At some point, you found out that you’re with a narcissist. You finally accepted that your relationship is abusive. You know you should escape this relationship. In fact, you know you have to escape this relationship. Then, why can’t you? Why is it so hard to leave a narcissist? Sure, ending almost all relationships is hard but why is this so different? What keeps you from taking action?
For an outsider, it should look quite easy. If you realize that you’re in an abusive relationship, if you find out that your partner is a narcissist, if you feel used and abused, you simply end the relationship and move on. After all, who would like to be with someone who thinks they’re special and lacks empathy?
But for someone who’s in the relationship, it isn’t that simple and there are many reasons why they can’t just end an emotionally abusive relationship.
15 Reasons that Prevent One from Leaving the Narcissist
1. You can still be under the influence of the love bombing from the idealization phase.
Idealization is the first phase of the relationship with a narcissist. In this phase, the narcissist is going to praise you all the time, they’ll buy you nice gifts and make you feel loved and appreciated. It isn’t quite like the early stages of every relationship, because when it’s with a narcissist, this phase is much more exaggerated. Even as things start to go downhill, the memories of this phase can force one to stay in this relationship for those times’ sake. Because perhaps for the first time in your life, someone understood you so well. They loved and accepted you the way you are. Or so you thought. Unfortunately, all this display of affection and adoration was simply a part of their plot.
2. You might be hoping things can change.
Perhaps you feel like “being a narcissist wasn’t their fault”. Perhaps you feel like “this is just a sickness, and I need to fight it with them”. Perhaps you hope that “if I love them enough, things can get better”. Perhaps you’re trying to save them and cure them. Although all these attempts look quite honorable, in reality it’s a little more than turning the other cheek. The hope you have for the narcissist to get better is one of the biggest obstacles in your path to freedom.
3. You might be thinking that all people are essentially good, and the world is a beautiful place.
Accepting that the person you are in love is an emotional manipulator can change your entire perspective of that person as well as the whole world. If you’re someone who doesn’t believe people can consciously and deliberately hurt each other or if you’re someone who forgives easily; accepting the fact a manipulator has been using and abusing you systematically and purposefully would go against your beliefs. But unfortunately, there are bad things in life as well as good things. Some people can deliberately hurt and manipulate others if it serves them well.
4. The manipulation and especially gaslighting you suffered from in the past might cause you to doubt your own judgement.
Spending months or years in an emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship can damage your self-respect and self-confidence and cause you to doubt your own mind. Especially if you suffered from gaslighting, you might find it hard to decide what’s wrong and what’s right. As a result, you can end up feeling like you are the real problem here and thus believe in everything the narcissists tells you since you doubt your own judgement.
5. You might be afraid of being alone.
In narcissistic relationships, the narcissist will slowly and slyly isolate you. You drift further and further away from your friends, your family and the narcissist becomes the center of your world. If you’ve been in a long-term relationship with the narcissist, perhaps they’re the only person left in your life by now. You can fear the possibility of being completely alone if you leave them too. And if you already had attachment issues or fear of abandonment prior to this relationship, the idea of leaving the narcissist can be even scarier.
6. You might be avoiding questions you don’t want to know the answer of.
“Didn’t they love me at all? If they loved me, how could they do all this to me? Don’t they know that they’re hurting me? Was everything between us a lie? I didn’t leave them before, why should I leave them now? I was the one who chose to stay, am I not responsible for what happened?” You may not be ready to face all these questions.
7. You might be regretting some things you’ve done while in this relationship.
After getting out of a narcissistic relationship, you can find yourself with tons of regrets. Narcissists cross personal boundaries, they fuel others’ jealousy and grudge and force them to do things they never thought they would. In fact, a lot of people who have been in a relationship with a narcissist end up believing they were the actual narcissist all along. As a result of all that, can feel like you deserved what you’ve been through. Believing that it was all just karma, you can tell yourself things like “I’ve been quite mean to them as well, I shouldn’t be putting the entire blame on them” just to shoulder some of the abuse. All this shame and guilt can make you feel like you don’t deserve any better.
But know that nobody deserves emotional abuse and narcissistic relationships. You can try to learn from your past mistakes and try not to repeat them in the future.
8. You might be afraid of the narcissist dragging your name through the mud.
For narcissists, appearance is everything. When there’s a possibility of break up, the narcissists won’t hesitate to drag your name through the mud in an attempt to make themselves look innocent in the eyes of others. They can even try to turn your own friends and family against you and try to isolate you further or ruin your career. Then can try to damage your reputation so that nobody believes a word you say about them.
Sometimes slander isn’t the only thing you worry about. Perhaps you told them about some of your deepest secrets, perhaps you’ve done or said things you might regret later while you were still with them. If you decide to leave them, the narcissist can threaten you with telling everyone about your secrets or the mistakes you’ve made in the past. In a way, they can try to keep you under their control with emotional blackmail. Remember that we’re all human beings and we can all make mistakes. Don’t let others use your mistakes against you.
