How to disengage with a narcissist

15 Best Ways to Emotionally Detach From a Narcissist

In This Article

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be challenging, but you might stick around, hoping that their behavior will change, and things will get better. Even if the relationship doesn’t improve,  breaking free from a narcissist is never easy.

Not only is it difficult to deal with the emotions surrounding the breakup; the narcissist may also make it nearly impossible for you to leave. Here, learn how to emotionally detach from a narcissist, so that you can develop the strength to leave the relationship and find happiness for yourself. 

How to understand psychology of narcissist

Before learning how to emotionally detach from a narcissist, it’s helpful to know about the psychology of narcissism, so you understand why getting away from a narcissist is so challenging. 

First, some people who show narcissistic traits actually have a diagnosable mental health condition, called narcissistic personality disorder. Someone who meets the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder experiences fantasies of ideal love, which leads them to feel that their perfect soulmate is out there somewhere. 

This means that at the start of a relationship, the narcissistic partner will shower you with love and attention, because they place you on a pedestal as their ideal mate. 

As time goes on and they realize you are not perfect, their less-than-pleasant behavior begins to show up, but you still see them as the charming person you fell in love with, making it hard to learn how to fall out of love with a narcissist.

Other qualities that go along with narcissism include being willing to exploit others for personal gain, expecting automatic compliance with all of their demands, and showing arrogant behavior. 

In a relationship, a narcissist may convince you that they are superior to you and the best partner you’ll ever find, which can prompt you to stay, even if the relationship isn’t healthy.

A narcissistic partner may also take advantage of your kindness, and each time you threaten to leave, they may put on a show, making promises to change, if you’ll agree to stick around. This makes getting away from a narcissist incredibly challenging. 

Also Try- Is My Partner A Narcissist?

Narcissistic traits can also lead a person with this disorder to leave you convinced that all the problems in the relationship are your fault. 

If only you would take better care of them, or listen to their demands, they wouldn’t be so cruel. Instead of separating from a narcissist, you may try harder and harder to please them. 

How does a narcissist feel when you cut off contact? 

Narcissists believe that they are superior to other people, and within the context of a relationship, they thrive upon their partner admiring them, showering them with attention, and giving in to their every demand. 

A narcissist needs to maintain the upper hand in a relationship, always having control over their partner. This is why they shower you with love in the beginning stages of a relationship. They want you to become attached to them, so that you’ll give in to their every demand, and stick around, even when they show their true colors. 

Since they think so highly of themselves, narcissists are often blindsided when you end a relationship and cut off contact. 

When they notice signs that you are detaching from a relationship with them, they may even go to great lengths to keep you around, by being especially kind for a brief period, or by purchasing gifts or making plans for the future.  

Ultimately, when you learn how to get out of a narcissistic relationship, the narcissist is shocked. They believed that they had complete control over you, and they never thought you’d leave. 

When you cut off contact, they may chase after you, desperately trying to get you back under their control. Alternatively, your decision to leave may incite a narcissistic injury, which is a serious blow to the narcissist’s ego.    

They may react with rage, or contact other people in your life to tell them how horrible you are. 

Also Try- Should You Stay Or Leave the Relationship Quiz

Why is it so challenging to detach from a narcissist? 

Now that you understand the psychology of narcissism, it’s more clear why it is so challenging to figure out how to emotionally detach from a narcissist. The characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder create a situation in which it’s hard to leave the relationship. 

The narcissistic partner will make promises to change, beg for forgiveness, or even go so far as to create a sob story to get you to stay with them. 

They may also have such a tight grip on your mind and your emotions that you truly believe you’re to blame for all the problems in the relationship, so you stay emotionally attached to them, promising that you’ll be the one to make changes for the sake of the relationship. 

Finally, narcissists are likely to react to a relationship breakup with anger. If you discuss ending the relationship, they may become so angry that you do not follow through with the discussion. You may even be fearful of inciting their rage if you try to break up, which can make it incredibly challenging to leave. 

