Dear Kim – How Long Until I Feel Whole Again?

Good Morning, Kim:

How long do you think it takes to feel whole again? I feel like very strange and empty now after this last discard and dump. I go out with people and do things but don’t feel totally connected to what I’m doing and saying. Is this common to feel like this? I’ve just gone through so much this last year with this N and his games.  It has left a toll on me.

Can you talk a little about what you feel like in the end after they leave us for good? How long did it take you to reconnect with life, a man and marriage?

Thank you kindly,


Dear Anonymous,

Those are very good questions and ones I receive very often from readers.

Each person’s recovery is different.  It will take some time and some “fake it til you make it”.  Healing consists of several elements, some of which people either don’t think of or perhaps don’t have the energy to follow through with.  However, they’re all necessary.  With that being said, I will recap my own journey.

When I made the decision to leave my Ex, I was still very much in love.  The last thing I wanted to do was make the conscious choice to leave him, but I knew he would never change and I’d had enough heartache.  Plus, I wanted a better future for my kids.  So, against what every fiber in my being wanted (which was to stay), I went out and put a deposit on my own apartment.

At first, it was difficult because I still had to deal with my Ex stalking me when he was in town and calling/texting endlessly.  I was still under his influence.  Back then, I didn’t know about No Contact and how important it is.  I didn’t even know about Narcissism… not the real kind, anyway.  So, there was a crack through which he could slip and slide one of his tentacles into my mind.

Everywhere I turned, he was there.  Often it was an email, a text, or a voicemail.  Sometimes I’d be driving down the highway and he’d appear beside or behind me.  Other times, I’d be teaching and look up and my students would be pointing at the window and there he stood.  I literally could not get away from him.

Three months later, I had a nervous breakdown and was forced to leave my teaching job a month early.

After a couple of months, I’d smartened up.  I blocked him from my phone and from email.  I decided to start dating again (big mistake).  I read everything I could get my hands on about dating and relationships.  At one point, I considered myself a connoisseur of sorts, that’s how many books, eBooks, and articles I read.  I knew what to say, how to act, what perfume to wear.  I knew what men were looking for.

And it worked…for a while, anyway.  I went out on a few dates and made some connections.  I felt confident, but deep down, I still grieved over my Ex.  Even after I’d met someone and it started to get serious, I still had feelings for him.

That’s when I started to research toxic relationships and mental cruelty.  I came across NPD and Narcissism.  I could barely believe it.  Women all over the world were having the same exact experience as me, right down to the words that were spewed at them and the Silent Treatments.  I spent months researching my ordeal and Narcissistic behaviors.  I went to see a few counselors, but none of them could really help.  They were highly inexperienced in treating victims of Narcissistic abuse.  The best I was given was to “begin setting boundaries”.  No duh.

During all of this, I was trying my hardest to maintain the approval of the new man in my life.  I adjusted my behaviors, my moods.  I fixed the food he liked.  I put on a smile. I stuffed all my emotions down until I couldn’t eat. I fixed myself up seven days a week.  I wore makeup and dressed to the nine.  I was a walking, talking doll.

And still highly co-dependent and seeking others’ approval. 

As soon as I realized what was happening, I put a stop to it almost overnight.  I told myself I would never, ever again work to gain someone else’s approval.  It was great for me, but not so great for my new relationship because I stopped all the acting and decided to be myself, which included not being so submissive and not holding my feelings in…I was a whole new, empowered woman.

In a short time, I started meditations (both guided and binaural), I began trying to eat healthier, I furthered my knowledge about metaphysics and signs from the Universe.  I learned I’m intuitive and an Empath…there are just so many positive things that happened simultaneously once I opened myself up to them and let go of the past.

For everyone else out there going through it, the three most important things I would suggest are:

1)      Go No Contact.  There’s no chance of healing until you do.  If you have modified contact because of custody, don’t give them one, tiny chance to boulder their way in.  Stick to the court order.  Force them to contact you through email or snail mail, especially if they’re the psycho-stalker type.  If I’d known about NC in the beginning, I don’t think my recovery would have taken as long.

2)      Find a way to control your thoughts.  This is why I promote guided meditations.  They give you something to focus on besides your evil Ex, and they heal your subconscious at the same time.  

3)      Love yourself.  Treat yourself.  Take yourself out on dates.  Do for yourself what you’d like a romantic partner to do for you.  Tell yourself in the mirror how you are so good enough just the way you are…

Lastly, you will not get closure from your Ex.  You must do that for yourself.  And while it seems he still holds your self-esteem in a rusty, molded, rickety box, it’s just an illusion.  As I like to tell my clients, it’s still within you…waiting like a diamond in the earth’s mantle for you to uncover it…

As far as dating goes, don’t do it until you’ve fallen in love with yourself first.  Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure.

Do you have a burning question about your partner’s dubious behaviors?  Submit them to and your question will be entered into our database and possibly included in a future publication. 

© Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach, 2014


  1. Olivia

    Thank you for this article! All very sound healthy advice. So reassuring to know that I am finally on the path to my true self. Kim- you are such an inspiration to me!

  2. Survive and thrive

    oops – meant to say “accept that mental and emotional abuse ARE valid”

    1. Kim Saeed

      I knew what you meant 🙂

      I can say from personal experience, as well as that of the people I work with every day, that the courts rarely see the root of evil in cases involving disordered Narcissists and other Cluster B’s.

      On a lighter note (though it will take more time and global effort) these people are being discovered and brought to justice, little by little. It may not be in our life time, but I believe one day they will be held accountable.

  3. Survive and thrive

    What makes me the most sad about this mess is the court system’s inability to see or accept that mental and emotional abuse are not valid, and that somehow the parent is “interfering with or attempting to alienate” the child/ren.
    It took 2 years, and the court official being abused herself for me to finally be believed, and upheld in my refusal to have anything other than minimal contact.
    He still uses the system 4 years later to continue to abuse me, but slowly they’re wising up to his behaviors.
    As long as the systems continue to empower the bully/abuser, and try to focus on pressuring the more compliant parent into silence, the problems will not be addressed.
    I pray that this country becomes more educated as a whole about the depth of domestic abuse. Injuries don’t always have to be visible for damage to have been inflicted.

  4. jacqueline walsh

    Im getting alot out of the blog and the comments so thankyou. I keep doing no contact and failing. We have a son. Its his birthday tomorrow. ive given in again. For my son who wants us both there but also because i havent killed hope. I try to but its still there. Ive read so much. I believe it all. I try but i just havent been able to get away from him. I succumb every time. He totally fits the Narc picture. He left me 2 years ago for someone else and keeps coming back tho he is still with her and stringing her along. She emails me which blows open his lies. I want to tell her what he is but i know she wont believe me. And i really do know that i have to work on myself. I feel i am abit stronger and better after 2 years and the no contact times have got longer but sometimes i just despair that i will ever do it. I have no one that i can confide in so am glad to have found this place. Good luck to everyone.

    1. Kim Saeed

      Don’t be too hard on yourself, Jacqueline. I plotted to leave my Ex at least 50 times before it finally “took”. There was just a shift in my thinking and I realized he would never change. I was still very much in love when I left, but I knew it was one-sided. I didn’t know about Narcissism then, nor about their conniving patterns.

      Do you have anyone you could move in with until you could get established? Friends or family?

    2. Hi Jacqueline,

      It’s a process. It took me six years–and my ex was rather mild on the narc scale. Kids make it much more complicated. No matter what the situation, it’s a fancy dance step that goes like this: “Two steps forward, One step back, Slide to the left, Slide to the right, And start all over again.” It takes a lot longer than it “should,” but eventually you do get there.

  5. I’m at the point where family and friends are starting to encourage me to get back out there on the whole dating ‘scene’ (urgh). But I feel I’m not there yet, and actually – in a way that I didn’t expect – enjoying time on my own for the first time in years. So, I love your point about taking yourself out on a date!

    1. Kim Saeed

      It’s great that you are waiting until you are ready. I know friends and family mean well, but dating before it’s time usually leads to more drama…

      So glad you are enjoying the time on your own 🙂 It’s wonderful, isn’t it, re-learning yourself?

  6. Mimi Pollier

    Lee, thank you so much for your story and kind words of wisdom. Do you ever think that when you go through something like this that maybe in time two people can learn from their mistakes and try again to have a life together. Or do you think that once cheating is involved there would be no hope. I believe in forgiveness.. but you have to have both people on board to work out the problems in a relationship. he acted liked he wanted to but he just wants to keep cheating and lying about it. What are your thoughts on in time working out a relationship. he keeps saying at least we still love each other. Thank you again Mimi

    1. Hi Mimi,

      Anything he says while he’s engaging in a relationship with another woman means exactly nothing. Or rather, it does mean something: it means he wants to keep you on tap so that if and when his relationship with this woman fails (which it probably will, because he’s a narcissist), he’ll still have a woman available to sleep with. Sorry to be crass, but to him, you are an available body with female parts. When he says “love,” what he really means is “sex for me.” He doesn’t love you. He loves having you available if and when he needs your body and the extra features that come with it. If you’re a good cook, do his laundry, keep the house clean, and clear away his empties, those are definitely great features in a woman! If you have a job and pay half (or more) of the bills, that’s definitely a Rolls Royce!

      Clearly he cares nothing for you. He does not care that he’s hanging you out to dry. He does not care that you’re crying yourself to sleep while he’s smooching and poking another woman. Love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling. Love is expressed by actions. His actions are shouting loud and clear that he does not love you. He doesn’t even love the other woman. Otherwise why would he still be keeping you on tap? You must face the reality that he only loves himself.

      Theoretically it is possible to repair a relationship after infidelity. Some couples manage to do it. But as you say, that requires having both people on board. He’s not on board. And there is at least a 95% chance that he never will be. For you, being on board involves forgiveness. For him, it involves being truly sorry for what he has done, taking responsibility for it, and committing himself to never doing it again. And though he’ll say all the right words to you if this other woman flies away on him, he will not mean any of them. He will just be saying and doing what it takes to reclaim your warm body and all the amenities that go with it.

      If you were to make the (most likely unwise) decision to take him back, here’s what I would suggest: Don’t sleep with him for at least a year, and make him do most or all of the things that you used to do for him, while still paying his share of the bills. Don’t listen to any of his entreaties or pay any attention to his tears. He has not earned the right to anything from you. If he can make it through 1-3 years of that, and he hasn’t abandoned you or had any more affairs, then you might be able to trust that he actually loves you and truly regrets his infidelity and mistreatment of you.

      But it probably won’t work. Most likely you’ll quickly give in as he pulls all of your strings. You’ll get sucked right back into a dysfunctional relationship with him, in which it’s all about him, and you’re there to service his needs.

      You really don’t need a man who is perfectly content to keep you on ice for future use while having his fun with another woman’s body.

      For more on the wish that forgiveness could heal your relationship, see Kim’s earlier article, “Forgiving the Narcissist vs. Abuse Amnesia.” Or for my take on forgiveness and healing from a Christian (but not fundamentalist) perspective, see my article “Repentance: The Unpopular Partner of Forgiveness.”

      Years ago when I interned at a counseling center for men who abused their partners, the program’s success rate was 3-5%. That’s how many of the men actually stopped abusing their wives and girlfriends. And that was the rate for men who went through an intensive, extended treatment and training program. The likelihood that “your guy” is going to actually change and become a new man is slim to none. Do you really want to put your whole life on the line for at best a 3-5% chance, compared to the 95-99.99% chance he’ll just use you, mistreat you, and cheat on you all over again?

      Don’t let him do that to you. He had his chance. Now it’s time for you to make your own life.

      Obviously I’m not saying all men are bad. I’m a man myself. But narcissists rarely change. As hard as it is, it would be much better for you to do the emotional surgery and move on.

    2. Hi Mimi,

      Standard disclaimer: I’m not in your shoes, and I don’t know any more than you’ve told me about your situation. So please do make your own best decision about how to proceed.

  7. Mimi Pollier

    Lee, you are right about me just being his back up plan. I’ve thought that all along. all he kept saying for awhile now. is let me go let me see it probably won’t work. you’ll be the first to know. but can i ask you if you do not mind. how did you get over your ex-wife and how long did it really take?? what one think happened to help you along. any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. I want to just get up one morning and feel good and not think of him.. just one morning.
    please if you can comment back. thank you so much mimi

    1. Hi Mimi,

      Well, I think it’s a little different for men than it is for women–and of course, it’s different for every individual. We’re all unique, and our situations are unique. With that in mind, I’ll answer your questions.

      Getting over my ex-wife took several years, and it came in two phases. First I had to get over her in my mind, then I had to get over her in my heart. It was also complicated by the fact that I have three children with her.

      I wish I could say that I finally figured it out and had a moment of enlightenment. But the fact is that I clung tenaciously to my misguided belief that she was the right one for me, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, for over thirty years–nine years before we were married, and over twenty years after she put her backup plan in motion by marrying me. (We were married for almost twenty-four years, though separated for the last two of that.) If it had been up to me, I probably would never have woken up.

