How to Heal From a Narcissistic Relationship


Do you sometimes feel like you’re still carrying trauma from a narcissistic relationship? Perhaps you’re haunted by regret over the fact that you didn’t leave earlier. Or you’ve been through so much in recent years that you’re not even sure you know who you are anymore . . . and have no idea how to start the healing process.

In today’s video, an incredible member of my Club 320 inner circle asked 3 beautifully vulnerable questions (and gave me permission to share them with you). From a painful childhood to a 10-year relationship with a narcissist, she wanted to figure out how to release shame, heal, and find her true self. 

No matter what your story is, you don’t have to carry this baggage forever. I think that after listening to Cara’s story, you might start to look at your life, your history, and your future differently.


So I just got back from a weekend in Zion National Park with a very special group of people as part of my Club 320 program. And there was a moment during the weekend that I thought would speak to a lot of people out there. Cara, one of my Club 320 members, talked about the self-esteem issues she had that led to a 10-year narcissistic, abusive relationship that she is still struggling to heal from.

We talked about her healing and how she could learn to forgive herself for the time she spent in that relationship, which is something she has been struggling to do. Cara kindly and bravely offered for us to release this video. Thank you, Cara, for being vulnerable enough to share your story, and I think you’re going to get a lot out of it. And without further ado, I present to you, Cara from Club 320.


Can we sit together on the floor across from each other in the middle of the circle?


I’m quite happy to sit on the floor.

You’ve already helped me with the first thing, which is just knowing that I could ask for something from a man, and have him care enough about me to give that, so thank you for that.

The story that I have about myself is that I’m not lovable and that I’m not likable just as I am—that I’m only lovable for what I can do for other people. I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and trying to figure out who’s the real me, right? So not the former college athlete me, not the mom me, not the hard worker me, and not the trauma survivor me. So my question to you is: How do I release the shame that I feel, find my true self, and step authentically into that in front of others and show up in a fearless way with my real self? 


What is the shame you feel?


I felt shame, I think, ever since I was a kid. So my brother committed suicide when I was six, in our house. My family basically fell apart, and no one was there for me—to deal with my pain as I was dealing with that. My brother was my best best friend, and then I felt like I had to perform for love, for my dad, and that was the only way I really got his attention. And then I ended up in a 10-year relationship with a narcissist who I have two kids with. I feel proud of myself for leaving, but I feel shame for having stayed for as long as I did.


Thank you. So, you were a child who had nowhere to take that emotion—had no guidance. You realize a child needs . . . in order for that situation to not be something that they spend many years trying to process and deal with in unproductive ways, needs amazing guidance. You didn’t just not get amazing guidance. You had really bad support—completely absent support. More than that, this invalidation: “I’m not allowed to process this. I can’t deal with this.” 

But you were a child, so let’s keep that part really simple. You were a child. Since then, you have been doing the best you could every step of the way.

That shame you feel . . . there are accidents that happen all the time that people can’t predict—that they look back on: “If I’d have only just not left the door open to the house,” “If I’d have only just not left my kids for five minutes in that situation,” etc.

There are situations like that every single day, and it’s just we’re lucky it wasn’t us that day. Should they all feel shame? No, we’re human beings. We do shit. You got into a relationship, and every step of the way in that relationship, you did the best you could in that relationship, and the best you could do for a long time wasn’t being strong enough to leave, because you didn’t have the tools, you didn’t have the resources, you didn’t have the DNA, you didn’t have the childhood, you didn’t have a whole cocktail of things that would have made it possible for you to leave five years sooner.

For you, something really drastic had to happen, and that was a wakeup call. That doesn’t deserve shame. It requires compassion. You have done the best you could. And guess what? Today’s best is better than yesterday’s best, and that’s exciting. 

There’s a story you’re telling yourself, and that story is actually getting in the way of your true nature. It’s getting in the way of who you can really be. And honestly, the whole “Who am I?” thing, I don’t know how productive that is. Because who are any of us? What are we? Just a kind of composite of things we’ve gotten good at, books we’ve read, memories, stuff we’ve done in our lives?

We could have been a completely different composite if we’d just read a different book or been called a different name or grown up somewhere different.

I don’t know that that’s as interesting to me as what you can do and the peace that you can feel if you actually let go of this attachment to this identity you formed to yourself, and to your story, because you’ve been beating yourself up for a long time. I know that. I’ve spent my lifetime beating myself up. So has my mom, we’re fucking pros at it, and my journey has been the same as yours. What do I do to stop doing that? 

Well, firstly, I realized that so much of me beating myself up is just another story. I can wake up today and I can be whoever I want to be. I can show up however I want to show up.

What if I let go of that baggage, and maybe instead of trying to discover who I am, what if I just made it my mission this year to find peace within myself? I’m just going to find peace within myself, and then I’m going to see what I feel like creating from that place of peace. I’m going to see what I feel like doing from that place of peace. I’m going to see which kinds of relationships I’m interested in from that place of peace, because what you’ll find is what you choose to do and create, who you choose to spend time with, will be completely different from that place of peace than they are from a place of shame. A completely different life comes from that.


