It’s no secret I’ve had many struggles regarding my ex and healing from the long-term damage is hard. I am working hard on moving past the bad times in my life, and seeing a therapist to help me overcome the abuse I endured. Over the course of my marriage, I unknowingly developed a coping mechanism to deal with the narcissism of my ex and the isolation I felt. At the time, I had no idea how unhealthy things were for me, my girls, or my ability to maintain healthy relationships with anyone. I never understood how important breaking away from a narcissist and restoring self image is until you’re out of it.

Having a partner who is narcissistic leads to a very toxic relationship which affects many aspects of your life. Narcissist damage your self-image, refuse to address issues, and set up a codependency that is hard to break away from. Sadly, some people are never able to get away and are stuck in a perpetually abusive relationship. Thankfully, there are ways to break away from this toxicity, restore your self-image, and begin to find the joys in life. For me, my defensive mechanisms were avoidance and living two lives. I basically act one way around him and a different, more true way when away from him.

What Are Narcissists

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition in which people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance. They need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. People with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence, they are not sure of their self-worth and are easily upset by the slightest criticism.” In general, there are 9 symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and they all breed toxicity and it’s so important to break away from them.

While narcissism is clinically diagnosed as a singular mental health condition, there are two types of narcissists.

  • Adaptive narcissism refers to aspects of narcissism that can be helpful. Some traits are high self-confidence, self-reliance, and the ability to celebrate yourself.
  • Maladaptive narcissism are traits that very negatively impact how you relate yourself to others. Entitlement, aggression, and taking advantage of others.

Personality Traits of Narcissists

There are often personality traits that go along with narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissist can be overt, covert, antagonistic, communal, or malignant.

Overt (grandiose) Narcissism

  • outgoing
  • arrogant
  • entitled
  • overbearing
  • exaggerated self-image
  • need to be praised and admired
  • exploitative
  • competitive
  • lacking empathy

Covert (vulnerable) Narcissism

The opposite of overt narcissists and may not feel they are enough. Covert narcissists may have a hard time accepting criticism and are more likely to internalize those feelings. They take criticism more harshly than it’s intended.

  • Expressions of low self-esteem
  • Anxious, depressed, and shame
  • Introversion
  • Insecurity or low self-confidence
  • Defensiveness
  • Avoidance
  • Are always the victim

Antagonistic Narcissism

This is a sub type of overt narcissism which focuses on rivalry and competitiveness.

  • Arrogance
  • Take advantage of others
  • Compete with others
  • Disagreeable or prone to arguing
  • Less likely to forgive
  • Lower trust

Communal Narcissism

This is another type of overt narcissism which is the opposite of antagonistic and the person sees themselves as altruistic, but their behaviors don’t always align with this belief.

  • Become easily morally outraged
  • Describe themselves as empathetic and generous
  • React to things they see as unfair

The key difference with this type of narcissism is they seek social power and self-importance. The communal narcissist strongly believes they have a strong moral code and care for others. The behavior is quite the opposite.

Malignant Narcissism

This is the more severe level of narcissism and has a more closely correlation with overt narcissism. While a malignant narcissist requires praise and elevation from others, they also have some very bad traits that go with it.

  • Vindictiveness
  • Sadism (enjoy seeing others in pain)
  • Aggressive behavior when interacting
  • Paranoia

A malignant narcissist is more likely to struggle with legal trouble and substance abuse. Additionally, those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and malignant narcissism had a harder time reducing anxiety and functioning in daily life.

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Breaking Away From A Narcissist

Unfortunately, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) consists of many more aspects, and can combine with other mental health disorders. I say all of this because someone with NPD can be very toxic for you and your family. The worst part is it’s extremely difficult to break away from someone with this disorder. Although my ex and I have have been separated for four years and divorced for over a year, Mike and I have been trying break me away from him for over two years.

Mike has experience dealing with these kinds of people. There are a number in his family and with a lot of help from a therapist, he is finally able to live peacefully. Now he wants the same for me. Unfortunately, when dealing with someone who suffers from NPD, it often requires significant changes in your own behavior. Depending on your situation, this could be a marathon. Sadly, because I have joint custody with my ex, mine will be a triathlon due to my youngest never leaving home. This will continue well into the future.

