Why You Keep Begging Your Narcissistic Ex to Try Again and How to Stop
Seven steps to heal from the special kind of loneliness that stems from Narcissistic Abuse.
I used to be ashamed to admit that my Narcissistic ex and I must have broken up and gotten back together over 30 times. Though he had done horrible things to me, I would always eventually seek him out again. Sadly, it wasn’t a subtle sort of seeking out.
In fact, on several occasions, I begged for my Narcissist to come back to me.
During the weeks after we had broken up, I was willing to re-configure my memories of what had occurred in our dynamic, while giving him ultimate leniency, while being heavy-handed about how badly I had allegedly behaved.
I would second guess whether I was as self-aware and competent in relationship as I had thought. The yearning to be with him again was so great, I rationalized his abusive behaviors as reasonable reactions to my having been a very difficult person for him to be around. I made him desperate. Of course, he was a loving, caring, reasonable person, who was acting this way out of extreme desperation.
I struggled with myself. I craved to try again and feel his arms around me, once more. I vowed I would give it my all, this time, as though I hadn’t sincerely given it my all every other time.
This time it would be different, because I would be different. I wouldn’t react out of fear. I wouldn’t be insecure. I wouldn’t blame. I wouldn’t be unkind. I would be more compassionate and understanding. I would help him deal with his triggers and anger, better. I would hold him and soothe him when he was upset, rather than get confused, then angry, and then enraged.
I would do anything to finally make that beautiful future we had imagined together, become a reality.
This same pattern happened so many times, I lost count.
Does this sound familiar to you, or like someone you know?
No one really gets it.
Though this is a remarkably common pattern, no one seemed to truly understand what compelled me to keep seeking my ex again and again. I felt ashamed, and like everyone thought I had completely lost it. I felt as though I had no dignity left, and others simply thought I was weak and pathetic.
To the outside world, it is considered absolute madness to beg for a person who has harmed us so badly, to try again. Yeah, if they hoover us, it is understandable how we might get pulled back in by their promises and romantic gestures. We can then play victim to having been roped in again, because they did a good job at convincing us we should try. But, to actively seek them out, when they have discarded us, and are effectively leaving us alone, is perplexing to those who watch us go through this.
Theorists, self-help gurus, therapists, and coaches have even tried to help people understand why we do this. They explain that it has to do with trauma bonding, or with a codependent relationship addiction. Though I agree that these are core factors in why someone might return to a Narcissist, I don’t believe they are descriptive of the core of what I have come to see is likely creating such a compelling need to try again. If it was just about co-dependence, addiction, or a “deep” love, mutuality and connection based on sharing in an abusive cycle together, I think people wouldn’t have as difficult of a time in leaving for good, especially when the Narcissist has left them, and is staying away.
A special kind of loneliness.
I was told SO many times to get used to and embrace being alone or single, and then I could finally get over the Narcissist, and move on.
However, I had experienced times in life before this partner, where I had happily enjoyed being single. I also had immensely enjoyed spending time alone.
When I received advice centered around learning to love being single, it didn’t land very well, because I thought I had already gotten good at this.
I liked being single! This experience of trying to leave the Narcissist for good wasn’t unbearable because I couldn’t handle being single, and all the alone time that entailed; it was something more!
I eventually learned that there is a uniquely profound loneliness that is curated as a byproduct of a relationship and breakup with a Narcissist. I think we all need to start talking about this type of loneliness, and the deeper meaning we ascribe to feeling this loneliness. If we are to leave a Narcissist for good, and not end replacing them with another Narcissist in line, we must heal this.
Consider these elements that form this special loneliness.
Narcissistic relationships leave us uniquely and severely isolated and alone. We give up so many activities and interests we had before the Narcissist, and wind up instead putting our extra energy into them and the relationship. Many of us also literally pick up and move our lives to a new location, having to adopt a completely new job, community, lifestyle, and culture, in order to make the Narcissist happy, and to help them follow their dreams. We learn to revolve around their dreams, instead of our own. We entirely orient our attention, feelings, actions, and decisions around the Narcissist, in order to make the relationship work, and due to the promise of the beautiful future they will one day create with us. We learn to form a life that has an almost singular focus, on keeping the relationship at a certain homeostasis.