Will that make me feel like I could be more myself and feel more lovable and feel more like I can show up in relationships authentically?


What does it mean to show up authentically?

To not be second-guessing what I need to be for everybody else. To just be like, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.”


Yes, but who are you? Like, I wake up every day and I know that I want to try to be the best person I can be, right? I mess up all the time. I get agitated too easily, or I get anxious and I make a mistake, or all of those things happen. 

But every day, I wake up and I try to just connect to: What does the most loving Matthew want? How does he want to show up? How does he want to treat people? And every day I’m looking for: Is this thing coming from ego and insecurity and greed and fear, or is it just coming from love? How would I show up right now if I were just coming from a place of love—love for myself and love for other people? How would I show up from that state?

And I don’t think you need to worry about discovering who you are. I think you need to worry about losing the shame and reconnecting to: How does Cara show up when she’s actually just coming from a place of love? That’s going to be the difference—not from insecurity, not from “I’m trying to feel whole by getting somebody else,” or “I’m trying to get validated by having someone want me.” 

How do I show up if I’m just coming from a place of peace and love? It’s a very different thing, and I don’t want you to be preoccupied with this discovery, because I do think it’s kind of a red herring.

I think the issue is that right now, you’re identifying too much with all of this. You are not your mistakes. Your mistakes arose out of parts of you that were trying to get their needs met. You’re not those mistakes, right? The parts of us that are trying to get their needs met can create a lot of problems in our life, right? But what was behind those things wasn’t bad. It wasn’t evil. It was just something that was trying to be okay. Something was trying to be heard—a need was trying to get met—and you were doing your best in that moment with the tools you had. That’s it. We don’t have to think any more about it than that.

Now what we have to do is for you to start giving yourself the things that all along you’ve been trying to get from everybody else. 

I personally don’t want to be defined by who I am now, in this room—a speaker, a coach, or whatever. I don’t want to be defined by those things, because what I’m doing is . . . is that who I am, really? If I do that, then I’m just defining myself by what you will think of me at the end of the day. That’s my worth now. 

Well, what if I have a bad day? My worth plummets because you will think less of me today? That can’t be it. What you do isn’t who you are. So you don’t need to figure out: What do I do in life that’s who I am? Right now, it’s about losing the shame and going into the next day of your life from a much more peaceful place. You can’t keep looking backward. We’ve got too much to do now, right? We’ve actually got stuff to do.

And one last thing. Why are we sitting on the floor?


(laughs) Partly because I wanted to be closer to you and have like, better eye contact, and partly because I felt like, if I was on the floor, I felt more safe, and I would not, like, pass out or something.


But there was also another element you said: If you could ask for something and it be given to you. So that thing that you wanted given to you, that had to be you giving it to you, right? What if I’d said “no”?


I would have had a hard time.


So then I own you.


I understand what you’re saying.


Then I own you. Because what you’re saying is that I have complete power over you. I don’t even need to fucking move. In fact, I can sit exactly where I am in that chair and have complete power over you and your emotions.

I don’t want to have that power over you. I don’t want you to give me that kind of power. I don’t want you to give anyone that kind of power. Because if that’s the case, you’ll go to the next relationship seeing if he’ll do the thing that you need him to do, so that you can feel okay.

And that’s what I’ve done in all my relationships all my life.


“I just need you to text me back in the next hour so that I know that I’m okay,” right? Whatever that was that you wanted from me, that’s the thing you have to give to yourself.

“I needed to know that if you sat here with me, that that would make me feel safe, because it would make me feel like I could get someone to do something.”

That cannot be where your safety comes from. It has to come from you saying, “What’s the safety I’m looking for outside of myself in the first place? What’s the validation I’m looking for outside of myself in the first place? How do I start giving that to myself?”

And you’ll have examples of it, because you’ll know that there are people in this room who have made huge mistakes in their life, and you don’t think that discounts them from a life where they receive love.

You don’t think they should forever live in shame for their mistakes, right? So what makes you so special that you should just be a shame ball for the rest of your life? Where’s the exceptionalism for you? Does it make sense? You’re a human in this room. We’re all just humans in this room. You’re another one.

Why does it make sense you would treat you worse? And I don’t know if you’ve read my new book, but the whole point is, we’re all just humans, but the only difference is, your job isn’t to look after these humans for the rest of your life, or to make them happy for the rest of your life. Your job is to do that for you. 

The only thing that’s really different about you is that you’re the one who has that job, so time to start doing that job. Cara, thank you. I really enjoyed this interaction. 


Thank you. I really appreciate it.


I think community is this ingredient that we get to foster in our lives. And if we build a strong community with like-minded people—if we find our people, and we form real, authentic bonds with those people, then it becomes this great ingredient in our life. What I love about this is that Club 320, no matter what, they have these connections they’re formed with each other.

