It is common advice when recovering from narcissist abuse to go “no-contact” or more simply put, cut the person completely out of your life and block any possibility they have to get back in touch. There are many websites proclaiming “no-contact” as the main weapon against the temptation to get back with an abusive ex. Many of these are run by women that have been abused by narcissists and they are either in recovery or have recovered. All good stuff and much of the advice is practical and spot-on. If a person you are in a relationship with abuses you, you have to leave and cut them out of your life, simple.
In my research, I alarmingly also come across various “player”, “pick-up artist” and “back with the ex” (hosted by men) websites that advocate manipulating women by intentionally going no-contact to create a desire for contact. This of course, is nothing new. Narcissists have always being very skilled at doing this. It is just appalling that someone would put a website promoting emotional abuse.
I also strongly advocate the “no-contact” concept with codependents in recovery. Sometimes, limited contact must happen due to children in the relationship but this can be controlled and kept to the absolute minimum. We mustn’t forget that narcissists will also use children to manipulate and destroy.
The dangers and consequences of having contact with a narcissist ex are always made clear during therapy and many codependents will fully agree and comply in principle with the concept. We must reiterate here that no contact is established to protect and give space and time to heal and avoid the possibility of being manipulated again as the narcissist returns as “prince charming” looking for further supply. It is a very healthy idea which should be suggested straight away if the narcissist/codependent dance is detected. What does it look like in practice:
- Block all avenues of contact.
- No phone calls. Narcissists will often use calls to push their agenda. Where children are concerned, they will often spend time calling their ex-partner on visitation weekends rather than concentrating on connection with the child.
- No “accidentally” seeing him/her. No driving past their house “by mistake”.
- No text messaging of any kind. This again can be used for manipulation.
- No asking a mutual friend to give him a message or to keep a check on him.
- No “targeted” status updates or social media posts directed at him
With codependents, the biggest battle is coping with being alone. They have often enmeshed themselves in the narcissist and his manipulation and to a great extent formed a dysfunctional bond that has a “push-pull” element to it. They find breaking this bond very difficult and on many occasions find no-contact a very difficult rule to follow. I often find that codependents will start to negotiate the terms of no-contact to allow some or increasing contact with the narcissist. They will say things like “What happens if something happens to him or the children?”, “I will start no-contact when I have recovered”, “I need to be stronger before I can do this and being in contact with him gives me the chance to see how strong I am”. These statements, incredible as they are, have all been heard in therapy. More often than not, they just break no-contact without telling anyone and this is only found out when the next level of abuse happens.
Once in no-contact, it is important to move the focus away from the narcissist onto recovery and there are things that can be done to aid this.
- Work with a therapist who is skilled in working with codependents and has worked through codependent issues of their own. Only a therapist who understands codependency will be able to put together an effective framework for recovery. This will include self-care techniques, awareness of the typical narcissist relationship and self-forgiveness. A good framework will also look at the root cause of codependency.
- Start doing the things you stopped doing. Most codependents would have been totally immersed in their narcissist partner and controlled to a large extent. Most narcissists will try to isolate their victims from friends and family and these relationships might have suffered. These can be a support measure if successfully revived.
- Get active again. Again, many codependents will give up activities that they enjoyed before the narcissist appeared. It is essential to rediscover these.
- Avoid instant gratification. The temptation may be to “make yourself feel better” with alcohol, drugs or rebound relationships.
- Accept that you have been abused. It is very easy to “romanticise” a bad relationship and filter out the bad. Narcissists are always perfect partners during the adulation stage but their true character comes out when the “mask” drops. This is the behaviour to concentrate on.