#AskDivorcist: Isolated by a narcissist

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Dear Divorcist,

I just got out of a 4 year relationship. Thanks mainly to Tiktok, I started to see that my partner was very narcissistic and the “love bubble” we were in was actually more about controlling me. I started to neglect my friendships and let myself be isolated. I’ve been a bad friend. Now that I’m back in the real world, how do I get those relationships back?

Isabel, 38

Beth says:

Tell them. If they’re friends worth having, they:

  1. Have noticed you going from butterfly to caterpillar as your ex took over
  2. Worry about you
  3. Are waiting for this day

The world is so much more aware of narcissistic behavior than even five years ago. Your friends know what’s going on. They will be so glad to have you back, and they won’t make you feel bad about it. For me, all it took was a text to my best friend saying, “Those were bad times. I love you and never want to be without you again. Let’s go back to normal.” 

Now, when we talk about something that took place during “the bad times,” I’ll say, “I don’t remember that. I wasn’t me.” And Steph will say, “Me neither.”

Some friends are in our lives for a season, some are forever. If you can’t rebuild what you had before, it’s not meant to be. Learn, forgive yourself, and move on. Chances are, however, that your friends will welcome you back with open arms and calendars, ready to pop the champagne because they’re finally getting you back. 


Eliza says: 

Number one: normalize learning about yourself on Tiktok
Number two: this is so much more common that you’d think 

Narcissists are sneaky sneaks who change your life so slowly you don’t even notice. One day you’re a self-assured 24 year old and the next you’re a shadow of your hopes and dreams. Unwinding your life from that situation is a process. 

When I went through a major depressive episode I withdrew from the world. Friends would text, DM, and send pigeons through my window but I wouldn’t respond. It was a shame cycle. I’d miss one message, feel guilty, then avoid the person because of that guilt. I was embarrassed that, even though my life seemed fine from the outside, meeting a friend for coffee or FaceTiming with them was beyond me. 

How did I break this cycle? I admitted what was happening. Once I got therapy and medication I was able to recognize what was happening. I wasn’t failing. I wasn’t a bad friend. I was recovering. 

Texting friends one by one was a bit overwhelming. So instead I posted a bit of an announcement explaining what was going on. Then I tagged the people I wanted to connect with in the comments. One by one, I started chatting with the people who loved me. No one, literally no one, had anything negative to say. They were just happy I was back. 

So welcome back, Isobel. The world is here waiting for you!

Eliza xx


Disclaimer: Divorcist staff are not licensed therapists and this column does not take the place of talking to a trained professional.
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