9. You might be worried about social pressure.
A lot of people think that breaking up is a bad idea unless there’s infidelity or physical abuse. They view relationships or marriage as holy unions that should not be broken so easily. But this belief can lead to emotional and psychological abuse. Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse is not visible and usually not even describable. An emotional abuse victim may not know where to start or how to explain their ordeal even if they want to open up to someone. Therefore, those around them usually fail to understand or support the victim since they cannot see the abuse with their own eyes. And sometimes the victim is so filled with the shame of continuing an abusive relationship that they’ve been hiding all the evidence themselves. Which leads them to believe nobody would believe them even if they were ready to reveal the truth.
10. You might be making up excuses just to continue the relationship.
You might be telling yourself things like if I didn’t have a kid, if I weren’t economically dependent on them, if I were young enough, if I weren’t married, if my family supported me, if my friends understood me (…) then I would be able to end this relationship. Indeed, sometimes ending a relationship really is difficult. But you shouldn’t let these difficulties keep you trapped in an abusive relationship for the rest of your life. I believe that you possess the power to overcome any hardships.
But sometimes a sentence like “I’ve tried too hard for this relationship, I cannot let it all go to waste” is added to the bunch of excuses. You don’t want all your efforts to go to waste. But whether your relationship is narcissistic or healthy, if you start forming such sentences unfortunately it means it’s already over. You’re just too scared to make the last move.
11. If you have a child with the narcissist, you might be hesitating for the child’s sake.
Hesitation may occur not only in narcissistic relationships, but all relationships when children are involved. The fear of raising a child on your own, the fear of depriving the child of a mother or father and the negative effects a break up may leave on the child’s psychology can cause you to feel reluctant. However, if you’re with an abuser, the worst thing you can do for your child is to let them grow up in an abusive family. The psychological effects a divorce may cause will look much less severe compared to having to grow up in an unhappy and toxic family.
12. You might be hesitating because of financial reasons.
If you’re economically dependent, ending a relationship is even harder. Besides, the narcissistic partner might have established a serious financial control over you. If you’re facing such situation, make a plan to escape the abusive relationship. Try to get the support of the people you can trust, try to get a job if you’re unemployed, if you’re employed but your money is controlled by the abuser, try to collect enough money to help you escape without their knowledge. If possible, get help from a financial consultant or a lawyer. Once you successfully end the relationship and start regaining your economic freedom, you can continue your life feeling much more powerful.
13. You might be suffering from cognitive dissonance or Stockholm syndrome.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when people face something that contradicts their initial beliefs. If a fact (even if it’s supported by clear evidence) clashes with our previous knowledge and belief, we can try to avoid the truth and make up excuses to continue believing in our own knowledge. I believe this situation to be the major reason why people can’t leave their emotionally abusive relationships behind. But since this is something that requires more explanation, I will discuss this in my next article.
14. You might be afraid of the narcissist.
If you’ve witnessed the sudden and destructive rage of the narcissist when they can’t get something they want, when someone stands up against them or when they simply lose control, you have every right to be afraid. When you’re about to dump a narcissist, you know that it’s going to smash their already fragile ego and thus, will face a wrath with unknown limits.
15. Narcissistic relationship might have messed with your mind and left you addicted to the narcissist.
In the cycle of a narcissistic relationship, extreme cruelty and extreme kindness follow each other. While travelling back and forth between these two polar opposites, your emotional and hormonal state can be destroyed. While trying to cope with the fear, rage and shame brought by the long-term emotional abuse, you keep expecting the feigned love, affection and appreciation that are promised. Going back and forth between these two extremes is like an addiction and the absence of the second prospect makes you feel deprived.
Like I said earlier, ending narcissistic relationships is hard. Perhaps you were once a self-assured and successful person with high standards. But now you turned into someone who can’t end a relationship, even though you know it’s harmful and that makes you angry at yourself. Perhaps you started to feel like you’re going insane because you can’t make sense of any of this. Perhaps you tried to end this relationship many times but the narcissist’s feigned love for you or their uncontrolled rage changed your mind.
No matter what situation you are currently in; do not be angry at yourself. Ending narcissistic relationships is hard. In fact, ending any relationship that involves violence and any type of abuse is hard. Don’t expect someone who’s never been there to understand your situation.
Try to see the fact none of this was your fault. Realize that you cannot change the narcissist and that changing them is not your responsibility. See the fact things are not going to get any better and in fact, they’re going to get even worse. Understand that someone else cannot determine your value, that you’re a human being just like everyone else and that you do not need someone else to feel complete. Perhaps you were not ready to end your relationship today, but one day, you will be. And only then will you start healing.
You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
Bolde. “The Ugly Truth About Why You Can’t Leave Your Narcissist Boyfriend”. https://www.bolde.com/ugly-truth-cant-leave-narcissist-boyfriend/.
Lisa Gelman. “Why is Leaving a Narcissist So Hard?”.https://lisagelman.com/divorce/leaving-narcissist-hard/.
You can also check out my other articles on the subject: