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Dating After Narcissistic Relationship
Your Guide to Dating After Narcissistic Abuse

Here's your guide to dating after narcissistic abuse, shared by Kate*, a survivor.

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Dating After Narcissistic Relationship

Dating after dealing with narcissistic abuse is like navigating a maze filled with twists, turns, and unexpected dead ends.

I know because I’ve been there.

I’m Kate*, and I want to share my story with you. For me, dating after narcissistic abuse was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from the initial shock of realizing what I’d been through to the gradual process of rebuilding my sense of self-worth and rediscovering what healthy love truly means.

When I met Jamie*, I made sure I was cautious. I didn’t take things fast because I’d already been in an abusive relationship in college. I wanted to do things “right” this time. But you can’t do things right with a narcissistic abuser. Pretty soon, the patterns started to show, and I realized I was in an abusive relationship.

How to Spot Narcissistic Abuse: Identifying The Signs

  1. Gaslighting
  2. Using coercion as means of control
  3. Avoiding attachment to punish and control
  4. Blaming and shaming the victim
  5. Creating an environment where the victim has to walk on eggshells to avoid altercations and emotional abuse

Preparing to Date After Narcissistic Abuse

Leaving Jamie was hard. I had to accept things that were very painful to accept: that I couldn’t change him, that I couldn’t fix the relationship on my own, that it wasn’t healthy for me to stay.

But once I left for good (which took a while), and got settled on my own, I realized that I had a lot of feelings and trauma to work through.

Find Comfort & Validation in Knowing You’re Not Alone

First off, I had to recognize that I wasn’t alone in this experience. When I started attending BTR.ORG Group Sessions, I realized that there are others out there who have been through similar experiences and come out stronger on the other side. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one was a huge source of comfort and validation.

Establishing Safety Boundaries Paves the Way

Next, it’s all about establishing safety boundaries. At first, I really wanted to text or call Jamie. But the more I learned about narcissistic abuse, and the more I relied on my support network, the stronger I felt. I knew that I was making the right choice by going No Contact with him. I know that many women share children with their abuser and can’t go No Contact for legal reasons. That has to be really, really hard! But I also know that establishing safety boundaries is something that everyone can do, regardless of their specific situation.

Healthy Relationships Begin with Radical Self-Care

As I distanced myself from Jamie, I found myself grappling with intense emotions that I hadn’t even considered earlier on – anger, sadness, confusion, fear, grief. I needed a lot of support, a lot of self-compassion, a lot of rest and nutrition. With the help of my BTR Coach, I learned that I needed to hold space for the different emotions that came up.

There were some days that were especially hard – when I didn’t want to go to work or even take a shower. On those days, I tried to rely on my basic self-care checklist, which included:

  • Drink water
  • Eat three “meals” (sometimes it was just potato chips, bread, and chocolate)
  • Take deep breaths
  • Stretch
  • Lay down and rest

I learned that if I slowed down and really took care of myself and my emotions, those really hard days become fewer and far between.

Dating Myself After Narcissistic Abuse

Eventually (for me, it was about a year), I decided I wanted to start dating again.

I decided to start by “dating myself.” It was a really fun process! And something I’d never done before. I’d take myself out to dinner, go on long walks, rent a movie, or take a night drive. I started journaling, which is something I’d never, ever done in my life. I even wrote myself love letters. 🙂

About six months into my “dating myself” era, I decided to start dating other people besides myself :).

New Relationships After Narcissistic Abuse

At first, it was really, really scary. I was terrified that I would find another abuser and end up repeating the cycle. So I pulled back and went back to dating myself again. But gradually, the desire came back and I put myself out there again.

My advice?

  • When it comes to dating again, take it slow. There’s no need to rush into anything before you’re ready.
  • Trust your gut instincts and don’t settle for anything less than you deserve.
  • Look for someone who treats you with kindness, respect, and understanding.
  • If something feels off, pull back and be still. Just listen to that voice inside. It’s not worth it to push through the discomfort.
  • Don’t compromise any of your standards. You’re not weird or prude. You’re just right. Anyone who tries to convince you to do something you’re uncomfortable with isn’t treating you well.
  • It isn’t about whether they like you, it’s about whether you like them.

