No Contact – Why is it so hard?

 It’s Narcissist Friday!   


Those who have been in relationships with narcissists often write or speak of the difficulty of maintaining a no-contact stand. At the same time, nearly every encounter with the narcissist just brings back the pain or creates new pain. No-contact seems like the best and most obvious solution, but why is it so hard?

I tend to be someone who likes to understand an obstacle before tackling it. The more I know, the more I can plan my thinking and approach. Few things are as debilitating as an unexpected emotional gut-punch, something narcissists can be very good at. If you understand more of what is happening, you might be able to avoid those times of confusion and weakness that seem to come so easily whenever the narcissist is involved.

For normal people, relationships come with certain expectations. No matter what level of involvement the relationship needs, there is something both sides are expected to do. Acquaintances are expected to remember names, give basic greetings, be civil, engage in small talk when appropriate, etc. As the levels become more intimate, the expectations become more involved.

This is normal for us, and we rarely think about it. We invest in other people and welcome their investment in us. But this is not normal for the narcissist. The narcissist sees these expectations as opportunities. He or she does not want to invest in another person in any real way. Instead, the narcissist will find ways to get something out of the relationship while giving only that which is necessary to get what he wants.

Most people find narcissistic relationships to be very easy to get into and very difficult to get out of. For some reason, the narcissist still seems to hold the strings. They still manipulate and control, even when you are trying to end the relationship. There is always something: a crisis, finances, business, family, something that keeps bringing you together.

If you will forgive the alliteration, I want to suggest four reasons why it is particularly hard to maintain no-contact in narcissistic relationships. These will overlap, so just think of them as ways to look at the relationships from multiple perspectives.

Entanglement – First, narcissists are experts at weaving webs that hold their victims. Babies that come early in a marriage, or even before. Money that disappears or is mingled into a joint account. Houses and cars and businesses purchased with joint funds. Agreements that tie in a third party so you can’t get out without hurting another person. These things can last long after the marriage is dissolved or can make it very difficult to dissolve.

The highest form of entanglement, of course, is the parental relationship. Children are natural and captive narcissistic supply for parents. Parents build a sense of familial responsibility into their children as an investment in the parents’ future. Many victims find it very difficult to maintain no-contact with narcissistic parents because of the guilt and shame built into their minds as children. Then, if the parents don’t pull the strings directly, other siblings are used to produce the guilt.

When a man and woman have children together, no-contact is obviously difficult. Business partners, even people who attend the same church, have connections that just keep pulling them together. When a spiritual dimension is added, with its expectations of love and unity, your desire for no-contact is made out to be unkind and wrong. Narcissists are very good at creating and maintaining these entanglements for as long as they want them. When they want out, the web seems to disappear.

Encumbrance – I usually think of encumbrance as some kind of legal obligation, like a mortgage. Narcissists only invest in a relationship in ways that will pay off later. Almost everyone who has tried to break things off with a narcissist has heard the “after all I did for you” line. Whereas normal people invest in others because of love or friendship, the narcissist does so pragmatically. He or she expects to get something back. You will begin to feel like the narcissist holds promissory notes on your time and emotions.

The Bible says that love keeps no record of wrongs. The narcissist remembers everything he/she thinks you owe. Every time he did something nice for you, even when it wasn’t really that nice. Every time she felt hurt by you, even though you did nothing. They remember it all and they expect compensation. So you can’t leave the relationship until those obligations are fulfilled (and they will not be fulfilled until the narcissist is no longer interested).

Entitlement – One of the core characteristics among narcissists is their sense of entitlement. They often refer to the things they have done to earn the respect of others, but they really believe they are entitled to that respect without having done anything. Others are just supposed to notice how valuable and important and special the narcissist is. This is hard for normal people to understand and looks like that self-love we always hear about. But the narcissist believes that the image they present to others should be enough to bring attention, respect, and admiration.

You may have heard a narcissist say, “Don’t you know who I am?” Somehow that is supposed to move you to provide what the narcissist wants. The husband may demand affection, respect, or obedience simply on the basis of being the husband. There is no need to wonder why so many narcissists are connected to legalistic churches. Wives and children are supposed to obey, after all. And so are employees or subordinates of any sense. The narcissist seeks the highest position possible, partly because he believes himself entitled to the position and partly as a means of extracting respect from those who ought to be respecting him.

Exploitation – This one ties all the others together and explains why it can be so hard to maintain no-contact. Narcissists are users. They use people to get what they want, and they exploit any openings they can find that will move people to do what they want. If they must, they will build those openings in you so they can exploit them later.

