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When the Narcissist Does What They Said They Wouldn’t Do…Again

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Do you feel devastated each time the narcissist breaks promises?

Maybe this sounds familiar…

You recently settled into a vague sense of security after the narcissist swore on their mother’s grave that they wouldn’t (insert relationship crime) again, yet you discovered they broke their “sacred” promise.  Perhaps they…

  • Swore they’d stop cheating, but you discovered they not only cheated again, they never stopped
  • Swore they’d try to be a better partner, spouse, friend, or parent, but after a short period of charades, they went back to the same ole, same ole
  • Swore they’d find gainful employment, and you found out they were not going on interviews, but visiting a lover
  • Swore they’d be fair and civil during the custody hearing, but you got sucker-punched when you went before the Judge
  • Swore they’d stop being insensitive, stop raging, stop lying, but you realized it was all just more lies

Consequently, you not only loathe the narcissist, but you also loathe yourself for falling for their lies once more.  You feel the punch of indignation in your gut and your fight-or-flight reaction kicks into overdrive.

Why the heck do they do it?  Do they get some sick enjoyment out of it?  Is it to prove to themselves (and you) that they can do anything they want and you’ll keep taking them back?  Is it their sadistic sense of entitlement?

Among the horrid relationship crimes that one endures from the narcissist in their life, habitually broken promises are the worst.  Why? Well, for one, it’s futile to blame a narcissist for being a narcissist.  After all, they have a track record of being habitual liars.  We can’t really expect them to change when they’ve given no indication that they can be trusted.

More importantly, though, these repeat offenses lead to learned helplessness, depression, trauma-bonding, and C-PTSD.

The danger of staying when the narcissist breaks promises repeatedly

Narcissists love to blame other people for their nasty behaviors.  In turn, their targets typically respond by being more supportive, understanding, kind, or compromising in an effort to persuade the narcissist to halt their betrayals and cruelties.

Instead, what happens is, patterns of deception and denial are established.  This may be to avoid the narcissist’s wrath or keep the peace, proving to the narcissist you’re not the crazy psycho they say you are but, underneath the surface, it’s a system of enabling.  A system the narcissist fabricates from the very start. 

Eventually, the target of this type of manipulation begins to feel powerless to do anything to stop the cheating, lying, disappearing, etc., believing they are resigned to accept their situation – even though this usually is not the case. 

Abuse victims may soldier on, keeping a silent list of the narcissist’s dreadful traits and wondering when their betrayals will stop. However, these attempts to cope accomplish nothing but staying stuck in an impossible situation. 

Disappointment is a constant and fixed component of a relationship with a narcissist.  Below are the long-term repercussions of staying in the relationship when the narcissist breaks promises.

Learned Helplessness

According to Britannica.com, Learned Helplessness is “a mental state in which a subject forced to endure stimuli that are painful or otherwise unpleasant, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable, presumably because it has learned that it cannot control the situation”.

If you are familiar with the “Seligman Dog” experiments, the dogs were shocked repeatedly both when they completed a task correctly and also when they did not.  The “dogs were so confused that they laid down depressed and GAVE UP and even whined–and this was Learned Helplessness that the dogs were experiencing”.

The Narcissist instills this in his or her targets through behaviors such as systematic brainwashing, inconsistent actions and words, blame-shifting, gas lighting, and more.

Or, you may simply be in a state of denial because you want the relationship to continue, still holding onto hope that things might eventually improve.  Either way, these are all-inclusive signs that you’re being psychologically manipulated and on a path of irreparable annihilation. 

Depression

In many cases, depression can be traced back to emotional trauma. In the context of narcissistic abuse, emotional trauma happens with single or repeated incidents of shaming, verbal attacks, and chronic incidents of infidelity.  The eventual discard of the target of narcissistic abuse adds to any existing emotional traumas, leading to the overwhelming shock of the person’s equilibrium. 

