As the world’s only #changehacking wellness platform for women, The Women Co takes on a new topic every season. This season they are launching an eight-week program to help women #changehack their recovery to heal from narcissistic relationships. View the program here.
The Women Co asked Teagin Maddox – a Dating Safety and Success Coach helping women date differently after Mr. Wrong and unworkable relationships – for her advice on the right way to heal from narcissistic relationships.
Teagin, what has been your relationship with narcissists in your life?
Like many women, I had a string of relationships with narcissistic or otherwise disordered, uncaring men, friends and family members that stemmed from how I was “trained” to normalize covert aggression and tolerate toxicity and not mattering as a child. I always had a voice and solid self-esteem but it doesn’t count when everyone else is playing the game of normalizing toxicity.
So what is your take on recovery from narcissistic relationships?
It is, in my opinion, the absolute most difficult thing to overcome and recover from in life and it takes far longer than anyone knows unless you’ve been in it.
What helped you recover from your relationships with narcissists?
NOTHING traditional helps people recover from narcissists. NOTHING. We all must, must, must get this. Break ups from any narcissist (even breaking up from your family, boss, friend group, business group… that are primarily narcissists) is a journey that is not to be taken lightly. The first thing to understand is that you are not dealing with a normal situation and it’s going to get ugly if you don’t set your expectations and your timeframe in a realistic manner. Once you know and acknowledge that you are dealing with this issue, BE JUDGMENTAL and get into self protective mode immediately and at all costs or it will destroy you, it’s just a matter of time. Believing or convincing yourself that you can manage a narcissist is an illusion. It is not possible and you will never win this battle. Saving yourself from harm is your only responsibility and you can begin by starting a No Contact Count Up.
What physical and emotional symptoms or trauma did you have while in or after the relationship with a narcissist?
Where to begin…the list of body breakdown symptoms is horrendous and very real… It is shared by most of us who have walked through this fire and it starts with confusion from gaslighting and the self doubt it creates and turns to emotional distraught and desperation to be heard and understood–to complete physical breakdown because our bodies are holding all the tension of genuinely being in the most horrendous battle of our lives.
It can and will destroy the best of us and no one can escape the turmoil that a narcissist, toxic or destructive person’s impact, let alone a covert narcissist. It doesn’t end just because you leave, that’s when the turmoil, punishment and retaliation get turned up and then others judge the victim as being unable to move on when in fact they are relentlessly and slyly attacked every time they catch their breath. This is especially so for anyone who has to “co-parent” with an ex who is toxic and it is emotionally dangerous for the children and the victims.
There is no easy way out. Very often, there are others in your life who are similar to the narcissist you left and it isn’t immediately obvious. These people will tell you to try harder, to back off, to stop expecting so much, to stop letting the past / the ex bother you, but it’s impossible because you are fighting for your life, your emotional and financial stability – and you’re being abused and sidelined every step of the way (even by legal system), challenging the healing process and/or making it nearly impossible to move on despite valiant attempts to start over.
Most will try to not overthink the difficulty they have moving on and because they are repeatedly encouraged to “get back out there” well before they safely can they end up repeating the past with a new partner. It can be a turning point in your life and an opportunity to eliminate toxicity completely from your life – or it can be an absolute soul-destroying process to more abuse.
What things did you try, and what helped the most, in your recovery from narcissistic abuse?
Personally, what helped me recover the most was eliminating ALL toxicity from my life no matter where it came from. One of the biggest fears in doing this is ending up alone, literally alone, not being lonely, but literally being alone… and yes, I did end up alone for a period of time by choice, so I could “reset” myself and my boundaries.
Once I could take that risk of ending up alone and be okay with it, everything else started to fall into place. I was able to follow through on boundaries in a new way and drop anyone who dared to mistreat, disrespect or disregard me, then I carefully chose which friends and/or family to allow back in but the second they showed any toxicity they were out for good. Those choices were then not reactions to toxicity, but response to my self-care needs, so I was able to draw those lines assertively and never look back.
It takes practice and a new kind of self-talk to get yourself through that but it is absolutely possible and it accomplishes the task. Once you can eliminate toxicity of any kind everywhere else in your life, you will not see it turning up in your personal, intimate relationships, so you begin to date differently by default because you literally “turn off” the kind of men/women who cannot tolerate assertiveness and self appreciation.
I taught myself this process over a period of many years and it is the absolute only thing that worked to eliminate toxicity and it is what allowed me to recover – because I saw that I could spot and block toxicity and I no longer needed someone else to validate what I was experiencing. If I noticed it was happening I shut [it] down immediately, no second chances, no worrying I was going to hurt someone’s feelings by judging them too soon or too harshly.
I learned to trust myself and my instincts – and act on them without fail and all of us need to be doing that on a daily basis because we all matter and we don’t need someone else telling us we do to feel valuable. It has to come from inside us…
Learn more about Teagin Maddox:
Visit her website: www.teaginmaddox.com
Learn more about The Women Co:
Take on Narcissism: Heal From A Narcissist Program
Connect on Instagram: @the.women.co
Request Facebook access to The Women Co’s group: thewomenco
Listen to The Women Co podcast via Spotify or Anchor.fm