It was an absolutely lovely evening by all accounts.
My date was handsome, kind, thoughtful, and the complete opposite of my narcissistic ex. He made me feel safe and comfortable in a way that felt foreign to me.
After the date ended we said goodbye and he texted me an hour after I got home to say that he couldn’t wait to see me again.
I sat down on the couch, took a deep breath, and burst into heaving sobs.
Why did I feel absolutely miserable? Why was I missing the ex that had treated me terribly? Why couldn’t I have feelings for someone like my date instead of for someone who would never change his toxic behavior?
It became very clear that I needed to do some soul searching before dating again because I couldn’t bring someone else into my tornado of confusion.
Several years after that date I learned that my muddled feelings were completely normal and there were reasons why I felt so uncomfortable dating after my toxic relationship.
Here are the reasons why dating can be extremely difficult and strange after being with a narcissist.
There is comfort in what we already know.
When you have been manipulated, gaslighted, abused, and invalidated it can truly change how you think and who you are at your very core.
Once we have been conditioned to accept and tolerate this kind of behavior, it becomes expected and “normal” in our minds.
This is one of the reasons why it is so easy to date more than one abusive/narcissistic partner. Victims often end up feeling shame and blaming themselves but are unable to break the pattern.
Going through a narcissistic relationship is almost always life-altering in one way or another. Even if you do not believe that you are hurt, the odds are that you need therapy and to do some healing after things end to ensure that you don’t end up repeating the same patterns.
You haven’t completely broken the trauma bond
There is a reason why the intimacy between a narcissist feels so deep, often unlike anything that their victim has felt before.
It is not because of love, kindness, and validation that this bond is formed. It is caused by the emotional roller coaster that a narcissist takes you on, creating a feeling that is very hard to let go of.
Trauma bonds are extremely hard to break and they are the primary reason why victims feel a bond to the narcissist long after they have cut ties and gone no contact.
I wish that I could tell you a magic formula to break a trauma bond, but to be honest, I believe the only thing that can heal it is going no contact, keeping no contact, and giving it time.
Every day that passed when I was away from my narcissistic abuser without contact allowed me to heal, piece by piece until one day I could just tell that the bond was no longer present.
You are experiencing PTSD from the traumatic experience
Several years after leaving the narcissist I started dating the man who is now my partner of many years.
One night I was out with some work colleagues and he picked me up and we were heading home and I suddenly felt like I was having a panic attack and all I wanted was to get out of the car and run away from my boyfriend because I felt like I was in danger.
Later I realized that it was PTSD brought on by a traumatic experience with my narcissistic ex where he had tried to kill us by driving off a cliff. Even though logically I knew I was with my new partner, something about that moment in the car took me back to when I thought my life was about to end and I was terrified beyond all reason.
There is no instant cure for PTSD, personally, I had to go through extensive therapy before I was able to start controlling and working through my feelings but to say it felt uncomfortable is an understatement.
You simply aren’t emotionally available
There is a piece of advice that I give every single person that wants to date right after leaving a relationship with a narcissist.
Give yourself some time to heal, even if it’s just a few weeks or a few months. Even if you believe you don’t need time, I guarantee that you do.
After things ended with the narcissist I ended up traveling to Europe, moving to a new state when I got home, and started a whole new life for myself. Although it wasn’t easy it was the best decision I could have made because I was so far from being ready to be in a new relationship.
It took several years after the date I mentioned at the beginning of this article before I was ready to be in a relationship again.
I truly believe that if I hadn’t put in the self-work and gone through extensive therapy I may still not be emotionally available today.
If I could leave you with one last thought, it would be a plea that you go easy on yourself throughout this healing process.
Ensure that you are putting in the work to heal, and take the time to put your needs first. There will come a day when you no longer feel uncomfortable dating after being with a narcissist, but you get to take all of the time that you need.