      However, when, in my mid-40s, I finally went into my walloping midlife crisis and started falling apart in a major way, she bailed on me (I don’t really blame her for that) and ran off with another man while still married to me and living with me and our children (for that I do blame her). That was what finally forced me to wake up. I very quickly went through the stages of grief in my mind. Within a few weeks, or at most a month or two, from the time she told me she was seeing another man, I came to the point of acceptance mentally. The scales just suddenly fell away from my eyes. I finally realized, like a thunderclap, that she truly did not love me and never would, that we were miles apart in beliefs, values, and character, and that she never was and never would be the right mate for me. I had been deceiving myself all those years because I so much wanted to believe that I had found and was married to my true love. It’s amazing what the human mind can do when it dearly wants something to be true that simply isn’t true. I marvel now at how blind I could be all those years to so many obvious signs that I was completely mistaken about my relationship with her–even though I think I am a reasonably rational and intelligent person! 😉

      Now, I also wish I could say that I did the work on my own steam of cutting the remaining connection with her out of my heart, through personal effort and enlightenment. But that’s not true either. Yes, I did to a lot of work. I had some awareness of the dynamics of dysfunctional relationships and narcissistic personalities. But since we had kids together, and we had to have contact for that reason, and also because I was still living in the house where we’d lived together for over ten years, I let her keep engaging with me and interfering with my life both practically and emotionally. That was a big mistake.

      Though I was fairly good at fighting a rearguard battle against her, I don’t recommend the way I did it. The fact is, I never fully cut my vestigial connection with her (though it was no longer love) until I met another woman and remarried. My ex nearly torpedoed our marriage–which is quite common. And I made the common mistake of not cutting off all unnecessary contact (some contact was necessary because of our joint custody of the children). Once again, I probably never would have wised up on my own. But finally my wife put her foot down. In her own way, she read the riot act, and made it clear that she was no longer going to put up with this situation. In the ensuing maelstrom, I completed the job I had started a year or two earlier of ending the former split custody arrangement so that I could cut off all contact with my ex. That finally severed the destructive emotional umbilical cord to my ex, which had been continuously pumping life-deadening bile, not life-giving blood, into my system.

      In all, it was about six and a half years from the time my ex first started cheating on me to the time I finally cut off all contact. I hope it doesn’t take you that long.

      I also do not recommend using a new relationship to sever the old one. That’s not exactly what I did. I was attracted to my wife for reasons unrelated to my previous marriage. However, there were some elements of a rebound relationship in my new marriage. It is a major mistake. Take Kim’s advice, and get to where you love and respect and appreciate yourself first, and can stand on your own two feet, before getting romantically involved with another man. It will save you from much tumult whenever you do find someone with whom you have real, mutual love. I had started on that path, but had not finished it before I remarried, which has caused many problems.

      I still do think about my ex from time to time, and the shadow is still not entirely gone. Because we had children together, I cannot completely leave her behind. And she was a major part of my life for over three decades. But at this point, I have my own life completely separate from hers, and it feels good. I wish her well in her new relationship, and simply want her to continue to leave me alone in mine. I have no desire to see her ever again. Almost nothing is left from my previous life except for my kids, my faith, and many hard-learned life lessons. My youngest son lives full-time with my wife and me now–and his life is much better, too. The older two are still somewhat caught between their parents, but they’re entering adult life now, and they’ll learn to navigate that in due time.

      I hope what I’ve shared of my story is helpful to you. Mainly, I want to convey to you that it is possible to move on, and to start a new and better life, even after decades of putting your heart into a former relationship.

    2. Hi again Mimi,

      Okay, if you made it through all that (or not), here are some practical words of wisdom:

      If you are still living where you lived with your ex, move out. It may be difficult and painful (it was for me). It may seem financially impossible. Do it anyway. It will make a huge difference. You’ll be in your own space, away from the rooms and scenes you shared with him. You can’t begin a new life when you’re still surrounded by the scenery of your previous one.

      At the same time, leave behind all furniture, objects, pictures, and mementos that were part of your life with him. They will only serve as a ball and chain continuing to connect you with him emotionally. Surround yourself with brand new furnishings, artwork, kitchen appliances . . . the whole nine yards. Of course, you can still keep things from before you were with him–childhood pictures and treasured belongings from your youth. But make a clean sweep of the things associated with your years with your ex. Be brutal about it. It will feel like ripping off a massive bandage when you do it. But when it’s all over with, you’ll have a real sense of freedom and of a new start. Don’t hang onto that one precious memento from those years . . . just don’t.