Breaking Away From A Narcissist: Step 1

Just to be clear on this, someone with NPD is abusive. They may not leave marks on you, but the emotional and psychological damage they do is immeasurable. Narcissists are very, very dangerous to be around and have as partners. You must be prepared to do what is necessary to get away. I say this because the biggest fear of a narcissist is abandonment. The feeling of abandonment will cause a narcissist to do whatever is necessary to ensure you stay in their life.

When trying to break away, you may have a sense of guilt that you are hurting the person that is supposed to be loving you. The tactic of a narcissist is guilt and shame. They will make you feel like you are nothing without them or that everyone else is fucked up except for them. Narcissist can be very charming and coercive. When the abused tries to get away, a narcissist will ramp up the campaign against you and will say anything to get you to stay. Many times, my ex would use guilt to shame me and make me believe that I am the problem. They will even go as far to say my family and their family is/are/will be disappointed in you. Don’t believe the lies.

Admit You Are In An Abusive Relationship

Regardless of what a narcissist is telling you, the threats they make, or the charming personalities, rest assured every aspect of this is an attempt to get you to stay. A narcissist will likely act like they don’t care, then move to threaten you, next the approach could be to turn on the charm and sweet talk you. Finally, you may experience the shame from others regarding your actions. The key to starting your break away, is understanding and admitting that you are in an abusive relationship. Also, the relationship doesn’t have to be a lover or spouse, it can be a friend, family member, and even a parent.

Breaking Away From A Narcissist: Step 2

One thing I have learned over the 20+ years of living with a narcissist is they leverage power anyway they can. The goal is to back you down or “put you in your place” so they can win. I am a slow learning sometimes, but when the realization comes that the abused can take away the narcissist power, you begin to have the power.

Here’s an example of how a narcissist will use family and friends to pit everyone against you. Almost ten years ago, I had an affair with someone treating me for back and hip pain. Yes, make the jokes, I make them myself sometimes. After my ex in-laws found naked pictures of me on my iPad (my daughter was playing on it), everything began to unravel at that point. Rather than my ex working with me to figure things out and get our lives straight again, he told people in his family to get sympathy. To make things worse, I was forced to call my granddad and closest aunt the tell them what I had done. Making these phone calls were attempts to pit my family against me and take his side.

I could not see how toxic of a behavior this is at the time. Words cannot explain how little I felt because of these actions. I admit, there is no realm in which having an affair is okay. This is a belief I will always stand by. Sadly, having a narcissist spouse can make you afraid to confront them or try to leave because of the repercussions that follow.

Take Away Their Power

The best way to handle a narcissist take away their power. Over the course of the past couple of years, I have actively been working to take away any power or leverage my ex thinks he has. One of the first Mike and I discussed on our dates were our past. I openly told him of the affair and the steps I take to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Mike does the same for me. We are 100% transparent and truthful about everything. Even when Mike had a conversation with my ex, my ex tried give Mike a “warning” about me. Mike just said I know everything and I love her anyway. Power is taken away.

Another example of my ex thinking he has power over me is in regard to my use of cannabis/weed/marijuana. My ex continues to throw it up in my face that I am using illegal drugs. While I did eat a hash brownie in Jamaica, I can buy delta-8 cannabis in any smoke shop legally if I want to smoke it. Same effect as full THC. All I continue to do is tell him to report it to the authorities if he feels there’s some kind of issue. Yesterday, I sent him the number to CPS and local police. Nothing has been done and he won’t do anything because it’s an inflated accusation. Power is taken away.

Breaking Away From A Narcissist: Step 3

The next step in breaking away from a narcissist is to cut off all communication with them. At the very least, keep interaction to a minimum. You may experience a cyclical interaction from them during this time. The one thing a narcissist can’t handle is isolation. If you isolate a narcissist, they begin to feel a sense of shame. When this shame surfaces, and believe me, it will, you need to essentially prepare for war. It’s essentially like having to play psychological warfare with the person. The strongest will win in this battle, and you have to understand the game they will be playing.

Similar to above, a narcissist will make every attempt to isolate you from your support system. I am in this stage now, and my ex is trying to isolate me from Mike and make me feel like I am the one at fault. My ex cannot stand that I am not talking to him except as it relates to the girls. We recently started using a co-parenting app and I limit communication to only that app. I still get text messages from him, but I only respond in the app and ignore his messages. Now, my ex is struggling with keeping it together and he is launching a campaign to shame and smear me.