Related Reading- Identifying the Characteristics of a Narcissist Partner

How to emotionally detach from a narcissist: 15 Ways 

If you’re ready to learn how to distance yourself from a narcissist, the good news is that you can be successful, even if it seems like it’s impossible to break free. By learning strategies for emotionally detaching, you can make the process of letting go of a narcissist a little easier.

Follow the steps below if you’re looking to make ending a relationship with a narcissist more tolerable. 

1. Recognize that it’s not your fault

You may be staying in a relationship with a narcissistic partner because you’re convinced it’s your fault things aren’t better in the relationship. If you want to know how to detach from a narcissist, you have to accept the fact that this isn’t true.

They have manipulated you into believing you’re the one to blame so that you won’t recognize just how badly they’ve treated you.

2. Accept that change isn’t likely

A narcissist will promise to change, especially when you’re on the cusp of leaving them. Separating from a narcissist becomes much easier once you accept that they aren’t going to change. They’ll make promise after promise, but the reality is that as long as you stick around, you’re tolerating their behavior, which gives them no reason to change.

3. Understand that narcissists are wounded people 

The behavior of a narcissist may be incredibly cruel and damaging, but at their very core, individuals with narcissistic personality disorder are very wounded people. 

They’ve developed a charismatic, infallible persona, and they behave as if they are superior to others, but underneath it all, they are compensating for feelings of inadequacy, which ultimately stem from childhood abuse and neglect.  

Once you understand that you’re dealing with a disordered individual with deep childhood wounds, separating from a narcissist becomes easier, because you realize you may be fighting a losing battle. 

4. Make a plan for leaving

When breaking free from a narcissist, you absolutely must have an exit plan. If you live together, get your finances in order, and find a different place to live, so when you leave, they understand you’re serious about breaking off the relationship.

If you’re in separate households, at least have a plan to change your phone number or contact information so they cannot continue to pursue you.   

5. Cut off all contact 

If you maintain any contact with a narcissist, they will think you are still hanging onto feelings for them, and they may try to re-engage you or draw you back in with promises of change. If you’re truly interested in detaching from a relationship with a narcissist, you have to cut off all contact.  

Change your phone number, block their calls, or simply ignore their attempts to reach you. 

Related Reading- How to Forget Someone You Love: 25 Ways

6. Get off social media

Getting away from a narcissist ultimately requires you to completely detach yourself emotionally. If you stay on social media, you may come across photos or information about them through the friend of a friend, even if you block their profile. 

They may even make new accounts to try to reach you, and ultimately, seeing them on social media may reignite your feelings and make it more difficult for you to detach. 

Related Reading- 10 Tips to Reduce Negative Impact of Social Media on Marriage

7. Find other things that make you happy

Keep in mind that narcissistic people expect immediate compliance with all of their demands. This means that it is easy to lose yourself in the relationship. You may give up your own hobbies, interests, and friendships in order to make your partner happy.  

When you return to doing things that make you happy, such as spending time with friends or taking time for yourself, you’ll realize that you’re better off without the relationship, making it easier to move onto other things. 

8. Connect with people who support you

The narcissist may have led you to believe that you aren’t worthy of a better relationship, but surely your closest friends and loved ones disagree. When you’re breaking free from a narcissist, you need supportive people on your side. 

Confide in a close friend about your reasons for leaving the relationship. Having someone in your corner is important. 

9. Recognize your own strengths

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can take its toll on your self-esteem, leading you to believe that you have no good qualities or that no one else will want to date you. 

This leaves you stuck in a relationship with a narcissist. It’s important to remember that narcissists feel that they are special and should only associate with other special people.  

If you ended up in a relationship with a narcissistic person, it’s because they saw good qualities in you. You do have strengths, even if a narcissist has told you otherwise. Recognize these strengths, and use them to motivate you to move on and find the love you deserve. 

