How To Get Over A Narcissist: 11 Essential Steps

mbg Contributor By Annice Star
mbg Contributor
Annice Star has a B.A. in psychology and a master's in teaching. She works as a freelance writer, editor, and wellness coach.
Medical review by Ellen Vora, M.D.
Holistic Psychiatrist
Ellen Vora is a holistic psychiatrist practicing in NYC. She graduated from Columbia University Medical School, is boarded in psychiatry and integrative and holistic medicine, and she's also a licensed medical acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher.
How To Get Over A Narcissist: 11 Essential Steps

Photo by Natalie Allen

When you're in a relationship with a narcissist, everything is about them. It's confusing and exhausting. One day, you get it together to leave. While this is an exciting time with you moving in a positive direction, there's a harsh adjustment period right after a breakup with a narcissist. Just because they treat you like garbage doesn't mean it's easy to get over a narcissist. In fact, this type of breakup is often one of the hardest to move on from. You feel up and down, over and over—it's as much of a roller coaster as your relationship itself. So here's exactly how to get over a narcissist, once and for all.

1. Stop obsessing.

Trying to have a relationship with a narcissist is nearly impossible, so you spent a lot of time analyzing their behavior and character to try and make sense of the curve balls they kept throwing you. After you leave your abusive relationship, this habitual pattern of analysis will continue until you force it to stop.

Whenever thoughts about what's wrong with your ex arise, remind yourself that you are no longer concerned with this person and gently encourage your mind to think about something else. Do this again and again. Most experts say it takes three months to change a habit.

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2. Avoid trying to rationalize.

To get through all those dysfunctional trials with your narcissist, you had to make excuses for their behavior, minimize their abuse, reinterpret their lies, and tiptoe around their self-delusions, in order to keep the peace and justify staying with them. When you miss them now—and you will—you're going to start rationalizing again, thinking, "Oh, they're not so bad."

Don't fall for it. Remind yourself over and over why you left to avoid getting manipulated by your narcissistic ex or, worse, ending up dating them again. The best way to do this is to maintain zero contact. Don't call or text, and block them on social media. There's a reason the no-contact rule is advice given by most experts. We'll explain that further at the end of this list.

3. Find ways to cope with your anxiety.

Your narcissist probably kept you on edge for months or years, and your nervous system is likely still firing along those lines. Leaving may also be feeding into new stresses or fears, making your anxiety even worse. On top of all that, sex has stopped, so you don't have the dopamine and oxytocin that was helping keep your head above water.

Long, slow deep breathing, yoga, dancing, swimming, and other types of exercise. Do something every day, every time you need it. (Here are a few ways to practice self-care after a breakup.)

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4. Keep busy.

With narcissists, a relationship is always about power. They have it; you don't. You scurry around trying to normalize everything, but you never succeed because they want to keep you scurrying, so they can jerk your chain whenever they feel like it. This sounds really unpleasant, and it was, but it did fill the time. Now that no one is doing that, there's a big, empty void in your days. Life just isn't as exciting anymore.

To cope, keep trying new interests and activities, and make an effort to connect with your friends as much as possible. When you do stay home, meditate to calm your mind. Know that you don't need to always look outside for fulfillment; it can be found within.

5. Don't blame yourself.

Now that you can clearly see your ex for the narcissist they were and recognize how unhealthy those patterns you participated in for all that time were, you probably feel ashamed that you let the wool be pulled over your eyes for so long. You may wonder how could you be so "naive," "stupid," or "gullible." You may especially feel ashamed when you are with family or friends who were tuned in long before you were.

Give yourself a pass. Narcissists are experts at seduction, and you're only human. Perhaps you have some codependency and self-esteem issues you'll need to examine when you're in a better place, but for now, just forgive yourself. Know that your innocence is a good thing. It means you have an open and trusting heart—something your narcissist struggles with.

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6. Focus on self-love.

Since one of the narcissist's strategies is to put others down to elevate themselves, it’s unlikely you ever heard any compliments, support, or appreciation once the seduction phase wore off. You may have suffered verbal abuse as well. Narcissists want you to stay insecure, so feeling sure of yourself is foreign territory for you right now. You may have also lost trust in your own judgment as a result of being gaslighted for so long.

Where to begin healing from all this? There are therapists, self-help programs, and groups that can help you focus on self-love, which is what you need to practice in order to restore your self-esteem post-breakup. Try to find a regular meetup with a group of people working on the same type of personal growth you're interested in.

7. Prioritize your pleasure.

Research shows that many dysfunctional relationships rely on sex because intimacy and emotional fulfillment aren't available. Narcissists especially like to use sex as a power tool because they are junkies for desire; they need to be wanted. The way they maintain your desire is by doling out sexual "affection" according to their own power-driven agenda. So if your relationship was hot, you're still going to want them sexually. It's just a fact.

How to cope? Pick out a good vibrator. That piece of plastic isn't any more devoid of human love, empathy, or compassion than your emotional vampire of an ex was.

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8. Acknowledge your jealousy.

Most narcissists replace their exes within weeks—if not days—of breaking up, often from a stable they've kept full throughout your relationship. Remember, they must have a source of energy to feed on at all times. They always make sure their supply is secure. Since they struggle with healthy attachment and authentic feelings of connection, you might feel like you are merely an arrangement that ceased to be convenient when you stopped accepting abuse. Whomever they trap next will simply be a better business deal.

When you feel jealousy, remind yourself that those poor people are getting set up the way you were and are sure to suffer in the long run. Convert your jealousy into compassion for them.

9. Stop looking back.

If you stayed with your narcissist for any length of time, you may be looking back and wondering why you wasted so much time on them. And if you racked up a bunch of debt for them or had their kids, you've got a lot more than wasted time on your plate.

The important thing is that you made it out. Try to stop looking back and keep my sights set on what I am creating for my future. As any wise elder will tell you, it's impossible to get through a human life without any regrets.

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10. Let yourself grieve.

All the above steps will not relieve your aching heart, but it will change behaviors and put new dynamics in motion to help you avoid backsliding. The healing of the human heart is a long and tender process known as grieving, which comes and goes, sometimes for years.

Take time to honor your grief by going beneath your anger and finding the sadness. As you comfort yourself, acknowledge the process of welcoming yourself back home. Feel grateful for the emotions you had to keep bottled up for years—even the difficult ones. They can now bubble up because you're finally with someone who loves and accepts all of you—yourself!

Why no contact is the only way to get over a narcissist.

My own final encounter with my ex showed me exactly why this mandate is so important for these types of breakups. Suffering with many of the feelings listed above, I convinced myself that I missed my narcissist as a friend. I actually believed that if we could convert our relationship to a friendship, all would be well, so I sent him a text and he came over.

When he started in with his usual self-absorbed, entitled routines, I wasn't surprised; I had seen them a million times. What did shock me, however, was how easily I flipped right back into scurrying around, fetching him this and that, tiptoeing, soft-pedaling, rationalizing, even lying … you name it, I did it. Within the first hour, I lost all the gains I thought I had secured over the months since our breakup. My self-respect, inner knowing, integrity, power, and boundaries all flew out the window in the face of his allure. I almost fell for his sexual seduction, but somehow I repeatedly said no until he finally left.

As soon as he was out the door, I started hating him. I remember this pattern from when we were "together." I only felt drawn to him when we were in each other's presence; as soon as he was gone, I would start to doubt and despise the whole thing and my role in it (that was my gut speaking to me, of course). After this last encounter, it took me an entire week to shake off his slime and begin feeling like myself again.

Preparing yourself with ways to get through your low moments is totally worth it. You don't need to set yourself back like I did. Just keep on truckin' ahead, and eventually you will re-become the person you were before you ever fell into the narcissist's trap. Only you'll be wiser, stronger, and better for having conquered it. Use this breakup as a learning experience for knowing your own worth, and focus on your own personal growth.

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