My Top 5 tips to stop a Narcissist sucking you back in

Katie, one of my followers, has written to me to ask for my advice on what to do when she’s getting pulled back in to her relationship with a narcissist.

She thought she was free, she tells me, but is honest when she admits she secretly doesn’t want to be fully free of him. She wants to ‘linger patiently’ until things change. ‘It’s so confusing’, she says.

So, Katie, here’s my top 10 tips to what to do when getting sucked back in.

1. Ask yourself: what are you waiting for?

I was like you. I knew I had to leave an abusive relationship (for my wellbeing and safety), but deep down I clung to the hope that one day things would get better.  So, I kept going back again and again.

I’d be strong in my decision to leave, but then I’d miss him.  The thought of never seeing him again killed me.  I had this vision in my head of the life we’d have, if only he could change.  I wanted us to be a family.  So, I’d give him another chance.

It’s a bit like childbirth.  As soon as they smother you with love again and promises to change, you forget the bad.  You’ve felt so low for so long.  The emotional and / or physical abused has taken its toll.  It feels so good to be loved again with that level of intensity.

But be honest with yourself.  What are you waiting for?

It was apparently Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.   When has it ever turned out differently for you?

A Narcissist will promise you the world and tell you everything you want to hear, I know.  When you leave them, they throw every one of their manipulative skills at you too, to suck you back in.   They can’t bear the feeling of losing control.

They’d sell their own grandmother if that’s what it took to get control back.  They may even mean what they say, for as long as it takes to gain dominance over you once again.

Has your partner ever changed for long?  Or admitted responsibility for their actions enough to seek help and work hard on themselves for the good of the relationship and stuck at it?  Sadly, I doubt it.

Are you holding on to the fantasy of a life you may one day have together with him in the future?   Are you denying the reality of how the relationship is in fact, right now?

What if he never changes?  Will you have spent years miserably waiting for the hope of happiness that never comes?

2. Cut contact

Narcissists need to feed their ego by being in total control.  The more we pull away from them, the greater they fear losing it.  So, they up the ante in their manipulative tactics to win at all costs and get us back.  It works too.   On average it takes a person 7 times to leave an abusive relationship.

We feel guilty for leaving them.   They feed our doubt, enough for us to question our decision to do so.  If we just give them another chance, we convince ourselves, this time it will be different.

They’ve created our unhealthy dependence on them.  Even though they’re the ones who have abused us, they’re the only ones who can make us feel good about ourselves again.

We believe them too when they tell us that we’ll never find anyone to love us as much as they do.   So, loneliness and fear of a future without them kicks in.

This is not a healthy form of love.

As hard as it is, going Cold Turkey is the easiest way to heal in the long run.  Cutting off the source of the drug-like high with them we crave, is the quickest way to recover.  It’s like an addict quitting a drug.  The relationship may feel great, for a short time. But it’s no good for us. The pain will come back soon enough and it will get worse each time.

The highs will get fewer and further between and the lows, lower and lower.

It was one of the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  But it’s the only way.   Just take one day at a time and know that with each day you stay strong, the pull towards them will lessen.   As a friend of mine once said: it’s like a plant.  Stop watering it, it will wither.

3. Write a list of the reasons you left

You already know the relationship is not good for you.  You say yourself you thought you were free when you left it.   This is not a feeling associated with a relationship that is loving and healthy.

You left for good reasons.  Those reasons still stand.  No matter how intense that pull back towards him will be.

Write down all the things he did to hurt you on a piece of paper.   All the things he said to make you feel bad.  All the behaviour that was unacceptable to you.

Stick it on your fridge.  Read them every day as a reminder why you left.   Every time you feel weak and want to go back.

Keep telling yourself: ‘I deserve better’.   It’s important to remember too, the longer you stay in an abusive relationship the harder it is to leave.

Now write down everything you look for in a partner.   Your core values and goals.   All those things you hope to have in common with someone.   And note down too, how you want to feel in a relationship.  Do you want to feel supported, valued and cared for, even if you are down?   Or do you want to keep equating love with being in pain?

4. Focus on you, not them

Stop pouring over old texts and going over everything they’ve said and done in your head.  No matter what you do, you cannot change them or fix things.    Their behaviour was not caused by what you said or did.   You are not to blame.

I know you may think that if you do this or that, then that will be the key that unlocks their true self, the happy soul who is  trapped inside the damaged man.  This is a lie.  Only they can do that.  Nothing you do or say will work.   You’ll just destroy yourself trying.

So, take your focus off them.  Stop obsessing over ‘he this’ or ‘he that’.   Or trying to rescue him.   You can’t.  Take all that wasted energy instead and put it back where it belongs.  Onto you.

