You were blamed. Berated. Abused. Gaslit. Manipulated. Lied to. You were left feeling broken, battered, and bruised beyond belief. But the break-up is even worse. You are now wondering: What is the best way to handle a narcissist?

Tracy Malone, founder of the recovery website, Narcissistic Abuse Support, has imperative insight when it comes to overcoming narcissistic abuse. First, she describes the plight of those who have been abused in this way, “When dealing with an abusive-narcissistic person, they are going to push every single button. They know your strengths and weaknesses. They are going to use it against you. When they do that, they keep you in a spiral of anxiety, fear, anger.”

Tracy is passionate about raising awareness on the subject of narcissism. She is an expert on destructive relationships. Her narcissist abuse support website offers resources for victims from more than 145 countries and she has a YouTube channel that has reached over 400,000 survivors.

No Contact Boundary Is Effective For Narcissistic Abuse

Tracy describes her experience as “feeling like I was having to fight for my life every day.” This is similar to what many survivors describe. June, a woman who suffered years of narcissistic abuse in a marriage, states, “It nearly destroyed my soul. My very existence felt like it was being erased little by little with the ways and means he would find to abuse me. But the worst part was, no one knew, and when I sought help, no one believed me.”

“The reality was that I had no boundaries. I was a people pleaser. I’m not trying to latch onto the co-dependent diagnosis but there is a lot inside of me that let me stay there. There was a lot of self-love and self-respect that I didn’t have. These are the kinds of things I have had to learn to change,” Tracy adds.

8 Methods Of Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissist Abuse can take on many forms. Tracy has listed 8 of the most common on her resource site:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Emotional abuse
  3. Verbal abuse
  4. Psychological abuse
  5. Legal abuse
  6. Financial abuse
  7. Sexual abuse
  8. Religious abuse (Source: Narcissistic Abuse Support)

What can a survivor do to remain safe from the narcissist? “No contact” is one of the most effective and productive ways of handling a situation when a narcissist is involved.

Narcissists Are Frequently Abusive

Tracy explains, “No contact is actually the most powerful tool for healing because when we are in a relationship that isn’t healthy, they come back like a bad penny; they don’t want to risk leaving. The power in the no contact is that you don’t contact them; you cut off all communication which means to block them from your phone, email, social media.”

Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, describes her grief during the period of separation from a narcissistic husband, “Every part of my body was screaming out that I needed to call him or talk to him.” She held the no contact boundary and gained empowerment because of it.

Tracy adds, “When you go ‘no contact,’ you are freeing yourself from that bond and that call that is going to ruin your day, the text that will make you flip out. When you can cut off all contact, you are so much stronger.”

As much as a no contact boundary helps the survivor remain safe, it also helps the narcissist to lose power. It is a two-for-one deal, having dual positive outcomes. Still, many women are puzzled and confused with how to go about implementing a no contact boundary. There are resources available and worth looking into for those that may be in need.

Abuse By A Narcissist Can Be Damaging

Anne states, “I would like to let women know about the options when dealing with similar types of abuse and let them know about groups or resources to help them get educated. It is important to help them realize that a question about whether they have a husband who is the type of narcissist that can’t get better can be answered; or if ‘no contact’ is a good option. I want them to at least have the options of exploring these ideas and concepts.”

For a really affordable way to get a support network of daily professional help, we recommend checking out the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group schedule. It’s the least expensive professionally facilitated group that has multiple sessions and time zones each day.

 

We would love to have your help to continue taking this free podcast to the world! Please offer a recurring monthly donation if you have the means to do so. Your donation enables women to learn how to move to safety. Also, please rate this podcast on your podcasting app! Every rating helps women who are isolated find us.

Full Transcription:

Anne: I have Tracy Malone on this episode talking about a traumatic series of events, including being thoughtlessly discarded by her partner who she describes as a narcissist. This thrust Tracy into a downward spiral. As she thought, “Why me?” she discovered she had been a victim of narcissistic abuse. Like many women, before that moment Tracy had no idea about the personality disorder known as narcissism. She began to study it voraciously.

