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Why its so Hard to Leave a Narcissistdivorcing 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.

Possible Poverty

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.





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30 thoughts on “Why its so Hard to Leave a Narcissist

  1. Brenda says:

    I am so sorry for what you are going through. I was in your position a few years ago. I was lucky enough to have family support. I left several times and the last time I didn’t want to go back but knew it was safer for my kids until I could make a plan to get out. I did finally get out after I let it be “his idea” to get the divorce. It was really messy at first but his love of money finally made him sign over his rights and I am finally free. People never understood why I went back but they don’t realize that sometimes there is not a choice. I hope the best for you and know if you keep moving forward you can become free.

    1. Lin says:

      There is never a reason to go back and once your denial cracks you can not go back to the person you were. It is unhealthy to subject yourself to someone like this, there are no reasons, financial or emotional that make this ok. Changing is very hard. Looking at your part in the relationship and your sickness is hard as well. It hurts to realize you have been betrayed by someone who is emotionally empty. That this person can turn their back on you as if you never existed and replace you with someone else. But remember, you have a chance to heal and have a real relationship. They will never have that. Everyone they attract will be sick and there will be no real give and take or love. Please believe it is possible to leave them behind and experience a new way of living. You won’t regret it. But the path there is difficult and hard. I keep a saying above my sink. It says ” never, never, never give up”. Don’t go back. Focus on yourself. Care for yourself. Heal yourself. If you have children you are showing them that this type of relationship is unacceptable and giving them a chance as well to not repeating what they have learned.

    2. Ashleigh says:

      In tears, you nailed it. Thank you for putting that in words, and thank you for writing this blog. I had absolutely and COMPLETELY giving up on the idea that ANYONE could ever understand this.

  2. Greg says:

    I agree with everything you say. Taking time to methodically plan your exit is very wise. Keep in mind that at some point you’ll need to put that plan into action, possibly before your actually ready to.

    1. please ladies and gents if your in danger of be hurt or killed get help can social services a women shelter better yet call the cops and till them you need an escort to leave

  3. Bethanny says:

    Be strong! I am praying for you. I got away from mine and am healing nicely. I lived it for 32 years. And yes, EVERYTHING you say about the divorce part is true. I unfortunately waited until my kids were grown, which damaged them as much as me. It made them dysfunctional as adults. So hindsight is 20/20, leave sooner at her than later to give your children the chance at healthy lives!

    1. Teresa says:

      I waited 27 years so my kids would be grown and not have to go through the divorce games. Sadly enough it does damage the children. Both of our children wanted to divorce their dad when I did. My daughter went with me to see a lawyer and he refused to take my money because my daughter was telling him everything from her point of view and what she had seen growing up. It made me feel horrible that she saw so much of what I tried to protect them from. The lawyer sent us to the family crisis center and they helped me get my divorce. That hindsight is 20/20 is so true. I wish I had just had the strength and confidence to leave when they were little. 🙁

  4. sOFIA DONATI says:

    A great movie about a Narcissist’s wife is Big Eyes, the true story about Elizabeth Keane who painted large eyes on her paintings. Truly AMAZING to see the parallel of the Narcissist in living color.

    1. Samantha Matthews says:

      Oh yes! Totally! It was surreal watching that, it was almost like I had seen it before because I knew what was coming… she won in the end though, it gave me hope

  5. she says:

    Thank you for this. This is exactly why I stayed as well in addition to the trauma bonding I’d acquired after all these 17 years…

  6. Carol says:

    Only you’ll know when it’s right, and yes you have to be practical, of course. Sometimes though, you have to feel the fear and do it anyway, and trust that it will be alright (for it will! This too shall pass!) I don’t know what you’re going through, and I probably am very judgemental – but I’m trying hard not to be! I’m listening in the void of internet land and I’m praying for your courage and strength. Xxxx

  7. Christina Moore-Hobb says:

    I completely understand and support you. I did leave, very unprepared. I lived through what you just wrote, all of it. My kids are now in their early 20’s, and I’m glad to say they have good boundaries with him, as well as tougher skin than I. But this is not without pain, poverty, and great loss. There is no good way, easy way to deal with this. Good for you, you have a plan.

  8. Sindy says:

    I agree with Bethenny don’t wait until they are grown I’m in 28 yrs married and it NEVER gets better as they get worse with age. My kids are damaged but I have hope they will get better when they see Mom FINALLY happy!

    I now realize that this is not how true emotional REAL LOVE should be.

