Narcissist Abuse: Getting a Grip on Relationship Amnesia

However you may feel about the narcissist in your life, it’s important to know that he/she didn’t get this way overnight. Our brain often refuses to believe this. Every day, I hear from both women and men who adamantly insist that they were blind-sided by certain narcissistic behaviors. The source of their pain is a false belief that they never saw it coming. I don’t get it! He (or she) wasn’t like this for the first five years of the marriage (or relationship). I’m shocked! they will tell me but I don’t buy into this. I respond by telling them to think back and think hard…to take off the rose-colored glasses of (what I call) relationship amnesia and really reflect. The truth is that the narcissistic signs have always been there. It might feel to us that we’ve been blind-sided but deep down we absolutely know better.

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As I explain in my book When Love Is a Lie, I didn’t even begin to google my ex’s behaviors until almost eight years in. Then came the “a-ha” moment of WHO and WHAT he really was and I turned into a piece of jelly. How could I have not seen this? What the fuck is going on? Am I or was I completely blind?  No, of course I wasn’t blind…I just didn’t want to see. This blindness can continue even after we know the truth, evolving into an amnesia that only allows us to remember the very few good qualities that actually made the narc appear normal. We’ll remember the times he made us laugh, the great sex, a moment of apparent clarity where the narc appeared to actually care. Suddenly the fact that he has been an incredible dick goes out the window and we happily watch it fly away. But the brutal truth is that all those memories mean fucking nothing if the narcissist doesn’t have your back as a loving partner.

There comes a time in the relationship, somewhere near the end, that even the narcissist knows the jig is up. For example, say that you and the narc have been involved for ten years and you’re just now finding out he’s been cheating for the past two. This is a devastating discovery, obviously. Your narc, however has suddenly become horribly mean and nasty, basically blaming YOU for the fact that he’s been busted. Maybe for the initial minute he appeared sorry, but now, a few days in, he not only offers little or no remorse for what he did, he apparently has zero tolerance or compassion for your feelings about it. This happened to me several times and I hear about it every day during consultations. The loving partner feels absolutely shell shocked. Why isn’t he sorry? OR Why isn’t he MORE sorry? How could this happen…we’ve been great together all this time!  The truth is that no, you haven’t been good. Relationship amnesia and denial kicks in immediately. The truth is that the narcissist has been cheating or working on cheating or preparing to cheat the entire time that you’ve been together. Oh, that’s impossible. We were together 24/7. He didn’t have time to cheat. Oh, yes he did. Narcissists have nothing BUT time when it comes to planning for their next meal. However, now the jig is finally up – the jig that has been going on behind your back for years – and this is truly an inconvenient time for the falsely entitled narcissist. As partners, we have to face the fact that we’ve been conned since the very first date.

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When we look back on the “good” times in the relationship, we are viewing things through a manipulated reality. Relationship amnesia can keep us stuck on stupid during a time where we could be moving forward in our recovery. Sure, things appeared to be “okay” for years but, believe me, it was only as “okay” as the narcissist allowed.

Indeed, the love-bombing stage happens quickly because the narcissist is working his butt off to get it over with so that you can be on the hook and he can do what he wants. This is why it feels so intense so early on..but intensity and love are not interchangeable. So, five years down the road, while you’ve been looking the other way to keep the peace or to not appear to be needy or jealous, he’s been going about his narcissistic business, fulfilling the requirements of the relationship agenda. This is the truth! We suspect things but never seem to have proof and the silent treatments, as much as they hurt, become part of the routine and the next thing you know five years has gone by. None of this was “great” – not a single thing. When and if we do break-up with the narcissist and even if the narcissist is the one to leave, if we truly want to recover from the pain we have to accept this. We have to be confident in the truth that we know – even if it hurts. The relationship with a narcissist has been over since day one. Don’t allow relationship amnesia to tell you any differently. You’re smarter than that!

zari - narcissist-abuse-supportAnd, let me tell you, when the jig is up, it is up. The mask falls never to be worn again. The narc won’t even pick it up; he just steps right over it and moves along. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Narcissists who’ve been busted and become raging angry have – without a doubt – been doing it forever! This is why they’re so fucking angry. Life has suddenly become very difficult and he’s going to let you know it. A normal guy who cheats and gets caught will typically feel horribly guilty that he has hurt this person who obviously loves him. Then, he may choose to stay with his partner/spouse or he may choose to go to his mistress, but either way he will do it with a TRUE guilty conscience. He will tolerate the crying jags, the jealousy, the accusations of the spouse, and the “fuck yous” because he has done you wrong. A narcissist never feels this way. He just feels pissed. Remember, with a narc, it’s all about what he (or she) can get away with all day, every day. To you, it feels shocking and sudden but the truth is that he’s been doing it a very long time. This awful person is who he really is and who he has always been.

