Leaving a narcissistic relationship is one of the hardest, most devastating, break-ups you will ever endure. But survival is indeed a possibility. Narcissists are typically charming, captivating, intelligent and manipulative. They are difficult to let go of, plus it also means coming to terms with the fact that the person you loved was not the person you thought he or she was. Furthermore, it means admitting to the painful and humiliating things you endured during your relationship. And then just when you have the strength to finally leave, the narcissist turns your emotions upside down again with guilt, intimidation or original charm, telling you the exact words you have been waiting to hear (“I love you, I’ll change”, etc.).
The narcissist will find a way to keep you hooked as soon as he senses you are leaving or you warn him you are thinking about it. He or she knows your weaknesses and will exploit them to keep you in the relationship. After all, you are a major source of narcissistic supply, and the narcissist is not about to give that up easily.
A narcissistic relationship is a virtual tornado consisting of abuse, walking on eggshells, mind twisting, blaming, criticism and condemnation. The person you fell in love with hid behind a mask, he or she is a fraud. That person’s sole interest is himself. Their partner, or victim, ends up suffering with low self-esteem, loneliness, anxiety and depression. However, you can successfully leave the narcissist and regain your sanity, self esteem and joy by engaging in the following steps:
Take financial and legal steps first
Before leaving, ensure that you take care of yourself financially and legally. Obtain a credit card in your own name if you don’t already have one. Open a separate bank account in your name and put emergency funds into it, in case your spouse or partner tries to stop you from accessing funds. One technique to prevent your partner from knowing you are stashing money away is to use your debit card and ask for cash amounts over the purchase; put that cash in the account.
If you are married, hire a good attorney who is aware of, preferably experienced with, narcissism. Don’t take anything your spouse says “in good faith”, get it in writing. Don’t ever leave ANYTHING in writing for him. It will be used against you.
Follow the legal steps your attorney recommends to protect yourself, financially and physically. Make copies of all relevant financial records including bank statements, 401K and investment statements, loan information, credit card statements, insurance policies, tax returns, pay stubs, W-2’s, and car titles.
Document everything! This may be especially important if you are in a custody dispute, have concerns about your narcissist’s parenting or lifestyle, or if you live in a place where “fault” is taken into consideration in divorces. Document times, dates, places, and events.
Once you have made the decision to leave, go quickly. Don’t argue, disagree, explain or blame- you cannot win. He will reject your view point as he has always done. He will twist your words and make you doubt what you are doing. Make short, neutral statements (Ex.: “you could be right” or “I don’t want to discuss this any further”)-and keep repeating the statement like a broken record. Don’t fall into his trap of arguing or trying to explain. Just leave.
Minimize and make FINAL
Make short, neutral statements as necessary, offer simple solutions and goals, and if married let him/her know that you will be having individual attorneys to settle any disagreements or confusion. Sam Vaknin, author and narcissist, suggests shifting the blame to yourself (“I don’t know what happened to me, I have changed, it is my fault, I am to blame for this, and you are constant, reliable and consistent”). He also says, “Tell him you feel guilty (excruciatingly so, in great and picturesque detail).”, “Tell him how superior he is and how inferior you feel.”, “Make this separation your loss and his absolute, unmitigated gain.”, and “Convince him that he is likely to gain more supply from others (future women?) than he ever did or will from you”.
Vaknin also says it is imperative that you make clear that your decision – though evidently “erroneous” and “pathological” – is FINAL, irrevocable and that all further contact will be severed.
Avoid further interactions with your spouse or partner, and do not listen to what he or she is telling you about yourself. They will try to further undermine your confidence and cause you to question your decisions. Trust your judgment and decision. Trust yourself.
Prepare for retaliation
Prepare yourself for rage and brutal retaliation from your partner. Despite their own behavior, they will accuse you of using them, abusing, abandoning and financially taking them. If the narcissist’s behavior escalates to threats, taking your car keys, bursting into your bedroom, or not permitting you to leave the house—do not hesitate to go to the police/courthouse and report it or get a restraining order if necessary. Stay calm and rational while you do this so that you look like the rational one. “You truly have no choice but to remove and reclaim yourself.”
The narcissist may try to reel you back in by proclaiming that he/she has moved on and is now having a great life without you. They often try to re-hook their victims by using fear of abandonment, fear of him or her meeting someone else, or anything else that will infuriate, hurt, or send their victims into a panic.
In the aftermath of a narcissistic relationship, it is critical to go “No Contact” with your ex. Narcissists do not easily give up access to a provider of Narcissistic Supply, so your ex is likely to keep you dangling on a string for as long as you allow. Cease all contact with the narcissist for at least six months to get emotional distance and strength. Do not answer the door if they show up, do not reply or send texts, emails, IM’s or calls and block their phone number and email address. Ignore what they may say about you on social media sites. Communicate through a trusted third party if necessary. Separate out your bills, assets and property as soon as possible to end reasons for contact. Change passwords, establish separate accounts, and go to different stores, banks, nightclubs etc. to avoid running into the narcissist. Terminate all business entanglements and file for immediate divorce (or put it on hold for at least six months). Throw away keepsakes, or store them out of sight to help you detach from him/her. Give yourself time to completely get past the relationship before making even polite conversation. Read carefully the article on this website titled “No Contact”. If you must communicate with your spouse, try sticking strictly to business or issues around the children.
Surround yourself with positive, loving friends and family and spend as much time with them as possible. Try to find new friends and non-romantic relationships; you will find that the world is full of genuinely nice people. Join a free or low-cost class or group that interests you-anything that will bring you into the company of new people. Do activities that make you happy such as watching a favorite movie, taking a relaxing bath or a walk in nature, listening to your favorite music, or reading a book. If you don’t already know how to meditate, consider taking a class. Meditation is a great source of increasing inner strength as well as a calming influence.
Give yourself ‘self-support’. For example, start a journal listing his/her former criticisms and disprove each one with a positive statement (“She said I am stupid. I am smart.”) Make and accomplish daily goals-no matter how small- and immediately replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Consider joining a support group and/or seeing a counselor or therapist. Most women’s advocate groups and domestic abuse shelters can give you good references if you don’t know where to turn. Even if you have not been physically abused- you have most certainly been emotionally and verbally abused.