t “win”) and continually try to get back under the victim’s skin using guilt, fear, pity, threats, violence and financial abuse. Some Narcissists keep coming back seeking more narcissistic supply. DO NOT, under any circumstances, give the Narcissist any narcissistic supply!

7) Realization and Apathy: Once you effectively block all means of communication with the Narcissist, protect yourself from them, gain knowledge and confidence in yourself, you then reach a stage of realization that there was nothing you could have done to prevent the nightmare that you just lived through. You start looking working toward your new future and close the door on the Narcissist. The most effective way to do this is with apathy. Apathy works. It requires very little work on your part. If the narcissist is still trying to keep you engaged, you simply don’t display any outward emotions toward the Narcissist.

They want to be able to evoke an emotional response from you. If they can’t make you love them, they will try to make you hate them. If you don’t give them anything, eventually, they will move on to the next victim as they have to get their narcissistic supply “fix”. This stage can take some time, because as we know, the Narcissist does not give up on precious supply sources easily.


photo by: felipe_gabaldon

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14 Responses to “Victims of NPD Relationships: Stages of Recovery”

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  1. Jennifer says:

    You have communicated this needed information very well. Thank-you.

  2. Jillian Evans says:

    “Holding Back The Years” (simply Red)

    Holding back the years
    Thinking of the fear I’ve had so long
    When somebody hears
    Listen to the fear that’s gone
    Strangled by the wishes of pater
    Hoping for the arms of mater
    Get to me the sooner or later

    Holding back the years
    Chance for me to escape from all I’ve known
    Holding back the tears
    Cause nothing here has grown
    I’ve wasted all my tears
    Wasted all those years
    And nothing had the chance to be good
    Nothing ever could yeah

    I’ll keep holding on
    I’ll keep holding on
    I’ll keep holding on
    I’ll keep holding on
    So tight

    I’ve wasted all my tears
    Wasted all of those years
    And nothing had the chance to be good
    Cause nothing ever could oh yeah

    I’ll keep holding on
    I’ll keep holding on
    I’ll keep holding on
    I’ll keep holding on
    Holding, holding, holding

    That’s all I have today
    It’s all I have to say

  3. Jennifer says:

    I cannot seem to let go completely and stay away from my abusive ex-partner. Things officially ended last January and there have been periods of no contact that I’ve been able to maintain the longest being a month, but somehow I keep going back for more abuse and pain. I’ve been seeing a therapist and though it has helped I keep letting him come and go as he pleases. I know he’s been with other people but as early as a week ago he came back and gave me a deadline to be with him 100% and on his terms otherwise he told me to go F myself forever. He has been squatting in a home that has gone into foreclosure and then he told me that he’s staying with a “friend” When I ask him where or who’s he’s staying with he tells me that it’s none of my business since we’re not together, I wasn’t a real partner and there when he needed me, and that he’ll only disclose any information when and if we are back together. He’ll constantly tell me not to contact him and then I don’t and just when I start to feel a bit better he comes back around like he knows I might be a little better and I get hurt and set back all over again. I keep looking at his public postings on Google and this past weekend I saw a reply publicly from a female and of course because I’m a glutton for punishment I found postings on another social media site where he is “following” her and she’s “following” him. I deleted the account I had on that site because the only reason I created it was because he asked me to in order to send me things about he wanted to dress me etc. It cuts me right to my core because that’s what he’s doing with her now. I’ve been crying nonstop, cannot focus on work, and am an emotional wreck. I waste so much time trying to figure out why he does these things to me. I’m stuck thinking how happy he is with her and how miserable I am. I also think that she must be better than me and I’m comparing myself to her and how lucky she is because I’m sure he’s being so great and doing all the nice things and events he used to do for me with her now. I don’t understand why he keeps coming back to me if he’s found someone else? Why tell me he still loved me and wanted an “us” and then I see the other female? Is he with her? Did he do all this on purpose for me to see? Does he think I’m an idiot and it’s a game to him to see if I’ll keep hanging around? I’m so hurt and feel so unbelievably low. I know I deserve better treatment. I wish he would stop treating me this way. I wish I was stronger and felt better about myself. I wish I understood why he keeps doing this to me. He’s called me the most horrible names, spit on me, has hit me and degraded me in the worst possible ways- yet I still love him. Any insight would be helpful.