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I tell a little story in Stop Spinning, Start Breathing about such a situation…

Then there was the time, about six years later, that Wayne), after cheating on me, getting caught, having no choice but to admit to it, and then trying everything – including smacking me on the head – to pull me out of my crying jag, finally realized he might have gone too far. Feigning remorse, he begged me to forgive him. I continued to sob, pleading “Why? Why? Why did you do it?” until the N, unable to pretend a second longer, threw up his hands in exasperation and yelled, “I don’t know! I always figured I could do whatever I wanted and you’d still take me back!”

To truly get better and find peace…to heal our sad and fractured heart…we have to accept the brutality of the relationship in its entirety. We have to push through the delusional nostalgia of relationship amnesia and get back to the business of life. We have to understand and accept that it was never great and therefore we can skip the grieving process when the nonsense is finally over. As far as I’m concerned, we can skip the forgiveness too. No, not that! How can I heal if I don’t forgive?  We don’t have to forgive because we simply don’t have the spiritual credentials to forgive at that level! This is very good news.

Look, we can’t grieve the loss of something we never had, my friends. The narcissist did not become a narcissist overnight and no amount of bittersweet amnesia is going to change that. He (or she) was born that way or raised that way and he (or she) will now always be that way. You, fortunately, are not doomed to the same fate because you are everything he or she is not.

Indeed, you, without a doubt, are perfect just the way that you are.


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  • Ken

    June 22, 2017 at 5:45 pm Reply

    Most of the narcissists whom I have come across try to get by on their wits either by manipulating others or by being used by others in exchange for getting something out of the person who is using them, while feigning that they are not being used; if you assist them they will regard you as needy. If they were dying of thirst and you offered them a glass of water they would be certain to spit some of it into your face; they feel malice and contempt towards goodness and they prize using people because they view the world as dog eat dog.

  • Agi

    May 27, 2017 at 9:55 am Reply

    Dear Zari,
    I am still involved with my narc, it’s been almost 4 years, countless silent treatments and 2 cheatings that I know of. I don’t even resemble the woman I used to be, he took every inch of my self esteem and self respect. I feel like the world’s ugliest human alive and I just can’t understand why I love him or why I can’t let him go. I used to be happy, cheerful and full of confidence. He took everything. HOW can a woman actually step out of this? HOW can I start a new life without him and how can I put my puzzle pieces together again..? I feel shattered and broken and useless.

    • Zari Ballard

      June 11, 2017 at 7:07 pm Reply

      Hi Agi,

      I am so sorry that you are hurting so badly but you don’t have to put up with this. Even as I was enduring the years of emotional abuse and cheating, I never doubted my own self-worth and eventually that took me out of it, thank God. I knew the whole time that it was HIM, not ME but my problem was that there was so much time invested I wanted to FIX HIM so we could stay together. Wrong!! These narcissists are complete jerks, assholes, douchebags, you name it…how can you base your self-worth on what HE thinks?? Kick him to the curb and get on with your life. I’m not saying it’s easy because it is NOT but it certainly is NOT impossible and you have to start somewhere. Read through my articles here…there are over eighty-five of them covering every topic. Read my book When Love Is a Lie to see how I managed it and finally got out. Book some talk time with me so I can help you to change your perspective. There are ways to get moving on this..

      Why on earth would you feel like the ugliest human on earth based on the behaviors of the this asshole?? Who is HE to make you feel that way? While we can’t control the behaviors of people, we can certainly control our reactions to them. It’s time to stand up and start climbing out of the fog…I’m here to support you. Read the stories here as well because you will see how others have survived it. YOU can do it but you have to be proactive. There’s no easy fix.

      Stays strong, sister, and consider some talk time.