Also Try- Do I Deserve Love Quiz

10. Set boundaries 

Narcissists love to trample all over boundaries. They feel entitled to have all of their needs met, even if it means you have to sacrifice your own desires. 

You may have become accustomed to giving them whatever they want, but when you’re breaking free, you have to learn how to set boundaries. Tell them what behavior you will and will not tolerate, and stick to it. 

Related Reading-  10 Personal Boundaries You Need in Your Relationship

Check out this video that enlists 3 boundaries every relationship must have:

11. Stop taking responsibility for their happiness

When dating a narcissist, your entire life centers on trying to meet their demands and make them happy. It is nearly impossible to learn how to distance yourself from a narcissist when you’re still taking responsibility for their emotions. 

Give yourself permission to stop fighting to make them happy, and you can finally begin the process of moving on.

12. Don’t get sucked into their drama

When you’re getting away from a narcissist, they will probably try to convince you to stay. They may put on a show, begin to cry, or plead with you to change your mind, and it’s easy to get sucked into this drama. Don’t fall for it, and stick to your plan to leave. 

13. Don’t stoop to their level

It’s tempting to stoop to the level of a narcissist when you’re ending the relationship, but this only makes things worse. Resist the urge to be nasty, engage in name-calling, or point out all of their flaws to make yourself feel better. 

Related Reading-  What Do Flaws in a Relationship Mean?

This will only lead them to up the intensity of their own cruel behaviors, which makes the process even more difficult. 

14. Don’t take any of their behavior personally 

One of the things that makes it so hard to learn how to emotionally detach from a narcissist is that they will try their hardest to hurt you when you try to end the relationship. 

They may call you awful names, threaten to ruin your reputation, or tell you just how horrible of a partner you are. 

Resist the urge to defend yourself, and recognize that this behavior has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. Remain calm, take their insults in stride, and choose not to accept these insults. 

15. Let go of the need for their approval

Narcissists have high standards, and even the best of partners will sometimes fall short, or incur the wrath of the narcissist.  

This leaves you fighting to get back in their good graces and have their approval. If you really want to learn how to get out of a narcissistic relationship, you must let go of the need for their approval. Once you stop seeking their approval, your emotional attachment to them will begin to fade. 

Related Reading- How to Break Emotional Attachment in a Relationship: 15 Ways


Knowing how to emotionally detach from a narcissist can make it easier to leave a relationship with someone who has this personality disorder. Leaving may not be easy, but cutting off emotional ties and recognizing that you are not to blame for their behavior are important steps when you’re ending a relationship with a narcissist. 

While the tips here can make it possible to get away from a narcissist, that doesn’t mean that it will be simple, nor does it mean that you’ll never experience doubts or feelings of heartbreak. In fact, you’re probably going to feel mixed emotions over giving up on the relationship.  

On the one hand, you loved this person and expected change, but now you’ve realized that your fairytale-come-true isn’t going to happen with this person.

It can be difficult to cope with the emotions and feelings of letdown that come with separating from a narcissist. If you find that feelings of sadness are making it difficult to function in daily life, it may be time to reach out for professional intervention. A counselor can help you to process your feelings and develop new ways of thinking. 

How Do I Detach From a Narcissist?

Getting into a relationship with a narcissist is easy, but getting out of this relationship is difficult. A narcissist is highly manipulative. He or she knows how to push buttons to create intense feelings of guilt, persuasion, hope, blame, and even empathy for them, trapping you in the relationship even when you know it is not in your best interest to stay.

Often partners of narcissists fail to see they are in a dysfunctional relationship, particularly if they came from a dysfunctional family where a parent was an addict or a narcissist. In these situations, the current behavior or the partner may be familiar to you; even if it's evident to others it is unhealthy and disturbing.