People who are emotionally traumatized often form limiting and self-defeating beliefs about themselves.  These negative beliefs may include: “I’m unlovable”, “love hurts”, “I’ll never feel emotionally safe”, “no one truly cares about me” …many of which are the product of early childhood wounds and further exacerbated by the betrayals and cruel statements by a narcissistic partner. 

Further, it’s not only traumatic events that cause depression but how we think about the events that often determines the level of strain we experience in the context of depressive episodes.  A study by psychologists at the University of Liverpool found that traumatic life events are the biggest cause of anxiety and depression, but how a person thinks about these events ultimately determines the level of stress they experience.

Researchers from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health, and Society analyzed the responses of over 32,000 participants to explore the causes and consequences of stress.  The study — the biggest of its kind in the UK- found that traumatic life events were the single biggest determinant of anxiety and depression. However, the results revealed that a person’s thinking style was as much a factor in the level of anxiety and depression a person experienced.[1]

You can see, then, how staying in a relationship with an individual who emotionally abuses you and repeatedly breaks their promises can cause crippling levels of chronic depression due to repeated emotional traumas, the nature of which is made worse by the limiting beliefs we form in response to the narcissist’s degrading verbal assaults.

Trauma-Bonding

A trauma bond is loyalty to a person who hurts you and they occur in very toxic relationships.  Trauma bonds are strengthened by inconsistent positive reinforcement (cycling from mean to sweet and back again) and keep you hoping for something better to come. They occur in extreme situations such as abusive relationships and hostage situations and can be with a partner, ex, parent, co-worker, boss, or friend.  You know you’re not safe around them, and yet, you stay in the relationship. Maybe, you even justify, rationalize, or make excuses for them.

In short, trauma bonds cause you to form a deep attachment to someone who is highly destructive to you.  According to Patrick Carnes, Founder of the Gentle Path at The Meadows program, signs of trauma-bonding include the following:

  • You find that others are horrified by something that has happened to you and you are not
  • You obsess about showing someone that they are wrong about you, your relationship, or their treatment of you
  • You find yourself missing a relationship even to the point of nostalgia and longing, that was so awful it almost destroyed you
  • You find yourself putting your trust in someone who has repeatedly proven that they cannot be trusted

You may try to help them understand what they’re doing, trying to convert them to become a non-abuser. You may blame yourself for their behavior. The relationship appears to have positive qualities, which confuses the picture. But it’s important to keep in mind that the “nice times” are an integrated part of the abuse.  When you stop making positive choices for yourself and any minor children you may have, the negative is outweighing the positive and the relationship has become deeply destructive.

Trauma bonds are intensely damaging and worsen over time the longer you stay in the toxic relationship.  The recovery process can begin only when you, as the abused individual, is in complete acceptance of having been trauma-bonded and take steps to exit the relationship.  

C-PTSD

People who have been emotionally and psychologically abused typically display C-PTSD symptoms that can mimic bipolar disorder.

Judith Herman, the author of Trauma & Recovery, describes C-PTSD as a form of trauma associated with prolonged subjection to totalitarian control including emotional abuse, domestic violence or torture—all repeated traumas in which there is an actual or perceived inability for the victim to escape. [2]  This may cause difficulty in regulating one’s emotions, explosive anger, and changes in self-perception which include shame, guilt, and self-blame.

Even more alarming, repeated emotional injuries shrink the brain’s hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, while enlarging the amygdala, which houses primitive emotions such as fear, grief, guilt, envy, and shame.

In short, you habitually become hijacked by your freeze response, unable to form rational thoughts or reactions.  Over time, this becomes your baseline state of being.  It’s a cycle of emotional destruction of the most grievous kind. 

What to do

When the narcissist breaks promises, giving them narcissist another chance only makes sense if they have dealt responsibly and completely with the consequences of previous failures. Otherwise, their requests for “second chances” are just attempts to live irresponsibly.  Waiting for the narcissist to change may stem from not wanting to make the difficult decisions that are clearly called for.

