It’s pretty scary, isn’t it? Sitting here, now, in the throes of long-suffering agony, watching your narcissist as they joyously continue on with their life as though nothing ever happened between you and them. As though you never existed. They seem almost flippant and even recalcitrant in how they have so very easily, and far too quickly, fallen into a new relationship with someone whom they most likely repeatedly proclaimed to you was “just a friend.” And now you’re faced with the heart-wrenching and unfathomably painful possibility that you could quite literally feel this sadness, this longing for your narcissist, for the rest of your life. I know your pain. I was once there.
Like you, I suffered knowing my narcissist had so very cavalierly hopped from our broken relationship, a relationship whose failure she wholly and completely facilitated, and begun a new relationship with someone whom she had repeatedly assured me was only a friend. She did so mere weeks after our 4-½ years together ended. And, like you, I wondered, I fretted and worried, “Will I always love an unlovable person?” The short answer is, “No. You will not. You will heal. You will get better. You will become whole again, unlike our narcissist.” But we’ll beat up on our narcissist another day. Let’s focus on you, today.
As boring as it may seem, we really need to understand exactly what happens when we fall in love. Otherwise, we’re going to continue beating ourselves up, wondering why we can’t seem to break free from this destructive cycle in which we find ourselves entrenched. The feeling of falling in love actually comes from a very primal and baser part of the brain called the ventral tegmental area, or VTA for short. The VTA deals with doling out dopamine, the “feel-good hormone,” as a reward whenever we do something the brain finds pleasurable. In essence, this is the part of the brain that deals with longing, want, desire, cravings, even lust. So when we satiate that desire, BAM! Dopamine! Want to know something completely twisted? When we get dumped, the VTA becomes even more active, increasing those masochistic longings for our absent partner. And not only do we miss our partner when it’s over, thanks to our somewhat sadistic VTA, we actually miss them more than when we were together! Ain’t that a kick in the pants? As if that weren’t bad enough, the nucleus accumbens decides to come out to play. This is the part of the brain that helps us to discern whether the risks of a certain venture are worth the potential losses or gains. And, not to be shown up, the hypothalamus has to throw his hat into the ring. The hypothalamus deals with the secretion of oxytocin – the bonding hormone. That’s the hormone that’s secreted in breast milk, so the mother-child form a closer bond. It’s also the same chemical your brain secretes when you receive the welcome touch of someone you love(d)…someone like our narcissist.
So all those times you went back to your narcissist? All those times you “forgot” how horribly they treated you and how absolutely abysmal they were to you? You weren’t “stupid” for going back. You weren’t a failure for forgetting what a terrible person they really are. You were responding to biochemical urges that you had absolutely zero control over. Read that again. You had absolutely zero say in how your brain processed and dealt with the pain you were feeling.
You did absolutely nothing wrong.
But, because of this raging biochemical warfare, you become a casualty of your own inner-war. It reminds me of the song from Lykke Li, Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone – “There’s a war inside my core. Hear it fight, hear it roar.” So what can you do? How can you keep from becoming a victim to your own inner turmoil, thus returning to your narcissist, reopening the same fresh wounds, over and over again, never truly healing? Write out your pain in a letter to yourself. If you keep a diary, albeit digital or good old-fashioned paper, write out your pain. Otherwise, we both know what’s going to happen. The hurt will begin to fade. As it fades, you will begin to simultaneously idealize, perhaps even romanticize, your time with the narcissist to the point that you will miss them. Yes, you are broken, but not irrevocably, and not like our narcissist. They did this to you. You didn’t break you. They broke you. If you do keep a diary, flip forward 2 weeks, 2 months, a year. Write all the pain you are feeling now on these pages, on these future dates. This is your letter of reality to your future self, reminding you that the very few minutes or hours of sunshine and rainbows with your narcissist are simply not worth the vast preponderance of rainy days, lonely nights, intense and unrequited longing you felt when you were together.
My beautiful, you were in a relationship! Why in the hell did you ever once feel alone?! Because you were alone. There is absolutely no one worth loving that leaves you going to bed night after night weeping, feeling alone, lonely, unwanted or unloved. No one. Period. The saddest part of all of this isn’t that it’s over. It’s that you gave the most amazing gift of unconditional love to someone completely undeserving. Please believe me, with time, you will genuinely grow to embrace this divisive dynamic. You will actually be glad you are no longer with your narcissist. Yes, I know it doesn’t seem like it, now. It didn’t seem like it when I initially walked away from my narcissist for the last time. But this much I can tell you with absolute certainty, there will come a day that you will reflect back on your time with your narcissist and the happiest memory that will grace your face is the smile from the knowledge that you are no longer trapped in a sadomasochistic relationship with someone too blind to see they won the relationship lottery in you. Trust me, this, too, will come to pass.