Some have discovered that the baby became the tool the narcissist used to entangle. The children he never seemed to have much time for during the marriage became a focus during the divorce because he knew it would keep you emotionally connected. Narcissistic parents will entangle you with health issues, sibling issues, and financial issues. They exploit the sense of responsibility they built into you and the shame and guilt you so readily feel.

You are probably a person who believes in reciprocating in a relationship, who pays your bills and invests in your friends. All of this the narcissist knew when he/she reached out to you. And the narcissist will exploit that sense of obligation, that encumbrance. “Remember who bought that car for you!” “How can you throw away all I have done for you?” You are made to feel like you owe the narcissist something, even if it was your money that paid for the car, and the house, and much of the rest of what you lived on.

And you did admire the narcissist. There was something that attracted you, something different. You felt like he or she should be respected. You still can’t shake that feeling completely, even though you are angry and hurt. If he/she would change tomorrow, you would rejoice and welcome the relationship again. You were somehow convinced that the narcissist was entitled to honor, love, and another chance.

So, when the phone rings, you answer it again. No matter how many times you have told yourself that you won’t, you still do. And you stand at the door and try to visit. And you let the narcissist into your home. And you find yourself thinking of what might have been. All of these are normal. Normal compromises. You have been played.

But maybe, if you plan ahead, knowing that the phone will ring with the next crisis or the plea or the hopeful conversation, maybe you can understand that the power is yours. The narcissist is just doing what he/she does. You are the one who can decide not to be exploited again.

Obviously, some of the entanglements force you to stay connected. But the encumbrances are either lies or have been paid back many times and long ago. And the entitlements are ridiculous.

So my advice is not to focus on no-contact, but on no-exploitation. Avoid contact when possible. When it isn’t possible, understand the manipulation of the narcissist and decide that you will not be exploited. You can answer the phone when and if you want. You can talk with civility if you want to. You don’t owe the narcissist anything and he is not entitled to your respect or service. That has been proven over and over.

No exploitation.


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44 responses to “No Contact – Why is it so hard?

  1. MeganC

    I love this article. In my book, I have a chapter called, “The Hot Stove”. I talk about how difficult it is not to reach out and touch that stove or get embroiled in the drama, even though one gets burned every time. I write this:

    “Abusers love pulling the rug from underneath their victims over and over again. They breed insecurity in their targets. At first, this may be shocking to the victim but after a while she is quite used to it. In fact, it has almost become a part of her life that she might miss if she were gone. Oddly and ironically, the drama has become her security.”

    I had to train myself to go no contact and it has been a process. First, I had to block from social media, then learn not to answer emails (or BIFF them), then force myself not to look at their blogs, etc. But, I respect myself so much more now for being able to keep up. And there is a greater abundance of peace, in my life.

    Thank you for this. Sharing.

  2. Still Reforming

    Thank you for this clarification, Pastor Dave. As someone now in the process of dissolution of marriage and sharing a child “50-50” between us, this is valuable information. “No exploitation.” My new mantra. Thank you.

    • MeganC

      Yes — I love that, too. “No exploitation.”

    • Hi ,
      This is “tired and alone” , your response wouldn’t let me reply so I am replying through this comment 🙂 I just wanted to say thank you again so much for taking the time to respond to me and try to use your experience to help me through my situation it means a lot to me to know that I’m not alone because it often feels that way. It seems like nobody else knows or understands what it’s like to be with a narcissist because everything looks fine on the outside, and on top of that nobody can relate to what it’s like being a parent with two children who have autism so the combination of both is something that is extremely hard to find anyone who can relate. I have no family or friends that I can talk to, so I feel very lucky to have found this community online.

      I’m really sorry to hear that your church has not been more supportive to you. your 3 step plan: (educate, support, detach) sounds wise. Are you going to have shared custody or is he going to have visitation rights with your child?