Recovery from narcissistic abuse (along with the constant broken promises) begins with No Contact (or, in the case of shared custody, a strict program of Modified Contact).  Narcissistic abuse creates a toxic addiction which is near impossible to overcome unless strong boundaries are implemented and communications are ceased altogether. 

The narcissist’s presence damages your recovery, and believe me, you want to recover as quickly as possible.  Otherwise, things will only continue to spiral downwards for you.


[1] Traumatic life events biggest cause of anxiety, depression. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2016, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131016213223.htm

[2] PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/complex-ptsd.asp 

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23 comments
Caron says March 25, 2019

I think we sometimes cling to the false notion that anything the narc did had anything to do with us–we keep ourselves at fault because at least there we can have some control; some hope. If it is my fault or about me, I can do something, whereas if it is a mental illness or a personality disorder and there is no hope, then I have to give up on this person I’ve loved more than anyone or anything. By our natures we want to have hope and believe that goodness will prevail. But over narcissism there is no control we can have. We may as well not even have ever been there. The loss is very profound. By hanging onto the illusion that there was something we might have done differently, we keep ourselves from having to face the fact that we were nothing special to this person but a means to an end. We keep ourselves from having to do the hard work of realizing and believing in our specialness ourselves.

Reply
Anonymous says March 24, 2019

How can I print this article? Are there psychologists that can help diagnose and treat a “survivor”?

Reply
    Kim Saeed says March 25, 2019

    Sure! Feel free to print it out and share it with your therapist. Not all therapists can help treat targets of narcissistic abuse successfully, so you’ll want to make sure you find one who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery or trauma recovery.

    Wishing you all the best!

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
How Narcissists Determine if You're Good Supply - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says March 10, 2019

[…] you are dealing with someone who does this a lot, it’s your sign that you just need to cut that anchor and sail […]

Reply
Why the Narcissist Seems to Hate You, But Won’t Let You Go - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says February 17, 2019

[…] are nothing like you and no amount of unconditional love will change this fact.  When we insist on believing the narcissist is like us, we are creating a story in our minds, […]

Reply
Pam says February 15, 2019

Still have phone contact. Says he is going for Counsuling to see if he can be fixed, says he loves me, never any I’m sorries, He wants to come back but avoid the ones who know what he has done. Got a woman 3 weeks after he left. Says she is just a friend. Others say they are dateing. We live 9 hours apart. I only hear what he says. I want things to be good, but don’t believe or trust him and he has hurt me for so many years, yet I still hope. Plus I don’t want to hurt him. Your lesson fits me well in trama bonding etc., want to be free to go on with my life and make it happier.

Reply
    Kim Saeed says February 19, 2019

    Hi Pamela,

    Thank you for sharing. I understand how difficult it is and that you don’t want to hurt him. But here’s what you need to reflect deeply upon…are you willing to sacrifice the rest of your life for a man who will never be loyal or honest with you?

    I invite you to watch my webinar if you haven’t already. It might help make things more clear for you: https://events.genndi.com/register/169105139238464945/221a214c40

    Wishing you all the best – Kim XoXo

    Reply
Anonymous says December 27, 2018

Some experts say to cut your losses and move away rather than trying to prove abuse and its effects when going through a divorce with a minor child to any judge or jury. It’s simply a no win situation.
The problem with that is as a mother I cannot stand by or run knowing that evil man is abusing my teenage son just a he did to me. Covertly and under the radar.
Because of his tatics and pre meditated actions I am in a position he knew and planned it to be. Devastated, unemployed, broken, drained financially and almost homeless without a friend or family member who cares at all. It’s my fault and Ive been shunned by everyone.
It’s going to take a miracle to get out of this mess.
However, it’s been a year of no contact, total separation and a whole lot of research has been completed by me to get answers i needed. I get it. I’ve let that illusion go and i dont HOPE for anything from that reptilian. N gray area for me. It’s black and white and no turning back.
Having said that…. Can anyone with an educated professional opinion suggest or advise me of the best course of action I should take moving forward with total determination as I prepare myself and even represent myself pro se for the next major battle against a very evil demon to save my innocent sons spirit and soul.

