Why do I Feel so Attached to my Narcissistic Ex?

By Kim Saeed | Initiating No Contact

Oct 06

This is a common question as it relates to how one perceives their attachment to the Narcissist in their life.  In the beginning, it seemed they’d finally met their soul-mate.  The Narcissist showered them with “love”, praise, validation, understanding, and compassion.  They believed they’d finally found a blissful paradise with a partner whom they could grow old with.

This made it all too easy to sweep the first jabs under the rug.  And the next ones, and still the next, until finally, the rug no longer resembled its original flat and sleek form, but a covering for a mountain of debris.

Yet targets of narcissistic abuse try repeatedly to reshape the rug, spreading and evening out the debris to get a semblance of what it first looked like, instead of realizing the rug is ruined and should be thrown out.  When friends and family point out what an eyesore it is, victims remember what it first looked like, exclaiming, “I can’t throw it out!  It’s the best rug I’ve ever had!  No one has a rug like that!”

Targets of abuse don’t want to let go of that person they knew from the beginning of the relationship.  They endure untold misery, over-forgiving the person who claimed to love them and made them feel so special.  Even when the relationship comes to an end, they are left reeling with feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and guilt.  They confuse their feelings for love.  And though love does play a part, the real reason they feel attached to their abuser is much deeper.

What they’re really missing is feeling loved, accepted, validated, and taken care of – things they never felt before, often as far back as childhood. The false lover they knew from the beginning of the relationship seemed to love them for who they are, with all their faults and weaknesses.  Yet, at the same time made them feel flawless.  In other words, they felt loved unconditionally.

Unconditional love…what victims always give, yet never seem to get in return.

It’s because of this yearning for unconditional love that victims of abuse stay in toxic relationships far past reasonable limits.  What many don’t realize is that they are trying to heal wounds from childhood.  They learned that they had to be perfect and forgiving in order to receive acknowledgement and/or praise.  Otherwise, they were neglected and ostracized.  And so this is what they learned about life and carried into their adult lives, and is what led them straight into the arms of the Narcissist.

What Codependency Looks Like

Although not universal, many codependents go a large part of their lives without really knowing they are, in fact, codependent.  This plays out in ways such as:

  • Feels uncomfortable accepting compliments – Ex: When receiving a compliment on a blouse, the codependent might say, “This old thing?  I only paid a dollar for it at the Goodwill”, or, “Thanks, but I think it makes me look fat”.
  • Has a hard time saying no; gains feelings of worthiness through helping others – Ex: Agreeing to babysit a neighbor’s child even though it would mean giving up personal plans to do so, simply so the neighbor won’t think they’re mean or selfish.
  • Rarely shows feelings of anger or displeasure in order to show others how agreeable they are – Ex: Agreeing to go to a restaurant one doesn’t like in order to avoid seeming inflexible (puts others needs before own)
  • Always seems to be putting out fires for other people – Ex: Covering up a spouse’s alcoholism; calling in sick for them, excusing their unacceptable behaviors at parties.
  • Not trusting their own perceptions – Ex: Believing undue criticism from a shady co-worker or jealous ex of their partner (this is often why victims of narcissistic abuse believe the disparaging comments and accusations made by their abuser)

What to Do

If any of the above sounds like you, there’s a high likelihood that you are Codependent.  The first thing you’ll need to do is leave your abusive partner.  There is absolutely no way to heal while inside of an abusive relationship.

If you’ve already left, Kudos to you!  You can begin taking charge of your life and overcoming your powerlessness through using appropriate tools such as:

Conquering Codependency Mini-Course (you’ll need to provide your name and email address)

Visit Codependents Anonymous to find a meeting near you at CoDa.org

Check out these various tools for Inner Child Healing

Visit Robert Burney’s site Inner Child Healing here on WordPress or visit his Facebook page.

Have you done Inner Child Healing with positive results?  Please share your tips and comments below!

