If you’re trying to get over a narcissist, there’s a lot of information on the Internet about the “no contact rule” and how to implement it. The problem is, with the passage of time, people develop relationship amnesia, and just around the time relationship amnesia begins to set in, the narcissist, like a tornado, will regenerate and strike again. No contact is good, but going Stover is even better. No that wasn’t a typo. Stover is a term a friend of mine coined, that means the relationship is “So Totally OVER” or Stover. Going Stover is a lot like going no contact only on Red Bull, and best of all it protects against dreaded relationship amnesia.
Tornadoes are the most powerful and deadly weather phenomena on land. Like narcissists, they destroy everything in their path and hurl debris over great distances, and the second you rebuild, they will strike again. Fortunately, taking the added measure of going Stover, is like kryptonite to the vortex of the narcissist’s tornado, from ever regenerating.
What is Stover?
Stover is NOT just no contact, no response for a certain amount of time to clear your head, and heal your heart. Stover is a frame of mind. It’s your new mantra. It’s rejecting anyone who doesn’t appreciate you. It’s closing the door forever and putting a padlock on it. It’s accepting the relationship is finished, and there’s no turning back, no matter what. It’s ensuring there is zero possibility of any reconciliation, or potential for a future friendship. It’s letting go of the need for vindication, or hope of an apology. It’s accepting that the outcome was inevitable. It’s building an impenetrable fort of protection. It’s erecting a boundary that is indestructible. It’s reacting proactively to guard against relationship amnesia. It’s feeling confident about permanently ejecting toxicity from your life. It’s crossing the bridge, then throwing a grenade over your shoulder, and blasting the bridge to bits. It’s diffusing the narcissist’s vortex from ever regenerating. It’s taking back your power. It’s the sum of many small actions that equal complete and total self-love. It’s the loudest silent message that the relationship is not just over, it’s Stover!
Let’s be honest. Breakups are hard. Being broken up with is hard, but a breakup with a narcissist is pure hell. At the same time, it is also a gift, that is only realized once all that residual brainwash has had time to fade away. A narcissist’s manipulation tactics only work on certain types of people, although you don’t necessarily have to adopt the label of co-dependent just yet. There are many people who aren’t co-dependent but are susceptible to a narcissist’s manipulation tactics. These people are emotionally generous, empathetic, forgiving, honest, and willing to take responsibility. Narcissists view these qualities as vulnerabilities or weakness and use them against their victims. In reality, these qualities are strengths the fragile narcissist is totally void of. It’s like the popular quote says: “It’s more courageous to have a soft heart in a hard world,” than the opposite. The answer isn’t to become like the monster you’re battling or the vampire who bit you but to recognize that the qualities that are part of who you are, are the qualities that put you in danger in the presence of toxic people. Embracing the mind frame, and implementing the guiding principle of going Stover when breaking up with a narcissist, is the added protection that guards against getting sucked backed into the narcissist’s vortex, and decreases the chances that it will regenerate in the future.
First, it is important to identify the three main emotional re-entry points that need to be addressed.
Hoping for change
Some people have a difficult time closing that door, much less changing the locks because they tend to see the good in people and hold on to that hope that their ex will change. So, they say and act as if the relationship is over, but in their heart of hearts, they clearly leave the door cracked slightly open. They cling to the hope the narcissist will reach some sort of divine epiphany that causes him/her to feel remorse and show up at their door, olive branch in hand, repenting for his/her misdeeds while reciting a litany of I’m sorry’s.
Narcissists may come back and apologize, and say every last word you have hoped to hear, crocodile tears and all. Their make-believe remorse will be short-lived. Once you are back under their spell, the mask will slip off again. Only this time, an eviler version of the monster within will reveal itself.