      Now the last few days my N has been trying to act nice again after being really mean for 2 weeks, he was very angry at me for no reason saying cruel things, acting out of spite in front of the kids, threatening to leave me, giving me the silent treatment for days on end, and blaming me for everything taking no responsibility for the way he was treating me, he even antagonized/ provoked me with something regarding our kids and then secretly recorded our conversation trying to have a 1 sided recording of me ” being upset for no reason”. this is the second time he has done that this week it was a whole new low even for him. luckily I could tell what he was doing and I started saying all of the bad things that he has done to me then he decided to delete that recording. Then on Sunday there was a mixture of him still saying mean things to me yet wanting the fight to stop so by this point I had had all I could take, crying, talking to him. .. then as usual at this point in our abusive cycle he tells me what I want to hear and gives me the bare minimum by saying “okay I won’t do that again” or whatever else will get it to stop. Obviously, I feel conflicted at this point because I do not want to fight especially in front of the kids. I feel like I have to stay with him because of my lack of money and my need to make sure that I am with my children at all times as opposed to sending them over to him and worrying about their safety and well-being. and as crazy as it sounds I feel like yesterday when I once again told him my concerns and feeling he seemed receptive and said he would do anything to 6 no problem and I am an eternal optimist and that little piece of hope left in me wants to believe that somewhere in there he really is a good person who does love me and maybe we can fix things and stay together in a happy way but I feel like I would be an idiot if I just believed everything was going to be fine and it would never happen again my latest plan is to educate myself on narcissism and verbal and emotional abuse (Patricia Evans wrote a book called verbal abuse that is very informative about all the different types of abuse including denial blame silent treatment etc that if you can identify it while it’s happening it makes it easier to avoid it or react in a certain way, and to try to set myself up so that if he does leave me I won’t be completely broke but that part is easier said than done. the other thing I’m working on is to not take the bait when he is provoking me and try to work on my reactions not to get pulled into the drama. because as we all know a narcissist feeds off of that.

      • Still Reforming


        I’m glad you replied to me here. Any way you can reply is grand. I’m glad you know you’re not alone. We’re here with you.

        In answer to your question, the judge awarded 50-50 timeshare, so my soon-to-be-ex- now has her half of the time – days and nights. The last seven months have essentially been a nightmare for her and me as we were essentially spectators to our own lives.

        He left us, stalked us, filed motions against me (four, plus two interrogatories, and a petition to dissolve marriage). I was taken to court twice in front of a judge who is a single dad of five kids. I was encouraged to never speak to the judge except to answer a few questions. I probably was in front of the judge a total of one hour over two sessions on dates months apart and very little was represented of my side because we were always on the defensive.

        I spent an annual salary’s worth ($30k) in legal fees and was imputed a minimum wage that I don’t earn (because I home school) for the sake of reducing child support, which I have yet to receive at all. I was granted a grand total of $150 for the six months he abandoned us, withdrawing his salary on which we’d lived each week for the past 12 years. It didn’t matter one bit to the court. Everything is done by formulas, I was told. The formula for me was to impute a wage (because of my resume, I’m capable of earning a wage even though I haven’t in 12 years and can’t until our daughter starts public school – which I had to agree to in mediation or pay $25k in court fees to defend home school in a case I’d be unlikely to win).

        Soon-to-be-ex- only had to pay 65 percent of past medical and educational — not food, clothing, or anything else – for the past six months. I’m now on food stamps (EBT) and Medicaid.

        I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining. I don’t mean to. God has graciously kept us both – my child and I. Those are just the facts really, but it’s ghastly that a man can support his family and drop them in one day and that’s supported by the legal system.

        She is high-functioning on the Autism Spectrum. She was in therapies for close to five years and it served her very, very well. She’s transitioning well to the change, given her past time in therapy, homeschool, and a homeschool Co-op, thanks be to God. So she is accepting quite beautifully the many changes in her life, thanks be to God. I believe she is saved, based on her testimony and life. Her father (obviously) is not. She believes God has better things for us, better than even if her dad had stayed, by her own admission. However, she is forced to spend time with him (days and nights), in spite of secrets he kept with her regarding physical touch. I’m keeping as close an eye as possible on that and instructing her carefully.

        I hope this helps you somehow. Please feel free to ask anything you like, and if you want my personal email so we can communicate that way, I’m fine if Pastor Dave shares it with you. You’ll be in my prayers. I know what you’re living through.

      • Hello, I definitely don’t think you are complaining. I really appreciate you sharing your story with me – it sounds really stressful and unjust. I hope that your daughter will be ok when she is with him. I would like to exchange emails but I really don’t know how, this is actually the first time I have ever done this type of online thing before. I am not on social media, all I usually do is Emails or texts. If you know how please do and include your “still reforming ” name so I know who it is. Thank you for your support 🙂

      • Still Reforming


        Take your time with the decision re: how much to share with anyone (ie, personal email). There’s no need to do that unless you want to. I’m happy to talk about anything related to my situation here on the forum. I just offered that as an option for you if you like given the special needs of our children (on the Spectrum). But I’m happy to talk about that here openly too if you want.

        The important thing now is you taking care of yourself so you can be healthy and make wise, informed decisions that meet the needs of you and your children in a safe environment.

        I’m praying for you. I remember the tension when he was still under the same roof with me. I took to never leaving my child’s side when he was home. Things got really bad then.