      Zari xo

    • Jo

      June 24, 2017 at 10:24 pm Reply

      “Stuck on stupid,” indeed. It has been three years since I found out my husband was cheating with his ex-sister-in-law. 2.5 years since I found out he was cheating the entire time I knew him… 15 people that he admits to. All the lies… He was feeding me a new line of crap tonight about why he did all the f-ed up things he did. I outright asked him if HE believed what he was saying. He couldn’t make himself say yes. It made me want to laugh. It’s SO hard to face that someone would take vows essentially with their fingers crossed, that they would even want to live in so many lies. Sometimes it does take one to know one- when you have a human heart it’s incomprehensible to you that another person doesn’t. He now tries to make me jealous hinting at being with other women. I’m sure I won’t enjoy seeing my ex-husband with a new relationship, but I imagine coming to terms with him sleeping with all those women while we were married should take the sting out of it. Ha. Glad to FINALLY be seeing the light.

  • Sarah e. C

    May 2, 2017 at 2:12 am Reply

    Your blogs are helping me at the moment. I’m devastated that my fiance of 10 years (off and on) with two kids finally chose porn over me. He swore up and down he wouldn’t watch it anymore because it’s disrespectful to me and degrading. He literally said I am not going to be told what I can and can’t see after I told him years ago it was a deal breaker (he was begging for me back). Our wedding date was set for July 7, 2017. He actually said “because our sex life isn’t the greatest” and “that when we are not getting a long” . Thats why he watches porn. He told me that its not cheating, which God says it is. Then tells me that he doesnt desire only me. Omg?! Then says I’ll never physically cheat on you! then his apology was “I’m sorry that you feel that way” but I’m not sorry for my actions. Absolutely disgusting! It’s 2am and all this happened a few hours ago. I’m Christian and trying to live a life where my beliefs match my life style. Now I’ll be a single parent living with three children. I feel for my kids the most. I really tried so hard to give him a million chances but theres only so much I can take. He told me that it will be on me if I ruin our family if I leave him. I’m sorry but no one will ever convince me that it’s okay to watch porn of naked women and men, jack off watching them, then come to me as if thats completely normal! Any extra advice I would appreciate it. I’m so crushed!

    • Zari Ballard

      May 8, 2017 at 7:11 pm Reply

      Hi Sarah,

      I have to be honest here…I’ve spoken with many women who have either a husband or long-term boyfriend with a porn issue and it never works out. These women have tried to hang in there, giving chance after chance, but the issue keeps rearing it’s ugly NAKED head. Some of the guys have even gone to counseling, giving the appearance that they’ve gotten better for quite awhile to appease the wife or girlfriend, and then the wife will once again find that he’s been sneaking it, blah blah. This is what I think: you need to stick to your Christian principles and do the right thing for yourself and your children. Go with your intuition BECAUSE IT IS NEVER WRONG. God gave us intuition for a reason…so that we could breeze through life always knowing INSTINCTIVELY to do the right thing. The problem with humans – even those that claim to be Christians – is that intuition is typically ignored. In other words, we don’t walk the talk, know what I mean? This is why we get into the trouble that we do. You obviously WANT to walk the talk and no one one should hinder you from having this opportunity if it is truly in your heart and important to you. I’m pretty sure even God doesn’t expect us to fix the un-fixable after a certain number of tries, right? With you as their mother, your kids will do just fine. If your husband tries to guilt you, telling you it’s on you if the family is ruined, you tell him “Nope, you’ve got that wrong. YOU are the one with the problem and therefore YOU are ruining the family and ONLY IF I STAY IN IT will it THEN be on me. I want to SAVE my family and therefore I want OUT. YOU did this. I know it and you know it!”

      You can do this, girl. Let me know how you do:) I’m here to support you….

      Zari xo

  • Holly

    April 19, 2017 at 8:55 am Reply

    Been a crazy few days. Went NC. finally got contacted. After a year and a half of craziness, getting me to agree to an “open relationship”, back and forth between me and one of his bm’s and him just getting out of jail, he tells me that he’s decided he’s going to be celibate and “fall back from everyone” , but still wants us to hang out and be friends. He says he will never be with me or have any sexual contact with me. After all this, something didn’t seem right. so I look on the bm’s facebook. not only has he re-friended her, he’s commenting on her pics with stuff like “the apple of my eye”. I call him out and he calls me a crazy b*tch and says he wants nothing to do with me. I said i didn’t care and let it go. Yesterday I text him and ask what he wants to do about his phone (he’s on my plan….ugh). He says he’ll give me the $ when he sees me and Happy Easter, blah blah. I asked what he was talking about since the day before he told me to f*ck off, basically. He says ‘We’re still friends, right?” then tells me It’s his right to change the dynamic of our relationship whenever he wants. I just need some insight. I’m so confused. He acts like our entire relationship was a figment of my imagination and wasnt just telling me a week before he loved me and would always be with me. not to mention the name tattoos he talked me into (if you love me you’ll get them!) Which are now also not his problem because he never told me to get them. Also, he hasn’t worked in 6 months (needed a break from working. he’s living with his ex-sugar momma and says he’s going to work on getting a license and a car, neither of which he’s had since 1998. He’s 40.)I feel like I’m going nuts! This friend this can only be because he’s doesnt really want me to move on and he wants someone to give him rides or something. I don’t see how someone can all the sudden find Jesus and become celibate and all this stuff when he was the most self centered, overly sexual person I’ve ever encountered.

    • Zari Ballard

      April 25, 2017 at 3:18 pm Reply

      Hi Holly,

      There’s nothing to be confused about. He’s NOT celibate, I’m sure, and don’t believe that no matter what he tells you. You are “settling” in the relationship and, yes, he is keeping you around just to make sure that you don’t move on. Why don’t you just let him have his bm and get on with your own life? You don’t need to be anyone’s chauffeur or financial support. This is what he wants and he’s pretty much willing to say whatever he needs to to get what he wants.

      Write me back and let me know what has happened since you wrote. I’d be curious to know…


  • Sick of BS

    April 13, 2017 at 12:18 am Reply

    I watched an American Show where a gay man visiting University Campuses said…women have CONTROL with heterosexual men…if they think being just slutty to please men will have the guys devoted…they are thinking VERY WRONG…I think women need to THINK about that & what they really want in close relationships with male partners, in the longer term. Being slutty doesn’t mean U are sexy or above other women…it just means U are willing to sleep around. I have NO problem with women dressing sexy, acting sexy..but, if all U can do is sleep around & NOT have any real relationships…then, there is a problem…not only for themselves, but all women, in general…coz, it sends a wrong msg….esp to the heterosexual men. And I wonder who the parents are…of these girls – University girls?

    • Zari Ballard

      April 14, 2017 at 12:31 pm Reply

      Hi Sick of BS,

      First, I’m not sure how what that gay guy said about women being slutty has anything to do with, say, the women who come here who are involved with narcissistic partners. He’s talking about – what – the free and easy spring break college co-eds that we see on Girls Gone Wild? Secondly, and I’m only using this word because you did, there’s a huge difference between women who are “slutty” in bed to please their partner (and themselves) and women who are just “sluts” (which is who you are talking about). Women who “sleep around” because that’s what they like to do aren’t interested in having a real relationship anyway so they’re not worried about what “message” it sends. Men have been sleeping around for centuries and no one is worried what message THEY’RE sending. Women should do what they feel like doing. Fourth, the women who visit here aren’t women who sleep around…it’s their partners that do it…and THEY are the ones being controlled. And fifth, most of the parents of the crazy college so-eds are just regular parents who can’t keep an eye 24/7 on their daughters when they’re in college. It just is what it is.


      • Sick of BS

        April 22, 2017 at 4:02 am Reply

        No, he wasn’t talking about Girls Gone Wild…he was talking to a Uni girl that felt quite abused. What I was trying to pt out…since U didn’t hear his whole story…is sometimes sgl gay men (not talking college kids here) can be quite slutty with their sexual needs…& they ARE men, too….however, there seems to be an understanding with them, that IS mostly consensual. I’m not saying gay guys don’t meet sociopaths when they are preferring relationships…they do. However, these one nite stands these guys choose to get into…are not coerced under LIES of a relationship idea. However, there are a number of heterosexual men who feel they need to coerce women into bed to get what they need…because women (in general…not all) are a lil more guarded about one-nite stands….young women may like to be admired, but they really don’t want to feel sexually used. So, these male predators (to meet their OWN needs) trick ideas of relationships & caring…when there is NONE…that’s why girls, esp young girls need to be taught to be wary.
        However, that said…us older girls need to be careful too…coz, there’s a personality disorder that didn’t die in the school or Uni yard…they NEVER matured…only got more cunning for their OWN sexual needs!