Emotionally generous people are typically forgiving to a fault, usually to their own detriment. With the passage of time, their non-grudge-holding natures, cause them to remember the good memories and forget about all the horrible things the narcissist said and did. The memories of all the constant criticisms over the most trivial things get transformed into constructive criticisms. All the out-right lies get downgraded to mere exaggerations. Even though the narcissist blamed them for every single problem in the relationship, they remind themselves that they weren’t exactly perfect. They fail to recall the insanity of the crazy-making conversations, that left them scratching their heads in disbelief, feeling invalidated, and wanting to bang their heads against a brick wall.
Learning to set clear boundaries by quickly expelling toxic people from your life, is a good habit to practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets and protects you from suffering bad bouts of relationship amnesia.
Then there are people who leave the door open a crack because they hate leaving things on bad terms. Any kind of friction in their lives produce feelings of discomfort. So, they avoid ejecting people from their circle, even when they know it’s for their own good. Their peacekeeping nature isn’t comfortable having enemies; thus, they settle for a large circle, filled with a lot of frenemies.
Sometimes things don’t end well or neatly like we would like them to. Sometimes endings are messy and complicated. Learning to be comfortable and confident in your decisions, without worrying about being liked, or what others think, is an essential step to happiness and recovery.
Even when you implement no contact, no response, at some point, whether it takes five months or five years, most narcissists will pull the ole’ boomerang trick. They will try to test the boundaries of no contact, just to prove they can, and assess how much control they still have over you.
Failing to recognize and address re-entry points, and the reasons for leaving the door open, however so slightly, allows the narcissist to pull the ole’ boomerang trick (hoover), and bounce back into your life.
Since I have yet to hear about a narcissist who has reappeared because they truly loved their ex, or sincerely realized the errors in their ways, there is no reason not to completely go Stover, and slam that door shut and change the locks. There are only a few exceptions where it’s not possible to go Stover –if you are co-parenting children with the narcissist, work with the narcissist, or some other reason, then limiting contact, while maintaining the Stover frame of mind, is the second best option.
The guiding principle of Stover
Remember, Stover is a state of mind. It’s a mantra. It’s permanently ejecting toxicity from your life. There is only one main guiding principle of going Stover, and that is to batten down ALL the hatches. Now that you’re aware of the possible emotional points of re-entry, it’s time to focus on all the other possible forms of re-entry, and extinguish all potential avenues for cyber-assault.
Typically, the narcissist will not immediately de-friend you from Facebook, because it would deny them the added enjoyment of cyber-abusing you, by making negative, vague, or outright false statements about you, via comments on mutual friend’s posts, or on their own page, and by flaunting the new love of their life. The social media displays of their new relationship utopia are just another manipulation tactic, to deceive you and everyone else, into thinking that you were at fault for the relationship’s end, and they finally found a person who is worthy of their greatness.
Even if you aren’t still Facebook friends with your ex-narc, there are some very important steps available, that you can take to protect yourself.
This step is not for the faint of heart, but you will thank yourself later for following this suggestion. If you are Facebook friends, go to your ex’s Facebook page, and delete every comment you ever made on every post. If you can, do it when you think your ex is asleep, and will not notice the disappearing comments. Then delete your ex’s comments on your own Facebook page. Delete all pictures of your ex, or save them to a file on your computer, labeled “trash to delete at a later date”. Now you’re ready to delete and block your ex from Facebook.
Why go through all this trouble?
Because if you delete your ex without first wiping away your comments from his/her Facebook page, when you update your profile picture, even after you delete and block them, they will be able to see your updated profile picture by viewing any comments you’ve made on their page, and vice versa. Do you really want to see all those lovey-dovey profile pictures of your ex, and the clueless new victim, while viewing your page? And your ex doesn’t need to stay updated on your love-life either. Of course, you are going to hit the gym and look 100 times better, especially since the N stress has vacated your life. And it’s, oh so tempting, to want to rub all your hotness in their face, but this relationship is Stover. So, none of that matters, and you don’t want to give them a single reason to return.
