Why It Is So Hard To Leave An Intimate Relationship With A Narcissist?
Written by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
There are several reasons why we stay with our narcissistic abuser; why it is so hard to leave a toxic intimate relationship with one. In this article I will discuss the eight most common reasons.
1. Our Brains are Chemically Addicted to Them
In the honeymoon phase of the relationship the excitement of "finding the perfect partner"and the powerful chemistry that often includes amazing sex causes the "feel-good" hormones Oxytocin and Dopamine to flood our brains. This does not happen accidentally. It is a deliberate tactic used by narcissists to get our brains chemically addicted to them.
When that pivotal moment happens where everything changes and suddenly you can’t do anything right, say anything right, and you are always being put down, you get confused. You crave the high you felt with the person and try to get it back. Believing that person honestly represented herself and was sincere in the feelings she expressed to you, your logical mind tells you, “I know that perfect person existed. Maybe if I try this, maybe if I do that, she will come back to me.” Or maybe you rationalize that the person is going through something and everything will be back to normal once they get over it. Not realizing that the person is an imposter brilliantly playing a role customized to you and that the perfect person never existed, you can spend years trying different things, believing that if you just do everything perfectly you are going to get her back.
Healing from a love addiction is difficult and it takes time. You will have to use abstinence and go through an unpleasant emotional withdrawal. But with the right support and guidance you will heal from this and move on to a much better life.
2. Reward and Abuse/Intermittent Reinforcement
With reward and abuse, the narcissist alternates intimidation, cruelty and hate with kindness, apology, and love. Through this vacillation of extremes, he has the ability to control his victim's moods, self-esteem, and feeling of security.
The good -guy bad-guy game confuses the target. Having witnessed glimmers of goodness in her persecutor, she holds onto the hope that he will change.
The reward and abuse tactic creates a psychological powerlessness and dependence that convinces the victim she cannot escape or survive on her own. In romantic relationships, victims describe this dependency on their abusers as "being in love."
Recognize the pattern and don't buy into it. Trust your intuition. Abuse is abuse. Don't sugar-coat it.
3. Promise of the Future: Future faking
Many of us stay with our narcissistic abuser, hooked by the promise of a future we believe we will have with the person; a future we have talked about together, a future we counted on. It became a reality for us. We are sure this person is our future, and no matter what our true reality is, hold tight to that dream.
It is devastating when the hopes and dreams you looked forward to are crushed. You will definitely mourn the loss. But it is better to create a realistic future than to hold on to one that will never materialize. Take whatever time you need to get over the disappointment, and then begin taking small steps toward building the life that will truly bring you happiness.
4. Finances and Investments
We may find ourselves financially tied to the narcissist. Perhaps we have loaned her money, or invested in a property or a business with her. If we leave we know we will never get our money back.
Maybe we don't or cannot work and that person is our entire means of support.
Narcissists deliberately tie themselves financially to their targets to make it harder for them to leave. Don't allow money to hold you hostage. If you get out with your sanity you have won. It may not be easy but you will survive--and rebuild.
If you have children with a narcissist you are tied to him for life, but you don’t have to stay in the relationship or be abused by him.
Leaving a narcissist with whom you have children is often a complicated process. They may not want the children, but once you split up he will focus entirely on punishing you. Stealing your children from you or turning them against you is the most torturous way he can do it. That is a terrifying thought, but there are strategies you can use to create a better outcome.
Don't remain in the relationship thinking it is best to keep the family together. Don't wait for your children to get to a certain age, believing that strategy will make it "easier to leave." Every year spent living with the narcissistic parent damages children more and more for life. You need to protect them.
Get legal and emotional help, plan your strategy, and then when everything is in order, as soon as it is feasible, leave.
6. Fear of Being Alone
Many of us have abandonment issues left over from childhood. We think we’d rather stay with an abuser than to go it alone.
Now is the time to work through those issues; eliminate the fear so you can move forward in your life, abuse free with peace of mind.
Once you remove yourself from the toxic environment you are in and have the peace of being alone you will value it. It may not be the best possible scenario, but you will not have to be on guard all the time, triggered, waiting for the yelling to start, and subject to the cold distant behavior.
7. Fear of Being Too Old and Starting Over
Those who have been in narcissistic relationships for years or began them later in life may believe they are too old to start over, and therefore may cling to the abusive relationship thinking it is better than nothing.
If you stay in this relationship it will make you sick, incapacitate you, maim you, or kill you. The stress you think you are enduring is just bottled inside you and will manifest in some horrible way.
Once you are too infirm to satisfy the needs of the narcissist you will become worthless to her; she will leave you alone and helpless. So if you can’t get out for your emotional health and safety, get out for your physical health and safety while you still have the physical means to do so.
You are never too old to start over.
8. Fear of losing Your friends or Family and Having Your Reputation Ruined.
This is going to happen. The vengeful narcissist will go to any lengths to smear your name. He will portray himself as the victim and you as the perpetrator. Few if any will stand by you or validate your experience. That is why it is so important to build your boundaries, self-assurance, self-validation, self-love. Once you learn to validate yourself from within and self-assuredly hold your head high, none of that will bother you.
A mental health professional specializing in narcissistic abuse can help you with all of those things, and in addition, fortify you with the tools you will need for a healthy future.
Do you recognize yourself in any or all of the eight reasons why we stay with our narcissistic abuser? If so, please understand that your situation will never improve by remaining with the narcissist. Fear dis-empowers you and empowers your abuser. Take your power back. Whatever is coming cannot be as bad as what you are experiencing. Get out while you still can
Randi Fine is an internationally renowned narcissistic abuse expert and coach. She is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery Second Edition, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.