Do one thing nice for yourself every single day.   Get into the habit of putting you and your needs first.   Even if you don’t love yourself now, the more you practice self love, the easier it will come.

Read every self help book you can.  Anything that teaches you how to build your self-esteem.   Books explaining the dynamics of a narcissistic relationship, so you can understand what has happened to you and why. Knowledge is power.

5. Join a support group and surround yourself with people who’ll help you stay strong

You can’t do this alone.  I never knew what being strong meant until I left an abusive relationship.

I know what you are going through.   Your head is telling you to leave, but your heart is tugging at you to go back to him.

Every fibre of your being wants to go back.   It is so much easier than fighting it.  You feel sick, you can’t eat or sleep.  There were days when I could barely get out of bed. But Is going back to someone who hurts you good enough for you?

Joining a support group was a lifeline for me.  I found women and men who had been through what I was going through.  Those that were further into their recovery than me were able to give me their advice and encouragement.

Whenever I felt weak, I’d go to a group meeting or I’d call one of them.  They kept me strong.    I’ve listed Domestic violence resources here.  They can help point you to one that might be right for you.

Or find a Facebook group. There are many secret or closed groups online.

Surround yourself with friends who know what you’ve been through and don’t judge you.  Friends that bring out the best in you and support you.

But one word of warning: please don’t use these groups of friends as a means to wallow in pity or moan about your ex-partner’s failings.   As I said, you want to take your focus off them and put it back on you.   This is time for you to heal now.

Use them as a source of strength and a way to validate you instead.  You are good enough and you deserve better.

Stay strong Katie.  You’re hurting now. But every day you stay away from an abusive relationship is another day in which you  are walking towards the light.  It will get easier.  Time is your best friend.

Got a question you want answered with a video?  Let me know in the comments below.

Are your relationships – past or present – good enough for you?  Do you deserve better?  Try my FREE QUIZ to find out!

Written by Vivian McGrath

Vivian McGrath is a TV Executive Producer who makes documentaries for major US, UK and Australian broadcasters.  She is also a survivor of domestic violence.  Her book ‘Unbeatable (How I Left a Violent Man)’ – her story of surviving abuse to finding success in love and life – will be published soon.  She hopes this blog will help others to become strong, fearless and successful too.  Find out more about Vivian Here.

4 thoughts on “My top 5 tips to stop a Narcissist sucking you back in

  1. Thanks for this post, I needed it as sometimes when I am alone I find myself confused thinking that might be he can change but then brain reminds me I have also given 4 years into it.

    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Juhi, I’m glad it’s helpful for you. It’s so easy to be confused by them and they play on this. They know which buttons to press to get us to weaken and go back to their control. It gets easier, the longer you stay away from the manipulation, I promise.

  2. Hi Vivian..sorry to hear of ur hospitalization…hope u r feeling better..ur posts r so very helpful to me…however I was in a marriage for 22 years with a functioning alcoholic..nonetheless an alcoholic.. and he was addicted to OxyContin..I stayed because of my son..I could not bear the thought of letting my son spend every weekend with an alcoholic….I raised my son by myself..set down all rules for him and took very good care of him…I worked full time and bought two ex husband could not make a decision to save his life…I did everything..I planned my escape for 20 ex husband was not physically abusive however I did not realize I was mentally abused until I sought professional help..i am an educated and very strong woman, how could this happen? I now have my own apartment and doing very well..however I find I will always be connected to my ex through my son…I did hide a lot from my son and he is only now realizing just what his father Is..could u give and others some advice how to deal with a manipulative alcoholic. Tks very much. Hope u r feeling better


    1. Thank for your your well wishes. I am recovering slowly but surely, thank you. I would suggest you attend Al-anon for wives, husbands and families of alcoholics. It is a support group that I went to for many years and was instrumental in my recovery. The most important thing is to focus on you. Years of emotional abuse will have taken its toll on you and stripped away your self-esteem. It’s important to build that up again so that you have a good sense of self worth and are then able to set strong boundaries, that he cannot keep crashing through. It is important to to set this example for your son, who may also benefit from Al-anon. Or the support group Adult Children of Alcoholics. I have written a few posts about understanding how we come to be in these types of relationships and why we have low self-esteem in the first place. The steps we need to take to start to work on ourselves. You may also find my online courses helpful, particular Start with Me: Survivor to Staying Strong, which delves deeply into this and how not step away from their manipulation or go into another abusive relationship. I hope this helps? Stay strong, I am so glad you realised you and your son deserve better.

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