  9. Deanna says:

    I finally did leave. Luckily for me I had a great job when we met and I kept it through our marriage so financially I was in good shape. But the leaving was hard and he is still making my life as hard as he can. I don’t think we will ever be able to co-parent like normal people. Every time I try to communicate with him, it is a nightmare of name calling and arguing so we don’t communicate even by text. My poor mother has to be the middle man for everything that goes on with our kids. He thinks that he is blameless for the demise of our marriage and is so angry at me for leaving him. But I have not missed him one day sense I left.

  10. Vita says:

    Well I feel like all you women are stronger than me. I was married for 13 years to a man who was incredibly shallow and always put me down. I was with him for a total of 23 years. And I should have seen the signs. Yet it was HIM who left me. I did not really know anything about narcissism until about a year after we separated. Found out also afterwards of multiple affairs that he had. I only wish I was stronger and wiser beforehand that I would have left. However I know if I had done the parting, he would have used this in our divorce. I feel that he had so many qualities, on the surface, that showed he was a good man. But In
    reality he is a shallow, evil person who to this day tries to play my children against me and tries to make me look crazy. And I am so not.

    1. You have written my story I have been divorced now for almost 4 years now. Moved to another state. It all seems like a nightmare that I haven’t still gotten over. But I read all the stories that everyone posts & it helps me get stronger to go on. Prayers for everyone who knows the truth about these entities who call themselves humans. For the cold evil things they do to those who really are humans with a soul.

  11. Shanna says:

    Love this post. It speaks to my heart. Everyone calls with the perfect house/appartment but i am not ready. Sometimes im afraid i never will be. i have so much to rebuild and it is a slow pace so i do not rock the boat. I have children and animals and i am not doing this more then once. It isn’t worth the affects it will have on me or my kids. Trying to stabalize an income and still be his supply and cater to his emotions is exahusting. Recently he stoppped drinking and now i am supposed 2 be impressed! I am not he is still a narc. I pray daily that soon i will be able to hold my head high and run. Some days i feel hopeless and it is all i can do to stay on track. I understand exactly why it is so hard 2 leave. Stay strong.

  12. Donna says:

    I’ve decided to stay with mine. I already know what he’s going to do and how to handle it. I don’t want to struggle on my own I owe myself that. I change what I can and accept what I can’t.
    Going to a therapist helped. Everything in life takes work, some more than others.
    It helps knowing there is others like me out there.
    I don’t feel alone anymore. Thank you for this site and keeping it going.

  13. Charlotte says:

    Thank you for the honest words you are sharing here.
    I have recently ‘discovered’ that i am married to a narcissist who has steadily been destroying me. I too am preparing to leave and struggling with the realities if this decision.
    Hearing from someone who is living through the experience makes me feel less alone and ‘crazy’

    I wish you all the best and will be following your journey.

  14. Fed Up says:

    Praying for you. It is not an easy decision to make to leave. I finally did leave my husband, but it took me 4 years. Thank God we did not have children, I realize that makes a difference. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Of course, he being a narcissist blames me and tells everyone that I ‘”walked out” on him, and because I wouldn’t get rid of my cat, that I chose the cat over him. Never mind that I tried to seek counseling for us, I tried talking to him, I tried reasoning with him, but there is no reasoning with a narcissist. They are never wrong. Keeping you in my thoughts, and praying that you will make the decision that you feel is best for you and your kids.

  15. Savannah brewer says:

    I feel like I wrote just about every single word you wrote, myself. I’ve recently discovered that I am married to a narcissist. I am so thankful for this website, it makes me feel less crazy and “stupid” for always going back.
    I’ve been dating my narc for six years and have been married for a little over a year. I’m 21, and have two kids with him. A 2 year old and a 2 month old.
    I tell myself over and over that I need to leave now while I’m still young and our marriage is “new”, and our kids are still young.