      • Sick of BS

        April 22, 2017 at 4:22 am Reply

        However, that said…us older girls need to be careful too…coz, there’s a personality disorder that didn’t die in the school or Uni yard…they NEVER matured…only got more cunning for their OWN sexual needs!

  • Pamela Robinson

    April 9, 2017 at 1:34 am Reply

    I am so tired of these kind of men. where are the REAL ones at?

    • Zari Ballard

      April 9, 2017 at 5:34 pm Reply

      Actually, some of the real ones are stuck on FEMALE narcissistic partners. When these awesome guys do call me for support, it’s my job to FIX THAT and get them back out into society where we can find them. Believe me, I’m working as fast as I can!

      • Pamela Robinson

        April 9, 2017 at 7:13 pm Reply

        well i certainly am not a narcissist. i was with one for almost 9 yrs! He destroyed my car (wrecked it) and cheated every single minute he was with me and abused me mentally emotionally and physically. I am beginning to be sick of men and seriously believe there are no REAL mean left. I do not crave attention. Only someone to love and care about me. i am 55 and time is running out. I am no spring chicken anymore lol.

        • Christine

          May 4, 2017 at 10:34 am Reply

          Hey, there ARE real men out there too, keep the faith! I can honestly vouch for that as someone who was once involved with a narcissist (Zari can vouch for that as well, remembering my earlier posts). Now I’m happily married to one of those REAL men! It took me nearly a year to be truly “over” the narcissist…and then, that’s when I met my husband. I’m thankful I didn’t waste any more time with the narcissist, so I could be open to a real relationship when it came along.

          I’m in my 30s but hey, I also know three women in their 50s who found love…it’s never too late for anyone (one of them got married for the first time; the other two got married again after some of the most bitter, nastiest divorces you can imagine).

          So I hope you can find a little hope that you can find a real one again, now that you’ve dropped the dead weight of the narcissist. And believe me, I didn’t do anything all that extraordinary to find my husband, but just keep myself open to the possibility.

  • Pamela Robinson

    April 9, 2017 at 1:33 am Reply

    Dont forget the one where the narc changes his phone number over and over and doesnt even let you know. unreal.

    • Zari Ballard

      April 9, 2017 at 5:30 pm Reply

      Hi Pamela,

      Please read through my other articles here – I talk all about the phone number change! In 13 years, I can’t tell you how many times this happened only to have him hoover back whenever with his new number. Yikes!


      • Pamela Robinson

        April 9, 2017 at 7:15 pm Reply

        oh my word LOL what is the matter with these monsters?

    • Sick of BS

      April 12, 2017 at 11:14 pm Reply

      This day & age…it’s not only changing phone numbers…ppl can own MULTIPLE cheap mobile phones with different numbers…so these deceivers feel they have control on their bogus contacting. A phone for the wife…a phone for the interesting, more long-termers…a phone for the Tinder encounters when he just wants to get it off over 1/2 an hr…it’s a paradise dream for deceivers….let alone, contacts behind ur back on internet.
      Only way U win for ur self-esteem…STOP playing the CRAP…stop making excuses for BAD behaviour (even if just suspect)…no-one who truly RESPECTS U (as U do them) – should have U feel suspect of them. If they just fob U off on ur CALMLY explained suspicions, with lil explanation…then, say OK…I’m leaving….& feel OK to do so.
      What men count on…are women are insecure, overly emotional & too willing to accept bogus excuses…prove them different!
      And that means U KNOW how to exist on ur OWN…KNOW ur boundaries & NOT afraid to stand up for them.
      Now, does that mean us older sexy ladies will never get another intimate moment again? Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t want sex with a DICK on a stick! I’m NOT that desperate! So, maybe U should make a dating plan for urself.

      • Zari Ballard

        April 14, 2017 at 12:35 pm Reply

        Narcissists are actually attracted to confident, secure women who they can work on breaking down over time. A narcissist would never be attracted to a meek, insecure wallflower.

        • Sick of BS

          April 22, 2017 at 5:16 am Reply

          Oh yeah…they will…but that person will not last long

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