Thankfully, I now understand that all of his threats, lashing out, and other bad behaviors are truly from someone with a mental health disorder. This isn’t my diagnosis, but after working with my therapist for over two years, she believes my ex suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. Maybe even borderline personality disorder. Obviously, that’s not official, but the behaviors I talk about are directly in line with what he is doing.

Restoring Your Self Image

The hardest part for me during this process of breaking away is mentally and emotionally overcoming all of the damage. I admit I am a broken woman. When Mike and I first started dating, I had a lot of issues and self-confidence problems to overcome. Fear is a nasty weapon to control people with. Fear prevents you from taking the right steps to become healthy. It can keep you in a dark place for a very long time, even when you have light shining on you. It’s the worst feeling ever.

The most important thing you can do is find a therapist you connect with and one who can guide you through this nightmare. I cannot explain enough how much this helps. Mike connected me with his therapist and I am a completely different person from 2 years ago. After two years of therapy and with Mike’s help, I am able to fight this battle with a strong mind and unwavering resolve. Because at the end of the day, my happiness and the happiness of my family are what matters most.

How Can A Therapist Help Restore Self Image

A therapist studies mental health disorders, works with many people who have truly clinical issues, and they are your guiding light for all the darkness. Once you are established with a therapist, he/she will help you see that you are not the problem. They will help you understand the person/people you deal with that have NPD are truly sick. This isn’t a jab at people with mental health disorders, it’s the reality of how severe some of them are. Let’s face it, we all have some for of mental health disorder, but, thankfully, most are treatable and curable with the right help.

One thing my therapist helps me with is understanding I am no less of a person for the choices I make or the mistakes I make. This is reinforced by family and friends, too. Breaking away from my narcissistic ex gives me an opportunity to reconnect with family, make new friends, and truly know what it feels like to have a healthy relationship. This is the happiest I have ever been in my life.

Learn To Love Yourself Again

Learning to love yourself again can be one of the hardest things to do. Unfortunately, learning to love yourself again can take the longest to overcome. If you are in a relationship with someone or you have a family member who constantly keeps you down, learning this may feel like it’s impossible. Like I mention in older posts, the one thing that helps me the most is my naked time. Body image is one of the hardest self love perspectives to overcome. Being in a relationship with a narcissist takes away your self-confidence and how you look at yourself. My experience with it is debilitating. However, you are able to overcome it and you will overcome it.

I do have one piece of advice for women, though. The most important thing you can have is your own money. I’m not talking about bags of money in a safe, but having your own job, savings account, and credit cards. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a relationship with no personal means to escape. Having your own job, money, and credit boosts your confidence to leave and break away. Otherwise, you have to make very hard choices that don’t have the best outcomes.

Although you may be in a toxic relationship where you are being controlled by someone, you still have the capability to make friends and rebuild relationships with family members that can help you. Removing yourself from isolation is key to rebuilding your self confidence, self image, and learning people love you and will help you. Being lost for so many years is not a fun place to be in.

Final Thoughts

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a true mental health disease that is not easily overcome. The narcissist must first accept they have a mental health issue. Getting a narcissist to understand this is the hardest hurdle for them to overcome. The see themselves as not having any faults and admitting to a fault is sign of weakness and shame for them. Only a few percent of narcissist truly put in the work to get well. Sadly, my ex is one of those who will never admit something is wrong. I have yet to receive an acknowledgment that words he used were not words that should ever be used regarding the girls and I.

If you are in a relationship without kids or you have a family member who is narcissistic, then the best thing to do is cut off all communication with them. Ignore them if they call or text. If possible, you should block that person altogether. Once you break away, focus on you and only you, if possible. Include your children too. Also, you and all your children need to get into therapy as soon as you can. This will help resolve issues and teach everyone how to overcome the abusive atmosphere. Also, therapy will help you and your kids learn to love yourselves and be happy again.


This isn’t a typical write up about anything related to the clothes free life. Over the last couple of months, we have been dealing with a lot of issues from my ex. I have been feeling convicted about others who may be in a similar situation…or worse. Please feel free to comment or reach out to me via the Connect tab at the top, securely send me an email using ProtonMail, or reach out to me on social media (links at the top of the page).

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Note: I am not a mental health professional and I am not qualified to act as one. This writing is result of years of experience living with a narcissist, therapy, and continuously fighting the battle with my ex. While no clinical diagnosis has been made, the traits, behaviors, and actions fall in line with with my own research and the advice from my licensed therapist.

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