  16. Aileen says:

    I left. After 22 years. I left 2 months ago on the 5th of December 2016. I left 4 years ago too but he hoovered me back in and my boys were younger then. Now they 18 & 16 but it’s not easy.
    3 weeks before i left, i woke him up early the Sunday November 20, we were all going to go to church but i wanted to talk to him about our marriage. I was really trying to reach out to him to get some kind of understanding from him – a cry from my heart to his to please see me. Beside being abusive towards me, my narc was also addicted to online flirting and has always had someone else on the side. He had been seeking around with his phone. Switching it off and hiding it away, i was desperate. I told him that our marriage lacked transparency and we were in danger. (yes i know what you all thinking… wishful thinking from a narc) Needless to say he went ballistic and told me i was being inconsiderate, i should allow him to sleep. I retreated to the kitchen and heard him in the bathroom and then he came storming down the passage towards me in the kitchen. My husband is a professional cage fighting (MMA) coach so he is highly skilled and twice my size. He then hit me in the chest which threw me backward into the kitchen sink and continued to physically abuse me to the point that i actually thought i was going to die.
    My eldest son was busy with his grade 12 final exams so i was just waiting for him to finish before i did anything. It was only 2 weeks away. Please God get me out of here alive i prayed.
    That left me with bruises on my face and neck area where he tried to strangle me. I am also a fitness instructor and run Boot camp classes. So that Monday morning i went to a class of 24 girls and i didn’t cover up anything. I wanted everyone to see. I had always felt so humiliated and embarrassed about walking around with marks on my body that i always made an excuse.
    That whole week, my husband slept in the spare room. It wasn’t a relief. I slept with 1 eye open as i didn’t know what to expect. I was petrified. He owns a firearm as well so i was praying for my safety. I remember falling asleep one night with my bed light on and suddenly waking up as i heard someone switch it off right above my head. My body went into a cold shock as i watched his dark shadow leave the room – he could have put a pillow over my head or something.
    The following week end i had to fly to Cape Town. (I live in Durban KZN, South Africa) it was my grand father’s memorial. I flew down the Friday and was due back Monday morning. I had also not seen the family, especially my brothers in years because of me being isolated from my family, but i was determined to go down for my grand father’s memorial. Unfortunately, my husband saw happy photos of me with my family and on the Sunday night when i sent him a text to confirm my arrival the next morning, he told me to stay in Cape Town as he could see how happy i was with my family and that was where i obviously wanted to be.
    Still i got onto the plane because my son was writing his very last exam that Monday morning and i wanted to see my boys. When i landed, my body was shaking and i was praying for my safety. He wasn’t there at the pick up so i called and he said to meet him at a coffee shop. A few minutes later he arrived very aggressively and told me he was putting me back on the plane to Cape Town and giving me R100 000 to go start my life over. Obviously i wasn’t happy with that settlement and to cut a long story short, we eventually drove home. He didn’t say a word to me. Got home, threw my bags down and then he got dressed and left for the gym. He needs to stay in shape and he needs to look after himself as i don’t make him feel good about himself.
    That week he still slept in the spare room and then he and my 2 boys were scheduled to go on a weekend Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training camp. The Thursday night he barged into our bedroom to tell me i am the most pathetic wife ever because i didn’t even feel sorry for him sleeping in the spare room, i should have gone and fetched him even if it meant i slept there with him.
    Saturday night he called the house and learned that i had 2 friends over for coffee. He was not happy about that! He started screaming and going crazy over the phone and told me that i better be out of the house by the time he got home Sunday or he will be dragging me out by my ass. I had already been planning to take the window opportunity and when he said that, i knew that if there had been any doubt, this was confirmation that i had to leave. Right now! I called another friend and her and her husband came early the next morning with their pick up truck and got me out.
    My first concern was for my safety – i would have never gotten out had i waited and i know, i would not have gotten out alive. Besides, i was not willing to test his capabilities. My boys are big but i had to leave them behind and now my narc is turning them against me. I feel like i’ve been a part of a cult group and when you leave the cult you get banished and everyone including your family turns their backs on you.
    It’s the hardest thing ever. I haven’t seen my boys for 2 months now and i just received an email from both of them telling me they don’t want to see me. I have been for counselling and doing so much research because knowledge is power. I discovered that there is a name for this: Parental alienation.
    I know that while they are still trying to figure out truth for themselves, they have to do what is necessary to be safe too.
    It’s all about his hurt and if i had only done what he had asked, he would not have needed to reacted the way he did.
    So i decided to write the end part of my 22 year story here as i have been following this blog closely for a long time and putting my story here will just confirm that this is real. What you are all feeling is real and it is wrong.
    I am not going back again. I have promised myself i will stand on Truth and Justice.
    You can get out but you have to be strong.
    Many days i feel week. Not seeing my boys is killing me. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat from missing them. But i will not go back to the evil i was tricked into for 22 years.
    I did this so that one day they will see and they will know that they too have an option.
    They can choose.
    I will always be their mom and i am always here – doors open – arms open.
    He has left me with nothing. I have just been blessed with friends who have supported me and carried me through and are still willing to help me while i fight him.
    Just don’t give up! RISE