Thank you so much for watching. Leave me a comment and let me know what part of Cara’s story resonated most with you. Also, every Friday now, I write a personal advice email to my community on my mailing list. It is, I think, one of the best things I do every week. It’s free. You can join at

It will take you 10 seconds to join, and then you can look forward to my private email this Friday. Every week, I give advice on finding love, getting over heartbreak, managing our emotions, improving our confidence. It’s really practical. It’s filled with free, valuable information. And I also write things in this email that are quite personal to me that I don’t write anywhere else, and this is the only place to access it. So if you want to get this email from me straight into your inbox every Friday, all you need to do is sign up. It’ll take you 10 seconds at, and I’ll see you in your inbox this Friday. Be well and love life.

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10 Replies to “How to Heal From a Narcissistic Relationship”

  • So beautiful, thank you Cara and Matthew. Being guided to establishing inner peace is what’s resonating with me after watching this, its as though peace is soil, it’s earth for nonplants, its from there that all we long for can grow. Blessings on you x

  • Thank you very much. This video has a powerful message and has touched me a lot. I have found out I was Cara myself many times when I expected certain things from people to do for me. Your advice is amazing dear Matthew.

  • Hi Matthew, I need to thank you for the valuable knowledge you share with us here and in the book. It has helped me tremendously.
    I’m 57 and in a tricky situation: my narcissistic partner broke up with me 3 yrs ago after 21 yrs together. We have a house, 2 dogs and 2 adopted daughters together but she is formally the only parent and owner of dogs. I co-own the house but she also put in her name some land that we bought together. She tried to force me out of the house and kids’ life, but I stood up for myself and now we are in court over property, but really it’s the only way to get her to agree to shared custody. I cannot leave the house (lawyer’s advice) as I need to remain in my kids’ lives but I managed to make her understand I’m not going to be a free baby-sitter (have the resposibility and no rights, not even to plan an afternoon activity with the kids). Afrer reading your post I refused to take the disrespectful teen with me on vacation (which she wanted me to do so she can work) even after she threatened that the younger one won’t go in that case. I stood my ground and now I get consulted in advance and get to have more time with the kids. A huge step in the right direction. It is hard but I can tell that the prospect of selling the house will force her to give me custody and then I can finally close that chapter of my life. In the mean time, I’ve started salsa dancing, going out, travelling and getting my life together. I always remember Duran Duran’s line: “where is the life that I recognize?”
    Well, I am bringing it back from the dead and I want to thank you for helping me do it.

  • Holy man. I started bawling in the first 30 seconds. I realize I have to do more healing. I survived a 15 year VERY narcissistic relationship not only with my ex-hubby but also his 3 grown-up kids. I thought I was ok. Not emotionally tied to it anymore. But when Kara talked about her brother and her childhood I see such parallels that I had not thought of. And I am 62 years old. Wow is all I can say. Thank you for posting these each week.

  • Shame is there to tell us we have trampled our own standards so we can change our behavior (not our standards:) ). While you may not like how long it has taken you to change your behavior, you have done it. The shame did its job and you have done and are doing yours. Done; no more need for shame.
    Perhaps one’s authentic self is, if it were up to us, how we would show up regardless of who is with us. Perhaps put differently, if we knew everyone would like us no matter what, how would we show up; who would we be?

    Brava well done

  • Kara’s story was mine. Only mine was 17.5 years. It took a long time and counseling to realize it’s not my story anymore. The who am I? Well I’m working on that everyday. I resonated with her story. My heart goes out to her. It’s a journey. I’m on it with her. Thank you Matthew

  • As someone who once felt like Cara, your advice was spot on. She needs to learn to love herself and make herself more important than others. It is hard to make that change and it may be a lifetime challenge, but it feels amazing to standup for yourself and see others respond to that. I hope Cara finds her peace, that she feels joy, and she remains strong always looking out for herself because she knows she is worthy of everything amazing in life. What a beautiful exchange that you both shared. Thank you for sharing.

  • Wow. advise. Well analysed and you hit the spot. Many things stood out especially when you said you are not here to make everyone happy to find validation and you are not your mistakes. And cutting out the self pity and saying what makes you special. and they were all valuable and on point. I need to re watch it and make a note to write what stood out the most. Well done Matt.

  • I liked what you said to Cara, who has obviously had a very difficult life. But I was looking for more details about the narcissistic relationship, and how she could escape that. Also something about her children and current living situation, support systems.

  • This information about narcissism
    Was very powerful , especially the points about letting people have power over you and expecting them to make you happy , give you peace and fulfill your needs. I grew up in a very dysfunctional and sometimes very abusive home . I have in my adult relationships relived the same type of dysfunctional and controlling relationships that I had as a child . Even though I have done counseling , this article explained most clearly what the issue had been and how to resolve it . Thank you so.

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