    • PGH says:

      Your heart hasn’t yet acknowledged that the malignant narcissist in him is evil (demonic) at the core and getting away with it.

      Healing will only occur when you acknowledge that you are dealing with someone who has consciously chosen evil and is proud of it.

  4. jan says:

    I have a narcissistic family and I was the scapegoat. Finally marrying late after I gave up my chosen one(probably a closet narcissist of course) due to intervention by my family (jealousy) and married one I felt the family would accept.
    25 years later and discarded and asset stripped, I found a description of narcissism/control/psychopathy. During the marriage the abusive, dishonest, sadistic and psychopathic controlling nature of my birth family had emerged into my sight.
    Now I am weakened and isolated. My willpower is down. my drive and creativity is down. I have some physical damage. All I built up materially and socially for now and next generation were destroyed. I dont care about the fool and the stupid family.
    But I have not rebuilt a life…… this is the information and support which is lacking.

  5. jan says:

    Reply to Jennifer: read Dee Graham: Loving to Survive. Brilliant short book. Societal Stockholm Syndrome. Available on free download at RadFem… google and then choose to buy.

    What he guy is “doing to’ you is just what they do. Its not personal. THey have a genetic issue which causes the brain structure to get pleasure from hurting others, and its a constant driver. If there is no one or no animal or plant to hurt they hurt themselves. They dont have guilt or ability to love etc so they mimic and their insides are empty. So they feed emotionally, copy, and are needy.
    As little kids they copy emotion as they dont feel it and work out how to trigger emotion in others and so manipulate… and get pleasure from hurting them emotionally. Of course they lie and cheat and blame others.. and project.

    Jennifer its not personal. You are in charge here, you decide. you get out.
    Be glad you dont have his child and it one too. He cannot love you, its just words to get you going. He feeds on your pain. Your pitiful easiness to control. I have been thru it many times.

    Whatever they do for anyone else it will not change. They cant, they are hard wired. Just laugh, you are lucky, you have been almost discarded because he has almost sucked you dry. You are a proper human.
    You cut him off. You RUN.

  6. Sad says:

    I hurt so bad right now! I wonder what is wrong with me to keep allowing this guy back into my life. I feel alone when I’m with him and yet devastated if I feel it’s over. Someone help me please, it’s been 6 long years and many broken promises. I have dealt with verbal abuse, cheating, neglect, lies and soooooo many break ups. I need to move on and as soon as I feel strong he comes around again. I can’t seem to stop loving him. I am an educated single mother with a good job. I am attractive and have so much love to give. I can’t get more than a few weeks of no contact. Please tell me what to do.

    • Stronger says:

      I think that you once grasp the understanding that they’ve only cared about themselves and that most of what they’ve shared has been fabricated, only then will you be able to move on and regain your self-esteem, confidence and your joy for living life. I’ve been no contact for the past 6 months and keep getting stronger and stronger with each passing day. I would recommend you read ‘without a conscience’ by Robert Hare and the Art of living by Epictitus. Both are good reads that will make it easier for you to pick yourself up and be on your way to freedom.

  7. Michelle says:

    Do you have any suggestions for what to do when the narcissist who is destroying you IS your therapist and despite tons of evidence in the therapists own writing the licensing board protects him?