Determined but surviving barely in Texas

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Pam says December 26, 2018

I have been married 35 yrs and I left my husband a year ago when I reached a point where I no longer felt save with him & he was very open about how much he hated me. He stopped communications with our daughters and their families; he is very open on how much he hates them also. But I continued to pray & have hope for a reconciliation but I still loved him. He started an affair a month after I left and I started the divorce process. We have a business together but we live in different states. He has a pattern of calling me reference a business issue then it becomes about us. During these times, I got hope and highs from hearing from him when he was nice. I now realize how sick the pattern really was and what he is doing. I know that I must go “No Contact” but I’m struggling to take that step & I’m smart enough to understand why I need to. I’m literally having my own battle in my mind/heart on this issue.

It’s healing at least to write my feeling down so I can see them.

Thanks for listening!

Pam

Reply
Tracy says December 25, 2018

Tell me if I’m wrong but shouldn’t I be seated at the other end of the table while my husband is at the head? Not in my marriage his daughter gets that spot and he fixed her plate, mind you she’s 20 years old. Do they wait for me to get my plate fixed and seated before they eat? No they don’t. It’s been a long day and I’m tired of getting beat down emotionally! I want to tell him to take the tracking device I found in my vehicle and stick it up his ass!! He said he’ll sell it (my Yukon) i said go ahead if that makes you feel better about yourself!! Done done done

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Nina says December 22, 2018

I have just left a relationship which clearly is trauma bonding and I seem to repeat the cycle of letting them cross my boundaries which then makes me feel used and all the emotions mentioned are totally relatable because sometimes u keep explaining why it’s wrong and they actually act like it’s invisible or worse they don’t understand what you mean… I want to stop allowing myself to stay with people who cross my boundaries as I clearly don’t know how to have healthy ones and try too hard to help which is what I have done since a child… this article made me realise I need to not accept it by walking away immediately instead of literally explaining until I feel crazy as to why it’s wrong whtabis happening that’s why I left my partner two days ago because I see the same pattern of the entitled right they push on u and then you hate yourself for being used and feeling like crap

Reply
    Kim Saeed says December 31, 2018

    That was brave, Nina. Keeping my fingers crossed for you for a healed life.

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
Christie says December 10, 2018

Why is he accusing me of cheating? I haven’t given him any reason for him to think that. But he is convinced that i am and that i did. Oh, yes i did leave my abuser. I moved 168 miles away from him because i knew he would not drive that far, plus i went to be with my mom.
I left him without saying anything to him that morning. I waited until i got to my moms. Then I texted him and told him. Boy did he blow up my phone for a two days then it went to slamming on FB.
I know I should have handled it in a different way. He said when he got home he was hit with the emptiness, with me not being there. That I rip his heart out. How could I do that to him, he asked. I love you so much why did you leave like that?
Then back to me being a cheater and a liar. I told him. That is it, that is why i am no longer there. I have never given you a reason to always accuse me. Never have i been unfaithful.
Why am i always apologizing for everything that is going wrong? Why am i always the one that is crazy?

Reply
    Kim Saeed says December 12, 2018

    Hi Christie, I am sorry for what you went through but very happy to know you left. When someone accuses you of cheating for no good reason, they have serious issues and – many times – are unfaithful themselves. Kudos on taking your power back!

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
Tabitha says December 1, 2018

I have definitely identified that I’m at the worst level with my abuser. But I have no family. He has successfully isolated me from the 2 friends I have. I have no job, transportation or any sense of self. I live in a poor state of Arkansas. I have no children, thankfully. And I can’t get assistance because I have no kids. They usually send me to support groups that I can never attend w/o my abuser finding out I’m trying to leave him. How do I leave to live on the street or under a bridge. I can control how bad he beats me . I can’t control how bad someone will beat me out there.