      Similarly, stop yourself from mentioning things he used to say, and using stories from him and his family, in casual conversations with your friends, family, and coworkers–even if it’s the perfect story to illustrate the topic of conversation. Just remain silent at that point, and let the conversation move on. He is dead to you now. This is different from talking out issues related to him with confidantes, counselors, and so on as part of your healing process. What I’m talking about is when you’re shooting the breeze and making small talk with people. Don’t say, “_____ used to say . . .” or “I remember when _____ and I . . .” Your surgical removal procedure must include cutting out all of the stories and experiences that tied you to him. You have a new life now, separate from him.

      Finally (for now!), don’t go looking for a new relationship. Focus on clarifying for yourself who you are, what you love, what you believe, what you want to do with your life. Become your own person in a way that you probably couldn’t in your previous relationship. Then go about living the life you want to live, and doing the things you believe in and love. If and when it comes time for you to begin a new relationship, it will most likely come when you are not looking for it. When you are just living your life the way you love to live it, and doing the things you love to do, it will naturally cause you to cross paths with people who share your loves and beliefs. Eventually, one of them will be the man for you.

      The harder you look, the more likely you are to get into another dysfunctional relationship. But when you stop looking, and just live your best life fully as yourself, you’ll find the right relationship in its proper time. Neither I nor my wife were looking for love when we met. (This is one thing I actually did right!) We had each separately decided that we would remain single, live our own lives, and follow our own goals. We met while pursuing common goals–and the rest, as they say, is history 😀

    3. Oops, I did want to say one more thing:

      If you do get into a new relationship a little too early, before you’ve fully severed yourself from your ex (still not recommended!), be dogged and determined about giving your new partner priority over your ex. Do not let your ex monopolize your time and emotions, and pull you away from your new partner. Better yet, do the right thing, and complete the job of cutting off all contact with your ex. You can’t be in a relationship with two men at the same time. The old one had his chance, and he blew it. Time to move on.

  8. Mimi Pollier

    HI Kim:
    I’m still in love with this man and find it really hard to stop thinking about him. I just wish he would come back to me. I find it so hard to sleep at night. all i do is keep trying to figure things out. but i can’t because everything he has ever told me has just been lies.. i want to date and meet another man and fall in love again and be happy.. i notice the weekends our the hardest time for me. i am always so loney. See my situation is like this he comes back briefly then leaves again so he can be with her.. telling me just to mind my own business he’s helping her and just can’t make up his mind. but maybe someday he will smarten up because im such a wonderful beautiful woman and who would not want to be with me. that’s why i keep asking you about if they stay with the ow. i want all the pain and aniexty to stop i just want to be normal again.. But i still love him deeply. i really do.. i am praying he will just find out that i am the better woman and she is nothing. What do you think? Do they someday wake up and realize what a mistake they have made?? Do you think this could be a fling?? Your right about loving yourself first before you move onto another man.. Kim, all i do is examine myself and what i could of done better/differently. But in closing you do not know me but i really am a good woman with a big heart. This man did what ever he wanted: came and went, was never accountable to me… All i did was try to hold onto him and just asked him to simmer down alittle bit and grow up (he’s sixty-three years old). And as far as NO Contact he can stay away from me.. he just doesn’t care about anyone but himself. It’s totally unbelievable that you can cut someone out of your life after twenty plus years, just because he met a looser.. Please comment. Thank you Mimi

    1. Hi Mimi,

      I had to cut my ex out of my life after over twenty years of being married to her and over thirty years of believing that she was my true, spiritual, eternal partner. I was completely wrong about that. She did not even love me. And believe me, this man does not love you either, no matter what he has ever said and no matter how you feel. If he did, he could not possibly treat you the way he has treated you and is still treating you. He’s just keeping you on ice in case his current relationship fails. You mean nothing to him beyond a backup plan–which is exactly what I was to my ex-wife. Cutting off my connection to my ex was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But is was also one of the best and most necessary. Cutting off that love and feeling of connection within you is like a surgical operation to remove a tumor that has been growing in your life for years. It’s excruciatingly painful, and there is a long recovery time. But you just have to go through it if you are ever going to have a healthy, pain-free life.

      Apologies to Kim for cutting in, but your story hits close to home for me. I was able to perform that operation, and my life, though certainly not perfect, is much better now. You can do it too. You’re worth much more than that man is ever going to give you. Take it from one who’s been there.

      1. Kim Saeed

        Lee, no apologies needed. I always welcome your comments. Besides, when survivors unite, it only helps spread awareness of the toxic reality of Narcissists so that we can help others along their path as we once walked our own.

    1. Kim Saeed

      Oh, why thank you! {Smiling like Chester the Cat} 😀

      1. idiotwriter

        So you should! I may have said this before – but I am pretty darn sure that your words here help a LOT of people 😀

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