Months and even years after leaving the abusive relationship and my narcissist fiancé, I said to myself—never again.
Never again would I trust a man. Never again would I believe a man. Never again would I hope. Never again would I love.
When you attract narcissist there is a pattern you subconsciously follow and you’ll attract the same kind of people into your life until you find the reason why and heal it. But when you are so wounded it is so easy to see the world through the filter of your pain and see every man in the same light as the narcissist.
The woman I was before believed that she was worthy and lovable and there was someone good, honest and caring who’ll love her for who she is. My trauma destroyed this belief—in that version of me, my expectations of “someone good,” and the fact that I’m lovable. And here I am now reporting the good news: you can rebuild yourself and your beliefs about you, love and men and you’ll find someone who is worth the work you put into your healing.
As I fearfully but with courage entered into new relationships, I started to notice how the pattern changed. I attracted different people (still not the right ones) but I still had the same beliefs about love and men. I started to consciously work on them so one day when I met a good man, I would be able to enter into a healthy relationship with him. The years of hard work paid off, but don’t imagine everything is smooth now. Memories of the trauma still linger back and triggers may bring back the unhealthy coping mechanisms to protect myself and cause problems. Living for years on autopilot in flight or fight mode damages the nervous system badly, but there are things you can only heal in a relationship.
This has the potential to ruin all my future relationships, but behind all this there are lessons to be learned. When you truly love your partner you can’t afford to lose them, and despite all the pain you’ll take a look into your wounded heart and do the work to heal, for you and the other person and the relationship.
Don’t expect to be perfectly healed before your next relationship
When you date a narcissist, your role is to solely aid their ego and their needs and you will always come second to that. If you live with them for long, you’ll learn to always tend to their needs first, everything is about them. After that, you have to relearn your own self-worth. There will be things that your partner does that will unexpectedly trigger you. But triggers are good, they show you unhealed places so you can start to work on them now. You have to communicate about this clearly with your partner so they can understand why you might have responded in a weird way to something innocent.
You’re allowed to care about yourself
I lived together with my abuser for 3 years and by the end I had no free time. Everything revolved around him. Even when he was not there, my calendar was filled up with things I had to do for him. I know how bad it sounds now but I even ended up doing yoga secretly, otherwise I would have to listen how bad of a wife I will be. Thinking back I feel so sorry for that poor little me who was manipulated into believing this is love and it’s normal. Even though I learned what real love is since then, I still find myself putting my needs to the side from time to time and it triggered the hell out of me first when my partner wanted alone time or me-time. It was something entirely new for me. Suddenly here’s a man who wants time alone and he wants me to have my time alone? What?! I had to get it fixed in me and learn that this has nothing to do with me. I am not rejected, my partner is not running away or is abandoning me, my entire life doesn’t have to be him and I am allowed to do the same without feeling guilty. And this is what normal should be.
You might need more reassurance then you’d expect
You survived months or even maybe even years of emotional and physical abuse because of our strength, but even the strongest survivors have their weak moments. Even though I am confident in my partner’s love for me, I need to be reminded from time to time how important I am to him. I don’t need these reminders because he’s not doing a great job loving me, but because I am so used to another type of love, that needing reassurance has become a habit.
I might tell him that I love him “a little more than normal.” I also need him to kiss me, hug me, or hold me a little longer. I had to understand that for others it might seem as I am asking too much of them, so when I need reassurance I try to look more into other things as well now. Not just the physical part but also to remind myself of other signs of love: my favorite tea brought to bed in morning, a cute message when we’re apart, something he saw and got for me because it reminded him of me… These are signs of love as well I have to learn to cherish.
Sex is not everything
Narcissists end up making you believe that sex is equal to love. This is something that hurt me very often. My abuser built a pavlovian reflex in me with sex and whenever we had a fight we made up by having sex. If I was suspicious of him cheating on me he reassured me by having sex, when I “did bad” (not doing what he wanted me to do) my punishment was no sex. They are also masters of gaslighting and I totally believed that I am loved when we have sex and I am not loved when I was rejected in bed. So when I started to live with my new partner and our whole life behind the walls was not connected to sex, I felt confused. Why don’t we have sex almost every day? Does he not love me? When he doesn’t even try to have it after a fight? What did I do wrong? I had so many doubts but worked though it. While there is no set number of how much sex a week is normal as every one is different, tying everything with sex is not normal and the amount of time you spend with sexy activities can vary on many things, not just my value as a person.
You’re insecurities might scream loud
When we act through our insecurities, there is no difference between fantasy and reality—it is all real.
Until we allow our insecurities to speak, they will eat us alive. And trust me, after a narcissist you are left with so many paralyzing insecurities.
The best thing you can do in these situations is to understand your insecurities and communicate the thoughts that are bothering you without judgment or projection.
Communication is key in every situation after you enter into a healthy relationship with a good partner. It may take a long time to overcome the pain a narcissist caused and unlearn the unconscious coping mechanisms and the affects fade away. If you really love your partner I think you should tell them what you’ve been through and how it affects you so they can understand. You’ll know you found the right partner because they won’t run away, he won’t leave you alone with your suffering. They are willing to live with the reality of the aftermath of such an abuse and trauma and love you and support you through your healing. It’s also important to make sure your partner is aware that your quirks, insecurities and at times, extreme or reactive behaviors simply exist within you but will fade away, and it has nothing to do with them. The right person will give you unconditional love, understanding, honesty, consistency and stability and there are no words in any languages that could perfectly describe the gratitude you’ll feel for them.
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Photo: Victoria Roman via Unsplash