During the dating period, you seldom get to know the person in the real sense, as it is common for everyone, including yourself, to put up your best persona to impress.
Only when you enter a relationship, do you understand your partner for who they are. And by then, you will be too attached to your partner and deep into your relationship. If you are unfortunate to get into a marriage with a narcissist, you are in for a rough ride.
A narcissistic relationship is hard to endure and even harder to leave.
Narcissists rely on their victims for their gratification. Without someone to abuse and manipulate, they will be restless and unhappy. They will do everything in their power to prevent you from leaving them. And, even if you manage to escape, they will take out their wile tactics to get you back.
On the other hand, being with a true narcissist is draining in every way – emotionally, physically, and financially. You are unhappy but refuse to entertain the prospects of leaving your narcissistic relationship as you think that you are still in love.
You may also have other compulsions to stay with them such as children, lack of support system and/or resources, inability to be assertive and independent and even not wanting to give up access to a comfortable lifestyle.
You may often ask yourself, “Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?”
Even if you take the bold decision to leave, you may find your path blocked at every turn. If you want to know how to leave a narcissistic marriage, read on.
Why is it so hard to break free from a narcissist?
The simple answer is that they come with a narcissistic personality disorder.
A narcissist husband or wife has the inherent ability to attract gullible partners with their put-on persona of charm, warmth, compassion, and more endearing traits. In the initial days of courtship, they tend to smother you with attention and love. This will naturally impress you and you will fall for them like a ton of bricks.
You will be so taken in by their excessive display of love and affection that you willingly find excuses to cover up their abuses later on. You will become so dependent on them for love, attention, and validation that you refuse to see the bigger picture.
Once they realize that you are firmly secured to them, they will change colors like a chameleon. They no longer feel motivated to please you or be nice to you. They will soon reveal their true self. You will find them as cold-hearted, demanding, abusive, and highly critical.
At this stage, you may begin to blame yourself for this change. You may think that you have not met their expectations. You would try your best to be accommodative and hopeful to win back their love.
All these efforts will cost you dearly. Your confidence, self-esteem, and independence will take a hit. You are constantly made to feel guilty whenever something goes wrong in the relationship or even in the personal life of your narcissistic partner.
You are exploited, manipulated, and gaslighted in the worst possible way. When you finally see the light and gather the courage to fight back, you are browbeaten, intimidated, and harassed to the point of being confused and demoralized.
As you see no way to escape, you begin to accept reality. You will try your best to avoid conflicts. To this end, you will try appeasement and become submissive. At this stage, you will start wondering what went wrong. What happened to that wonderful and considerate person you fell in love with? Where did your old happy and confident self vanish?
Psychologists confirm that it is natural for victims of narcissists to get attached to their abusers. This is more so when there is periodic positive reinforcement present. Though you are treated like dirt, you will be constantly seeking approval from your partner with a narcissistic personality.
You may face more difficulty to escape the clutches of a narcissist if your support system is absent. Fear of retaliation is another factor that forces the victims of narcissistic abuse to stay on.
For more on this topic, see our article on five Narcissistic Marriage Problems.
How to leave a narcissistic partner?
You will have the courage to leave your abuser only when you are willing to see them for who they are and become conscious of the reality of the situation. Expect to face resistance from your partner and be ready to overcome them. They may even create doubts in your mind about yourself and the relationship.
Before you initiate the steps to leave, you need to be completely sure about it. If you want to consider salvaging the abusive relationship, you can try to have a conversation with your narcissistic partner to reach some sort of understanding. Once you rule out this choice, you must leave the abuser for the sake of your own mental health.
Here are some suggestions on the actions you may take to leave someone with a narcissistic personality disorder.
1. Slowly build up your independence.
This is easier said than done. But you need to realize that you have to start somewhere to regain your self-esteem and confidence. That is a good starting point.
2. Create a life of your own.
Connect up with your family, make new friends, get a job, develop hobbies, and go out by yourself. This will help you find a fulfilling life.
3. Work on your self-esteem.
Life with a true narcissist can rob you of your self-worth. You can choose from a variety of options how to gain it back. You should be able to trust your instincts, disregard guilty feelings, and overcome self-doubt.
4. Set boundaries and find ways to enforce them.
Again, not an easy task to accomplish but you are left with no choice if you want to stay on and give your marriage another chance. Narcissists have no regard for the boundaries you may set and they may ignore and violate them consistently. Don’t give up. Be assertive and make it clear to them that you are not taking no for an answer.
5. Take care of yourself.
When you are under the spell of a narcissist, you tend to lose your identity and may forget about your wants and needs. Rediscover your passions and relearn to attend to your desires. Self-care is one of the powerful defenses against abuse. As long as you love yourself in the true sense, you will resist efforts of narcissistic abuse.
6. Figure out what ticks them off.
Even narcissists oscillate between good and bad behavior – good being less and bad being more. Watch them for a while to identify what triggers them to show their bad side so that you can take steps to avoid them.
7. Avoid making empty threats.
There is no point in saying that you will leave when you have no plans for the same. This will only end up harming you. Once you decide to leave, stick with it no matter what. No amount of threats and appeasements should make you change your position.
8. Get help if abused.
If you are subjected to physical abuse, leave the place immediately and seek help. To prevent you from leaving, your abuser may even seek your forgiveness and promise never to repeat it. You need to understand that this is part of their manipulative behavior. If you continue to stay, the narcissistic abuse will continue without fail.
9. Lawyer up.
Whether for mediation, separation, or divorce, you need to have legal help. However, for a toxic relationship, mediation is not a good choice.
10. Give yourself time and space to grieve.
After all, your abusive relationship has ended. On one hand, you may feel that you managed to escape from an abuser but on the other hand, you find yourself alone, having to fend for yourself. Having kids can only worsen the situation. Allow yourself time to recover, grieve, and build resilience.
11. Maintain no contact.
Narcissists often resort to various tactics to get their partners back after the breakup. You just need to realize that your toxic relationship doesn’t stand any realistic chance of revival. Minimize your contact with your abusive partner.
12. Join a support group.
You need to feel that you are not the only one who has ever suffered narcissistic abuse by a partner. Being among people who have had similar experiences can help.
The story of your narcissistic relationship doesn’t end with you leaving your toxic relationship. You can expect that they will use every dirty tactic to get you back as a narcissist cannot survive without a victim and they are unable to digest their failure to keep you from leaving.
You will be able to succeed in leaving a narcissist for good only if you learn to overcome these lures and baits. Never forget the fact that a narcissistic partner is incapable of a healthy and balanced relationship.