Reply
    Lis says March 24, 2019

    It’s been a few months since you posted this. Have you contacted a women’s shelter for abused women? They may have programs to help you get back on your feet. You might be able to re-establish your relationship with your friends. I hope you are out of that situation. I’ll be praying for you. 🙏

    Reply
Shady Shizzle from the Mouths of Narcissists - Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says July 4, 2018

[…] you’ve heard these obscure messages from your toxic partner, take it as an unmistakable sign that you are with a person who will never give you the love, respect, or care that you desire from them – and the longer you stay with them, the longer […]

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The Sad Truth About Why the Narcissist Seems to Hate You, But Won’t Let You Go Easily - Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says May 9, 2018

[…] are nothing like you and no amount of unconditional love will change this fact.  When we insist on believing the narcissist is like us, we are creating a story in our minds, […]

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Rita says April 24, 2018

That sounds just like my story, just add 14 more years. I just learned about this narcissistic personality. I do know the only way I will ever get out of this marriage is no contact he tells me he’ll never let us divorce, we have 4 kids and 7 grand baby’s and it hurts to see the family split, I feel like I can just keep going until one of us dies. Maybe just reading more information will get me stronger to see past what is to what can be. And no one can understand unless they lived it. I know I’m not crazy
Rita

Reply
    Debra says July 15, 2018

    Omg the only way I thought it would ever end was for one of us to die. He was killing me with his narcissistic/psychopath abuse.

    Reply
Mia says April 20, 2018

Thank you for these emails! I wait for them in my inbox weekly…. they help me so much and seem to come just when I need extra reassurance and understanding. They just help support all my emotions and things I’m feeling from being with a narcissist for almost 13 years and experiencing what I did with him.

Reply
Shirley Akpelu says April 19, 2018

Shalom Kim.
I truly appreciate this blog and all your solid information on this subject.
They Most High is helping me and directing my steps.
I take it one day a time.
Healing and recovery.
Restoration is taking place.
Restitution is taking place.
Justice will not be denied.
I am a survivor.
I am not going to give up.
I have a purpose and plan for my life.
No devil in hell or on this earth can stop it.
Halleluyah.

Reply
Chely says August 17, 2017

Hello Kim,
Thank-you for your articles and insight relationships with narcissists. I have been married to a narcisisst, covertly abusive man for just over 20 years. Four years ago I discovered the affairs, and had been trying to save my marriage since then. When I first started my education on emotional abuse and narcissism I read a few of your articles but hoped I was different and could save my marriage. Being together since then, from the outside looking in you would think that we have (appearances ya know). Not that too many people even know of our situation (his affairs). There was a point that I actually thought I might have. But I must admit that I realize that there wasn’t really any chance all along.

But it’s been hard to admit the truth and let go of the comforts/standard of living afforded me as his wife. And despite the abuse there have been many good things in our life together, sadly though many unfullfilled needs too. Mine is the nice guy abuser- no one sees but me and kids,(young adults now.

I realize that I will never have peace of mind again if I remain with him. It’s back to just like before but the difference this time is me, No longer am I willing to accept the crumbs, the lies, being second choice, gas lighted and manipulated. I want a divorce, but I also want my fair share of our assets. I am fairly certain he will hide money as he has always controlled everything. I know I need the best lawyer possible who understands about covert emotional abuse or I don’t stand much of a chance of not getting steamrolled in this divorce. Not to mention the smear campaign that scares the hell out of me. I need someone on my side who gets it.

But my question is how do I find a lawyer who is skilled in this area that practices in my county? I have searched many ways, interviewed three different ones. Two didn’t understand and the third I think got it, but he got terrible reviews by many clients; late to court, unprepared, didn’t return calls etc.. So I couldn’t trust him. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

Thank-you Kim

Reply
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