If you’re dating a narcissist, you might be experiencing narcissistic abuse. Leaving an abusive relationship is far from easy, as abusers will do anything to maintain the power and control they need. Research shows it takes an average of seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship, and at times leaving a narcissist can seem impossible.
Why is it so important to leave?
I often am told by patients that they remember what their partner was like at the beginning of their relationship and still occasionally catch glimpses of that person from before, which is why they still stay. Often, I get asked whether a narcissist can change if the patient does things differently. The answer is a definite no. “Many times, narcissists are great on paper – good job, success, money, credentials, attractive – all of the exterior characteristics of what people are told to value in a long-term partner,” says Dr Durvasula, an expert on Narcissism. She adds they can not be good partners.
My own experience in the therapy room is that most patients say “they were charming and kind at the start”. Ultimately, it is important to remember that it’s always for their own benefit in the long term. By being warm and loving at the beginning of a relationship, they gain someone’s adoration, which is exactly their goal. Once this is achieved they don’t need to keep up the effort of being kind. Narcissists have limited capacity for intimacy and little empathy. They are manipulative in their interactions, invalidating, and demeaning. Most importantly, it is hard for them to take responsibility for their behaviours and show any remorse.
Although being with a narcissist might seem fun for a little while, things change and this stage of the relationship is temporary. The values that are the foundations of a healthy long term relationship are mutual respect, compassion, kindness, genuine care, honesty and commitment to honour each other’s dreams and growth, and narcissists are not wired that way.
5 Steps for Leaving an Abusive Relationship
All the charm and attention you fell for won’t mean much if a narcissistic partner is routinely putting you down in order to feel better about themselves. Unfortunately, by the time people realise that they’re in an unhealthy relationship with a narcissistic partner, they’re often far too deep and have already internalised what their partner has manipulated them into believing about themselves.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone in your struggles of leaving a narcissist – follow these five steps.
Believe In Yourself
The ups and downs of a narcissistic relationship cycle can leave you feeling exhausted and defeated, with little self-confidence. By showering you with love and affection and then taking it all away, narcissists urge you to slip into feelings of self-worthlessness and doubt.
Document Your Feelings
As described by Psychology Today, gaslighting is a form of brainwashing and manipulation that enables an abuser to maintain psychological control. Document your experiences and feelings when they happen to be used as a reference when experiencing gaslighting to regain control over your experiences and fight off self-doubt.
Seek Professional Support
If you are wondering how to leave a narcissist in a safe and controlled way, seeking professional support is essential. The mental health impacts of dating a narcissist can last for years, but don’t allow yourself to experience isolation through the breakup. Find a therapist who can help you.
Inform People You Trust
Discreetly telling someone you trust about what’s going on can be a lifeline, as they can be there for you when you decide to leave and need it most. As one of the narcissistic personality disorder symptoms is charisma, narcissists can be very charming to people outside of the relationship, which further isolates you in your experiences.
Set Firm Boundaries
Narcissists are co-dependent and will do everything they can to stop you from leaving them. When you decide to go, be firm when you tell them and don’t engage in a conversation about it. Leaving a narcissist is especially difficult due to their ability to draw you back in, so ensure you have no contact following the breakup. Staying with a friend or family member can help you through this.
If you are wondering how to leave a narcissist – you are not alone. Narcissistic abuse can feel impossible to escape from, but talking to a professional can guide you through the emotional turmoil. Contact the police in a domestic violence emergency, as your safety comes first.