Leave a Comment:

(20) comments

trudi March 21, 2015

I was with my narc for 12 years. We separated several times and always got back together with me apologising to him !! And then feeling like i needed to make it up to him. Looking back i made excuses for him. I even thought i had suffered post natal depression after the birth of my son but 8 years on realise it was actually the way he was treating me that dragged me down. We separated, finally 2 years ago after he left me for someone else. But even the break up was all about him. He went to councilling on his own as he didn’t want me to go but i now know even that was a ploy so he could look like a victim and i would look like the bad person. And even then i tried to make excuses for him and convince myself he was going through a mid life crisis. Its taken me 2 hard years to finally see him for what he is. Its not me its him i can finally say that and believe it. He has more issues that he will ever be able to get over. My broken heart has healed but he will never heal. He will always be damaged. I feel bad for him but i cant help him so i no longer try.

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phil j December 15, 2014

I was with my wife 13 years, she cheated and lied nearly all our marriage,she was so stunning from Europe,we had a son together who’s now 9 ,I left six months ago after suspecting another affair this time with her gym instructor,a week after I left she practically moved him in our home,with her and my son never been so hurt in my entire life,she’s come back with empty promises and I believe her lies every time she’s so convincing now I’m left with nothing,a week to Xmas while they play happy families,she’s gone back again to him, telling me she never really loved me at all ,and saying some really hurtful things at times I feel suicidal,and cant face life without her she’s like a drug I keep going back for more,waiting for a text or call I’m trying to stay strong for my son but inside I’m slowly dying she has no guilt or remorse for what she’s put me through she tells me to stop keeping on I’m boring and to get a life ,,the worse thing is I still love her with all my heart ,what’s wrong with me ,I did everything for her and my son ,she’s like a different person where’s my wife gone ,please help any advice as how to let go of someone like her ?

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    Kim Saeed December 16, 2014

    Phil J, I wish there were an easy way out, but the truth is there are many elements to healing from this type of abuse. It affects us all the way down to the soul level and takes combined approaches to truly begin healing. We must address the mind, body, and spirit…that’s the only way to heal. Emotional trauma does imprint itself in our bodies, so trauma work is necessary, as well as some type of spiritual healing (which doesn’t necessarily pertain to religion). The first step is to allow yourself to let go of her and grieve the loss. I’d also recommend implementing low contact, which means to only communicate with her as it relates to your son and don’t allow her to abuse you and suck you into emotionally draining and abusive dialogues.

    Reply

[…] No.  What really matters is that, in spite of the incriminating, mounting evidence, you don’t want to let go.  Despite all he’s done to desecrate the relationship you have with him, you still hold out […]

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Jen October 7, 2014

Hi Kim, Some what proud of myself. After spending weeks begging and pleading my ex to take me back after the discard I found myself at our daughter’s volleyball game last night. First one all season he has attended. I was sick to my stomach. He has moved on with another woman within a month of me leaving. He says awful things to me when he isn’t acting like I am completely invisible or didn’t exist. Anyhow, I kept a smile on my face the whole time, talked with other parents (which is something he didn’t allow when we were together) and overall gave off a good vibe. After the game I was congratulating our daughter he came up, when I couldn’t ignore him I asked him with a smile how he was, said it was nice to see him and just went on my way in a great mood as if I wasn’t dying inside. I was proud of myself until at about midnight last night I got an angry out of no where text from him spewing hatred my way. I wanted to respond and defend myself against untruths but instead I deleted. It was so hard for me to do that but I am proud of myself nonetheless. Why would he do that…he seemed fine at the game but hours later he sent me this text out of no where saying mean things and reiterating that he has moved on. Why wouldn’t he just not bother with me at all?

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    tiredofliars8 October 13, 2014

    It bothered him how well you are doing. He felt the loss of control I imagine. Empty vat needed filling so wanted a reaction from you. Any reaction gives supply. Don’t take it personal. Hope you are doing better.

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      Confused and Sad October 14, 2014

      Thank you for your reply and support. I want so desperately to get to a point where I stop hoping he will call or text or something. Its the worst feeling to have someone you have loved for 20 years to treat you as if you have never existed. Never mattered and I can’t imagine ever treating anyone that way.

      Reply
        tiredofliars8 October 14, 2014

        It’s hard. I know. Mine was 10 years. They aren’t normal. Hard to accept the love story was a lie. My friend was married to a malignant Narc for 35 years. After putting up with major bs from him he ended up leaving her for a young woman. She can’t believe how fast and without conscience he left when she hung in there through thick and thin. Hard to wrap your head around it but once you accept how disordered they are you will heal. It has nothing to do with you. Accept he is a disordered Narc…you are free and you will heal. Time heals all wounds and you will be stronger. Good luck

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    Adriana Harvey October 13, 2016

    He has moved on so quickly because he has to take his vitriol out on someone, otherwise he is left alone with it. I am beginning to learn this myself. 6 weeks out after 4 years of awful narc abuse, left me feeling wounded, and like you just wishing he would call, tell me he is sorry, he loves me. Reality is, he will never change, he is what he is, I am better and stronger out of it, and I hope his toxicity eats him up from the inside )think i am hitting the angry stage!) Make sure you put you first and find strength in all of us xx

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Wendy Redroad October 7, 2014

Well written! It took 18 months for me to concede–not merely that the ex hubs didn’t love me, but in the 18 years we were together–he NEVER loved me. It’s been a long hard road to healing, but I thank God everyday for springing me out of the twilight zone and leading me to the office of a wonderful psychologist, where I asked the million dollar question:
I just spent 18 years in a relationship that shouldn’t have lasted 8 days. What’s wrong with me?

And then she asked me to read The Betrayal Bond, by Patrick Carnes. It was then that I realized there is nothing WRONG with me, but there was plenty wrong with the template of love I carried from an abusive childhood into adult relationships.

My lesson in all of this? The most painful goodbye I’ll ever endure is the one my loving God asked me to say to my false self. The false (me) who internalized the brutal lie that I was not worthy of authentic love. Learning to love myself has been an adventure. And I don’t regret the sheer hell I’ve gone through to fight FOR me . . . for ME.

Finally, the left side of my brain and the right side of my brain agree: It’s over. Lovable me kicked unlovable me’s a**.

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    Adriana Harvey October 13, 2016

    Thank you for this and thank you for the recommendation on the book. I have just purchased a copy and think it will help me. Congrats on your progress and success. I aim to get to where you are. x

    Reply
      Kim Saeed October 15, 2016

      Wishing you all the best in your recovery, Adriana!

      Kim

      Reply
dianaiannarone October 6, 2014

Well done Kim! I especially liked your rug analogy! “Its the best rug I ever had” yes, the delusion! Then later they will awaken and have great new “plans” for that rug;)!

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    Kim Saeed October 6, 2014

    Indeed! I know I made new plans for my rug 😉

    Reply
      dfillman417 May 3, 2015

      Mine really tied the room together…

      Reply
johnribner13 October 6, 2014

Very well written and rather poignant. I would add that your readers familiarize themselves with Gavin DeBecker’s pre-incident indicators or PINs. While DeBecker uses them to describe the interviewing techniques predators often use to put their intended victims at ease, I’ve found that a former narcissistic boss used them as well to get inside his employee’s heads and subtly manipulate them into going against their better judgement and believing his self-serving B.S. (Which is why I called them “brainworms.”) Are you familar with DeBecker’s PINs?

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    tiredofliars8 October 7, 2014