  3. Cookie

    Pastor Dave – Thank you so much for this post. It provides so much clarity for those of us with N parents where going “no contact” is really not an option. I have detached,set boundaries and allowed my N mom to experience some of the consequences of her actions, but, as a child, I still have to deal with her toxicity if for no other reason than as part of my obligation to society and my desire to honor God by honoring my parents. This week, I found out that my N mom (87) was in another car accident due to her failure to see the other car and yield. When I pulled up the police report, I found her story of it being “no big deal” is not the truth at all. I have to engage her (with all her toxicity) on this issue for her own safety and for the safety of others on the road. No doubt it will be messy and I will be either be the target of emotional abuse or she will simply stop talking to me – punishment for not falling into line with her agenda. I have read much about going “no contact”, but could never see how I could possibly do that with an elderly parent. I can’t go “no contact”, but “no exploitation” I can definitely do!!!! Thanks so much!

  4. Sunflower

    About 5 years before the separation, I cried out to God what to do about always being harassed in the bedroom for hours on end, trying to explain things over and over and ending up in tears every time. I heard God say to stop talking. What?? I thought communication was the key to a good marriage and I just hadn’t figured out how to communicate well. But the Holy Spirit helped me see the truth, but when I told him that I was not doing that anymore, all h…. broke loose. This was about 25 years ago and the whole thing is still my fault in the eyes of many because I ‘just won’t talk to him, and if I would only talk to him, all would be well’. He can email me, but then I’d have a record, right? If it’s talk, he can always open wide those big blues, throw up his hands in sheer amazement and confusion and say, “I never said that, I would never say such a thing!”
    And each time I hung up on him, for years (no caller ID for some of that time) a whole new crisis was reported to family and friends about how disrespectful and prideful I was. And he was only trying to nicely (ha!) discuss such very important issues about the children.
    I only I’d known even a fraction of this stuff then. There was nothing available except one book about men who hate women, that I knew of. Far, far too many books on submission. Ugh!
    No exploitation. Brilliant. Now to teach those daughters. Reading that far more US women have been killed by ‘intimate partners’ in the years 2001 – 2011 than citizens killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and by terrorism (including 9/11) combined, just makes me so upset. These girls are in far more danger having a boyfriend/husband than if they were soldiers!

  5. michelle boltik

    Words direct from God after a drama day with people mentioned under encumbrance.

  6. I get confused when I read about narcs saying we owe them, that this is a huge sign of narcissism and being used…

    The thing is, my husband and I feel the narcs owe US. We were the ones helping them out time and time again: food, rent money, gas money, even a place to stay for a few months. We didn’t do this so we could cash in later, but out of love and friendship. But we were repaid with suspicion, psychological abuse, verbal abuse–and, for the past three years, cyberstalking.

    We feel used.

    I say, my husband says, even my mother says, “And after all we did for them, they repay us like this!” But how is it narcissistic to say that? Or is it different when a narc does it?

    • Needing grace


      I think it’s normal to be upset when you’ve been taken advantage of or when someone repays kindness with abuse. I don’t think Dave is saying you’re a Narc in that case. But Ns don’t feel a normal sense of what’s fair in a relationship & that they are “taking advantage” of someone, they think you owe them. If they do something nice for you, there’s often an ulterior motive.

      My mother in law used to tell me stories of how ungrateful her other daughter in law was. Said she never said thank you, never did anything nice in return. It wasn’t until I talked to the other sister in law that I realized the truth. She did say thank you. But to the Narc, it wasn’t enough. Things like birthday presents, wedding gifts, etc. were things you could never be grateful ENOUGH for. In your case it seems you’ve given above & beyond to the point that you’ve become drained & tired of sustaining someone who only takes from you without giving in return. Being upset about that doesn’t make you a narc, it makes you normal!

  7. Thank you for writing this. I’m so glad that I found this website! I need advice from people who really know what a narcissist is. I have been with this man for 8 years-we are not married . We have two children together who both have autism, they are 3 & 4. My children mean everything to me and I feel the need to be with them all the time to make sure they have their needs met and are OK. In other words, I feel trapped in this relationship because if we break up I wouldn’t want him to gain custody or even visitation of my children. for 8 years now I have been trying to pinpoint what is going on with him at first I just thought he had trust issues, then I thought he had paranoid personality disorder because he accused me of cheating on him constantly which I wasn’t, then he would have what I thought were mood swings and get enraged over any little thing so I thought he had bipolar, now I really know what is going on and he either has narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic sociopath.
    my life was headed in a good direction and then I met him. I had just graduated a university, I had a savings, I had an IRA and it was just me and my dog, I was planning on going to grad school, everything took a turn for the worst. the first 4 months were too good to be true then I started seeing red flags I am codependent so of course I thought I could help him.
    He lies to my face, goes behind my back, has NO remorse, NO conscience, No empathy, rage, ignores me, minimizes everything, criticizes. He has a very violent past. Impulse control issues, gambling addiction, excessive porn, has been addicted to cocaine right after I got pregnant with my first baby. We broke up and I moved away, so depressing. I took him back under the condition that he was sober and he/we would go to counceling and he would take meds. I still thought it was bi polar. He was really mean and selfish throughout both of my pregnancies, if I have a migraine, hurt, stressed, etc. Blames me for everything, denies everything, gives me the silent treatment every time I try to resolve conflict if I say he did something that I didn’t like or that’s not ok. He will either get very angry at me or leave or put himself to sleep. we can’t have a conversation or even an argument it is more like an attack on me and then he will shut down never gives me a chance to explain or cares to hear my reasons.
    The fact that our children have a disability and aren’t like all the other kids their age he is in denial and blames me. He is constantly doing the opposite of what I request regarding our kids either out of spite or to prove me wrong. at least if we are together then I can always keep an eye on my kids and make sure they’re safe and okay. 5 days ago he became enraged and threatened to leave me. I need to learn how to set boundaries with him. I’m realizing that I am in a very abusive relationship – emotionally and verbally. It’s hard because I can’t walk away because I’m stuck here with the kids.
    He is covert, I am his target. Nobody sees his evil dark side except me when no one is looking. Wolf in sheep’s clothing! Everyone thinks he is the nicest person, and no one believes me. He started a smear campaign against me years ago, everyone takes his side and thinks he is a victim – even my own family and friends! I’m isolated. I have a home daycare 12 hours a day, but only a couple clients because I have either been pregnant or had therapists at my house everyday for 3 years along with my two children having a lot of behavior challenges and safety issues. I’m constantly busy. I only sleep 3-4 hours a night. I have no money. I can’t move or I lose the little income I have with my home business.
    If anyone has suggestions about what to do or say ( or what not to do or say ) in general, or with boundaries. Rationalizing with him doesn’t work. We tried counceling before I ever got pregnant and he tried to convince the lady everything was my fault or checked out. She told us to break up and that I was a codependent.
    Also, he has a 10 yr old daughter from his last relationship. I have been like a mom to her since she was 18 months old. she is now extremely manipulative, lies to people’s face, hurts people, break things, needs to get her way and have all the attention all the time he lets her get away with it and if I say anything he jumps down my throat, what do I do?

  8. Rachel K

    Dear Tiredandalone2015, I am so sorry your situation is so complicated and distressing. I have been in the position of getting very little sleep over a long period of time and my advice to you would be first, prioritise getting more sleep and rest for yourself because that is the starting point from which you will be able to start making healthy decisions for yourself and your lovely children. Leave any non-essential jobs, or see if others can do them for you, eg: household tasks that anyone can do, laundry, cleaning, ironing, tidying.
    Try to take any offers of help that come along, think of people who may be able even for an hour to be with your children, or even one of them, to give you some kind of break. Perhaps the local church has folk who would like to help, even if they don’t know you personally? Are there any autism support groups who could help?
    I can’t emphasise enough that regularly having enough sleep iadd personal space s essential for us in these horrible, entangled circumstances. Otherwise, we become unable to make wise and carefully considered decisions. Your physical health is essential for your wellbeing and for that of your children.
    I am praying for you- hang in there!
    Blessings to you and your loved ones.

    • Thank you for taking the time to respond. I have respite 6 hours per week that helps with 1 of my kids and some chores, it’s not a lot considering how much I have to do every day but it is definitely better than nothing. my only real support is the narcissist and if he helps me in anyway he uses that against me to get away with his behavior, I have to ask him to help sometimes with the kids or errands for example and that puts me in a really uncomfortable position because we are not getting along right now at all and are hardly speaking -he mostly avoids me because he doesn’t want to deal with my feelings or logic. I feel like it took me a long time to figure out what is going on -especially considering I have a four year degree in psychology that just goes to show how deceptive he is. After 8 years of doing this to me he is accustomed to getting away with it and I feel the need to set boundaries because he is very emotionally abusive and disrespectful and I need to stay strong and positive and be a good role model for my children.
      My mom was a covert narcissist as well. I have been treated this way my entire life hence me turning into a codependent trying to make everybody else happy. Now I am trying to recognize not only his patterns but my own so that I can at least improve my reactions. I’m trying to figure out how to set boundaries with him but it is very intimidating because of his rage and spite.
      I have told him a few times that I think he is a narcissist and is emotionally abusive I feel like its been really hard up until now and I feel like it’s about to get a lot worse because I have revealed the fact that I know what’s going on to him.

      • Still Reforming

        First of all, I can empathize with your situation. I only have one child, but she is on the autism spectrum and I am married to a narc (going through “dissolution of marriage” though). He has convinced everyone that he is the downtrodden poor guy though, and I have had to leave our church because it has a strong patriarchal system there. (One of the leaders refused to read my prayer request last Fall, saying it’s best to deal with the husband.)
        I can only say what I did, and this was in the stages right before he left us. He was behaving weirder than usual (if that’s possible), hissing at me and threatening to interrupt my sleep (we’d been in separate rooms for a few years). He told lies about me (nothing particularly new) to the congregation and to the leaders of the church. And in his worst moments, which were increasingly common at home, I took to wearing an mp3 player in my ears at home so I wouldn’t hear the hissing or cursing. (I really think there’s something demonic at play, but people generally don’t agree with that. I wouldn’t necessarily say outright possession, but I think influence is certainly there.) When our child was present I didn’t wear the headphones.
        Our last counselor (the third we had) was ineffective (like the other two), so I ended counseling. Why pay the money? I told the counselor though that my plan was three-fold. (1) Educate myself (about narcissism and plans for a life outside of the drama), (2) get a group of people (even on-line if that’s all I can find) who will listen and support and help, and (3) detach myself emotionally and spiritually from him. And I did all three. Eventually, he left us. We don’t have money now. I have no job (yet), and precious little, but I cling to that proverb: Better is a dry morsel in peace than a feast in a household of strife. I agree.
        I don’t know what to say to you, other than to encourage you as the others have to get rest as you can. Lack of sleep is an enemy. I hope you can find your way out of tired (that’s hard while living under the same roof – or even when separated, as I have found, but it’s slooooowly improving), but please do know – you are NOT alone. You have us, and I hope you have our Lord. I trust you do. And with Him, you are never alone.

      • Joy

        Yes, I’d be careful about telling him what you know about him. I found with my narc ex husband, that that just armed him. He used the knowledge to polish his act…any ways that I felt he was acting so oddly, he’d immediately start acting in a more acceptable way in front of people. That makes it even harder, because what I was dealing with in private was so opposite from the image he puts up for other people. When I left people could not understand, because during the time I was working on our marriage, he did not, but he completely changed and added to his nice guy image.

        I second the advice about getting more sleep. I was so sleep deprived that I could hardly hold it together during the day. After I feel apart in the doctor’s office, she immediately asked if I’d been sleeping….and prescribed something so I could sleep at night. Once I started sleeping, I found I cried less though the day, and could make better decisions, and could handle the ex’s behaviors in better ways.

  9. Rachel K

    Dear Dave, this article is brilliant, one of your best, I think, and that is high praise!
    I found the clarity of your thinking so helpful in sifting out the nonsense that I experience. The ground rule of “no exploitation” is excellent. Yes, that is definitely something to aim for.
    Thankyou so much for this.

  10. You wrote: “…if the parents don’t pull the strings directly, other siblings are used to produce the guilt.”

    My situation was twisted. My sister was pulling the strings in the background while my mother was used to produce the guilt.

  11. George

    2 timothy warns us of the terrible times that will come. It tells us to have nothing to do with these kinds of people. It doesn’t make the exception if it’s your parents. In Matthew 10 Jesus warns he did not come to bring peace. A man’s enemy will be a member of his own family. I’ve used this time of no contact to heal and understand what it is that I have been dealing with for more than 50 years. Dr John Bradshaw has a wonderful explanation on a video “Healing the shame that binds you”. Because of their toxic shame, they behave shamelessly. Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Narcissists are spiritually bankrupt. It is not our place to rescue them. Jesus offers them healing but they continue to hide their true selves from him to receive the healing only He can give.

    • sandra

      I will check out the 2Timothy, thank you.
      And I echo your applause for this healing article. Thank you Pastor Dave!

      Yes my heart suffered from my openness to my N. I am astonished at how my world was colored by my N. I thought I was so strong.

      I can certainly confirm, my N is certainly spiritually bankrupt. And my N is closed to Jesus.

      Thank you!

