It is common for survivors of narcissistic abuse to struggle with successfully going no contact. This is often the case due to the narcissist increasing tactics used to maintain power and control in the relationship.
When you first break no contact with a narcissist they will try to manipulate you into a false sense of security. Once this happens the patterns of abuse will resume and the narcissist will punish you for initiating a step towards awareness and independence from their control.
This article will provide you with information to make a well-informed decision that promotes safety when going no contact with a narcissist. We’ve also created a short video (see below) that outlines our article How to Deal With the Emotions of Going No Contact With a Narcissist to give you some coping techniques and strategies if you feel like you’re going to break no contact.
A Short Video That Helps You Deal With the Emotions of Going No Contact With a Narcissist
The idea behind going “No Contact” is allowing the survivor to place some physical and psychological distance between themselves and the abuser. No contact can be used as a coping mechanism or strategy that can provide some respite from the cadence of the cycle of narcissistic abuse. – Dr. Bendimez
When You Break No Contact, Narcissists Use the Honeymoon Phase to Manipulate You Into a False Sense of Security
The honeymoon phase is the reunion between you and the narcissist in your life after no contact is broken. The dynamics of this reunion is most likely going to be centered around change. The narcissist will be apologizing, promising to change, telling you how much they care about you, telling you how scared they were when they thought they were going to lose you, and professing their love for you.
With the honeymoon phase, the narcissist is trying to manipulate you into a false sense of security so that they can regain power and control over your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. This phase could last a few hours, or it could last a few weeks.
Why Is the Honeymoon Phase Such a Powerful Form of Manipulation?
The honeymoon phase is such a powerful form of manipulation because the narcissist returns on their best behavior, making promises to reemerge as the person you met at the beginning of the relationship. The hope of a future created upon a false narrative, is a more desirable feeling than completely losing the relationship. Survivors of narcissistic abuse usually break no contact because of hoovering, rumination, and an overwhelming feeling of emptiness.
Hoovering is when a narcissist will say or do exactly what the survivor needs to hear or see to give them another chance. An example of hoovering would be a narcissist contacting a partner/ex-partner who has gone no contact to apologize for all their wrongdoing, while promising to change.
Hoovering is a tricky form of manipulation because it can come directly from the narcissist but it can also come from the narcissist’s “flying monkeys.” A flying monkey is someone that a narcissist manipulates into participating in the abuse of their victim.
Flying monkeys are often used to communicate messages to a survivor of narcissistic abuse who is in the process of leaving, or who has left a narcissistic abusive relationship. The themes of these messages include apologies, pledges to change, and a desire to be back in the survivor’s life.
In our article, How to Deal With a Hoovering Narcissist, you can find more information about dealing with hoovering and in Do Narcissist’s Use Flying Monkeys to Hoover you can learn more about hoovering through flying monkeys.
Rumination is when someone continuously has the same thoughts which are usually centered around a negative experience. Survivors of narcissistic abuse often ruminate when they are doubting themselves, wanting answers, seeking justice/revenge, and/or feeling lost without the narcissist.
It is a normal part of the healing journey but is very important to manage because if a survivor of narcissistic abuse gets lost in their thoughts, they could find themselves back in the narcissistic abuse cycle either physically or mentally. In our article How to Stop Ruminating After Narcissistic Abuse you can find some really helpful tips to deal with rumination about narcissistic abuse.
Feelings of Emptiness
The overwhelming feeling of emptiness comes from the survivor removing the narcissist from their life. After months, years, and sometimes even decades of narcissistic abuse, the survivor has been manipulated into living vicariously through the narcissist.
This means that their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs have been intertwined with the narcissist and is one reason why going no contact can feel extremely destabilizing and create a sense of emptiness within the victim.
Mirroring is another reason that going no contact can cause feelings of emptiness for the victim. Mirroring in a narcissistic relationship is when a narcissist will absorb a ton of information about their victim’s identity and use that information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in their victim’s life.
Mirroring is all about the narcissist being exactly who the victim needs them to be. It manipulates victims of narcissistic abuse into believing that the narcissist is the “perfect” person for them and meant to be in their life.
This happens in all different kinds of narcissistic relationships so we highly recommend that you read our article How Do Narcissists Use Mirroring for more information but when a victim of narcissistic abuse goes no contact, they are forced to leave feelings of connectedness and closeness that were created by the narcissist’s manipulative mirroring tactic. This can, and often does, create feelings of emptiness for those going no contact with a narcissist.
The Narcissist’s Attempt to Regain Power and Control After a Period of No Contact
Once the narcissist senses that they’ve regained power and control, they will return to previous patterns of abuse. They are going to begin their insecure pursuit of validation, admiration, and reassurance, and they will expect you to neglect your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
You are going to experience the same narcissistic behavior patterns that they used to invalidate, devalue, humiliate, dehumanize, and degrade you prior to going no contact. You are going to be thrown right back into the narcissistic abuse cycle.
