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5 Stages of Change When Leaving a Narcissist

Getting out of a relationship with a narcissist is more complicated than just leaving. Friends and family who see you in this toxic relationship may ask – why can’t you just end the relationship? There are two reasons why it isn’t that simple.


1.    The trauma bond is so strong it is difficult to break

2.    Being in a relationship with a narcissist is like having an addiction to a substance


In this blog post we are going to focus on how ending a relationship with a narcissist is like an addict or alcoholic quitting using a substance. I will explain the 5 stages of change you must go through in order to get out.


When the narcissist you’re involved with love bombs you – it gives you that elated feeling like you are so special and wanted. This creates feel good chemicals in your brain that are addicting and leave you wanting more of this experience. On the other side of the spectrum, when a narcissist verbally humiliates you or abuses you, it causes a spike in cortisol, adrenaline, and anxiety which is also addicting. It is a horrible cycle that goes round and round. The narcissist abuses you, then hugs you and apologizes to “make it up to you” which is the love and care you are craving. This cycle is addicting with the extreme highs and lows, and destructive.


When trying to get out of this relationship you must go through these 5 stages which are the same 5 stages an alcoholic or addict must go through when getting sober from a substance:


Pre-Contemplation: In this stage, you have not yet considered the possibility of leaving the narcissist. You have not come up with any sort of plan or discussed it with a friend or family member either. You may even still be ignorant in this stage that you are in an abusive relationship with a narcissist.


Contemplation: In this stage you are aware you are in an abusive relationship with a narcissist. You are thinking it could be a good idea to go no contact, low contact, or leave the narcissist (depending on your situation). You are getting help and seeking counseling to break the trauma bond so you can move on with your life.


Action: You start taking the necessary steps to get out of the relationship – healing trauma wounds, strengthening your self-confidence and self-esteem, saving money, looking for an apartment or house to move out, etc. You start focusing on your own healing, forming healthy relationships with people who will hold you accountable, and ultimately take care of yourself and YOUR needs.


Maintenance: At this point you are out of the relationship and STAYING out of the relationship with the narcissist. You are maintaining healthy boundaries, and refusing to interact unless 100% necessary (co-parenting, handling separations logistics.) It is important here to not dabble with unnecessary communication with the narcissist. Similar to how an alcoholic or drug addict cannon just drink one beer, it is not recommended getting vulnerable or opening up to the narcissist again (this will give them the opportunity to start the cycle of abuse all over again).


Relapse: Relapse can occur if you fall back into old patterns and establish regular communication with the narcissist again – getting into the cycle of abuse. If relapse happens it is important to learn from what happened and do your best to separate again. Relapse does not have to be a part of your story but if it is – the quicker you get back to no contact or low contact, the less pain and abuse you will have to endure.


Once you have separated and are maintaining distance, your life may suddenly feel more peaceful. This may feel strange or different after being in a relationship with a narcissist for so long. It is important you have support and guidance on your journey whether if it’s from a friend, therapist, and healthy family member so they can remind you of how bad it was in the toxic relationship.


When you separate feelings of loneliness or boredom may surface. This is completely normal but it is important to not resort back to the abuse and chaos. Similar to how drug addicts and alcoholics can have euphoric recall of what it was like to use their substance of choice, victims of narcissistic abuse can have euphoric recall of how good the love bombing was or how passionate the relationship was with all of the ups and downs. When you are in the process of getting out write down 10 reasons why you never want to fall into their narcissistic trap ever again. Save this list and pull it out if you are having euphoric recall.


If you need help getting through the 5 stages of change when leaving your narcissist – fill out the contact form below and let’s chat. I wish you the very best!

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