If it’s too late, and you have already deleted them, or they deleted you, don’t worry. Just go to your Facebook page, and manually delete all their comments and pictures, and then click the block button. If they have blocked you, just block them right back, just in case they decide to ever unblock you.
Next, it’s time to delete and block all their family members. If you feel inclined, you can send a polite message to anyone that you may have become close with, explaining your reason for deleting them is not personal, but something you feel you need to do. Then do the same with any mutual friends that you suspect may be on their team, or may share information about you. It’s better to error on the side of caution. You only want to surround yourself with people who are 100% team (insert your name here).
All other social media
Once you have cyber-sealed Facebook, make a list of every social media site you are on, even ones you don’t use often, and delete and block your ex, his/her family, and any and all suspected allies. This will not only prevent the potential for contact, but let’s face it, we all get curious, and these steps will prevent the urge to cyber-peek. Staying updated on your ex will not only keep you stuck and re-open old wounds, but it opens you up to the myriad of narc-sadistic cyber-abuse tactics. The less you know, the better. Remember what curiosity did to the cat.
Other re-entry points
PHONE: Change your ex- narcissist’s name in your phone to Psycho, Narcissist, Don’t Answer, Sociopath, Loser, or whatever the creative and fitting name of your choosing. If you receive a phone call, let it go to voicemail, or use the block option on your smartphone. If you receive a text, don’t respond. Don’t even respond that you will not be responding. If they’re harassing you, or incessantly texting or calling you, CHANGE YOUR NUMBER.
EMAIL: You can either block their email address or adjust your email settings to have any emails from their email address go directly to your spam file. Or, you can choose to do nothing. If you receive an email in five months or five years, don’t open it. Forward it to one of your real friends. You know who they are. They are the ones that can’t stand your ex, and never share any information they may have heard through the grapevine about your ex. They care about you and know that staying in the know about your ex’s life will harm you more than help you. Let your friend decide if there is anything in the email you must be aware of, chances are there won’t be. Do the same, should you receive any form of ex- N snail mail.
Clear your home
Now, that you have cyber-erased your ex from your life, it’s time to clear your home of any reminders. Go through each room, and put every picture or memento you have in a box, and drive that box to the nearest dump, or better yet, invite your friends over for a ceremonial bond-fire. Remember, the relationship is Stover, no use holding on to anything that you will never need. If there is an item that you just can’t bear to part with at the moment, put it in a box, and give it to one of your real friends to hold on to for you.
Now it’s time to prepare for the possibility of running into mutual friends, or worse, your ex. The best way to do this is to avoid going to places where you might end up bumping into your ex, or your any mutual friends. Sounds simple enough. But with that said, you have every right to live your life. So, if you happen to bump into mutual friends, don’t mention your ex, don’t ask about your ex, don’t even utter their name. If your mutual friends bring up the subject of your ex, or try to pump you for information, just politely change the subject. They will get the hint.
If you run into your ex, remember this relationship is Stover for a reason, probably for hundreds of reasons. This is not the run of the mill typical breakup with an emotionally healthy person. Healthy people never mention their breakup on social media, much less show up in pictures with their new “soulmate”, within weeks of breaking up. You don’t need a therapist or psychiatrists, to officially diagnose your ex with a personality disorder, for proof. If you landed on this site, or any site about narcissism, then that’s all the proof you need, that your ex is toxic, and no good will ever come from maintaining an open door of contact with them. You don’t owe them anything! Not a hello, not a hi, not a hey, not eye-contact, or a disingenuous smile, nothing!
If you want to “heal it, you have to seal it,” so take the big red stamp, and officially declare the relationship Stover! —So Totally OVER!
Bree Bonchay, LCSW, is a psychotherapist with over 18 years of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships and shares her insights about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and psychopathy in her blog FreeFromToxic. Her articles have been featured in major online magazines and she has appeared on radio as a guest expert. She is also a dedicated advocate, educator, and facilitates survivor support groups and workshops.
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