  8. One thing I’m finding out about myself is that I am frequently attracted to and attract narcissist. After trying to figure out why my last relationship failed (again) and yes he returns to use me. Three times so far. The latest was to fly me to San Francisco was a perfect gentleman and within weeks the cracks started to show again and thank God I got out early this time but not without feeling more devastated that the last two times when I was with him & it ended. It hurt far more this time. Again confused by this latest episode & blaming myself that I wasn’t good enough I started google searching controlling men, I stumbled upon narcissists and what a revelation, this is what’s been going on in my life & many of my relationships. One thing I noticed is that people like myself who are involved with narcissst seem to have self esteem issues, ignore red flags and when it ends beg, wait, lower themselves, change who they are, don’t fight back and when it ends are devastated and unable to or have difficulty letting go. Many “normal” people would have kicked the narcissst to the curb and not walked but ran from the “N” Why don’t or didn’t I??? WTF Im decent looking 50 year old woman, size 2, drive a sports car, have a good job, nice apartment, workout & am somewhat intelligent. Now smoking cigarettes & haven’t been to the gym but three times in a month. Total knocked down like a set of dominos.
    Im starting to see when these “Ns enter my life I have boundary issues, my already shaken self esteem gets even lower. Being single isn’t always easy and Being alone isn’t a problem for me but I do get lonely at times which can make me vulnerable and when I took a look back at my relationships I now see i have often ended up with these “N” type of guys and why are they the hardest for me to to shake? I have to admit to myself in addition to healing from the latest episode, I’m going to have to take good look at what is it in me where I would tolerate the intolerable from a partner. Otherwise I will be in this place again with the same person or someone else. I may sound strong but the pain comes & goes, and at times is unbearable. But now armed with the knowledge of what a relationship with a narcissist does I’m trying not to beat up on myself. Trying to get it through my head it’s NOT ME! I’m not the first he’s hurt and I won’t be the last. I kinda feel bad for his ex wives (he told me some BS, why he’s twice divorced) and also feel bad for a kinda girlfriend he had while he was trying to get with me that I found out about. After that one I left him alone but not with having those thoughts of I wondering what she had that I didn’t, now I know, she was more willing to buy into his bullshit than I was. I’m sure he had her twisting in the wind just like me. Wow what she must of gone through with this a-hole. Probably worse than what I’ve gone through. Although I’ve been hurt & still hurting that I got played I can’t let my hurt feeling or pride lead me back to try to change an outcome because it will never happen. Jennifer, my heart breaks for you. But get out. Go to a co dependency meeting, if you have insurance make an appointment with a counselor & if you don’t have insurance there are free support groups somewhere. Don’t isolate yourself that’s the worse thing & what I usually do and isolation will get you head spinning in dark thought. Get help so you can at least take some baby steps and begin to hold your head up. I know it’s hard believe me but girl you gotta fight for yourself, I know how it is, hard to get out of bed, hard to do the simple things, unable to concentrate, obsessive thought and feeling down on yourself. Yep, all that shit I’ve been through, am going through. But fight for yourself, for your child, children your future. Taking some sort of Action will help. Keep breathing, keep reading post, you’ll hear your story in many post. It may take awhile but if you really put in a little bit of work the fog will clear enough so you take another step. No contact is harder than hell but it works, during no contact get help. If you slip keep trying & trying. One day you’ll be on your way but it’s a process that isn’t easy. I look at it this way the work to get out isn’t nearly bad as staying in it. At least now, I can begin to have some peace & worry about me instead of his ass. Jennifer, I thank you for your post it’s given me the strength to reach out to keep fighting for myself. Tears & Big hug!!

  9. anon says:

    is there a reason this article is gender specific? I am recovering from a friendship with a narcissist who was female.

  10. Mr Man says:

    I am also recovering from a relationship with a female narcissist.

    Almost 7 years of my life wasted. I saw the signs early on, tried to get out time and time again. It was hard.

  11. Andre says:

    BIASED against males! I have encountered WAY too many female narcissists with NPD. NPD does not discriminate on the basis of sex.

  12. Chrissy says:

    Hello to the men,
    I don’t have a specific statistic, but the majority of NPD’s are men, and their counterpart is the BPD woman. However there definately are women with NPD and men with BPD.
    I think there are more support groups online for partners of men with NPD because women tend to talk more, go to each other and share their vulnerable sides, their worries, etc, so seek out other women who have similiar experiences. (Again, many, many exceptions, and men are wise to connect with other men and women who are victims of NPD).
    I hope you can reverse the gender in any reading you come across in your mind, that talks about the NPD man. Just know, it’s not male-bashing. Well, it can be. But it shouldn’t be. Women likely feel a huge distrust of men after being with an NPD, even though they know there are good men out there, men now seem like too big of a risk as we heal. Perhaps you feel the same way about women now, after you have been a victim yourself. I think there is a period for some of us where we are very averse to the other gender, but as we heal and get educated we realize – it’s DEFINATLY not the gender, it’s the person!
    So please feel welcome, and congratulations for speaking up.

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