Being back in the cycle of abuse may cause the survivor to experience guilt, regret, anger and frustration with themselves. This is why it is important to remember that there is no shame in breaking no contact with a narcissist.
Going no contact is extremely hard to do, so breaking it shouldn’t feel like a failure. In life you don’t fail when you get knocked down, you fail when you get knocked down and don’t get back up.
“There is no failure in life when you try, you either learn, get closer to your goal, or succeed.” – Dr. Bendimez
The good news is that each time you go no-contact it will get easier. You will have some reference to what the narcissist’s response will be and insight into additional resources or strategies that will increase your chances of successfully going no contact.
The hard part that you have to watch out for is cognitive dissonance and an overwhelming amount of negative emotions controlling your decision making.
Cognitive dissonance is a theory that suggests that when we experience an inconsistency among belief, behavior, and information, it causes a tremendous amount of psychological tension. To ease this tension we will change one or more of the elements that are causing the inconsistency to make everything consistent.
In abusive relationships, cognitive dissonance manifests in the justification, rationalization, and normalization of abuse. When a survivor of narcissistic abuse goes no contact with the narcissist, they have given themselves the information and shown themselves the behavior that they need to develop the belief that they can live a happier and healthier life without the narcissist.
When they break no contact with the narcissist, they change the behavior that they need to exhibit to maintain the belief that they can live a happier and healthier life without the narcissist. This leaves them with only the information that they need to pick themselves back up and go no contact again.
The problem is that this is a very vulnerable position for survivors of narcissistic abuse because oftentimes they themselves aren’t 100% sure that what they are experiencing is abuse so by breaking no contact, it causes a tremendous amount of psychological tension.
When this is combined with the fact that the narcissist will be shaming, mocking, humiliating, blaming, and punishing them for going no contact, it could throw them into a very dark place where they completely shut down and are consumed with rumination, depression, and confusion until they are able to summon the courage to go no contact again.
What Should You Do If You Break No Contact With a Narcissist?
If you break no contact with a narcissist, treat yourself with empathy and compassion because it is common for survivors of all types of abuse to break no contact.
In fact, the National Domestic Violence Hotline states that on average it takes survivors of abuse seven attempts before they’re able to leave for good. Be compassionate with yourself, the abuse that you are experiencing is not your fault, but grasping for a happier and healthier life without the narcissist is your responsibility.
Start by setting clear boundaries for yourself about the treatment you are receiving in the relationship. It may be helpful to create a list of non-negotiables as a guide, essentially a list of behaviors that you will not tolerate. Plan ahead and decide what steps you will need to take to keep yourself physically and psychologically safe.
For some survivors, the plan may be to end/leave the relationship. We highly recommend that survivors wanting to leave an abusive relationship click here to visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s resources for creating a safety/exit plan.
Many survivors find themself with a lack of social support after prolonged periods of social isolation created by the abusive partner. Rebuilding social support is an important part of your healing journey.
If you have lost the support of friends and family due to a narcissist using isolation as a means of maintaining power and control, do not worry, oftentimes these relationships can be rebuilt. If you are in need of finding support quickly, there are thousands of support groups with people who have experienced similar patterns of abuse on social media and internet forums.
Sometimes all you need is validation and reassurance to feel comfortable owning your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. Communicating, gathering, and interacting with people who have experienced similar abuse will help with developing a sense of community. It doesn’t matter how hard you work in therapy or by yourself, there are going to be days where you need a support group to lean on, don’t hesitate to find one!
Finally, we highly recommend that you seek out the guidance of a qualified professional. A good professional who understands narcissistic abuse is going to be able to help you develop healthy trauma responses and a plan to prevent you from reentering the narcissistic cycle of abuse.
A licensed professional who has competence understanding narcissistic abuse will teach you how to identify narcissistic patterns of abuse, help you develop healthy trauma responses and learn strategies for engaging with narcissists.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Breaking no contact with a narcissist is dangerous. They are going to try and manipulate you into a false sense of security until they sense that they’ve regained power and control over you.
Once this happens, they will resume their abusive pursuit of validation, admiration, and reassurance. You are going to be subjected to the same abusive patterns that you experienced prior to going no contact.
“Remember you are not at fault for the abuse you are experiencing, you are merely trying to cope and respond in the best way you know how. If you’re reading this, you have already taken a step in the right direction. It is not possible to change the past but it is definitely possible to change your future. ” – Dr. Bendimez
Continue to chase the happy and healthy life that you deserve.
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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.
Shalansky, Catriona, Janet Ericksen, and Angela Henderson. “Abused women and child custody: the ongoing exposure to abusive ex‐partners.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 29.2 (1999): 416-426.
Brownridge, Douglas A. “Violence against women post-separation.” Aggression and Violent Behavior 11.5 (2006): 514-530