Finding True Love After Narcissistic Abuse

About three years after I left Jamie, my co-worker set me up on a date with her brother. His name is Kevin and we have been together since then. It’s a wonderful relationship where I feel valid, equal, and cherished. I truly didn’t know that I could experience partnership like this.

What I’d like you to know is that finding love after narcissistic abuse is possible. It may take time, patience, and a whole lot of self-love, but trust me when I say that you are worth it. So take a deep breath, trust in yourself, and know that brighter days are ahead. You’ve got this.

Laura Kelly and Michelle Martin of She Honours Herself chat with Anne on The BTR.ORG Podcast about how to get your footing back after narcissistic abuse. Tune in and read the full transcript below for more.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:00):
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, BTR.ORG. This is Anne.

(02:38):
Today I have Laura Kelly and Michelle Martin with me today. They started an organization called She Honours Herself, and it’s based out of Scotland. The idea behind creating this program came from Laura and Michelle’s current line of work. Michelle supports high risk victims of domestic abuse and facilitates group work supporting survivors of domestic violence and their children. Throughout their work experience in the organization and within their own personal lives. It became apparent to them that there is minimal access to support and information in preventing women from entering into relationships where their self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth is compromised.

Their goal is to provide every woman with tools and information to build resilience and self-empowerment to work as a prevention method to keep them safe in the first place, but it also helps women through post relationship trauma and building themselves back up again. You’ll hear from their amazing, wonderful, delicious accents that they are from Scotland. Laura, can you start by sharing your experience prior to starting this organization?

“I was like, okay, so we can help women recover from narcissistic abuse, but how can we prevent it? That’s why we decided to start this organization.”

Laura Kelly, She Honours Herself

Laura (03:48):
I started working supporting women that have experienced domestic abuse three years ago, but prior to that I qualified in social care and what I do is use some CBT like cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation and visualization methods to support them and help them through their experiences. This also empowers the women and helps them realize their own self-worth. It gives ’em that self-awareness to think this was not all about me. This was what happened to me, and it’s not because I am a weak person or a bad person. The same again with the children. It’s more like a recovery process to ensure that the women and children recover from their traumas.

They actually realize it’s not only me and I’m not this person that he’s made me out to be or I’ve felt about myself all this time. This is how Michelle and I started to talk about it. I was like, okay, so we can help women recover from this, but how has this ever prevented? How do we prevent women from getting into relationships that are abusive or controlling or they’re just unhealthy? So that’s why we decided to start this organization.

Rediscovering Self-Worth After Narcissistic Abuse

Anne (05:17):
I felt like before I married my abuser that I had a very strong self-worth. Now I know through recovery that my self-worth is much more robust and much more deep than I felt before, but it’s very interesting because we really don’t know where we’re at until we have the experience.

Michelle (05:38):
That’s right.

Anne (05:39):
Yeah. It’s a process, right. So Michelle, can you tell us about your personal experience developing your own self-worth?

What Does Narcissistic Abuse Entail?

Michelle (05:47):
I was married for 10 years, even before I was actually married, I had maybe three bad relationships, one which was violent. The guys have tended to get in relationships with have been just emotionally unavailable or not been able to show affection.

Women can get confused, and I think that’s probably why I was confused before I really researched it to try and help myself is people can think abuse is just violence or really severe mental abuse, but actually a lot of intricate parts of a relationship, someone cheating on you or someone being emotionally unavailable and withholding affection and you come home and they just don’t want to be around you or don’t want to talk to you and that kind of thing. So I didn’t really know that I had low self-esteem. I knew there was something not right because you ask yourself, why does this keep happening to me?

“I was really at rock bottom. That’s probably the lowest point I’ve ever been.”

(06:40):
I have two children now, two daughters, that’s with my husband, who I was with, and when we split up and I ended that relationship, I was really at rock bottom. That’s probably the lowest point I’ve ever been. That was only three years ago. We separated and I think the whole year I must have read about a hundred self-help books. I mean, I just read night and day.

