Why its so Hard to Leave a Narcissist
“I don’t understand why you stay”
“He is so horrible, you will be better off without him, just go!”
“You should just leave him!”
~Divorcing a Narcissist
I hear these things weekly, if not daily here on the blog. And I get it, I would say the same thing to me, or would have, before I lived it. Before I DID “just leave”. Before I understood why people go back to relationships like this. Make no mistake, its not for any overwhelming love or desire for him. It was for practical reasons and with the hope that because he was accountable to outside influences now, he would get/ stay better.
Divorcing a narcissist is not like leaving a normal relationship. There is ZERO understanding from the narc as to why you “suddenly” left him (I will be using him for my writing but feel free to insert the pronoun that fits your situation). He will not claim any wrongdoing beyond the lies he tells you to try and get you to come back. In fact, the longer time passes, the more ingrained his belief will become that he was NOT responsible and that you “just walked out”.
~When you leave a narcissist, you are realistically leaving your entire life behind.
There will be ZERO chance of an “amicable” split when divorcing a narcissist, you will lose friends, and family, and your church most likely. Your neighborhood, your home. Your kids will be traumatized by any conflict that erupts. Even if you manage to keep things civil on your side, your ex will probably be either saying terrible things about you to the kids, or telling them they “just want mommy to come home” and all about how they are doing their best to get the family back together– giving them false hope.
You will be suddenly faced with the prospect of fully supporting yourself on a most likely meager salary, or looking for a job with a poor work history and little to no higher education. You will have bills you never had before when divorcing a narcissist, daycare if your kids are little and you were a SAHM and lawyer fees . And if your lucky, therapist fees.
Depending on what state you live in and the type of Narc your dealing with, you will either have to shoulder ALL of the demands of raising your little ones with no help, OR you will have to deal with not seeing them every day anymore and sharing custody. And in some cases, defending even your right to parent them at all, if the Narc gets vindictive and tries to take them away from you.
You might need to go on state assistance to make it, and then have to report in monthly as to why you still need help. You will face countless questions from nosy people who want to know “what happened?” and be forced to either lie, or re-live it all again. You will suddenly realize your boundaries are way way off from normal and have to re-examine how to be an independent person. You will be acutely aware that you are now a Narc magnet and either be hyper critical of everyone’s actions, or completely oblivious to actual damaged people around you.
My point is, it is NOT that simple. I did “just leave”, and because I had not built myself a firm foundation first, I gave in to my fears and my worries for my kids, and my sadness, and came back. And yes, he is much better, but I am still all alone in my “marriage”. I still get no support from him at a personal level. To him, I am still just his “wife”, an appliance in this family, like a dishwasher or oven, as long as I’m useful I’m ok. And as soon as I step away and be MYSELF, well, that’s unacceptable.
But I am still here, why? Because I am not ready yet. Because as much pain as he causes me, and despite the fact that I need a day off to recover from the emotional strain of walking on eggshells after he has been home for a day, I’m not there yet. Because now I KNOW what it will cost to leave, and I am still saving up. Saving up money, energy, determination, hope. Trying to build up my kids as much as I can before I upend their lives again. Trying to build my own support system he can’t tear down. Trying, as much as I am able, to make sure we will be alright, and I will stay gone. Because I cant do this over and over. I cant live that life, I cant make my kids live that life.
So next time you see someone in a horrible marriage, or hear about a woman on the news, don’t judge her. Don’t ask why she didn’t leave, ask why she COULDN’T leave.