A common challenge that blocks the path to recovery for many people trying to heal from narcissistic abuse is ruminating thoughts about their ex.

There are five main reasons that this could happen:

  1. You are trauma bonded to them.
  2. You are confused by all the gaslighting.
  3. You’re in the process of rebuilding your identity.
  4. You have intense emotional memories with them.
  5. You’re searching for closure.

In this article, I will break down each one of these possibilities and give you resources that you can use to manage them so that you can understand the reason you keep thinking about your ex and develop the skills you need to stop thinking about them.

1.) You Are Trauma Bonded to Them

The first reason you keep thinking about your narcissistic ex could be that you are still trauma bonded to them. 

The term “trauma bond” refers to a deeply complex emotional bond that is created through a cycle where an abuser alternates between abusive and loving behavior.

Those experiencing narcissistic abuse describe this dynamic as a ‘push and pull’ relationship where “love” and abuse intermingle. 

A depiction of intermittent reinforcement.

Under these circumstances, it is common for the person being abused to start associating love with the moments of kindness between the abuse, causing them to become stuck in the relationship.

They become stuck because the small moments of kindness that the abuser strategically creates with a tactic called intermittent reinforcement causes the person being abused to develop an addiction to the relationship.

After the relationship, this trauma bond can leave a lasting effect, causing you to think about your narcissistic ex constantly.

Suggested Readings: Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction? & How to Break a Trauma Bond with a Narcissist by Dr. Sara Spowart

Here are some examples of thoughts that you may have if you haven’t broken the trauma bonded to your narcissistic ex:

  1. “I miss our good times, even though I know they hurt me.”
  2. “Maybe they will change, they showed me kindness sometimes.”
  3. “It wasn’t always bad, sometimes it felt like they really loved me.”
  4. “I feel a strong connection with them despite the harm they caused me.”

2.) You Are Confused by All the Gaslighting

The second reason you keep thinking about your narcissistic ex could be that you are confused by all the gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that narcissists use to get you to question your sanity, memories, and/or perception of reality. It occurs when they say or do something that doubts or denies reality.

For example, imagine that the narcissist in your life screamed at you because you accidentally broke a plate.

The next day, you tell them, “I didn’t like it when you screamed at me yesterday. I just made a mistake; I don’t deserve to be treated like that.”

Someone trying to set a boundary with a narcissist.

But instead of apologizing, the narcissist says, “You are losing it. That never happened. I didn’t scream at you. You are just making stuff up to make me look bad.”

This would be considered gaslighting.

Suggested Reading: 100 of the Most Common Gaslighting Phrases

Gaslighting is a powerful form of manipulation. As mentioned before, it can manipulate you into questioning your sanity, memories, and/or perception of reality over time. 

If you haven’t yet taken the time to learn about gaslighting and understand how it impacted your relationship, you could find yourself continually questioning what really happened in the relationship and thinking about your narcissistic ex.

Here are some examples of thoughts that you may have if this is the case:

  1. “Did that really happen, or am I making it up?”
  2. “They said I was the problem, maybe I was too sensitive.”
  3. “Am I remembering things correctly, or was it not as bad as I think?”
  4. “They said they never did that, but I’m sure they did. Who is right?”

3.) You’re In the Process of Rebuilding Your Identity

In narcissistic relationships, the balance of power is often skewed, with the narcissist dominating most aspects of the relationship. 

This domination often extends to the identity of the person they abuse. 

So, the third reason you keep thinking about your narcissistic ex could be that you’re in the process of rebuilding your identity, and that’s okay.

It is normal to think about your narcissistic ex during this process because you have to untangle all the negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions they instilled in you. 

Suggested Reading: 10 Ways to Grow as a Person After Narcissistic Abuse

Here are some examples of thoughts you might have if the reason you keep thinking about your narcissistic ex is that you are rebuilding your identity:

  1. “Who am I without them? I don’t recognize myself.”
  2. “I’ve lost my sense of self; I don’t know what I want or feel anymore.”
  3. “I used to have my own interests and hobbies, what happened to me?”
  4. “I feel like a shell of my former self; I’m unsure of my identity.”

4.) You Have Intense Emotional Memories with the Narcissist

The fourth reason that you keep thinking about the narcissist could be that you have intense emotional memories with the narcissist.

Narcissistic relationships can be highly emotional and volatile. The emotional rollercoaster – the highs of affection and attention and the lows of devaluation and discard – can cause intense emotional memories. 

For instance, let’s take a moment to reflect on a fictional example of what may have happened in your relationship with your narcissistic ex-partner.

During the early phase of your relationship, they were incredibly charming and affectionate, making you feel special and loved. This “love-bombing” stage creates a strong emotional bond and intense feelings of happiness.

A narcissist love bombing someone.

However, as time went on, their behavior changed. The compliments turned into criticisms; the affection turned into neglect. You found yourself walking on eggshells, trying to avoid the next outburst. These “lows” were painful and emotionally intense.

But suddenly, they would return to their initial charming self, rekindling your hope for a better relationship. But just as you got comfortable, the cycle of affection and devaluation would repeat.

Even after the relationship ends, these intense emotional highs and lows can linger in your memory, causing you to replay events and question your decisions.

Suggested Reading: How to Stop Ruminating After Narcissistic Abuse

If this is what is happening to you, here are some examples of thoughts that you may be thinking regularly:

  1. “No relationship ever felt so passionate, so intense.”
  2. “I keep reliving our arguments and fights over and over again.”
  3. “The moments of love were so intense; I miss them despite everything.”
  4. “I can’t forget the way they made me feel.”

5.) You’re Searching for Closure

The fifth reason you keep thinking about your narcissistic ex could be that you are searching for closure. 

Suggested Reading: How to Get Closure After a Narcissistic Relationship

When a relationship ends, especially one marked by manipulation and abuse, it’s normal to be left with unresolved feelings and questions. 

You may seek understanding and closure, but you may never receive satisfactory answers because narcissists often avoid taking responsibility for their actions. 

A narcissist gaslighting someone.

This lack of resolution can lead to continued thoughts about your ex, and that’s okay.

Here are a few examples of thoughts that you may have if closure is the reason you keep thinking about your ex:

  1. “Why did they treat me that way? What did I do to deserve it?”
  2. “I wish I could get closure, but they never gave me any answers.”
  3. “I still have so many unanswered questions about our relationship.”
  4. “I can’t move on; I don’t understand why they did what they did.”

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

Remember, each of these reasons for thinking about your narcissistic ex are a normal part of the healing process from abuse.

By understanding these dynamics and making use of the suggested resources, you can take the necessary steps towards recovery and move on from your narcissistic ex.

About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

If you’re ready to heal, visit The Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse to get started.


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