“I just want closure” my client said. Haven’t we all said that at some point? And what we meant was, approximately, that they would leave us with some kind of 4-5 star review on Relationship Trip Advisor. “Great nature, good heart, plenty of empathy, a warm loving environment. Can heartily recommend” our ex-partner would say. “The reason why I only awarded 4-5 stars is because it wasn’t the right place for me at the time. I didn’t appreciate this person at that time and I own it.”
We could live with that kind of review. We could move on from there.
Apart from the fact that the only world in which that is ever going to happen is the world of our own fantasy…
The blessing in disguise
Fortunately, the Narcissist’s resolute refusal to offer the closure that we seek is actually a blessing in disguise.
When we appeal to a Narcissist for closure we are, once again, putting our worth in their hands.
They – rightly – understand our need for closure as a need for their good opinion. That alone is reason enough why they will never offer it.
You don’t get out of a narcissistic relationship because you are sick and tired of experiencing rock bottom self-worth. You get out because you can no longer bear being shown, over and over again, that you are unloved and deemed unlovable.
However, since the Narcissist has no intention of ever helping you upgrade your sense of self, that leaves you with an urgent dilemma: you can either go right down to the depths of despair – possibly for a very long time indeed – or else, you have to bite the bullet and learn to value yourself.
As I see it, that is what both healing and closure are really about.
Closure is the gift that you are best advised to give yourself. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that closure has three aspects to it,
1) Your evaluation of what happened
As in, “I can now see that my partner was narcissistic and abusive. His (or her) disposition made it impossible ever to enjoy a loving, happy relationship of equals.”
2) Your assessment of how the failure of the relationship reflects on you
As in, “I am deeply saddened that I could not make the relationship work. It meant a lot to me at the time. I did everything that I humanly could. In fact, I put far more into the relationship than my partner did. When I look rationally at the situation, I can see that the relationship failed because of the failure of my partner to do anything authentic to save the relationship. So, the failure of the relationship is something that happened to me. However, there is no reason for that failure to define me.”
3) Your evaluation of yourself
As in, “Yes, it’s true. I did go into the relationship to get a sense of myself as a lovable, worthy, human being. I wanted – and attempted – to offer that same sense of self to my partner. That attempt failed miserably because I did not see that I was asking the impossible of myself. I was trying to change a person who had no wish to change. My old wound of emotional abandonment was driving me – not for the first time – to persist in trying to change an unloving person.
“But what does all of that say about me?
- “It says that I am wounded and loving. It says that I still have to square my own emotional circle: I have to accept that some people are toxic while continuing to hold to the value of love.
- “It says that I cannot try to find my emotional redemption through loving a person who does not love me into loving me.
- “It says that if I could find things to love in a Narcissist, I can be exceptionally forgiving and accepting and could start to include myself in my own circle of forgiveness and acceptance.
- “It says that, actually, I am already less worthless than I thought I was.
- “It says that, having been taken to such depths, I now – finally – see the point of seeing myself differently and am willing to learn my own worth.
I think we would all love to have the gift of self-worth handed to us on a plate.
Who wouldn’t like to wake up from the nightmare of Narcissistic abuse, embrace the gift of self-worth and simply glide into the future, a new person?
Except that is just not the way it works.
Assembling the pieces of the puzzle
Learning your self-worth really is like assembling the pieces of a jigsaw. You already have a lot of the pieces in your possession. Others you can start to gather along the way.
But you do have to start assembling them for yourself.
This week, I had The Conversation with a new client: She had been out of the relationship for a couple of months but she didn’t feel any better about herself, she said. She wasn’t any happier or more confident. In fact, she was sliding back into the old despair, wondering whether she might as well give up and go back.
At times like this, we survivors of narcissistic abuse, are very good at throwing the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on the floor – with unfortunate results.
Instead, we need to look at the reality behind our perceptions and focus on assembling whatever pieces we can fit together.
In the case of my client, those pieces included,
- Starting to exercise again.
- Eating and sleeping better.
- Having specific evidence of achieving practical things that she didn’t think she could possibly manage.
- Feedback from loving friends she had reconnected with.
- Planning more effectively than she had done in years.
- Rediscovering her sense of humor.
- Shedding some of her heavy burden of shame.
- More clarity than she would ever have thought possible.
Those pieces are by no means the full picture but they enable a person to get a sense of what the finished puzzle might look like.
Why the myth of closure doesn’t serve us
In the end, the myth of closure that we have at the end of a narcissistic relationship really doesn’t serve us. Because it does not help us to assemble that jigsaw puzzle of who we are. It might provide a certain fleeting sense of satisfaction. – and I say that as someone who did get some closure from a toxic loved one.
That partial closure was decidedly better than nothing, at the time. But it was in no way transformative. I still had to piece myself back together.
Closure does not afford us the sense of achievement that we get from assembling – for ourselves – the picture of our own self-worth.
Narcissistic abuse could teach us not to be dependent on the gifts that we hope to receive, one day, from other people, instead of embracing the gifts that we already have. I often think about that beautiful Elizabeth Gilbert quote,
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
Even if you could get closure from a toxic person, that would never help you to find the strange jewels buried within yourself.
Only you can do that.
I know that you can.
I hope that you will.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.