One of my clients shared with me that her ex broke off their relationship in the most interesting way. She said that her ex told her he needed a little space, and abruptly moved out after 23 years together. He said that he wasn’t ending their long-term relationship, and in fact, that he wanted to start dating her again. He wanted to fall in love with her all over again, he claimed. He almost made it sound exciting and healthy.
He said he was in a rut and needed to shake things up – he needed to find himself. She was of course devastated, but she tried to play along.
Of course, what I haven’t mentioned about this situation is that this man spent the previous 23 years systematically manipulating and psychologically destroying my client. He had future-faked her for years – so much that they were literally engaged for two decades, but never actually married.
She confessed to me that she’d tried to leave him repeatedly, thanks to several episodes of cheating, but he’d always sucked her back in. In fact, they’d gotten engaged 20 years ago because of the first cheating episode. She told me that he’d showed up at her mom’s house, where she’d retreated to after finding him with another woman, with a ring and a big public proposal. He’d wooed her back into submission, and this pattern would continue, much to her chagrin.
Each time she tried to get him to set a wedding date over the years, he always had an excuse. They didn’t have the money. She was pregnant. Their dog died. He wasn’t sure if she REALLY loved him. He wasn’t sure if HE really loved HER. Then she was pregnant again. And now, after 23 years of not-wedded not-bliss and two children who were now a young adult and a teen, he was doing it yet again, and this time, she was sure it would stick.
But she couldn’t seem to let go of him, and she didn’t know why. She had become so enmeshed with him that she didn’t even recognize herself anymore. She knew she wanted to be done so she could finally move on with her life, but she couldn’t figure out how to even begin to do it. Why? Because, like all narcissists, he absolutely refused to give her the closure she needed to move forward and let him go.
Narcissists Don’t Do Closure!
Narcissists have a way of leaving you hanging, don’t they? They just don’t do closure. But why? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about, today: narcissists and closure – why they don’t give it, how you’re affected by the lack of closure, and how to create closure for yourself.
First, let’s discuss what I mean when I say closure. It’s a sense of resolution or a sort of “conclusion” at the end of any relationship. Unfortunately, this is often denied to survivors of narcissistic abuse. This leaves us feeling obsessed with figuring out the details and implications of our toxic relationships – we find ourselves stuck and spinning as a result of not getting closure. This leaves many of us feeling the need to either find our own closure or spending years trying in vain to emotionally heal after these toxic relationships, unable to move forward and not understanding exactly why.
Why don’t narcissists give you closure at the end of a toxic relationship?
There are so many reasons narcissists don’t give you closure. But for the most part, their reasoning (or lack thereof) probably falls into one of the following points.
1. Narcissists Only Care About Themselves.
You know that narcissists are not capable of being empathetic. They simply cannot put themselves into the shoes of anyone else. That is one reason that they won’t give closure. They will ghost you without a second thought, and the idea of wondering how it would make you feel when they do that is a completely foreign concept to them. All they know is that they had their reasons, and they don’t even consider your feelings. They may even seem shocked when you ask them why they’ve done what they’ve done. Truth? Teaching a narcissist empathy is like trying to teach a fish to ride a bike – a frustrating, impossible endeavor.
2. They Don’t Think You Deserve It.
Since narcissists don’t have empathy, they can’t imagine that you might even NEED closure, much less deserve it. That’s right. Despite the fact that you have spent a long time bending over backward to make sure they get what they need, now that it’s over, they don’t figure they owe you anything at all – and sadly, this includes closure. Plus, by not giving you closure they ensure that you’ll keep thinking about them – and what narcissist doesn’t want that?
3. They Don’t See You As a Whole Person.
This one is tough to hear, sometimes, but it’s the truth. Narcissists do not see you or anyone they’ve grown close to as real, whole people. Rather, you’re almost like an object to them – an object that they can use and consume at will, and toss aside when they’re done with you. And, they have no issue whatsoever coming along and picking you up and using you again, when they’re ready. They literally see you as less of a person than they are – which, if I’m being honest, is kind of ironic in a way, given their own shallow nature and the probability that you are a deep, thoughtful and compassionate person. How do I know that? Because narcissists can’t manage long-term relationships with anyone else – they need someone who will take care of their emotional needs (and often, all of their other needs as well).
4. Because You Want It.
Did you ever notice how, when you’re really stressed out or times are hard, narcissists have a way of sort of “kicking you when you’re down?” Narcissists can be real sadists, and part of them loves to see you squirming in emotional distress. And even though narcissists cannot empathize with you, they still get that you would appreciate closure and maybe that it would help you move on. And not only does knowing this gives them a bit of a power buzz, but it assures them that you won’t be able to move on when they need your supply again. Which brings me to my next point.
5. They Need Your Supply, Maybe.
Narcissists require narcissistic supply. You, as the narcissistic supply, are used by the narcissist for attention, validation, admiration – all the “supply” they need to feed their ego. On to of this, the narcissist often has a circle of supply or “narcissistic harem,” and like it or not, they’ve pegged you as one of them. Now, this circle or harem might include people they’re cheating with, their mothers or fathers, various friends, coworkers, neighbors and other family members. You might be (or have been) their primary source of supply for a long time. And since you’ve been such a good source of supply up to this point, the narcissist figures they might want to “use you” again at some point. So by leaving the door open, you’re left spinning and, if the narcissist has anything to say about it, you won’t be moving on with your life. This way, when they need you, they can wiggle their way back in again when it is convenient for them.
6. They’re Not Secure with New Supply Yet.
Speaking of narcissistic supply, there’s another possibility: the narcissist is actively trying to procure a new source of supply, and they’re not 100 percent sure yet that they’ve got it all locked down. The new supply still has the nerve to think that they are as important as the narcissist in the relationship, and so the narcissist might still need to dump on someone when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. And since they’re actively love-bombing and idealizing the new supply, they may not feel comfortable enough to take the mask off yet. So, if the narcissist can find a good reason to connect with you when they need to blow off some steam or get some comfort, they most certainly will do that. And even when the new supply is fully locked in, they may still want to keep you on standby, just in case. After all, as I mentioned, they don’t see you as an actual person, so why wouldn’t they use you when and how they can?
7. They Are Giving You a Message.
Throughout your relationship, regardless of the nature of it, the narcissist has been making a few things clear: they see you as powerless. They don’t want you to have any control whatsoever over the relationship, much less your own life. They want you to understand that, as far as they’re concerned, you don’t deserve any recognition for what you’ve done for them – no, not even for the years you spent trying to make them happy. And, sadly, they want you to believe that you are so unlovable, that you don’t even need to be acknowledged. This is all part of their cycle, part of the way they control you throughout the relationship.
Narcissists and Closure: What You Need to Know Now
This part is going to be a little tough, but you need to know that someone usually gives you closure because they actually care about you and the relationship you had. They give closure because they want peace and they care enough about you to want you to be happy. The narcissist knows that if you have closure, you’ll be able to find that peace and to move forward without them. By keeping you in their toxic loop, they keep you open for a hoover and they are able to keep taking, future faking and using you at will. It would require them to take personal responsibility for how they’ve treated you, and it would mean ending the lies and manipulation they’ve been using to keep you emotionally engaged. Just the idea of real, genuine closure is unthinkable to a narcissist.
There are many things you can do to get the closure you need, and I’ve talked about this pretty often. See the video for additional information.
So, what do you think? Question of the day: Have you struggled to find closure after a relationship with a toxic narcissist, and if so, how’d you deal with it? If not, are you worried that you won’t be able to get closure if and when you do end your relationship? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments below this video, and let’s talk about it.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.