The sad truth is I have had to let go of a lot of people in my life in order to be free from abusive situations and toxic relationships. Narcissistic friends can be so hard to see and very challenging to remove from your life. I know I doubted the narcissism I so blatantly saw and wrote it off as “just how they are” in an effort to let people be themselves and be a friend anyway. Once I saw the patterns I was repeating with similar people to the narcissistic abusers I had as partners it became clear that the only way to truly be free from abuse was to be very discerning with whom I keep and nurture as friends.
Narcissistic friends can look like someone that has your interest at heart, who would have your back, someone that even though they are difficult to others seems to be ok with you. They will groom you to need them and push your boundaries ever so slowly until you are no longer able to say no to them. They will set you up to fail with the illusion of being your biggest fan. The narcissistic friend will lie to you and go behind your back to smear you. They will find ways to destroy other relationships you have and make you reliant upon their friendship as the only true support you have in your life. Eventually, they will turn on you, knocking you off the pedestal they had you on down to a devalued position. If there is conflict because of this devaluing they will cut you out and give the silent treatment likely while smearing your name to anyone that will listen, The problem then becomes the issue of no one else knowing or believing that person is a personality-disordered abusive friend. You are left with losing more than one friend in the process often and can feel quite alone.
Seeing Toxic Truths
After you leave an abusive relationship it often happens that you begin to see other toxic relationships in your life. This happens to many survivors because once your eyes are open to what a toxic relationship really is and especially once you start researching what a healthy or emotionally safe relationship is you begin to see truths about those around you. When your only pattern of relationship is one that has you as an abused survivor, it’s all you know of relating even if it never feels quite right. As you heal you begin to need healthy interactions and hopefully become less tolerant of anyone pushing your boundaries or gaslighting you or any other toxic behavior a narcissist will throw at you. Seeing the truths, while painful, is necessary for many of us in our healing. Narcissistic friends keep you in the abuse cycle that you are trying to free yourself from. There is no way to “manage” those relationships in a healthy and constructive way just as there is no way to do so in a romantic relationship with a narcissist. Narcissists make terrible friends.
Letting go and making room for healthy friendships
One very positive thing is that letting go of toxic friendships makes a lot of room in your life for healthy ones. Toxic people take time, a lot of time. They take your energy and focus in order to keep them happily full of your supply so being free from that means being free to welcome in positive friendships. It may feel like you have no one after abuse because of how many people it seems you have to let go of. Use this time to focus on your own wants, wishes and
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Lise Colucci is an intuitive healer and certified life coach, as well as a certified narcissistic abuse recovery coach. She is a long-time admin and mentor for the SPAN Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Group, actively helping survivors of narcissistic abuse in the expansive community to learn and heal.
Going no contact is never easy, and when it comes to a friend who is a toxic narcissist, you may have not even considered the possibility of no contact. In fact, unless you can seriously minimize contact, the fact is that there’s really no other way to eliminate the toxicity that’s creating stress in your life.
But toxic is toxic – and because of the codependent nature of a narcissistic friendship, you will experience similar feelings to a breakup or divorce. And, if you ask me, this is especially true if you’ve had other codependent relationships in your life.
When a romantic relationship breaks up, you may be able to expect lots of sympathy from your family and friends. However, they may not even notice when a friendship ends. Even though friendships are essential to our wellbeing, we often fail to give them the attention they deserve – and there’s another layer to ending a toxic friendship: codependency.
It can be especially difficult when you start drifting away from a friend who has played a big part in your life. If you’re angry or upset because a friendship is over, here are a few tips for dealing with your feelings and moving forward.
1. Embrace change. Most friendships naturally bloom and fade as you move from one stage of life to the next. Recognize the milestones in your life like graduating from college and becoming a parent. Celebrate your progress even when it means moving in new circles.
2. Spot your patterns. Be honest about your role in how your relationships end. Maybe you’ll want to handle things differently.
3. Acknowledge conflict. Ending a relationship is sometimes a wise choice, but sometimes we lose valuable relationships because weÕre afraid to address sensitive issues. Learning to resolve conflicts may help you to resurrect your friendship or be better prepared for your next challenge.
4. Cherish your memories. You can remember the happy times even if you stop hanging out together. Hold onto those funny stories and favorite photos.
5. Think objectively. Maybe you’re taking things too personally. When you see the friendship more clearly, you may realize that you have done nothing that you need to regret.
6. Consider counseling. If time passes and you’re still feeling distressed, you may want to speak with a professional therapist. They can help you to get to the bottom of whatÕs bothering you and change your behavior.
1. Seek support. Let your family and friends know when you’re going through a difficult time. Tell them how they can help you, whether you need someone to listen to you or just remind you that they care.
2. Pursue your interests. Fill your time with enriching activities. Redecorate your living room or volunteer at an animal shelter. Sign up for an adult education course or buy a membership at a local fitness studio.
3. Make new friends. Investing too much in a single relationship can be overwhelming for your friend and leave you vulnerable. Use this time to expand your personal and professional networks.
4. Practice self-care. Avoid drowning your sorrows in junk food and long naps. Stick to a healthy diet and regular exercise.
5. Clear away reminders. Temporarily, it may help to remove pictures and objects that remind you of a former friend. Box them up and put them away in a closet or spare bedroom. You can bring them back out when you’re feeling more stable.
6. Write a letter. Putting your thoughts down on paper can be a safe and effective way to face what has happened and let go of the past. Focus on what you can learn from the experience rather than making accusations. You’ll usually accomplish more by keeping the letter to yourself instead of mailing it.
7. Be gracious. You might feel tempted to make unkind remarks to mutual acquaintances or post negative comments on social media. You’ll heal faster if you resist that urge and resolve to rise above any pettiness. Wish your one-time friend well and prepare for your own happy future.
You’ll probably gain and lose many friends over the course of your life, but each relationship can help make you kinder and wiser. Saying goodbye to a toxic friend can be an opportunity to take control of your life, let go of what doesn’t serve you and learn how to cultivate new and deeper connections.
Your Turn: Are you dealing with a toxic friendship and you’re thinking of going no contact? Are you dealing with the aftermath of a toxic friendship with a narcissist? Tweet me your thoughts @angieatkinson!
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor 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 personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, 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.