Have you ever found yourself stuck, unable to move on from a relationship with a narcissist, no matter how hard you try?

If so, you’re not alone. A couple of members of our community asked us, “Why is it so hard to get over a narcissist?”

So, I dove into the research, and here’s what I found.

It is hard to get over a narcissist because of:

  • The manipulation tactics narcissists use.
  • The cycle of idealization and devaluation.
  • The way the abuse has damaged your self-image.
  • The fear of being alone.
  • The development of an addiction to the drama.
  • A distorted perception of love.
  • An investment in the relationship’s potential.

In this article, I will guide you through these reasons to help you understand why getting over a narcissist can be so challenging.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1) The Manipulation Tactics Narcissists Use

Narcissists are masters of manipulation, and they often use a mix of positive and negative reinforcement to keep you hooked

It’s like they have a playbook for controlling your feelings, making you doubt yourself, and keeping you under their thumb. 

They might tell you no one else will love you like they do, making you feel lucky to have them, even when they’re treating you badly. 

A narcissist using a mix of positive and negative reinforcement.

Or, they might flip the script and play the victim, making you feel guilty for things that aren’t your fault. 

These mind games can leave deep scars, making it challenging to move on.1 

You might find yourself questioning your worth or if you’re to blame for the relationship’s problems. 

Getting over someone who has messed with your head and heart like that isn’t easy because you have to rebuild your confidence and learn to trust yourself again.

2) The Cycle of Idealization and Devaluation

One reason it’s so hard to get over a narcissist is the cycle of idealization and devaluation they put you through.2 

At first, they place you on a pedestal, making you feel like the most important person in the world. 

This phase is intoxicating because the narcissist seems to adore everything about you, making you feel seen and loved like never before. 

But then, the switch happens—they start criticizing you, diminishing your worth, and making you feel small. 

This drastic change leaves you craving the approval and love you once had, keeping you hooked in the relationship as you strive to return to the good times.

When the relationship finally ends, you’re left wondering what went wrong and longing for the connection that seemed so perfect, making it difficult to move on.

3) The Way the Abuse Has Damaged Your Self-Image

Another reason moving on from a narcissist is challenging is the impact on your self-image.3 

Narcissists often use tactics like gaslighting to make you question your reality, memories, and judgments. 

Over time, this can lead to a diminished sense of self-worth and trust in your own feelings and thoughts. 

You might come out of the relationship feeling like you don’t know who you are anymore, unsure of your value without the narcissist’s validation. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse feeling lost after the relationship with the narcissist.

This erosion of self-confidence makes it hard to move forward because you have to rebuild your sense of self from the ground up. 

Healing from this kind of psychological abuse requires time, effort, and often support from others as you work to rediscover your identity and strength outside of the relationship’s shadow.

Suggested Reading: How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse

4) The Fear of Being Alone

Getting over a narcissist can be particularly challenging because of the fear of being alone that they often instill in their partners.4 

Throughout the relationship, a narcissist might imply or directly state that you’re incapable of finding someone better or even that you’re unworthy of love from anyone else. 

This can create a deep-seated fear of solitude and the belief that being with the narcissist, despite the hurt they cause, is better than being alone. 

This fear keeps you tied to the memory of the relationship, making it hard to let go. 

You might reminisce about the good times, question your decision to leave, or fear that you’ll never find happiness with someone else. 

Overcoming this fear requires a journey of self-discovery and learning to appreciate your own company, recognizing that you deserve someone who truly respects and values you.

Suggested Reading: 6 Tactics Narcissists Use to Make You Doubt Yourself

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

5) The Development of an Addiction to the Drama

Believe it or not, another reason it’s hard to get over a narcissist is the addiction to the drama and intensity of the relationship.5 

Narcissistic relationships are rarely calm; they’re filled with highs and lows, passionate reconciliations, and devastating arguments. 

This constant turmoil can create an addiction to drama, where you miss the adrenaline rush of the ups and downs, even if they are harmful. 

The intensity of the relationship can make normal, healthy relationships seem dull in comparison, leaving you craving the excitement and passion you experienced with the narcissist. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse being addicted to the drama of the relationship.

Recognizing this pattern is crucial for moving forward. 

It involves understanding that stability and respect in a relationship are far more fulfilling than the temporary thrill of drama and retraining yourself to appreciate the peace that comes with healthy connections.

Suggested Reading: 3 Reasons Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction

6) A Distorted Perception of Love

A significant challenge in getting over a narcissist lies in the distorted perception of love that the relationship creates.6 

As I mentioned before, narcissists often mix affection with manipulation, making it difficult to distinguish genuine care from control tactics. 

This blurring of lines can lead you to equate love with the toxic and conditional attention given by the narcissist. 

As a result, you might long for the intensity you mistook for passion, making it difficult to appreciate or even recognize healthier forms of love.

Undoing this distortion requires relearning what healthy relationships look like and understanding that true love is based on mutual respect, support, and kindness, not on power dynamics and emotional rollercoasters.

Suggested Reading: 6 Ways Narcissistic Abuse Affects Future Relationships

7) An Investment in the Relationship’s Potential

Finally, moving on from a narcissistic relationship is hard because of the investment you’ve made in the relationship’s potential rather than its reality.7 

During the idealization phase, narcissists are good at painting a picture of what could be, filling you with hope for a future that aligns with your deepest desires and dreams. 

Even when faced with the stark contrast of their devaluing behavior, you might hold onto the hope that things will change or that the person you fell in love with will return. 

Letting go of this investment means acknowledging that the potential you clung to was a mirage. 

This is a particularly painful realization that involves grieving not just the relationship itself but also the future you thought you were building. 

This process of letting go and grieving is essential for healing and moving forward into a healthier emotional space.

Suggested Reading: 6 Reasons Trauma Bonds Can’t Become Healthy

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article helpful.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you found yourself struggling to move on from a relationship with a narcissist? What aspects did you find most challenging to overcome?

How have you worked on rebuilding your self-image and perception of love after experiencing narcissistic abuse?

Or perhaps you have questions about strategies to help you heal and move forward.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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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.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Jenna Fletcher, Beth Sissons. (2023. November, 15). What are the effects of emotional abuse? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327080 ↩︎
  2. National Domestic Violence Hotline. Why People Stay. National Domestic Violence Hotline. https://www.thehotline.org/support-others/why-people-stay-in-an-abusive-relationship/ ↩︎
  3. Pereira A, Santos JP, Sardinha P, Cardoso J, Ramos C, Almeida T. “The impact of childhood abuse on adult self-esteem and emotional regulation.” Ann Med. 2021 Sep 28;53(Suppl 1):S164. ↩︎
  4. Iris Pendleton. Why I stayed in an abusive relationship for over 18 years: My story. BTSADV. https://breakthesilencedv.org/why-i-stayed-in-an-abusive-relationship-for-over-18-years-my-story/ ↩︎
  5. New Directions for Women. Addiction and Mental Abuse: The Effects of Mental, Emotional, and Psychological Abuse. New Directions for Women. https://www.newdirectionsforwomen.org/effects-of-mental-emotional-and-psychological-abuse/ ↩︎
  6. CAMH. Recognizing the Effects of Abuse-Related Trauma. CAMH. https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/guides-and-publications/recognizing-the-effects-of-abuse-related-trauma ↩︎
  7. Rusbult, C. E., & Martz, J. M. (1995). “Remaining in an Abusive Relationship: An Investment Model Analysis of Nonvoluntary Dependence.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin21(6), 558-571. ↩︎

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