Lingering Pain After a Relationship with a Psychopath or Narcissist
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The aftermath of a relationship with a psychopath or narcissist can be a painful place to be. Intimate involvement with partners who are selfish, controlling, punitive, and dishonest can feel unsafe, lonely and devoid of a true bond. These behaviors are abusive, with the potential for the impact to last for years if not forever.
Most people have never encountered a psychopath in the past and be unfamiliar with the manipulative tactics and flippant manner they shift from (romantic) ‘love‘ to disinterest to hate. Many individuals with psychopathy can vacillate between those stages repeatedly until they fully lose interest in their former mate.
A person’s psychological well-being and feelings about the world can be altered by this form of mistreatment.
For some partners, exposure to emotional abuse is traumatic and will require professional interventions to reduce the impact on their daily lives. Many will struggle not only with trauma but also with intense feelings of anger at the realization that the relationship was not real, yet their pain and need for treatment is.
Normal human beings might attempt to give love, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding to hold the relationship together. They may try to help the person with his or her issues so that they are kinder, loving and happy. This is what we do when we truly love someone and have a bond with them.
However, for the psychopath, those strategies will not be effective. Due to the neurobiology of the disorder, they do not respond to healing approaches anchored in emotion. Such approaches are simply indicators to the psychopath that his mate is extremely invested in them and therefore even more vulnerable than in the past – this tends to invite manipulation and further victimization, rather than improvement of their behavior.
But of course, someone not familiar with psychopathy would not know that.
After a Relationship with a Psychopath or Narcissist
Given the toxicity of these relationships, one might find it unusual that they struggle to move past the breakup. It can be tough to understand why they feel flooded with conflicting emotions. An individual might crave the psychopath, yet simultaneously not really like him/her!
But after a relationship of this nature, those reactions are common.
There are many variables at play when we go through a typical breakup, such as craving our old partner, grief, and sadness. However, for those who were intimately connected with someone with psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder, their break up will include several more variables that tend to be absent within normal or non-abusive relationships.
There is usually an intense level of pain due to psychopathic or narcissistic abuse.
This pain could potentially lead to trauma-related conditions such as depression, severe anxiety, and/ or post traumatic stress disorder. Such conditions could potentially place the non-disordered person’s life at risk (e.g., suicide) if not treated by a well-trained clinician.
Why are post break up periods harder for those who were involved with a psychopath or narcissist?
Unfortunately, these relationships are often not normal or safe.
Intimate involvement with a person with these conditions often include a component of betrayal (e.g., broken promises, a complete change in their feelings for their partner, possible cheating, lying, smear campaigns, disinterest after professing their love).
Pain circuits within our brain are activated when we are betrayed or deceived. It is a feeling that offsets our emotions and causes us to be flooded with negative sensations. We begin to question not only the deceptive partner but eventually ourselves (e.g., “What did I do wrong?” | “Am I over-reacting?” | “Did I push him away?”)
This process damages self-esteem and slowly reduces feelings of self-worth.
The goal of normal partners is rarely to damage the psychological foundation of the one they love(d). Consistent attempts to destroy another person’s confidence, esteem, or independence is not a common occurrence within non-pathological relationships. There will, of course, be possible disagreements. However, non-disordered individuals do not require their mate relinquish their sense of self, opinions, thoughts, specialness, social connections, or human rights.
This is not so for those with psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder. Given their personality dynamics, they tend to want their partner to feel ‘less than’ and inferior – it is required in order for them to feel comfortable in their social interactions with others. They will put forth considerable effort to ensure that happens. They intentionally tear down the esteem of others.
This entire scenario is often made worse by the fact that there will never be a sincere apology or accountability for their behavior. If there is an apology, it is because the psychopathic individual has something to gain by doing so (e.g., allowed to remain in the home| keep the marriage| not blemishing his image with a divorce).
Otherwise, if there are no other needs their mate can satisfy for him or her; the psychopath will simply brush off the distress of the one they hurt and offer no submission or amends for all the pain caused by the fraud. Even though their contrition could significantly help to ease their partner’s pain. Due to the disorder, individuals with primary psychopathy are not remorseful for their violating behaviors.
Before we go deeper into part two, where we discuss why the aftermath is so difficult when a psychopath was your partner, take a look at this video regarding lingering pain. (Some might consider it long, at around 8 minutes, but you deserve to give that time to yourself to strengthen your psychopathy education and get clarity to move forward.)
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