Today she is passionate about raising awareness on the subject and excited to share the empowering story about how she turned her life around and then began to help others do the same. She is an expert on destructive relationships. Tracy’s narcissist abuse support website offers resources for victims from more than 145 countries; in addition, she is the host of a Facebook group of more than 4500 members, a YouTube channel that has reached over 400,000 survivors, and a Pinterest narcissist account that has seen more than 2 million monthly visitors! Tracy, will you talk about what happened to you that helped propel you into this space to help other women heal.

No Contact Can Be Tough With A Narcissist

Tracy: I had just finished a pretty horrific divorce. In fact, the judge in our case, after seven trials, said that it was the most tortured divorce that had ever come across our town’s history! I didn’t understand what was happening–it was so off the walls. I felt like I was having to fight for my life every day. I just finished this and wasn’t ready for dating bu some friends introduced me to a friend of theirs who had just finished a divorce as well and we started dating. It was too soon.

I wasn’t convinced I needed to be in a relationship but it was good enough and he was a companion and he knew what I had been through. I dated him for about 2 1/2 years exclusively. We were both in a wounded place so the expectations were not extremely high. One day I found out somehow that he had been cheating. I walked out and said that was it.

What he then did is called “hovering.” That means he kept coming back around and knocking on my door. He wanted to explain why he had been sleeping with someone, not once but for six months of our 2 1/2 years. I was not letting him in or speaking to him until one day I decided (about three months later) that I was ready to forgive him; that I didn’t want to be with him but I wanted to release it. I went over to forgive him and he called the police and had me arrested. I landed in jail.

It was the most traumatic day of my life! I had no idea that someone could be arrested for trespassing as he accused me of. In our state of Colorado, they have a mandatory arrest law. If you have been intimate with someone, they automatically tag on domestic violence. In his police reports he said he was scared of me so they added reckless endangerment. I spent the first 24 hours in the jail cell and when I got out a friend told me he was gaslighting me. I had to learn what that meant.

Narcissists Do Not Respect Boundaries

As I studied and learned, the secrets of my entire life opened up in front of me. I learned that not only was this man a narcissistic person but my ex-husband was as well, which explained the entire divorce. My mother-in-law and my mother–the whole entire onion of my life was exposed. I wanted to share it so I began my YouTube channel and then my website and my support group. It has been about three years. I don’t stop learning or teaching.

Anne: Today I really want to focus on the no-contact portion of your story and about how, even though you were wrongly accused and thrown into jail, you were able to get a court-ordered no-contact order which was the exact thing my ex got for his domestic violence charge. In your case, you had been wrongly accused and not violent; can you tell me how this was a blessing in disguise and how no contact really helped you? Then we will also talk about how no contact helps members of your community.

Tracy: Sure. No contact is actually the most powerful tool for healing because when we are in a relationship that isn’t healthy–like I mentioned a second ago the word ‘hovering’–they come back like a bad penny; they don’t want to risk leaving. The power in the no contact is that you don’t contact them; you cut off all communication which means to block them from your phone, email, social media. So many people think it’s ok to peak every once in a while.

The people who call me and I coach them, after they have snuck in and looked at their stuff on Facebook, it puts them into a downward spiral because they aren’t able to process that that person has moved on. By going ‘no contact,’ you lose the tie to what they are doing. If you find out they are doing this or doing that or they went on a vacation you were supposed to go on, by spying on them or learning this information, it hurts you and re-injures you every single time you see that stuff. It is so important to understand that you hold the key.

Narcissistic Abuse Often Feels Confusing

Anne: I want to talk for a minute about how I was able to implement no contact while still being married with the absolute intent of remaining married. People think that sounds crazy! I wanted to give my marriage the best opportunity to heal and I wanted to heal myself from the abuse I had experienced. When my ex got his ‘no contact’ order from the judge, at the time I didn’t want to keep it.

