Imagine this: you’ve left your toxic narcissist after years of mental and emotional abuse, and you’re finally starting to breathe again. You are finally free of this horrible, selfish energy and you feel like you’re a brand new person! Life is just starting to get really, really good.
And then it happens.
As you’re humming to yourself in the grocery store, you spot your former would-be soulmate two aisles over – and there’s something different about him. He seems happier, brighter. Relaxed, even. He’s laughing, talking and even being charming.
You’re confused. You’re hurt. You’re angry, maybe. A far cry from the man you recently knew, he’s somehow transformed himself back into the amazing guy you once loved.
(Note: I’m writing from the female perspective because most of my readers are female, and because statistically speaking, narcissism is just slightly more prevalent in males. With that being said, this could apply to either a male or a female narcissist.)
But seconds later, almost as if time is moving in slow motion, you realize what is happening. Your narc has found his next victim – he’s in the process of love bombing her, and for a moment, you get a front row seat.
I know it stings. I know it hurts when you see that guy who you fell in love with re-emerging after you’re away. And I know that you wonder (at least a little bit) if somehow he was right all along – and if it really WAS just you.
Why the Narcissist Becomes the Person You Fell In Love With When You Leave
Time for a reality check, my darling: you were not the problem. First, let me acknowledge that while every step in the process is very painful, this one is probably one of the most confusing. See, while the bigger part of you knows that he is never going to REALLY change, this other little part of you still loves him – or the version of him that you once believed was real. And that’s the part of him he’s parading around now – so it’s like you’re mourning “that version” of him all over again.
But let me repeat: the problem was NOT you! The problem was that the narcissist started taking you for granted. He got used to having you around. Maybe he got shiny new object syndrome, or he said life was too boring and left you to pursue whatever it was he wanted. Maybe you just finally had enough and you left him.
Here’s why he is suddenly Mr. Perfect again: whether it was his idea or yours to end things, he’s now without a source of regular narcissistic supply – and that means he’s on the prowl.
This is normal. And sadly for her, you already know how this story is going to go. Now, as you know, narcissists are very hard to live with, and even a reasonably intelligent person would feel ashamed that she tolerates the bullshit – so she may keep it under wraps, like you probably did. So you might never know for sure.
Narcissistic abuse runs in cycles, though, and this is one of them.
But if I’m in your shoes at this point, I’m going to make use of the no-contact/low-contact thing and use it to my advantage. That means block them both on Facebook so you don’t have to see it when you’re torturing yourself by stalking their profiles. It means you will not listen when some well-meaning flying monkey tries to offer you updates on him.
It means you’re going to move forward and focus ONLY on what you can control (not what you can’t), and since you couldn’t control him while you were together, you sure as hell can’t now (nor should you want to – he’s no longer your problem!).
So, how do you deal with the painful reality of watching your narcissist be perfect for someone else?
- Start by remembering what you dealt with and by recognizing what she will deal with soon enough. (And even if you’re tempted to warn your narcissist’s new supply about what she’s getting herself into, don’t do it – even if your intentions are good.)
Read more: Should I warn the new supply about the narcissist?
- Don’t sit around thinking that the narc’s new supply will end up getting the benefit of all the work you did trying to fix him. It doesn’t work like that. He is what he is, and even most experts will tell you: a narcissist can’t change (not for long, anyway).
- Remember too that you’re not really mourning the person you lost; you’re mourning your illusion of who you believed he was. It’s an ever-turning cycle that the narcissist will repeat in varying iterations for the rest of his life. Be glad you’re off the wheel.
- Stay focused on you, and on making your own life better. You have already been tortured enough – if you let this situation keep making you miserable, you’re only allowing him to continue the abuse from afar. Take back your life, my friend, and choose to be happy, in your own way. Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t.
- Heal and release the anger. As one of my beautiful SPAN group members said: “Work on your healing and the layers of anger will soon disappear. One of the hardest things for me, was mourning the illusion of that perfect relationship I wanted to truly believe. Letting that go was a big step for me.”
- NEVER compare yourself to the new supply, unless it’s to feel sorry for her as you take note of the pattern that you’re thankfully no longer subjected to in your life. Don’t do yourself the disservice of trying to think she’s somehow “better” than you; the truth is that narcissists are very picky, so chances are, if she “seems” better somehow, it’s only because he hasn’t ruined her yet.
- Don’t “if only” and “what if” yourself to death. It’s common to have feelings of regret after any relationship ends, and you wouldn’t be human if you wonder what you could have done differently or whether something you did or said could have been the trigger that caused it all to go downhill. But that’s not helping you – it’s only causing you more pain – and chances are, you couldn’t have changed the situation without going completely insane trying to make him happy. Now it’s time to live in the moment and to think about how you want the future to go.
What about you? Have you ever experienced watching your ex-narcissist get involved with a new person, or even just appear to return to the person he once was?
This playlist on YouTube might also offer you some valuable insight.
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.