Nobody thinks they’ll be in a relationship with a selfish, self-centered, immoral person. It isn’t something we strive for in childhood, and it certainly isn’t something we would dream of for our friends. Yet so many men and women continue to stay in harmful relationships that lead to pain and heartache. Why is it so hard to leave a relationship with a narcissist? What can we do to disentangle ourselves from this person and prevent ourselves from going back? Here is what to know about narcissistic personality disorder and why it’s so hard to leave this type of relationship.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic personality disorder is one of many different personality disorders. It is a mental health condition in which an individual has an enlarged sense of self-importance. He/she may need to be constantly admired and provided attention by others. This person may have troubled relationships and a hard time feeling empathy for others. Underneath this mask of confidence and arrogance is an individual with a low sense of self-worth. He/she is also highly sensitive to criticism.
Narcissists typically go in and out of relationships. They tend to make a person feel very valued and important, showering them with gifts and praise. After some time, the person’s real personality shines through. They typically lie, cheat, steal, gaslight, and care little for the other person’s feelings. The relationship is one-sided, and the narcissist’s needs are paramount. Because the narcissist is very charming and persuasive, it is hard for the other person to know exactly what is wrong. This creates an endless cycle where one person’s needs are never met, but the narcissist uses a combination of gaslighting and charm to make it seem like nothing is wrong. As a result of the unhealthy relationship, the victim will struggle with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
Why We Stay
Here are some of the top reasons we have trouble leaving a narcissistic relationship –
· We Are Entangled Early On – The relationship moves very quickly from the beginning. This prevents the victim from seeing red flags or enacting proper boundaries. Furthermore, the narcissist typically picks an individual who is in a difficult situation financially or emotionally. This causes the victim to become dependent on the narcissist and the narcissist uses this against the victim.
· Our Focus is Solely on the Narcissist – The focus is always on the other narcissist. Because of this, it’s hard for the victim to sit down and think about his/her feelings. Victims tend to get swept up in the drama and fail to realize their needs aren’t being met.
· We Keep Thinking They’ll Change – It’s hard to believe that a person can be inherently evil or sick. Victims think that if they just change a few things on their end, the narcissist will change too. Unfortunately, this rarely makes a long-lasting difference.
· We Carry Shame – Narcissists can make the victim feel and act irrational and upset. Victims often lash out because the relationship is so volatile. The narcissist uses these normal human reactions to guilt-trip the victim into staying.
· We Know They Will Lie – The narcissist will turn family against the victim, lie to loved ones, and do whatever it takes to prevent them from leaving. This fear can keep the victim feeling stuck.
· We Stay for Children – If the victim has children with the narcissist, it makes it that much harder to leave. They may threaten the victim or use the children as leverage.
Finding Help to Leave
While it may seem impossible to leave this type of toxic relationship, it’s critical that we do. The narcissist rarely learns to improve or fix those broken parts of himself. Staying in the relationship will only lead to more trauma, heartache, and broken promises. Find help from a professional therapist who can give you the tools you need to leave.
Also, talk to your family and close friends about your situation. Be completely honest. Get all the support you need from loved ones so you have people to lean on and hold you accountable after you leave. This will help improve your chances of ending the relationship for good.
Are you in a relationship with a narcissist? Do you feel anxious, depressed, and stuck? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.