Every part of my body was screaming out that I needed to call him or talk to him! I wrote so many letters that I never sent, explaining how I was feeling, but every time I went to give it to him, I felt “no.” I knew I just needed to work on myself. I wanted to see what he would do without me interfering at all. I had been managing his recovery for so long. There were probably two or three times I did communicate over the nine months, but my go-to was no contact.

It’s interesting how people wonder with ‘no contact’ how can a person tell what is happening–how do you know if the spouse is changing? For me, it was very, very clear. He cut off bank accounts, he didn’t offer information to our third party (my father) about what he was going to do to recover and to keep our family together. There was no sign in any way that he was improving–he was communicating very clearly. I could very clearly see what was happening while at the same time remaining safe from his abuse. It was like the ideal situation where I could see how he was recovering and what he was showing.

At BTR we believe that people can change. I know there are a lot of people who say that narcissists can never change. I’m not 100% sure that my ex is a narcissist or that he has narcissistic personality disorder. And because people in this situation rarely go in and get diagnosed, I am wondering how I could know for sure.

What I do know is what healthy behaviors look and sound like and I can hold ‘no contact’ while holding a safe space for a relationship and saying that I am here and that you are welcome to come back when you are healthy; however, I can clearly see that you are not. On your site do you take the stance that narcissistic personality disorder can never be changed?

No Contact Helps Ensure Safety From The Narcissist

Tracy: The medical information that is out there about narcissistic personality disorder is so mixed. I would say that 90% of the things I have read and the people and experts I have talked to on my YouTube channel say they cannot change because they do not see anything wrong with it. This is key.

If you have someone who says they do not want to be a certain way, then of course there is a possibility that they can go through lots of therapy, they can listen but generally a narcissistic personality disorder person doesn’t think they are doing anything wrong. They think they are entitled to do whatever they want. This is where the discrepancy comes in about whether or not they can get better.

For the most part, every single person–and I have talked to thousands that have been in therapy with their abuser–charm the therapist. If a woman dares say something like, “My ex husband and I went to therapy and my ex-husband was sort of physically abusing my son” and a therapist said, “This isn’t good. She’s the mother; you don’t do that, this is his step child…”

The therapist says that, then he walks out and says he will never go back. They don’t want to hear that they are at fault. If you have a person who is willing to make a change, obviously monitor it, but for the most part they may say they will go to counseling but they have no intention other than to feel like they can control that therapist as well; just as they can with a lawyer in divorce.

Anne: I would like to say that no one can improve if they don’t think they need to, whether they have a narcissistic personality disorder or not!

Boundaries Are Essential With A Narcissist

Tracy: Right. That goes with not wanting to go victim-blaming here. I will share my own experience about what I have been learning for three years. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. I didn’t know about narcissistic personality; I just knew something was really wrong with that divorce. Here was this man who was not only cheating on me with that person for six months, but I found another woman that he had been cheating on with me during the two years or our 2 1/2. I had to look really hard inside of me because the natural inclination is to say that there is nothing wrong with me–they screwed me over. The reality was that I had no boundaries. I was a people pleaser.

I’m not trying to latch onto the co-dependent diagnosis but there is a lot inside of me that let me stay there. There was a lot of self-love and self-respect that I didn’t have. These are the kinds of things I have had to learn to change. Unless you look at yourself and you’re willing to make a change, then you are. Again, if a narcissistic person comes along and they don’t see that they have done anything wrong, they are never going to change.

Anne: I also think that regardless of whether we can set boundaries or whether we can love ourselves, all the things that victims need to learn how to do to hopefully avoid being victimized again in the future and to stop the abuse now, is not an excuse to abuse people or to act that way. I have a lot of empathy for women who do not know how to set boundaries but it doesn’t mean they are a target for abuse. It means that their abuser took advantage of them.

I want you to talk about some of the stories in your community about no contact and how it helps strengthen women to find themselves, to get centered on what they need so they can get stronger and stronger and move forward with whatever they decide is best for them.

Narcissists Can Be Vengeful

Tracy: I have so many clients and so many people in my local support groups that come to our group and don’t know about ‘no contact.’ They are allowing them to come back and they are being re-injured over and over. When we talk about it and explain it and get them on the page of giving it a try, they come back a few weeks later and feel a lot better. It gives peace of mind. When dealing with an abusive person, they are going to push every single button. They know your strengths and weaknesses. They are going to use it against you.

When they do that, they keep you in a spiral of anxiety, fear, anger. When you go ‘no contact,’ you are freeing yourself from that bond and that call that is going to ruin your day, the text that will make you flip out. When you can cut off all contact, you are so much stronger. All the people we have in our group who have gone through this experience end up thanking us.

Some cannot, for example, the co-parenting abused ex-spouse–that is one of the hardest journeys in this lifetime that I can foresee almost anyone having to take because you still have to communicate about the children. It’s a fine line to walk with something that we call ‘gray walk’ which means to not react to them; they are looking for that reaction.

When you are having to co-parent with them it’s important to know that there are systems in place. If they send you 800 texts a day, you can get a court order to only communicate through talking parents–so that you are reducing the amount of exposure and stress with that contact. If they know this is the trick–five texts in a row at work and your day is shot–they will do it over and over.

Narcissists Will Try Everything To Do More Damage

Going no-contact is the most powerful tool. It helps us separate all the crazy and isolating it from coming into our space. You will get stronger and they will lose their power. All abuse is about control. If they are not able to push your buttons and get you to react and ruin your day, you will sleep better at night. I talked about cutting them off your phone and emails and messages; it is of course important to block them in social media.

It’s also important to block their friends and their family and anyone you aren’t quite sure of. I also recommend at the beginning of going ‘no contact’ that you do a social cleanse; don’t post anything because if you do, there could be little spies. By blocking them, you hold the key. You can always unblock someone; suppose you make up with your sister-in-law–you can go back to being friends.

Anne: I did this. Right after his arrest I completely deleted all of my social media accounts. I did a year social media fast. After a year I started a brand new account. I began with zero friends on Facebook and I didn’t friend anyone who he was friends with. I have blocked him on my phone and email. My dad suggested this. He sent him an email and said that we were not putting up with his abuse anymore…and that he had instructed his daughter to block him on her phone and email; now all communication about the children will go through him.

We use gray rock method with him. He’ll rant and rave for paragraphs and paragraphs and we attempt to just do the minimum so we can de-escalate the problem because we know he just wants a big argument.

No Contact With A Narcissist Is The Best Way For Healing

There are so many times where he could say something simple but instead it’s like, “I’m a good dad…” Everything has to be a show about what a good guy he is and how he is being wronged. My dad keeps everything simple. The other thing I am grateful for is that he started calling my church leader to give me messages; my church leader also protected me which I was so grateful for.

I think the other thing is having people around you that can protect you and set boundaries as well. My parents set boundaries; my church leaders set boundaries, so I have this cocoon of safe people who can keep me safe and help me keep him out. This is why support groups are important and safe family and friends.

When I did finally blocked him from my phone, I didn’t realize that my phone had become a source of trauma. I would look at my phone and had this underlying, baseline sense of anxiety all the time thinking that he could text me at any time, that at any moment I could get a text that would send me into a panic. Once he was blocked and I knew it wasn’t coming and that it couldn’t come, it was such a relief.

I knew I could breathe and not have to worry! I don’t know, with him blocked, how many texts he has sent me. Maybe he’s sent me 16 million! It gives me such a sense of peace and calm that I never would have had without blocking him.

Tracy: The key to healing is to actually have the time to heal, time to reflect. If you’re walking on egg shells, wondering if the cell phone is going to go off and start beeping and you’ll see a barrage of crazy emails, that puts you in that place of panic and fear and worrying about your phone, as you said. Anything you can do to walk away from this person and to actually think of them as “dead;” I know this sounds creepy; it was a closure thing for me. I knew that if they were really dead I would not need to talk to them or wait for the text; I wouldn’t be afraid of it.

Does No Contact Involve No Communication?

My visualization was that they are gone. It’s like someone cut off your arm and you still feel it. But when you cut off a relationship with someone who you have been intimate with and married to, it’s so much easier if you don’t worry about what they are doing, saying, living; it’s those little “let me peak” on social media that is so traumatic. When people call me hysterical it’s because they looked–the other woman, the next person is getting their attention. They are doing it on Facebook. Cut it all off. Let yourself heal. Give yourself time to educate yourself about what happened. Don’t let them back in.

Anne: Our support groups help women realize if they are safe or not; first of all–what types of behaviors would you need in order to set a ‘no contact’ boundary around? And if you don’t want to get divorced, how could you facilitate a therapeutic no contact for a little while to give yourself a little space to determine how you are feeling and what is going on. There are so many ways to do it. I think the most important thing is to do it with the right intent–to keep yourself safe if the most important.

The second is to do it with someone who is a professional who knows what they are doing so you can have the support you need to heal. If you are thinking about ‘no contact,’ just googling ‘no contact’ is a way to go. Of course, like many other people, a deep dive into narcissism and finding out the meaning of words like ‘flying monkeys,’ ‘no contact,’ ‘parallel parenting,’ can be very helpful. It really helped me to know what my options were.

I would like today to let women know about these options and let them know about groups or resources to help them get educated and help them realize that a question about whether they have a husband who is the type of narcissist that can’t get better can be answered; or if ‘no contact’ is a good option. I want them to at least have the options of exploring these ideas and concepts.

Tracy: Yes, and giving them the strength to believe that they can. It’s really hard because you really loved this person. To really let go takes time.

What Does No Contact Mean ?

Anne: If we speak directly to divorced women right now, I always think that no contact is always best so you don’t keep getting sucked in. For women who are still married and have not decided what to do, it still helps to give yourself time to gather the strength to know exactly what you want to do. Either way, it may or may not work for you but I recommend it for every divorced person unless your ex is the sweetest, nicest person and you can be friends; but in my world, this didn’t happen! I have a friend who thought she could be friends after her divorce, it worked great until Sunday!

Then he harassed her. She said they were able to “be friends” for a week! With an abusive person, it’s going to eventually show up even if at first they seem great. Abusers aren’t abusers all the time.

Tracy: Right. And when they do this cycle and you have a relapse and you let them back in like she did and then you try to back out again…if you take them back after going ‘no contact,’ and made a choice to heal, they know they have you. They then dial up the abuse.

So they come back and there is a honeymoon period and then they go back into the patterns and know they can get away with a little more because “she didn’t even hold true to no contact.” You are giving them ammunition to “up the ante” on the abuse when you come back

Anne: Lundy Bancroft has a chapter about how do you know if they have changed; he has specific things to look for. If you don’t see every single one of them, I think there are 13, do not allow them to come back because they have not changed–even if they say they have or it seems like they have. They need to do the things he talks about. He says the exact same thing: if they have not exhibited the 13 things, it will get worse when they come back.

I knew this in my gut and heart and this is why I continue to hold no contact. I have not seen one of the 13 things! From my experience, most women who think he is changing who go through the list will only say they see one or two of the things on the list, not all 13.  It might not be 13 things–I might have my numbers messed up. I recommend that book to everyone.

Narcissistic Abuse Can Be Crushing

Tracy, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. Tracy’s site offers many great resources. Go there to learn about no contact or parallel parenting. If you are wondering if you are safe, a really good place to start are Coach Sarah’s Gaslighting and Boundaries sessions are helpful to learn what boundaries to set around these. No contact may be one you want to consider.

For a really affordable way to get a support network of daily professional help, we recommend checking out the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group schedule. It’s the least expensive professionally facilitated group that has multiple sessions and time zones each day.

We would love to have your help to continue taking this free podcast to the world! Please offer a recurring monthly donation if you have the means to do so. Your donation enables women to learn how to move to safety. Also, please rate this podcast on your podcasting app! Every rating helps women who are isolated find us.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

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