    Excellent point by Kim and by you John. Funny how I am 4 years out yet still feel attached to my ex Narc. I cut him off for about a year but of course he continued to contact with words of love, devotion and when that didn’t work the pity act began with “you are my best friend and I will always love you bs” I eventually agreed to be friends but it has to be on my terms and he has to respect my current relationship which means infrequent calls and no in person meetings. I told him recently one thing I will give you is that I have never felt as loved by anyone. YES Unconditional and that is exactly what you miss!! Treated me like a queen until the devaluations. I would usually discard him before he had the chance to get to the discard. I would promptly go back to queen once I dumped him which I would do as soon as he started the devaluation….and yes I stayed in way longer than I should have. Years longer because I had no clue there was a name for this crazy making behavior until I was out over a year!! John I was flabbergasted by your interview comment. I will never forget my first date with my ex. It really was like an interview. He asked me a lot of questions and in retrospect he was studying me with such intensity and eye contact I can remember feeling uneasy. I am normally very confident with men but there was something about him that shook my confidence from the beginning. My ex is quite nice looking and has a lot of money to pull off his love bombing routine which he was a master at. I have had better looking and more successful yet this guy had me within a few weeks of meeting. I teased him later on about that first “interview”…He studied me so he could mirror my good qualitys but more important it was a tool for him to manipulate for many years to come. He had determined at that point I was an empath and he used that to his advantage throughout our relationship. Especially when I would break up with him. I really was in flight mode for most of my relationship. I knew something was off with a guy who would constantly pull away when things were better than ever. I felt on uneasy ground (think quicksand) and couldn’t figure out why. The reason I went back so many times was because of the weird attachment (I call it the Stolkholm Sydrome) and the manipulation. He employed the pity act better than anyone I know and boy could those tears and declarations of love flow! Add in expensive make up gifts and great sex and I was toast. I left him at the end when I smelled another devaluation after I had just had the best vacation with him. I guess I was just tired. FINALLY After knowing about Narcissists I find it fascinating……They really are quite predictable, sad little creatures. BTW I call my ex a Narcissist to his face and he has to take it if he wants to talk to me at all. He recently asked me like a little boy….”do you think I am a high level narcissist?” Ha ha he must have researched or maybe one his harem members sent him literature. I told him…hmmm you are up there buddy LOL

    Reply
    tiredofliars8 October 7, 2014

    BTW the reason I felt uneasy instead of at ease was because I felt this guy could see right into my soul. I also could not believe how much in sync we were and deep down I must have known this was not normal.

    Reply
    Wendy Redroad October 7, 2014

    John, I googled Gavin DeBecker. Thank you sharing his info. It’s amazing and very helpful.

    Reply
      johnribner13 October 7, 2014

      Here’s for your readers so they know what we’re talking about. Gavin DeBecker is a worldwide expert in personal security and he’s identified certain behaviors that many criminals do just prior to attacking/raping/killing their victims. He calls it the “interview.” For those who’ve dealt with a Narcissist or similarly personality disordered person, you might notice that they’ve also used these techniques in conversation:

      PINS (Pre-Incident Indicators)

      Forced Teaming. This is when a person implies that he has something in common with his chosen victim, acting as if they have a shared predicament when that isn’t really true. Speaking in “we” terms is a mark of this, i.e. “We don’t need to talk outside… Let’s go in.”

      Charm and Niceness. This is being polite and friendly to a chosen victim in order to manipulate him or her by disarming their mistrust.

      Too many details. If a person is lying they will add excessive details to make themselves sound more credible to their chosen victim.

      Typecasting. An insult is used to get a chosen victim who would otherwise ignore one to engage in conversation to counteract the insult. For example: “Oh, I bet you’re too stuck-up to talk to a guy like me.” The tendency is for the chosen victim to want to prove the insult untrue.

      Loan Sharking. Giving unsolicited help to the chosen victim and anticipating they’ll feel obliged to extend some reciprocal openness in return.

      The Unsolicited Promise. A promise to do (or not do) something when no such promise is asked for; this usually means that such a promise will be broken. For example: an unsolicited, “I promise I’ll leave you alone after this,” usually means the chosen victim will not be left alone. Similarly, an unsolicited “I promise I won’t hurt you” usually means the person intends to hurt their chosen victim.

      Discounting the Word “No”. Refusing to accept rejection.

      A former boss of mine was an expert at Typecasting. Knowing I didn’t like going to exhibitions for the company because I didn’t get paid to do so and it kept me away from my family, he would say things such as, “Well, we all could be making more money if John would attend more exhibitions but we all know he doesn’t like to give his all to the company.” His hope, of course, was for me to want to prove him wrong and go on the road to show him how dedicated I was but I long ago quite allowing his “brainworms” to take root in my mind.

      Reply
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