When our Narcissistic relationship ends, it is only a matter of time before we feel an emptiness in our life that we had never quite known like this before.
As the dust settles from the breakup, and we are thrust into a life where we need to find our bearings quick. We need to survive and keep moving forward. Many of us need to still work and take care of our selves and our children, despite the chaos and pain of the break up.
There is a sort of emptiness lurking in the background, but we do what we can to be a step ahead of it. We read literature about Narcissistic Abuse. We try to rebuild our life, and find our Self. We feel validated. We feel productive. We are distracted and busy. Eventually, when this emptiness catches up with us, we panic. We panic because this deepest wellspring of pain, contained within the emptiness, feels as though it could annihilate us.
This remarkable pain connected to the emptiness is not only the fear and experience of being alone, but our emotional reaction to feeling truly, utterly, and existentially alone.
It is easy for us not to realize that when we leave relationships like this, we are cast into a disorienting void, where living and loving for the Narcissist, once existed.
We are forced to face the fact that when we remove the Narcissist, there isn’t much of anything left over in our life. Not even a core sense of Self. It is as though we have committed existential suicide. This is the price we pay to be with a person like this.
Going even deeper, I realized for myself, that this disorienting, special loneliness, was connected to an overwhelming uncertainty of my right to exist. In fact, I didn’t feel like I existed anymore, on some level.
This profound pain was like a quiet scream from the deepest part of me, that was representative of feeling entirely unworthy of life. This pain was accompanied by a simultaneous volt of panic running through my body.
This panic compelled me to latch onto anything that would help me feel moored to life, and tethered to purpose. This panic was a 24-hour survival response that I could only keep one step ahead of, for so long.
Eventually, bitter, exhausted and hopeless, I would give up on moving on, because I felt the pain would kill me first.
Every time I went back, my soul felt settled again. I felt my life had found order and orientation again, and I could then rest, because I wasn’t running myself ragged trying to remain busy, proactive, or distracted, in order to keep from falling into the deepest abyss of pain and panic.
How to avoid twenty more rounds with the Narcissist.
So, to all of you out there who have gotten back together with a Narcissist, over and over again, I want to tell you there is hope. Even though it feels like this loneliness and panic, and the deep existential pain you are experiencing, won’t go away, it eventually will! It did for me, and it certainly can for you, too!
Here is a list of 7 things to regularly commit to, that will help you build the confidence in yourself to not only be done with them for good, but to never actually need a Narcissist again.
- Sit or lay down for 15 minutes a day, doing nothing but breathing and paying attention to that deep pain and existential loneliness. Just breathe into the deepest places where it all is located. Just observe it all.
- Find a playlist that helps soothe this pain, and listen to it on repeat if you need to.
- When you find yourself rationalizing why you are the villain and how you destroyed the relationship, offer yourself forgiveness for this possibility. Practice feeling what self-forgiveness feels like.
- Remind yourself that you will never hold the ability to objectively recount what happened between you and them. But, all that you have to go off of, is that love shouldn’t hurt, and be as confusing, as this love is.
- Write down all the ways you are justifying how they treated you, and how horrible you are, and vow to revisit that list in two months. Then make an agreement with yourself that if you believe everything you have written to be true, you could seek out your ex again to try.
- Remind yourself that the groundless, disorientation you feel, is normal, and a sign you are growing and healing. Then do your best to avoid dating, forming codependent bonds with friends or family, or making yourself too busy, to avoid having to feel this.
- If you have the resources, see a professional who is trained in helping people heal from Narcissistic Abuse. Or, sign up for an online program that helps in your healing process.
Hopefully this list helps you establish a foundation to begin to rebuild a new life, separate from your Narcissistic ex.
Keep going, I know you can do it!