Narcissists have a way of luring us in, convincing us that they are the people we have only dreamt about. We think we have found our soulmates or our better halves, which makes leaving a narcissist even more difficult. This is the part of the cycle of abuse called “love bombing,” because you are hit over and over with out of control gestures of “love.”
I like to say during this point of any relationship, even one with a healthy person (not a narcissist,) both people involved are in the “church clothes” phase. We are bringing the very best to the table. We are putting our best feet forward. This is natural and part of the dating process.
While this phase gives us energy and hope for a bright future, for the narcissist, it’s exhausting! Why? It is not the narcissist’s true self. The narcissist is working hard to keep up a certain appearance, and he (I will use “he” in this article, but yes, there are female narcissists, too!) wants to portray that he has certain character traits you desire. As the relationship progresses, we think this version of the narcissist is the “real” person.
When the mask falls off, we are shocked and sad. We internalize, and think, “What did I do to cause this?” We often work even harder at making the relationship what we want it to be. Unfortunately, it’s a battle that will be lost.
The mistake we make is when we hang on, waiting for that nice person to reappear. We live in perpetual hope. Narcissists can be downright mean, unfaithful, demeaning, demoralizing and abusive to us, but we hang on. We want that other person back. We tell others, “But I still love him” or “But I still love her.”
The Narcissist’s Cycle of Abuse:
It’s natural and healthy to love someone with whom you have shared good times, intimacy and perhaps a family. You have seen the best of that person, although it likely wasn’t a real version. Leaving a narcissist is extremely difficult for this reason. Don’t beat yourself up because you love.
The important thing to do is stop waiting for your feelings to change. You may always love the narcissist. If you know you are in a toxic relationship and that you need to make a change, you can start by asking some tough questions.
Does this person make me a better person?
A relationship should help you grow and evolve. You should feel like you
How do you feel around your partner?
Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells or across a field of broken glass? Are you scared when you return home, because you don’t know what kind of mood your partner will be in?
No marriage or partnership is perfect, but you should feel safe and at peace around your partner. You should feel confident when you share a fear or secret. In a healthy relationship, a partner is a friend if not your best friend. Your partner is your safe person.
What would you tell your best friend to do?
If your best friend came to you and told you the story of the life you are living right now, what would your advice be? Would you tell that person to end the relationship? Would you say stick it out?
Do you see a future with this person, as the person is right now?
Don’t expect the narcissist to change. They have a personality disorder, which is considered a mental health disorder. I think sometimes we forget that! Dr. Lundy Bancroft, the author of Why Does He Do That; Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, has worked with abusive men for decades, and Bancroft says he has seen only a handful of men change behaviors and habits. That’s about 5 people out of 2,000 who made progress.
Only you can make the final call on what works for you. Leaving a narcissist is a hard decision. By learning as much as you can about narcissism, you are taking care of you. You are growing. I believe your decision will become clearer, no matter which path you decide to take.