I can’t even begin to count the number of times I wondered this throughout the 4-½ years with my narcissist. With each and every discard phase, and believe me there were far more than I care to remember or admit to, I felt like it was “our last time.” I found myself wondering, “How long will it take before I’m healed? How will I know when I’m healed? Will I ever truly heal?”
The truth is that there is no dyed-in-the-wool length of time for the process of grieving to run its course. It’s a bitter truth that two of the hardest things you will ever have to do are the mourn the loss of someone who hasn’t died, and the loss of something that has. As impossible as it may feel in this moment, please believe me, healing does come to fruition. If the relationship had been on the rocks for some time, even though the parting was something you relatively expected, on some level, it’s still a shock. And, as such, you will still need some time to emotionally and psychologically process what has transpired. However, because some baser part of you also knew the end was nigh, your time to truly and wholly heal will most likely be shortened due to your insight. Conversely, if the end came from out of the blue, at least for you, the time required for any true healing will most likely be much longer. Think months…possibly even years. Yes, I know that’s an unwelcome and unconscionable truth to embrace but, let’s be honest, if we don’t take the time to heal from what cut us, we are going to bleed on people who never hurt us.
Let me ask you a question. How many times after your narcissist childishly stormed off and punished you by giving you the silent treatment, did you feel it was truly over and you began to think to yourself, “Maybe I’ll find someone who will treat me better”? For each and every one of the myriads of discard phases with my narcissist, this thought preoccupied my thoughts and vexed my mind daily. A good friend urged me to leave the past in the rubble where it lay, saying, “Just get out there. Even if you’re not ready, make yourself get out there and start over.” At the time, I heeded her advice, thinking it was the best course of action. Although, in hindsight, it was very bad advice. I began trying to pursue something romantic with a small handful of people, one after another, during the numerous discard phases that were peppered in throughout my time with my narcissist; however, it always ended, and generally not favorably, because I simply was not ready to emotionally or psychologically commit my heart, mind, or body to another person or relationship when this divine relational trinity was still very much piously committed to my narcissist, Julia.
I remember one such attempt with a girl whom we’ll call Marianne. Marianne was simply amazing. She was an English teacher at a local middle school. We met through a mutual friend and instantly clicked. After seeing each other for a couple of weeks, I introduced her to my closest friend and his family over dinner one evening. He commented that she was a definite improvement over Julia, a sentiment with which I couldn’t have agreed more. Over the course of the next couple of months, Marianne and I spent a great deal of time together but, even sharing such an amazing connection with someone who was so smart, intelligent, educated, interesting, lovely, sexy, fit, funny, and whose sense of humor was equally as warped and twisted as mine (a very desirable quality of which Julia was sorely lacking), something just didn’t feel “quite right,” but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
After those two months with Marianne, and apart from Julia, from out of the blue, Julia texted me and asked if I would call her. It was about 6:00 PM and I was driving to Marianne’s for dinner. I called Julia and, as I did, I pulled over to the side of the road knowing I wouldn’t be able to freely talk at Marianne’s. As Julia and I talked, the hour grew late and Marianne, understandably, impatient. Marianne began calling and texting, wanting to know what was going on. I texted her that I was still coming and would explain when I got there. Finally, after about an hour of talking, and Julia emphatically promising that she’d do better and that things would be better between us this time, we were “back together.” As we hung up, I knew I had a very difficult and painful conversation ahead of me with Marianne. When I arrived at Marianne’s house, I told her the truth. She was hurt but she was remarkably understanding. She shared with me, “I always felt you still loved her. I just hoped I could have been enough.” I never forgot those words. “I just hoped I could have been enough.” We had dinner, we talked, we laughed, we said our goodbyes, and parted on good terms. As I said, Marianne was pretty amazing.
In retrospect, it wasn’t fair of me to pursue something with someone else when, at my core, I knew I wasn’t over Julia – I just didn’t know that I knew. And that subconscious realization was the nagging “something” that just didn’t feel quite right the entire time I was seeing Marianne. But I wanted to be over Julia. I longed to be free of her and her despotic, manipulative control over me. I just wanted to stop hurting and, more importantly, hurting over someone not worthy of that anguish. So I lunged at the first opportunity to be with the first amazing person who came my way, while taking absolutely no time for introspection, no honest conversation(s) with myself as to whether or not I was truly ready to be romantically and emotionally involved with another human being. Worst of all, I didn’t stop to think about Marianne. Do you see the repetitive theme there? I, I, I. Marianne trusted me and I hurt her. And not only that, I took the love she could have been giving to a good and deserving man who, unlike me, was ready to share something amazing with someone even more amazing, a man who was emotionally healthy enough to not only receive another person’s love, but to also reciprocate. In the end, I denied two people the chance to share something beautiful – Marianne and the man whose life she could have been enriching while she was, instead, with me.
Today, I am very much healed from my narcissist but not without a great deal of painfully honest time sincerely spent in earnest introspection over my relationship with Julia and my role in it. I finally not only realized, but accepted that there was absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent its inevitable demise. That, because of the tactically skilled manipulation of my narcissist, I had carried so much guilt and self-blame for so long, but I finally allowed myself to accept that the relationship failed for no other reason than I was involved with a narcissist for 4-½ years. Period.
The best advice I can pass along from the other side of these crippling tidal forces of loss and grieving is, you will know you are sufficiently healed and ready to pursue your happiness with someone deserving of your love when you can reflect back on your time with your narcissist without pain, anger, regretful wishing and resentment rearing its ugly head. When you can go somewhere that was once very special and emotionally stirring for you, when you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch that memory but no longer feel that twinge of cold emptiness in your chest – you know the one I mean. That icy blade which unapologetically and instantly penetrates deep into your heart, effortlessly slicing into your core with its frigid, sadistic tendrils caressing for an eternity in the course of mere seconds – yes, that unwelcome guest – when you don’t feel its frozen, persistent sting lamentfully reminding you of a love lost, then you will know you are healed and ready to begin sharing something amazing with someone amazing. And, who knows? Perhaps a tiny smile will even grace your face as you stand there reflecting, recollecting, reminiscing on your time with your narcissist. Give your heart time. The healing will come. Above all, whatever you do, don’t rush that healing or you could very well find yourself being someone else’s grief-filled regret just as the narcissist is, or was, ours.