Leaving a Narcissist Ain't Easy But Can Be Done!
After our 3-part series on "How to Spot the Signs" of narcissistic abuse, I asked myself "What's Next?" Once you identify and accept that you're in a narcissistic abusive relationship, then what?!?! So, I felt a follow-up piece was in order to at least share how I left my abusive 8-year relationship.
I'm not sure if I shared these details before with my SpunkyDiva Tribe, but I left all my family and friends to move to Maryland in 2006 for a job. In spring 2007, my dad got diagnosed with stage 2 lymphoma and passed that August. I was alone and lonely, broken, vulnerable, grieving and heading for severe depression from losing my dad. I met my NarcX online a couple months later. Looking back, he displayed typical narc behavior from day #1! By June 2008, we had bought a home together and by August 2008 we were married.
When we met, I was the major breadwinner in the household up until late 2009 when I got laid off due to the recession. I felt the power shift turn upside down in the relationship almost immediately. The worst of the abuse occurred the first half of our time together. Those early years were sheer hell. As my grief went away and I started to feel "normal" I began going tit for tat with him. Eventually, things escalated to the point of no return and I knew I wanted out even though that wasn't able to happen for a while. I needed to be financially independent and a few bouts of unemployment made that challenging.
Once I made the mental decision that I wanted out, I finally listened to my closest friends who'd been encouraging me to look after myself first! I wish I had listened to them much earlier, but I guess better late than never. Of course, I was torn with feelings for someone who never existed. I'm sure over 8 years of narcissistic abuse that was EVERYTHING but physical, I had developed some codependency trauma bonds. I had feelings of guilt for another failed relationship. I was upset with the thought of leaving my home. It wasn't an "easy" decision by far! Even after I left, I still had an inkling of "hope" that things could work out between us.
So here are a few tips that I learned first-hand or wish I'd known how important they are when you're trying to leave a narcissistic relationship:
Plan your exit strategy well enough ahead of time. Where will you go and live? How much will you need to live on your own? What will you need to save up in order to move out? What will you need to buy in order to live on your own?
I actually started looking at apartments and planning about a year before I actually left. I realize not everyone has the luxury of that much time. Occasionally, one must leave suddenly, but in that case I hope they have a friend or two who've offered up their homes in an emergency.
If you don't have one already, get your own bank account (checking/savings) and start putting money in it on a regular basis as EARLY as you can.
If you can't open an individual bank account, put away money (cash) in a rainy day fund as early as you can. If you need to keep it out of the house, see if a close friend or family member that you trust implicitly will hold on to it for you. Otherwise, find a good hiding spot for it that your NarcX will never find.
NOTE: If your NarcX is anything like mine, you'll need to give it to a friend to hold for you. Don't underestimate how sneaky, clever or devious your NarcX actually is like I did for years!! Come to find out my NarcX was invading my privacy and going through EVERYTHING I owned for years before I found out. In fact, he pretty much did it from the time we started dating. So, don't be naive into thinking you can outsmart that fox!
Gather any and all important papers/documents as soon as you can. Start making copies or getting originals for everything you both co-own, anything financial related, mortgage papers, marriage license, jewelry appraisals, insurance policies, etc. Don't forget your own important papers that may be in a joint location like birth certificate, passport, social security card, etc. I would keep them in a safe place outside of the home you two share, if possible.
TAKE EVERYTHING YOU WANT THE MOMENT YOU LEAVE! This is an important and hard lesson I learned during my separation process. I was emotionally torn with actually leaving my home (more than leaving him! Lol) so I left some things behind. My NarcX was also being too nice and said I didn't have to take everything the day I moved. He said I could take my time coming back and forth getting the rest of my stuff. Well, that generosity didn't last long!
