Finding Love After Narcissistic Abuse

Katharine Chestnut
6 min readFeb 14, 2024

Recovery and New Beginnings

Finding love after narcissistic abuse can feel like a daunting and nearly impossible task. I know I felt as if I would never truly smile or feel joy again — 11 years of an emotionally abusive relationship will do that to you. However, it is crucial to remember that you deserve happiness and healthy relationships just as much as the next person.

Happiness and fulfillment will be yours again. I promise.

I’ve been talking about self-love this month and we’ve just finished our Self-Love Challenge in the Mindful Life membership. Everyone has wounds and trauma that require introspection, self-awareness, and patience.

But those of us that have survived emotional abuse, understand all too well the detrimental impact narcissistic abuse can have on mental health and self-esteem.

Understanding Narcissistic Abuse

Characteristics of Narcissism

Narcissistic abuse is a subtle and malicious form of manipulation that can leave you feeling disoriented and questioning your self-worth. It often involves tactics like gaslighting and control to maintain dominance in the relationship.

Some common characteristics include:

  • Manipulation: Narcissists use various tactics to manipulate your emotions, including guilt, shame, and fear.
  • Control: They tend to be controlling, dictating what you can and cannot do, making decisions without your input, and using fear and intimidation to maintain power.
  • Lying: Narcissists are often dishonest, hiding the truth or manipulating facts to suit their narrative.
  • Lack of Empathy: They lack the ability to truly empathize with the pain or suffering of others, making it difficult for them to form deep connections.
  • Gaslighting: This tactic involves manipulating you into questioning your own reality and sanity, making it easier for the narcissist to maintain control.
Interesting how one of my favorite movies became a reality for me.

Emotional Abuse Affect

The consequences of narcissistic abuse can be far-reaching and long-lasting, impacting not only the victim’s mental health but also personal and professional relationships. Here are some effects you might experience as a result (I know I suffered from ALL of them):

  • Trauma: As a victim, you may develop symptoms of trauma, such as flashbacks, nightmares, or a pervasive sense of dread in response to triggers that remind you of the abuse.
  • Fear: You may live in constant fear of repercussions for asserting your needs or desires, making it difficult to engage in healthy relationships.
  • Pain: The emotional pain caused by narcissistic abuse can manifest in a variety of ways, including anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness. I cried everyday for 6 years prior to escaping and for another 18 months afterwards.
  • Shame: You may internalize the narcissist’s manipulative behavior, leading to a deep sense of shame and self-blame. My ex-abuser was a master at projection and I felt the full weight of it.
  • Silent Treatment: The silent treatment is a form of psychological abuse where one partner deliberately ignores the other punishment or to gain control. I got this treatment everyday.

Beginning to accept that you have been abused is just the tip of the iceberg. Learning about and recognizing the signs is a first step (I’ve listed some of the resources I found to be most helpful on my site and here at the bottom).

Through education, support, and self-care, you can start overcoming the effects of this toxic dynamic and help you heal.

Healing and Self-Recovery

Establishing Boundaries

When I finally accepted that I had been abused, I immediately started building (or rebuilding) healthy boundaries. It’s important to recognize that your feelings and needs matter.

Develop a clear understanding of your personal limits and start communicating them effectively. This can be challenging, but it is a crucial step in creating trust in both yourself and others.

Some ways to establish boundaries include:

  • Be assertive when expressing your needs and feelings
  • Learn to say no without feeling guilty
  • Know and communicate your limits to others
  • Practice self-compassion and self-care regularly
This meditation and more are available for free on Insight Timer to support your recovery.

Rebuilding Self-Esteem

Narcissistic abuse can significantly damage your self-esteem. As a determined high-achiever, I found my confidence in tatters. To get back to normal, a focus on self-love and self-worth is needed. Consider doing the following:

  • Journaling your achievements and positive qualities
  • Practicing self-compassion and patience
  • Challenging negative thoughts about yourself
  • Surrounding yourself with encouraging and supportive people

It’s important to remember that healing takes time, so be kind to yourself throughout the process.

Therapy and Support Systems

Seeking therapy and support systems can accelerate your healing journey. A therapist can provide valuable guidance and techniques for coping with and finding your path forward.

Participating in a support group allows you to connect with people who have shared similar experiences, fostering understanding and growth.

Some resources for therapy and support include:

Creating Healthy Relationships

Recognizing Red Flags

The first step to creating a healthy relationship after surviving narcissistic abuse is to recognize the red flags that may indicate unhealthy behavior.

Familiarize yourself with common narcissistic traits such as excessive admiration for themselves, entitlement, and manipulation.

In a new relationship, be mindful of:

  • A partner who constantly demands your attention
  • Overwhelming jealousy or possessiveness
  • Inability to compromise or empathize
  • Unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions

And feel free to take your time. Spending time with yourself and practicing care-of-self is never time wasted.

Take Your Time to Communicate

In any relationship, open communication is essential for both partners to understand each other’s needs and feelings. Listen while being honest and genuine in your conversations, allowing for mutual respect and validation.

A few tips to enhance communication are:

  • Listening actively without interrupting
  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Avoiding blame or judgment
  • Expressing appreciation and gratitude

Empowering yourself with effective communication skills can prevent misunderstandings and foster a deeper connection with your partner.

Building Trust and Security

Trust and safety are also an important part of your relationships. After experiencing a relationship with a narcissist, you may find it difficult to trust again.

As you set boundaries and give yourself time for personal growth, you can build trust in yourself and others.

Some steps to create a secure environment include:

  • Respecting each other’s boundaries
  • Sharing personal experiences without fear of judgment
  • Acknowledging and discussing feelings
  • Practicing self-care and self-compassion
Join me on the journey of unconditional self-love.

Embracing New Love

Learning to Love Again

Opening yourself up after an abusive relationship can be both scary and exciting.

It’s essential to remember that you are healing and will encounter some triggers along the way. And just when you think you got it all figured out, another layer of hurt will pop up. Please give yourself grace and:

  1. Be patient: Give yourself time to heal and learn from your past experiences. It’s okay to move at your own pace.
  2. Embrace self-discovery: Reconnect with your interests, hobbies, and passions. This will help you build a strong sense of self and find others who share your values.
  3. Set boundaries: Be clear about what you want and need in a relationship. Communicate your feelings openly and honestly.

Reclaiming Your Life

As you recover from narcissistic abuse, make time to invest in yourself. I found that multiple mindfulness practices supported me through my recovery. Find those that are most comfortable for you:

Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, and don’t be afraid to lean on them.

Seeking Mutual Joy and Respect

When you’re ready to embark on a new relationship, keep in mind the importance of mutual joy and respect.

As you embark on this journey towards recovery and opening yourself to new love, remember to prioritize your well-being and healing. As you establish trust and emotional intimacy, you’ll find that love after narcissistic abuse can be deep, meaningful, and fulfilling.

Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links which means I might earn a few pennies if you click through and make a purchase.

A few of my favorite narcissistic abuse recovery resources:

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If you’d like to support me and more well-being for all, it is appreciated.

Unlock the transformative power of mindfulness and meditation with The Mindful Life membership. Start your journey towards a more balanced, harmonious existence today. Learn more here →

Originally published at https://katharinechestnut.com on February 14, 2024.

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Katharine Chestnut

From the world of marketing and sm biz, to self-care and wellness practices. She is committed to help others discover their wisdom. katharinechestnut.com