  12. Michelle B

    I have a similar situation with my mother and brother. Now my father has cancer and I got back involved because I thought it was the right thing to do to keep in touch with my father. He finally called yesterday after waiting for weeks for a call back (I think I’d called him three times over a period of 4-6 weeks) just to let him know I was thinking of him, loved him, and was praying for him. I made the mistake of asking how my mom was holding up, mistake being the operative word. He asked me why I didn’t call her myself (they have separate cell phones, a practice in these times I’m not keen on as I believe it CAN promote deceit and secretiveness. I answered point blank that I wouldn’t call her because she doesn’t return my calls, in previous year’s I would have said, maybe I will. Then he “attacked me” and said I’d alienated two of my aunts. Well, the one aunt said she’s take something to someone for me to save me a trip and ended up giving part of it to her granddaughter, untrustworthy. On top of that when I call her I have to have a conversation with 50 additional people which I can’t handle mentally, it’s confusing for me. In addition, there is generational immorality in that family that brings a lot of drama that I just don’t need. The other aunt, was making digs at me about my keeping a distance from my family, especially since I have a great relationship with my husband’s side of the family. She’d especially bring up forgiveness to which I thought, OK…well I guess you must not have forgiven your 1st husband because you didn’t re-marry him and I guess you should have just forgiven the mental/emotional abuse of your third husband instead of moving out and giving him an ultimatum to get personal and marriage counseling or you’d leave permanently. See a double standard here? I set boundaries and asked her twice to please respect the boundaries and that the topic was not open for discussion. The third time we had to have a “coming to Jesus” meeting in the figurative sense. I got on the phone with her and asked her why she thought she had a right to be in my business and that I specifically don’t talk about the situation with my parents/brother because I think it would be disrespectful to do so and that I was doing what I needed to do for my well being. So, that is how I apparently alienated my aunts — personally I think they alienated me and if they are going to behave in that way then I don’t need them as part of my life.
    I flat out told my dad that he, mom and my brother don’t listen. He said well, have an adult conversation, and I said I would if mom or my brother would call me back. It has seemed to me that especially with my brother being in the military and serving in a war zone that I’ve been made to “beg” for information about him which is degrading and continues the mental and emotional abuse that my mother dishes out. She was always saying when I was growing up “after all I’ve done for you”, I was 12 for pete’s sake. We had little when I was growing up due to financial mismanagement and I helped round the house, took care of my brother, and did workstudy to pay for my piano lessons because I wanted to help out. I babysat outside my home so I could have a little money as did my sister and no matter where we hid it, my father always found it, took it and left and IOU behind. Think it was ever honored? I lost my teen years to much of that.
    I now deal with several chronic illnesses layered on top of one another and only by God’s grace am I not disabled and still able to work. Stress aggravates my conditions. Yesterday’s conversation with my father caused me to have an adrenal attack. I was so stupid to think that I should try to get clearance from my physician and try to put myself in a mentally and emotionally bad place to help when my father had his stem cell transplant. After yesterday, I really do feel like a fool and the tears are flowing and the ones that aren’t burn hot and heavy behind my eyes.

  13. unofficialnarcissist

    My narcissist would never stoop to the level of asking me for anything, or admitting in any way that I am a human being with human needs. Most of the time he refuses to answer questions or only partially answers to the tune of “you only need to know what I tell you.” I have children with him and it was very much like you said. He even admitted to withholding parenting support to punish me. I love reframing “no contact” as “no exploitation”. For me, that means not giving him opportunities to reject me. I have seen over and over that if I show him even the slightest vulnerability, he delights in taking that vulnerability and using it against me, or poking me and throwing me under the bus. Actually, his whole family does that too since they are very much a narcissistic entity unto themselves. I love your writing, Pastor Dave, and tell everyone about your blog. You are truly gifted and have validated so many people and spread the love of God through your words. Thank you so much.

    • MeganC

      Unofficial — I could have written everything you wrote up there. My ex husband (I am remarried to a wonderful man now — not a narcissist) gave me the distinct impression that I was a burden who needed him for the entirety of our 12-year marriage. In fact, when we were in counseling, I was shocked to hear the counselor say that my (then) husband “needed” me. I thought I was just a child-bearing burden who deserved nothing. I worked so hard to earn his love and to prove to the world that I was deserving of love. I have come such a long way, no longer feeling as though I need to prove to the world, my ex, his family or mine that I am worthy of being loved. I can now live freely, knowing that I am called Beloved by the only One who matters. My ex husband, also, withholds child support and has given the impression that we are undeserving because I took the children and left him. He even loves to call it “kidnapping” to try to intimidate me. I do the same things as you . . . keeping answers short, I avoid the drama and do not give into his loaded words. I am able to roll my eyes, actually, whereas before, I would be terrified. His little attempts to scare me seem so silly now! And I just ignore it, which I assume drives him crazy because there was NO IGNORING HIM within our first very broken and abusive marriage.