Signs that a narcissist senses the end of the relationship and is trying to hold on include:

  • Promises of change – it is very common for the narcissist to go back into the charm phase of the relationship and to try to use promises of making a permanent change to entice you to stay. This can be very effective if they are highly charismatic and know how to appeal to you and your desire to be in a relationship.
  • Gaslighting – using the technique of gaslighting, the narcissist attempts to create a version of reality that explains the negative behavior in a way that is very different than how you knew it happened. They try to convince you of your mistaken assumptions or perceptions and paint a version of reality that is flattering to their behavior, words, or actions.
  • Blaming something else – a narcissist may attempt to blame stress at work, pressure from finances, friends, or family members, or even other external factors for their bad behavior. He or she may even blame you for their bad behaviors. The implication is that the removal of these issues will allow them to make positive changes.
  • Making you the bad person – by creating a sense of guilt, shame, or blame in the breakup or the lack of harmony in the relationship, the narcissists puts you on the defensive. This is intentional, with the hope that you stay to prove them wrong. The more you try to do things to prove you are not the bad person, the more the narcissist twists your actions.

Even if you leave, the narcissist will demand you engage, interact, and provide them with attention. This may be through phone calls, social media, multiple texts, or showing up at your work or home.

How to Disengage

It is essential to realize that the narcissist will pull out all the stops to pull you back into the relationship. To disengage and let go of the relationship, it is critical to:

  • Stop all communication – take a break from social media, do not answer your phone or text messages from the narcissist. If the narcissist shows up, remove yourself from the situation and do not engage with them as it only gives them the attention they desire.
  • Have a plan – know when you are going to leave and where you are going to go. Having this planned in advance shows a commitment to ending the relationship and moving on with your life.
  • Find support – work with a therapist or counselor experienced in supporting people leaving narcissists. Family and friends can be helpful if they are supportive and encouraging during this time.
  • Find things you love – reconnect with friends and family, take up a hobby, or do something you have wanted to do but could not during the relationship.

It will be vital to focus on learning how to set boundaries and how to choose a healthy relationship. This is an easier process if the narcissist is no longer in your life and creating constant stress and uncertainty around their behavior.

How to Divorce a Narcissistic Husband: 4 Rules for Breaking Up - Be sure to remember Them


DivorceRelationship crisisMan and woman narcissistic personality disorder. This means that a person is confident in his exclusivity. Therefore, everyone who falls into his orbit, especially his wife and children, should treat him as an indisputable authority. nine0003

If the narcissist does not get the attention they want, they will try to punish you. Not all of them openly violate the criminal code and use physical violence. Most turn out to be emotional abusers, which is no less painful for the victims.

A person with a narcissistic disorder lacks compassion even for those closest to him. You most likely will not be able to part friends. Divorce requires a clear defense strategy.

Signs of a recidivist narcissist

In the book Disarming the Narcissist, psychologist Wendy Bihairi gives an example of the most dangerous representative of this type, the "psychological recidivist", devoid of any moral restraints and respect for other people's space. Distinctive features of such narcissists:

  1. He considers you his property and is beside himself with the fact that you are out of control. He will keep you as his victim at any cost and is ready to apologize for this. Don't be under any illusions - a narcissist never repents. And if you believe, he will find a way to punish for the humiliation to which you subjected him, forcing him to ask for forgiveness. nine0003

  2. Such a person's ambitions are not supported by talents and achievements, so he suffers from low self-esteem. If he sees that you or the children show interest in someone else, forgetting about his exceptional person, he will begin to suffer from jealousy and try to take revenge on you.

Wendy Bihairi believes that your safety, both psychologically and physically, should be a top priority when leaving a narcissistic husband. Especially if you are dealing with a “psychological recidivist” who, at the very beginning of the divorce, will begin to intimidate the consequences of your decision. nine0003

You should completely isolate yourself from communication with him. Enter into any negotiations only in writing or through intermediaries you trust.

