Am I always going to be miserable? Will I ever feel normal again? When will the pain end? When can I expect to start feeling like myself again after the end of a toxic relationship? Will I ever stop missing my ex? Am I ever going to stop crying?
How long does it take to recover from narcissistic abuse?
This is a complicated question, and unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. It varies depending on the nature and duration of the relationship, as well as the depth of the abuse and whether or not you’re intentionally choosing to focus on healing yourself. In general, you could be looking at anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.
Personally, I’ve seen some people manage to recover completely in less than one year, while others find themselves still struggling decades later. It also depends, of course, on your definition of recovery. For example, some people might consider going no contact the final step in healing, while others choose to go on to evolve into a better version of themselves.
Stages of Grief in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
It’s important to recognize that you might also need to go through the grief process after getting out of a toxic relationship with a narcissist. I know it seems wrong – especially when you’ve dealt with narcissistic abuse. But even if you feel like you won’t need to do it, you might want to be aware of the stages of grief as they apply to narcissistic abuse recovery. Most people do not expect this, but nearly all survivors will go through it. This video offers you an explanation of what to expect in each grieving stage.
Complications of Trauma Bonding: Recovering from Narcissistic Abuse
There are so many complications when it comes to recovering from narcissistic abuse – family connections, shared children, business, and legal issues that make no contact impossible, for example. But for most survivors of abuse, trauma bonding makes recovery feel really hard.
Further complicating your efforts is the fact that narcissists will do anything they can to keep you IN the trauma bond.
Narcissists are known for their love of attention, but they don’t just want attention from anyone. They want it from people who they can control.
That’s the reason why they get so angry when you don’t respond to their texts or calls right away—they need to know that you’re there for them, and if you aren’t available, then what does that say about your relationship?
Narcissists will use any excuse to keep you tied to them, even if it means lying or making up stories about other women/men. Narcissists do not want to be alone. They always have someone else to blame for their problems and failures in life.
What is trauma bonding?
Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, trauma bonding is is a condition that causes abuse victims to develop a psychological dependence on the narcissist as a survival strategy during abuse. Trauma bonding also makes recovering from a toxic relationship significantly more difficult.
This video offers information about how you can work on healing the trauma bonds on your own.
How Long Does It Take to Break the Trauma Bond?
When you’re trying to get over the end of a relationship, you might find yourself struggling with one of the toughest parts of the process: breaking your trauma bond.
Trauma bonding can feel like drug addiction: it even affects the same part of the brain that drug addiction does.
Essentially, you stay addicted due to that little push-pull factor called intermittent reinforcement – you know, where they love you one minute… and then you breathe wrong, and they don’t, and then they do again… over and over again.
And just like drug addicts must go through some really tough times before they can kick their habit completely, so do people trying to break away from narcissists.
It can take anywhere from several months to a few years for this addiction to mostly fade away (although it can take longer). Think of it like any other addiction: drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling – when you quit, it will be extremely difficult at first, but time is your ally and it does get easier.
In my experience, it seems to take anywhere from a few weeks to about 18 months for most people to get over the trauma-bond addiction, but it can be longer than that for some people and far less for others – depending on the intensity and length of the relationship. In some cases, it never seems to go away completely.
During this time, it will be really difficult for you to feel better. You’ll feel like there’s something wrong with you because these feelings of pain and emptiness seem so unreasonable compared to how happy life used to be when you were with your ex-partner.
Steps to Recovering from Narcissistic Abuse
The process of healing and recovering from narcissistic abuse is slightly different for each person, and it must be customized to fit the needs of the individual. In most cases, it loosely fits in with my DUO Method of narcissistic abuse recovery and it looks like this:
- Discovery Phase: Where you begin to recognize there’s a problem in your relationship and you start doing the research to figure out what it is. You find a video or an article that perfectly describes your situation, and before you know it, you’ve gone down the rabbit hole, reading, listening and watching everything you can find on narcissism and narcissistic abuse. This is where you’re beginning to wrap your head around the fact that you might be dealing with a toxic person.
- Understanding Phase: You continue to gather information and you are starting to recognize narcissistic behaviors in someone in your life. You are nearly certain this is what you’re dealing with, and you’re studying everything you can in order to figure out how it correlates to your life. You are drawing parallels all over the place and you might be talking with a coach, therapist or fellow narcissistic abuse survivors in a support group, as well as to people in your own life. You get it, and you’re getting the idea that you’re going to have to create any changes yourself, if you’re ever going to be happy. You’re digging into your own past and your own psychology as well, making sense of it all and figuring out why this happened to you.
- Overcoming Phase: You’ve left or have decided you’re leaving, or you’ve been discarded and have decided you’re not going back. You KNOW logically that you’re doing the right thing and that you deserve better. You’re working on getting there emotionally and you’re working on taking the next steps to embrace your power and make your life your own again, or maybe for the first time. You’re making connections between your childhood and your adult relationships and you’re beginning to see what you can do to change yourself for the better – and to be more aware of toxic people so you can avoid them in the future.
- Evolution Phase: The narcissist is no longer a part of your daily life, and if you’re in contact at all, it’s only because you share a child or because you have some business you can’t avoid with them. You’re starting to really live now. You embrace your truth. You follow your passions without shame, and you’re now enforcing your boundaries like a pro. Your standards are high, right along with your self-esteem. You have learned to unconditionally love and accept yourself, and for the first time in a long time, you can honestly say you are truly happy and fulfilled in your life – or at least you’re getting there.
16 Signs You’re Healing From Narcissistic Abuse
So how do you know if you’re really “getting there” when it comes to healing and recovering from narcissistic abuse? What kinds of signs would you watch for – and how will it feel? This video offers you a comprehensive overview of how to tell if you’re recovering from narcissistic abuse.
What comes next is up to you. I personally needed to sort of redefine myself (once I’d figured out exactly what I believed and what I understood to be true without the influence of the toxic people in my life). I highly recommend that you focus on something that makes you feel passionate as often as possible, and I suggest that you learn how to let go of limiting beliefs that may be stopping you from reaching your personal best.
Need additional resources? Want to find out which stage of narcissistic abuse recovery best fits your current situation? Click here to take a quiz to learn which stage of recovery you’re in and to be directed to resources specifically for your particular stage.