      Whispering prayers for you, friend. I so *get it*.

      • unofficialnarcissist

        thank you. I get teary when I hear others have been in this same situation. I carried so much anger toward him for so long because not only could I never be good enough for him, he would not LET me prove myself to him. Once I got out of that sick cycle, a level of healing opened up. Oh what a wonderful world of SAFE people exists! Oh what boundless love and grace Christ has given us!

      • unofficialnarcissist

        PS: I am so happy you have found a wonderful man. Gives me hope!

      • Hi MeganC,
        I have been dating a extreme narcissist for 8 years, I just realized that was what he is a few months ago. He is very emotionally abusive. We have 2 children with autism ages 3 & 4. Now that I have been more accurately calling him out on his BS, he keeps threatening to leave me, and get some custody of our children. That is the main reason that we are still together, besides I thought I could “get through to him ” up until recently. Now I know he is never going to change. Does your ex husband have visitation with your kids? Or any shared custody. Can you give me any advice?

    • Sorry, I’m late to the party… finally catching up on some blog reading.

      Unofficial and Megan (my newest dear friend)…. I could have written BOTH of your comments. I was thinking the same thing, Unofficial… I was and AM STILL on a “need to know” basis on things that even effect me or our children… when I am always open, honest, and transparent about my reasons for needing to make changes in visitation, etc. or whatever. Short, yes, but still honest and forthright.

      Yet, in return I get an attitude (words that have been said in the past)… “that it’s none of your business.” I’ve never heard anyone else say this about their Ex-Narc… so that is very helpful to know that I’m not the only one. I’m learning to stop caring or even thinking there will ever be a “normal” conversation with this man-child. He’s entitled to treat me how he wants… and I’m expected to just shut up and keep playing “nice!”

      Yes, thanks for giving us hope Megan!! Withholding child support… yep, that too. Wrote about it on my blog… was then called a “liar!”

      I will not stop speaking out!! We need more women willing to do so! Prayers for you Unofficial!!

  14. MeganC

    Tired and alone . . . I got your private email and I will answer you there. Hugs, friend.

  15. Kelly Gray


  16. I’ve maintained no contact now for 6 months with my dad. I have received some pressure from siblings to call him and get back in relationship with him. They tell me that I should honor my father and mother and that it’s not right that I would cut him out of my life. While he wasn’t as extreme in some ways as what others have listed, his primary message in my life was that my life wouldn’t be so messed up if I wasn’t in it. After 6 months of no contact what I have learned is that my life isn’t messed up at all. In fact, it’s very blessed! I’m not eager to get back into relationship, if it means getting back to the shaming and demeaning. Whether my siblings understand it, they are stuck in his cycle too. Life is great on the other side. I don’t exactly know what that means long term. I don’t know if I could possibly get back into a speaking relationship without the encumbrance and entanglement (my dad’s two favorites). No exploitation is great, when you can keep a clear head. How do you do that? Or is it okay to maintain no contact permanently?

  17. paintthesky

    In my case the narcissist is my brother. My parents are getting on in years, and I am constantly torn between doing the right thing for them, or not having contact with him. He lives with them, and runs their home with an iron fist. He hates me and resents me, because I stand up to him and tell him I disagree with his lifestyle. He has a nasty temper, and a nasty tongue. He is an alcoholic and is also very ill. He uses his illness as a weapon with my mother. He has bled them financially, and they are at the point where they need me in more ways than one. They live a couple of states away. I don’t have to deal with him everyday, but it eats me up inside that my parents do without for him to lay around drinking and further damaging his health. Our last visit was so bad, my husband says we’re not going back. The sad thing about it is, we went there to help my np brother get to a hospital 100 miles from where they live. That means we had to drive several hundred miles to get to their house, and another 100 the next day for him to have life saving surgery. We left my parents in the evening after our last visit and drove all night to get home. Because of his nonsense, we had to leave my parents and head home a day ahead of schedule. He literally walked in the door from the hospital and started drinking. I really feel like once we got him to the hospital and back, he was finished with us, so he wanted us out of his domain. His drinking did not cause his disease, but the drinking makes it worse. My parents need my husband and I so much right now. My son hasn’t seen them in 10 years because he won’t go around the insanity. They did not even attend my son’s wedding, because it would hurt my brothers feelings to know he wasn’t invited. I live in a constant state of anger over how my brother has ruined our family, and guilt over how I feel. I am angry at him and at my parents for letting this escalate. I don’t know what to do! If I have contact, it’ll be because my parents are involved, but yet my parents caused this problem.

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