  17. DB says:

    Yesterday I was struggling with this same thing and read up on trauma bonding, just to feel a little grace. Basically, the lying mouth of these narcs have told us their behavior is love, and since maybe we didn’t know what real love looked like, we didn’t question it. But I believe what might have started out as a feast for our hungry souls, has dwindled down to being fed crumbs, in the corner of a house we can’t call home (no woman can have peace in a house where she’s not safe), and we must face that this starvation makes us weak. The narc tampers with our supply, as their supply is extracted. Most of us whole heartedly admit we are exhausted, scared, and cannot trust truthful sayings like “everything will be alright”.
    My encouragement is this: please, let’s all know we are in process and the FORCE of love has to win against these heartless men masquerading as heroes full of love.
    So far, God gave me an exit by giving me a job that starts in another city a hour away. I’ll have to commute in the winter, and that won’t do, so it will be practical for me to get another place to live. I mourn for my home that I love here but there will never be peace in any property I share with him.
    Look for your door ladies. It won’t be a wide open highway for you to speed down. It will be a narrow path, with each step securing a final exit.

  18. tp says:

    Reading all of you comments and stories does give me some hope, however I am at a point of feeling completely trapped. I don’t know how to get out and I don’t know how to continually live like this. I’m sad, Im angry, I’m confused, I’m hurt, I’m pissed off! When he is good I feel so in love with him, but now the bad definitely outweighs the good. The past month has been complete Hell. I feel like I can’t breathe sometimes. I dread going home from work. I do not know what to do. This is the worst roller coaster I have ever been on and now I have broke his heart because for 2 days I was just completely angry with him and I wasn’t afraid to let him see it. But now because I did that, I was wrong. I hurt him. Really????? I just don’t know what to do.

  19. BONNIE says:

    I’ve in this relationship since I was 13 married at 16 and half so for 43 years I’ve been trying to get out of this marriage the men and narrsitic set them self up for us as women to fail ,my wouldn’t let me work ive left many times came to the same bad behavior I set him down in may this year and told him I can’t do this anymore .I’m totally done .I moved into a separate bedroom I’m making plans to get an apartment of my own building a sup port system I’m working with Hope and justice in my town tring to hide money and figure this out but I’m the one living my home and my town to get away from him right now he’s been trying to suck up its not working I’m living and I’m not coming back I took everything from me my self esteem .my self confidence I couldn’t have friends I’m 57 years old I’m taking back my life and I’m scared to death about the big changes I’m only sad because I have to leave my 2 cats and beagle puppy behind I wish I could find a way to keep my pets they are my theaphy I’m hoping this group will very supportive in the transition I don’t love him I have no feelings for him .Now it’s time for me I raised my 2 children and now I’m taking back my life

  20. Darla says:

    I’m in the same boat right now

  21. Linda Kraner says:

    I could have written your exact words. Every point you made is spot on. I am thankful I left after 30 years of marriage to a narcissist physician opiate addict. Although my four year divorce isn’t over I finished my doctorate have so many more doors open to me, met a man who loves me and in a two year relationship, have support and a great future he has tried to alienate my four older children using money and two have detached from me but I know they will be back. He’s his own worst enemy and continues with his drug and alcohol addiction and has a great deal of anger that I left and am not giving up and will hold him accountable. To all the women out there you are strong and your life will be so much better.

    1. Linda, I’m so proud of you. What a hard situation—your narc truly is leading a double life. You’ll find just separating from him, his mask will come off with others, and you won’t even have to try for karma, it’s just been stacked up against him. Debra

  22. Natosha harris says:

    Leaving is the hardest thing I’ve ever done! I currently have been living in my camp trailer for the last 3 weeks until my rental is complete! I was no where in the position to financially Afford a place, get a lawyer, split up my family my daughter is two and my step son that I was very close to was 8, I have been so scared to loose my step son and any chance of seeing him, having a split family for my two year old but I just one day was done and I drove off and had no plan—- I put a place called sundance meadows on my credit card and rented an rv spot for me to live in… when I explain my rv spot to my friends it sounds sweet but it’s pretty awful… I miss having a home and it’s lonely when my daughter is at her dads….we are now battling over text and he has made me feel so small and yet I still miss the idea of what I wanted there … I’m struggling to be strong again like I once was…. but I would be lying if I said I don’t break down often! He has taken no accountability to the why I left… I was finding injectables, he was lying, staying out til weeeee hours of the night, belittling me and I just kept pretending it would get better but it was getting worse quickly … I want my children to be raised knowing I am capable without someone who makes me feel that way

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