Why is it hard to leave a narcissist?

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is rarely rainbows and butterflies. However, despite the trials and tribulations, many stay in such a relationship long past its expiration date.

The truth is that it’s difficult, and sometimes nearly impossible, to end things with a narcissist, even when we know it’s time.

Why is this? Well, there are several features of narcissistic relationships that prevent people from walking out the door for good. 

We’ll explore them further below.

Reasons it’s so hard to end things

When you’re ready to leave a narcissist, don’t expect the breakup to go smoothly. Other relationships may have been relatively easy to walk away from, but leaving a narcissist is one of life’s greatest challenges.

Narcissists tend to show several behaviors that make it next to impossible for their partners to leave. This can result in a toxic relationship that continues endlessly.

If you’re experiencing difficulty leaving a narcissist, you’re not alone. The following characteristics are probably making it hard for you to leave. 

The narcissist has poor boundaries

Narcissists don’t care much about your boundaries. In fact, they don’t even consider them.

So, if you tell them you’re unhappy and want to end the relationship, they don’t take it seriously. They may even see it as a joke. 

Perhaps you have a breakup talk, and several hours later, the narcissist acts as if nothing happened. They talk about dinner plans, or make a sexual advance, clearly communicating that they still see you as their romantic partner.

Because the narcissist doesn’t respect that you’re ending the relationship, they proceed as if you never ended things in the first place. This makes it really challenging to leave. 

They make promises to change

Even if they’re treating you badly, the narcissist doesn’t want the relationship to end. They want things to continue, while you simply excuse their bad behavior.

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Since they’re not truly interested in ending the relationship, the narcissist will say whatever they can to keep you in it. 

When you come to them to discuss breaking up, they’ll make grand promises of changing. 

They’ll listen to every concern, promising to correct whatever behavior is leading to this breakup talk. 

The problem is that while they may change temporarily, as soon as they’re satisfied that you’re not going anywhere, they’ll revert to their old, damaging ways. 

You’ve developed a trauma bond 

Relationships with a narcissist involve periods of highs and lows. When things are going well, you’ll feel as if the narcissist is your soul mate.

On the other hand, when the narcissist begins to show abusive behaviors, you’ll hit rock bottom. Over time, this creates a rollercoaster ride, in which you’re oscillating between extreme highs and low lows. 

While all of this is happening, you’ll also develop a trauma bond with the narcissist. This means your brain actually becomes addicted to the flood of feel-good chemicals when the relationship is going well.

When the narcissist is abusive, you experience feelings of withdrawal. When they return to being kind to you, your brain is once again flooded with pleasure-inducing chemicals.

This keeps you bonded and makes it almost impossible to leave. The narcissist is a drug you just cannot quit! 

Your self esteem is at an all-time low 

Narcissists are great at making people feel small. Throughout the relationship, they’ll make sure you understand that you’re beneath them.

They’ll criticize you, mistreat you, and make you feel you deserve this behavior. After a while, you’ll believe you aren’t a good person or partner.

With your self-esteem at an all-time low, you’ll feel as if you can’t leave the relationship. You worry no one else will ever love you again, and so you settle for the narcissist. 

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You fell hard for the love bombing 

During the beginning stages of the relationship, narcissists are experts at love bombing. They will shower you with affection and attention, making you the center of their world.

You’ll feel more special than you’ve ever felt in your life, and you’ll quickly fall for the narcissist’s charm. 

Once the narcissist has you hooked, they’ll start to show some of their true colors. 

When you get to the point that you want to leave the relationship, you might hesitate. You’ll remember the good days of love bombing, and convince yourself that the relationship will return to this stage.

They’re so vindictive 

Narcissists don’t like to be left. If a relationship ends, it’s usually them doing the leaving.

They also believe that they’re special and unique, and that no one would ever want to let them go. 

When you break up with them, it comes as a shock and often triggers anger. They may threaten to harm you or somehow blackmail you if you end the relationship.

Because of this vindictive behavior, you worry that leaving will be worse than staying. So, the relationship continues. 

You’ve been manipulated 

Narcissists are excellent manipulators. They will make you believe that you’re the problem in the relationship. 

If you confront the narcissist about things they’ve done to hurt you, they’ll naturally shift the blame to you. Rather than taking accountability and repairing the relationship, they’ll convince you it’s your fault.

If you’d only have acted better, they never would have hurt you! Of course this isn’t true; it’s just what they want you to believe.

After ongoing manipulation of this sort, you might start to believe you really are the problem. This makes it hard to break up. 

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Rather than seeing the narcissist’s behavior as a sign you need to leave, you’ll convince yourself that you have an obligation to improve yourself for the sake of the relationship. 

You’re isolated from support 

Narcissists are incredibly demanding of their partner’s time and attention. They feel entitled to have all of their desires met, so they will insist that you pour all your effort into them.

Because narcissists are so needy, you’ll find that other relationships fall by the wayside. You simply don’t have time for family or friends, because the narcissist requires constant attention.

Since the narcissist wants you all to themselves, they may also sabotage your relationships by telling you your friends or family are no good for you.

In the end, this leaves you isolated from sources of social support. With no one else in your life to give you company, advice, or friendship, you stay with the narcissist, so you can at least maintain some semblance of social connection. 

There are many reasons it’s so difficult to leave

As you can see, there are numerous reasons it’s incredibly challenging to end a relationship with a narcissist. These folks have a way of hooking you early on, and then making promises to change any time you threaten to leave.

They’ll also play games with your mind, so you’ll convince yourself you’re to blame, and leaving isn’t an option. 

I don’t want to tell you what to do, but if you want to leave, you have options. If you’re with a narcissist, chances are that you aren’t the problem in the relationship.

It’s also unlikely that they’ll ever change. Do with this information what you will. 

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