Once reality hit him, he changed the locks and alarm system a mere one week after I moved out. He then wanted to dictate to me how I could get my stuff. I was couldn't bring anyone to help me because he wanted me to come alone. I didn't feel safe or comfortable so we went back and forth thru our attorneys until one day (per the marital separation agreement) he pretty much threw SOME of my stuff together and put it all outside on the front stoop/yard in the rain! He tried keeping my fur coats hostage but luckily my girlfriend was able to get them for me. When I unpacked it all, what he sent was absolutely comical! He kept a ton of kitchen stuff and sentimental items. He only sent a couple knives, a fork, couple spoons, two bowls...get the picture?!?! Talk about being petty!
So ALL that to say - TAKE EVERYTHING you want out of the house when you leave. Assume that when you leave you will never go back. Don't be fooled by any pleasantries or friendly behaviors. If it means something to you or was yours to begin with, TAKE IT!
My last piece of advice is GET A GOOD LAWYER! Lawyers are not cheap but it sucks big time if you are paying all your hard earned money to one that you don't like. The separation and divorce process to lawyers is pretty cut and dry. They are non-emotional despite everything you've been through and all the emotions you're feeling. I wouldn't say lawyers don't care, but they aren't paid to care. I felt like my lawyer couldn't relate to me and didn't understand. I also didn't feel like he did all he could to "fight for me" and my best interests. So, do your homework and try to find the best one you can afford.
OK, those were my tips...but I'm going to give you a few from the experts. According to Psychology Today's article entitled "How to Leave a Narcissist for Good" here are 7 tips on how to get out with your insanity intact.
Go Absolutely "No-Contact" - Block their numbers, emails, social media, etc. Block it all!
Just GO! No Lingering Goodbyes - Remember how good your mate is at "hoovering" you back. If you left something behind, unless is has great sentimental value to you, just let it go! It's a small price to pay for your freedom and peace of mind.
Consider Blocking Friends-in-Common - Your mental well-being depends on getting as far away from the narcissist as possible. That includes not hearing updates or having someone persuade you to go back to them. You also don't want these friends reporting your business back to the narcissist.
Write Down Why You Left - During this time you will second guess what the heck you're doing...was the relationship and narcissist really that bad? (Trust me, even I questioned myself!) Write down all the things he did to you, how he made you feel, all the lies and games he played. Hopefully, you will have been journaling the entire relationship (like I did!) and all you have to do is pull it out and refresh your memory to validate you're making the right decision by leaving and choosing YOU.
Assume the Narcissist Will Move on Quickly - Narcissists don't take much time to "heal" or grieve a relationship. They must always have a narc supply so they probably already had their own exit strategy already planned and someone waiting all along. My NarcX was spending countless of hours on the Internet looking up at least a couple dozen women on Facebook. He also had a narc supply in the form of a "female best friend" that was always the "3rd person aka other woman" in our relationship.
Give Yourself Time to Grieve - Be glad you're getting out when you do, but know that you will experience grief. You will grieve the end of the relationship and of the person you thought your partner was. If you're like me, you will also grieve the person the narc turned you into and the person you were before you met them. Be patient with yourself as you go through this. You'll be sad, you may cry or even get depressed. Having a good support network will help tremendously.
Keep Yourself Busy! - While it's important to honor your feelings of loss and emotions over the breakup, it's equally important to stay busy. It's time to put YOU FIRST. It's time to take care of YOU. Self-care is crucial! Exercise, take up a new hobby, learn more about this "new" you, rediscover who you are, what you like and what your interests are, journal, and spend time with friends you probably didn't see much of during the relationship. Allow yourself to learn life again and grow!
Above all else, ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM! You may feel sad, emotional, depressed, cry...but know that's completely normal. You've been through hell and back!
And you survived so what you're going through right now is only temporary and so worth your sanity. Continue relying on your support network and just remember the blessings in your life.
Don't hesitate to seek help from a professional therapist if you need to get you through this rough time. Check out our resources page that’s full of links to Facebook pages, authors, speakers, organizations, etc. who focus on this topic.
Know that you're not alone. There's a whole community of us who've been where you are, survived our own relationships and left too. And as always, follow SpunkyDiva Diaries on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We'd love to have you as part of our SpunkyDiva Tribe!