Why did you choose him

You need to stop putting the interests of the former partner, which he presented as the interests of the family, above your own. “A sense of codependency often distinguishes those who are fascinated by and marry a narcissist,” says Ross Rosenberg, author of The Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love Those Who Hurt Us. - People who are prone to codependency easily fall into the emotional service of their spouse. nine0003

The narcissist, as an extremely selfish person, sees his potential victim well and knows the tricks of seduction well, trying to tie his partner as close as possible. He mistakenly takes this as signs of special closeness. And for a long time he denies that this relationship is one-sided: the narcissist only allows you to love yourself and take care of his interests.

Recognizing painful addiction is the first step towards inner liberation from a destructive union.

How to break up with a narcissist

1. Focus on what you can control

These are only your own emotions and actions. It is not worth wasting energy to predict his actions. Do not agree to what your ex-husband imposes on you, avoiding possible conflicts and maintaining the illusion of a truce. Imagine that during the divorce, he turns into a difficult business partner with whom you are forced to cooperate and achieve a beneficial result for yourself. From now on, your motto is: "Only the facts and nothing personal." nine0003

2. Set clear boundaries

Narcissist, as a person with a high degree of conflict, will try to provoke any, even negative, attention from you. Before the meeting, think over the plan of the conversation in advance and try not to deviate from it. If he starts to translate the topic, to convince you to return, say: “The relationship is over for me, we have different roads. You need to accept it." If he insists, leave.

3. Do not show sincere emotions

First of all, never apologize. The partner will immediately interpret this as a sign of weakness and try to turn it to their advantage by imposing decisions that are contrary to your interests.

Keep a close eye on the moment when you begin to show feelings and emotions (this may be a state of guilt, despair or panic), and tell yourself "Stop." Remember that your goal is a divorce on the most favorable terms for you and the children.

4. Seek support

You should be surrounded by people who fully share your position, who will not try to reconcile the parties in the name of preserving the family. Do not reject the professional help of a psychotherapist and a lawyer. Relatives will be needed not only in a psychologically difficult moment, when it is important that you are listened to. If a partner begins to threaten, negotiate with him only in the presence of a third party. nine0003

About the Author: Terry Gaspard is a psychotherapist and bestselling author of Daughters of Divorce.

Wendy Behari Disarm the Narcissist. How to survive and become happy next to an egocentric "

Disarm the Narcissist will help you interact with a narcissist without mutual insults, power battles and pointless arguments - using only empathy and ways to establish boundaries. Psychologist Wendy Behari has been using this approach for over 20 years, and her experience has shown it to be the most effective way to live happily with a narcissist. In the book, you will get to know the different types of narcissists and understand how to communicate with each of them. You will learn why you are drawn to such people (yes, it’s not just that!), and work out your own life patterns. nine0003


Text: Sabina Safarova Photo source: Shutterstock

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In This Article

  • Be Prepared for a Paradigm Shift
  • How to Divorce a Narcissistic Partner?
  • Learn to resist narcissistic behavior
  • Be prepared for a long, protracted divorce
  • Look to the goal

At the end of marriage, an emotional life passage; even if you initiate a divorce, there are often sadness, feelings of failure, and moments of doubt.

When you divorce a narcissistic partner, you can add anger and frustration to this mixture of feelings.

Living with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, is quite a challenge; Divorcing them can be even more difficult. nine0003

It is important to remember that the person with NPL does have a disorder. They developed this egocentric, dominant, controlling and unempathic personality as a reaction to something traumatic in childhood.

This is their only way to communicate with the world, which has a negative effect on their interpersonal relationships. But the worst part is that you can't change it.

The only way to make a decision about divorce with a narcissistic partner is when you realize that it is impossible to change. nine0003

However, divorce from a narcissist comes with certain challenges that you should prepare for. So let's see how you can heal yourself and your family and how to deal with a narcissist now that you're ready to say goodbye to your marriage.

Be prepared for a paradigm shift

Your partner could pull you into the relationship using the typical narcissist lures: they were charming, showered you with compliments, and made you feel loved like no one else had ever done before. nine0003

But over time, you noticed that this normal loving behavior gave way to a person who was controlling, did not listen and did not value your opinion, did everything about himself and often lied.