Every spare minute I had, I read. I didn’t really go out much or socialize. I thought I have to help myself because there’s something wrong here because of all these continuous cycles I was putting myself in. AndI think that’s what can happen with a lot of women. You go along, you think you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine, and it isn’t until you hit rock bottom that you’ll actually do something about it, doing everything I could to help me.

I remember at the time thinking I wish there was somewhere I could go, an affordable retreat, which I couldn’t afford. I was on my own with my two children, just ended the marriage. So finances and everything was changing for me. Obviously. At the same time, I was also working as a domestic abuse advocate, so I’m working with high risk victims at work and I’m going through my own thing as well. It just made me completely reflect on everything with everything that I’d researched and learned for myself, trying to pull myself out of this hole. That’s when me and Laura, we sat down and decided to create this program.

Narcissistic Abuse Makes You Think You’re The Problem

Anne (08:09):
It’s very interesting that when you set out to discover what your quote unquote problem was, you discovered that you do not have a problem. The only problem that you had was that you didn’t realize how amazing you were and you didn’t realize how worthwhile you were and you didn’t realize how much you had to give and what you deserved. Isn’t that interesting? It’s very ironic. Laura, can you speak to that for a little bit?

“It’s almost like your whole life revolves around trying to please [the narcissistic abuser].”

Laura (08:39):
Yeah. I think when you’re in a relationship like that, all you do is overcompensate. You’re always thinking it’s your fault. You should be doing more. You should be a better person. It’s all about you and it’s never about the other person. It’s almost like your whole life revolves around trying to please this person. When you get to that rock bottom place like Michelle talks about, because I’ve been in the exactly same place where I want to just be out of this universe, I felt like I cannot deal with this pain anymore.

My ex-partner who I have children with, he was exactly the same. Me and Michelle have a very similar story with that. I just couldn’t believe that I had children to a person who treated me so badly thinking, okay, well he’s doing this because of who I am. It’s not because of who he is, and I would do everything I could.

When Narcissistic Abuse Victims Choose Healing

(09:32):
It was exhausting. I would do everything I could to try please this person. It never happened until one day I just thought, I cannot do this anymore or I thought it was going to kill me. I did. Now, looking back, I think there must have been some kind of inner strength within you, Laura to do that.

All I could do the same as Michelle is really reflect on and think to myself, I cannot allow this happen to me again. I only live once. I need to have the best quality of life for me and my children, and I will never allow that to happen again, and I can’t control what he done. And I can’t control about what half the men do out there, but I can control how I act on it and I can control my happiness and I am on my own now and all I think about is my own happiness and my children’s happiness.

Narcissistic Abuse vs. Healthy Relationships

Michelle (10:24):
When you’re in a good place and you’re going into a relationship, it’s a win-win situation. A few years ago, I didn’t know what I was willing to tolerate. I would just see, oh, this guy, he’s gorgeous, he’s got a good job. He’s so nice, he’s treating me so amazing, and then I could find out, oh, well, you may be cheated on me. Okay, well just give him another chance. I’ll just give him one more chance. He’s saying he’s going to change, so I’ll just give him one more chance. So that’s kind of why we say know your worth and know your boundaries.

BTR.ORG Advocates for Your Emotional Safety

Anne (10:56):
There’s two points that I’d like to make here. First of all, Betrayal Trauma Recovery does not advocate for divorce. Our first priority is a woman’s safety. For example, if a woman wants to get divorced, we support her in that. If she chooses to remain married, then we support her in that, but we do want to make sure that she gets to safety, and I have seen that women who are being continually abused, whether they’re married or not, cannot find the space to build their self-worth back up again.

For me, I did no contact with my husband, did not file for divorce for nine months, and he decided to file for divorce, so he made that decision for me, so I’m now divorced and actually very sad about it that that’s what he chose rather than choosing to recover and choosing to change. But the cool thing was by that time, I knew what I was looking for, so it was very clear to me that he wasn’t changing.

It’s Okay To Take Your Time, We Support You ❤️

(11:57):
It was very clear to me that I could see, okay, this is not the type of relationship I can tolerate. I don’t want to file for divorce because I just can’t bring myself to do that, but I’m going to hold this boundary. I really could have held it I think forever, and the reason was is I wasn’t looking to date again. And I thought, you know what? I’m going to just work on myself. I’m going to focus on myself, and whatever he chooses to do is his choice.

