It’s Narcissist Friday!
Here’s a great question I read recently:
“Does no-contact work to get an ex back?”
There are counselors and coaches who recommend no-contact to motivate an ex to want to come back. They claim that it might take a while. My question is whether you really want the ex back.
If you have tried to extricate yourself from a narcissist, you almost certainly want no-contact to finally and forever end the connection. No calls. No visits. No emails. No opportunity for the narcissist to reach into your mind and heart again.
Not everyone can do this. If you share children with a narcissist, you know what I mean. Visitation rights, health and education decisions, child support, and more make it almost impossible to consistently have no contact with the abuser. If your narcissist is a parent or sibling or one of your children, you may have little choice about your interactions. And, when you connect with the narcissist, you know that it won’t go well.
But many can do this. Sometimes even with family members. Some people need to do this. So, here are some thoughts.
First, when you are dealing with a narcissist, no-contact is not a game. If you think you can manipulate your narcissist into coming back to you or falling into line with your boundaries and desires by threatening the end of the relationship, you will almost certainly fail. Narcissists are masters at manipulation. You probably are not.
I realize that people use this to try to get their exes back, as I mentioned above. But you really do want to ask yourself if you want that person back. If you want the narcissist to change, you will probably lose the battle. He might come back but you will find that he has more power and takes more advantage when he does. If the ex you are trying to get back is not a narcissist, then a technique like this might indicate that you are. (In case, you can’t see it, I don’t like playing games with something like no-contact.)
Second, if you do try to separate yourself from the narcissist with no contact, be prepared for a battle. Narcissists love to test your boundaries. This is an ultimate boundary. They will call. They will drop by. They will complain to friends and family. They will lie. They will cry. They will threaten. They will twist your words. They will use the children. They may even try to break into your house. Be prepared. You can do this, but you may have to be as strong and as ruthless as the narcissist.
Part of me wants to say that you can slack off the no-contact after a while. But I know better. If you start this, you have to be committed to all the way and forever. That’s why it is so hard with family. What do you do when someone goes into the hospital? How about funerals? You may still have to see that person, and you can almost count on the fact that they will try something to get to you.
There is a sub-tactic of no-contact popularly called “gray rock.” The idea is that you consider yourself a gray rock in front of the narcissist. You become boring. Nothing they say gets a reaction from you. Even if you have contact, you do not connect.
The idea that you can become boring to the narcissist is certainly attractive. If they can choose to walk away from you, you might find that your contact with them is painless, even benign. But here’s the problem. Narcissists are like cats, predators. Playing dead might make them walk away and allow time for them to become interested in something else. But if they see you move, they will be right back. The game will start again, and this time they will not be as easily deceived.
You might want to use the gray rock method differently. Make the narcissist the gray rock in your life. Instead of trying to hold back your anger or sadness, learn to look at the narcissist without emotion, as though they are boring to you. When you look at the ground, there are many gray rocks. None of them interest you. They have no connection with you. There are many people in the world whose lives do not connect with yours, even though you might see them at the grocery. So, even though you see the narcissist at mom’s funeral, she is no different from the people you don’t know. In fact, she is less because you already know she is uninteresting. Other people at least have potential.
Most of us have had random strangers say odd things to us or interact with us in strange ways. Maybe a joke that comes out of the blue. Maybe an expectation that seems odd. The woman who randomly yells at you at the thrift store. The man behind you at the grocery who makes a political comment you don’t understand. The clerk who talks about what you are buying. You shrug these off. You might wonder for a while, but soon you forget. With the narcissist, you don’t even need to wonder. It’s just another of his twisted jokes or her critical comments. Means nothing to you. You do not have to respond.
If you want to go no-contact or gray rock, you may have to set normal triggers aside. You will not be able to jump in to defend someone else. You will not think maybe the narcissist is changing. Not ever. Diligence, commitment, strength, and prayer.
Otherwise, don’t do it. There are other ways to establish and maintain boundaries. No-contact is hard work.
Apparently the audio file is not included in the email of this post. It may be too large or email filters might not let it through. If you would like to listen to the audio version of the post, you will find it on the blog site.