If you’ve stumbled upon this article, it’s Part 4 in a 5 part series on Narcissism*. Today’s article offers the Top 10 Tips for how to successfully exit a relationship with someone suffering from severe narcissism.
- Do The Math ~ If you’re unhappy, seem to have always been and can’t see things changing; if you’re beginning to feel you’re crazy; if fights far outnumber fun, take stock. Start a daily log of the lies, infidelity, insults, rages and abuse. After a few weeks or months do the math. Calculate what percentage of your life with this person is happy. If unhappy is a much bigger percent than happy and if every attempt to change things has resulted in things getting worse for you – it’s time to go.
- Prepare to Prepare ~ Most people who leave abusive, narcissistic relationships report several “false starts.” Spontaneous “I’m leaving you” tantrums (initiated by either partner) do not last. If this is to be a true break from this nightmare you need to plan.
- Get Emotional Support ~ By the time you’ve recognized how bad your relationship is and are making your plan to leave (which is right when you need to be super strong) you are probably feeling drained, lost, fragile, alienated, crazy, stupid, worthless and more. Priority #1 is to find someone who understands the nature of narcissism to help you: a therapist, minister, support group for abused women, or a forum on one of the many web sites about being involved with a narcissist. You need someone to confirm you’re not nuts, it’s not your fault and you deserve better.
- Get Tangible Support ~ Since you’re planning to leave someone for whom life is “all about me” you are unlikely to get a fair distribution of your shared assets. So, get strategic. Do you have anything in your name? A car? Jewelry? Savings? It can be wise to have a plan for where to go for the first few months – family out of the area, old friends? Take an inventory of what you might be able to hang on to, and what you are most likely to have to leave behind.
- Get Financially Savvy ~ To the extent you can, take stock of where you stand financially. Familiarize yourself with credit card balances; bank balances; the mortgage; other monthly debt. You may be in for some surprizes. As you can, start a cash-stash. Even $1000 is better than ending up on the street with nothing.
- An Element of Surprize ~ Be careful to keep your plan a secret. As you know, you are overly connected / addicted to the charms and terrors of the narcissist in your life and can easily fall prey to the pleas to stay, hand over money, take care of him/her etc. Consider your safety above all else.
- Burn Your Bridges ~ As miserable as you may be, the majority of people who have successfully made the break from a narcissist report it takes every ounce of their strength not to go running back. You’ve been so emptied, manipulated, put down, “rescued” and oriented by this toxic system that life beyond it seems vapid, empty, frighteningly without meaning. This is where your support system comes in. Buy a one-way ticket; have someone expecting you; make it impossible to go back.
- Build Your Boundaries ~ You fell prey to the narcissist because you weren’t sure about the line between “being nice” and “being used/abused.” There is one and it is never too soon to start building stronger boundaries. A great place to start is by reading Melody Beatie’s Codependent No More.
- If There Are Children ~ Many divorces are caused by the narcissistic behaviour of one or other parent so you are not alone. Your children will survive. It will pull forth more from you than you thought you had to give but parents who’ve had the courage to leave their narcissistic partners will tell you that they are particularly motivated to make this break for the children.
- Harbour Hope ~ Hold on to your self. There is no greater gift you can give yourself (or your children) than to make this move. No amount of money, real estate nor high roller distraction is worth the sacrifice of your very essence. You are not alone. Others have walked this path before you. You can make it!
*I am running a 5 part mini series ( 25-29 March 2013) on Narcissism. I am seeing more and more clients impacted by living with someone who suffers from NPD and the first step in the healing process is to learn as much as you can about this disorder. I’ll print a list of helpful resources in Part 5.
- Narcissism – Symptoms
- Narcissism – Now What?
- Narcissist – Living with one
- Narcissist – Leaving one
- Narcissist – Healing from life with one
Not sure if mine was a narcissist, but he certainly displayed some of the traits when he left. I found it invaluable to have “reality anchors,” tangible reminders of reality that kept me anchored while I navigated through the world he created through his lies. My favorite? I kept a a copy of his mugshot with an article about the bigamy in my purse for several months. One glance at that paper reminded me of who he really was and motivated me to keep fighting to get away.
I wondered if you’d ever found an appropriate “diagnosis” for your ex…could be so many things. I love this talisman for sanity you came up with. Hope I can share it next post – on Healing From Life With A Narcissist?
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What an interesting topic! I was in a long-term relationship with someone who was extremely narcissistic and I find myself often wondering why I let it go on for so long when I knew at the start that it wasn’t going to work out. I was lucky enough to have a great support system to get me through it but I know I went through many of the steps you mentioned above. It’s fascinating to look into what leads us to these relationships. I recently read a very interesting blog that discussed both sides of the narcissistic relationship, why people are narcissistic and why people choose narcissistic partners, http://www.psychalive.org/2013/04/narcissistic-relationships/. I highly recommend it!
Thank you so much for your comment. I went to the web site you recommended and found it very helpful – I join you in encouraging others to visit. What I found most useful is the discussion of Voice Therapy (see -http://www.glendon.org/post-topic/voice-therapy/).
If one is in relationship with someone stranded on the lonely shores of Narcissism who may be willing to seek help (which in all honesty is rare) this method sounds respectful and effective.