He happened to file for divorce, but I really want women to think about that option because many women come into a domestic violence shelter and they can stay there forever. They don’t have to file for divorce. You can get a protective order. You can get all kinds of legal protections while still not divorcing if you’re not ready to make that decision and then get yourself strong enough to where you can say, okay, I’m ready.

Healing From Narcissistic Abuse Can Help You Make Healthy Decisions

(12:47):
I have a friend who she was separated for 18 months, worked on herself and really focused on her own recovery until she finally got to where she felt like I can file and when I file now, I can do so with strength and with confidence and with support, and when she filed, her divorce actually went very, very well because she had taken the time to make herself strong before she decided to go that way. It’s something that I think a lot of women need to think about because divorce is not the solution to our trauma problems.

We could file for divorce really quickly and be like, okay, I’m done. You’re out of here, and then we’re still going to have the residual trauma. Also, if we have kids with this person, they’re likely going to be continuing to abuse us. I’ve seen some of the most severely abused women after their divorce who are still being severely abused by their ex.

Laura (13:37):
Yeah, we see that all the time at work. We see it all the time.

Healing from Narcissistic Abuse Means Honoring Yourself

Anne (13:40):
I love the title that you chose. She Honours Herself. I would like you, Michelle, to talk for a minute about the difference between honoring ourselves and holding ourselves in high esteem and conceitedness or pride in a bad way. The difference between honoring ourselves and narcissism, for example, when we’re being abused, if we try to take a stand, we’re accused of being selfish. We’re accused of not doing our duty. We’re accused of not respecting men. There’s so many things that we’re accused of. What’s the difference between honoring yourself and just being selfish?

“It’s all about knowing what you’re worth.”

Michelle (14:22):
It can be misconstrued even by women that they think, yeah, you’re manipulating a situation. This is treating men badly. No, it’s not. It’s all about you knowing what you’re worth. Having the ability to be able to make choices and be confident about them. I mean, I never used to be able to make a decision. I used to have to run to my mom forever. Mom, I don’t know what to do. She would do this, she would do that. Now I’m like, it’s my decision. Women have got a lot to give.

Laura (14:51):
We’ve also shortened into the shush project. It’s a peaceful silence within you. All your power and all the light comes from within. A lot of the times, the life and the soul of the party is the narcissist or they are the abuser. I think a lot of people that you do see as really outgoing, they’ve got lots of issues right underneath, and no matter what kind of personality you have, if you stick to your beliefs and your values, you have that self-worth, and if you live by what you believe, that is what makes you honor yourself because you’re not going against anything just to please other people.

Healing From Narcissistic Abuse – When You’re Experiencing Conflicting Values

Anne (15:36):
I think that’s where it gets very tricky. For example, I am Christian and many women that listen to this podcast are and many aren’t. We have listeners from all different faiths, but for me, my marriage vows were very, very important and I wanted to keep them. So that value conflict between saying, this is what I will tolerate and also the values of forgiveness and love and service come into play here because you cannot forgive and love and serve yourself out of abuse.

You have to boundary yourself out of abuse. Learning to value themselves and learning to value true peace, which is what I think God wants for us in this life. He wants us to have true peace and he does not want us to be harmed if we’re being harmed. He wants us to set boundaries to keep ourselves safe, and I believe that God, although he can handle anything, he doesn’t like the chaos either, which is why when someone is being abusive, God’s spirit leaves.

Healthy Boundaries Are Key to Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

(16:40):
God also has boundaries. He says, you know what? I’m not going to be in this place. If you’re going to choose not to obey the commandments, if you’re going to choose to do this, this, and this, then you can’t be with me, which is why there’s a heaven and the Hell, the people who create chaos and the people who aren’t willing to be honest, I don’t want them around. They’re miserable to be around. So you go there, and if you want to be honest, if you want to be true, if you are able to actually live your values, please come live with me. Laura and Michelle, thank you so much for coming on today.

Michelle (17:12):
Thank you for having us.

Laura (17:14):
Thank you so much. It’s been lovely.

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