When you tried to solve these relationship problems, they would promise you that things would change. They never did. If you're wondering how to get through to a narcissist, don't bother looking for answers because you won't find them.

Now that you have realized that you cannot force them to change, you need to prepare for a shift in your dynamics. nine0003

Your soon-to-be ex-narcissist will not find it easy to show your strength. They will not agree that you have, in fact, turned your back on them.

Divorce from a narcissistic partner requires careful consideration of the relevant factors. Let's look at them:

See also:

How to divorce a narcissistic partner?

You will need to put together a good team to stay strong and manage your divorce process. Trying to divorce a narcissist will not be easy. When you're divorcing a narcissistic partner, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • First, hire an experienced lawyer who is used to dealing with exes like yours. They will know what to watch out for and how to avoid the traps your ex sets.
  • Second, work with a mental health professional who can provide you with a safe place to express your frustrations and anger at divorcing a narcissist.

They can help you stay strong and focused on your goal. get out of this exhausting marriage and start a new life free from the narcissist. nine0003

  • When you think about how to get over a divorce from a narcissist, think of your friends. If you have good friends who you know will support you through this life shift, lean on them.

However, if they don't want to "take sides" or don't like your decision to leave the marriage, don't include them in your support circle.

Learn to resist narcissistic behavior

Nothing angers a narcissist like rejection. You may expect revenge-like behavior from your spouse, such as

  • Their revenge may include financial hardship towards you (removing you from any joint bank account or assets)
  • They may turn the children against you (lie to the children about you).
  • They may end up flashing you (denying they said this or that, going into the house when you are not there and taking things away)
  • They may not respect your custody agreement (late to pick up the kids,
  • They may not return the children to your home at the agreed time) and much more. nine0030

You need to learn how to manage their reactions. It is better not to engage in lengthy discussions with the narcissist, as he does not have the opportunity to participate in a normal, solution-oriented exchange of opinion. They must always be right.

Minimize conversations with your ex. “Please respect the custody agreement and pick up/remove the kids at the agreed time” is more effective than saying

“I can't believe you did it again! It is completely unfair that you do not respect the time when you have to return the children home. I've been waiting for them for two hours! " nine0003

This type of reaction will only please the narcissist, as one of their goals is to make sure you are unhappy.

Do not please them. The best way to divorce a narcissist is to remember what he wants from you and act in such a way that he does not get any satisfaction.

A good way to deal with a narcissist is to ignore them. But if you have children in common, this will not be possible. So communicate with them briefly, without emotion and directly. nine0003

Be prepared for a long, drawn out divorce

If you're wondering what to expect in a divorce from a narcissist, get ready.

Divorcing a narcissist is different from divorcing someone who is not struggling with mental illness, as the narcissist will never understand their role in the equation of unhappiness.

Because narcissists lack introspection and self-awareness, they cannot see how they can be held responsible for the breakdown of a marriage.

To punish you, they can use their lawyer to slow down the divorce proceedings as much as possible.

Any time you feel like you can come to an agreement on an important issue, your ex might do something to back off, stop moving forward, and shut up.

It's not because they want to stay married to you (they don't really love anyone but themselves), but because their instinct is to retaliate when someone challenges them. Unfortunately, that person is you. nine0003

When divorcing a narcissist, it is important to be patient and keep moving forward towards your goal.

Look at the goal

Your divorce will take place sooner or later, and you will be freed from this negative force.

But be prepared for the fact that your divorce will not be as smooth and quick as a divorce between people who are not influenced by one of the partner's NPD. But it's worth it.

Being married to a narcissist is not only exhausting and exhausting for you, but also harmful to the children who witness this unbalanced and unhappy interaction between parents. nine0003

However, the narcissist's divorce from children will cause a number of other problems.

Dealing with a narcissist about child custody, if they have more financial resources than you, may work for them and may also cause you to lose their custody.

A couple of hiccups may occur after a divorce from a narcissistic man or woman.

Learn more