Ending an abusive relationship is never easy. Ending one with someone with Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD) can be especially difficult as they can be so charming and charismatic—at least at the start of the relationship or if you threaten to leave.
It’s easy to become disoriented by the narcissist’s manipulative behavior, caught up in the need to seek their approval, or even to feel “gaslighted” and doubt your own judgment.
If you’re codependent, your desire to be loyal may trump even your need to preserve your safety and sense of self. But it’s important to remember that no one deserves to be bullied, threatened, or verbally and emotionally abused in a relationship.
There are ways to escape the narcissist—and the guilt and self-blame—and begin the process of healing.
Steps To Leaving A Narcissist
- Educate yourself about narcissistic personality disorder. The more you understand, the better you’ll be able to recognize the techniques a narcissist may use to keep you in the relationship. When you threaten to leave, a narcissist will often resurrect the flattery and adoration (“love bombing”) that caused you to be interested in them in the first place. Or they’ll make grand promises about changing their behavior that they have no intention of keeping.
- Write down the reasons why you’re leaving. Being clear on why you need to end the relationship can help prevent you from being sucked back in. Keep your list somewhere handy, such as on your phone, and refer to it when you’re starting to have self-doubts or the narcissist is laying on the charm or making outlandish promises.
- Seek support. During your time together, the narcissist may have damaged your relationships with friends and family or limited your social life. But whatever your circumstances, you’re not alone. Even if you can’t reach out to old friends, you can find help from support groups or domestic violence helplines and shelters.
- Don’t make empty threats. It’s a better tactic to accept that the narcissist won’t change and when you’re ready, simply leave. Making threats or pronouncements will only forewarn the narcissist and enable them to make it more difficult for you to get away.
- Seek immediate help if you’re physically threatened or abused. Call 911 in Canada. or your country’s local emergency service.
After Leaving The Narcissist
Leaving a narcissist can be a huge blow to their sense of entitlement and self-importance. Their huge ego still needs to be fed, so they’ll often continue trying to exert control over you. If charm and “love bombing” doesn’t work, they may resort to threats, denigrating you to mutual friends and acquaintances, or stalking you, on social media or in person.
Cut off all contact with the narcissist. The more contact you have with them, the more hope you’ll give them that they can reel you back in. It’s safer to block their calls, texts, and emails, and disconnect from them on social media. If you have children together, have others with you for any scheduled custody handovers.
Allow yourself to grieve. Breakups can be extremely painful, whatever the circumstances. Even ending a toxic relationship can leave you
feeling sad, angry, confused and grieving the loss of shared dreams and commitments. Healing can take time, so go easy on yourself and turn to family and friends for support.
Don’t expect the narcissist to share your grief. Once the message sinks in that you will no longer be feeding their ego, the narcissist will likely soon move on to exploit someone else. They won’t feel loss or guilt, just that never-ending need for praise and admiration. This is no reflection on you, but rather an illustration of how very one-sided their relationships always are.
If You Suspect That You Need Help with Narcissism
Due to the very nature of the disorder, most people with NPD are reluctant to admit they have a problem—and even more reluctant to seek help. Even when they do, NPD can be very challenging to treat. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope or that changes aren’t possible. While medication can be an effective tool to direct change, the essential component is that the individual sees a problem and WANTS to create something different in their life.
Without this motivation, change will be almost impossible.
Working with a skilled therapist, you can learn to accept responsibility for your actions, develop a better sense of proportion, and build healthier relationships. You can also work on developing your emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is the ability to understand, use, and manage your emotions in positive ways to empathize with others, communicate effectively, and build strong relationships. Interestingly, the skills that make up emotional intelligence can be learned at any age. Take the test here.
If you’re identifying that this is a problem in your life, make a plan and find support.
Sometimes people choose to stay in a relationship like this, for various reasons. Here are some tips on how to manage a Narcissist.
- Psychology Today “How to leave a Narcissist or Toxic Relationship” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/toxic-relationships/201904/how-leave-narcissist-or-toxic-relationship) Accessed 01/12/23)
- Insider.com “20 steps to leaving an abusive relationship with a narcissist for good” (https://www.insider.com/how-to-leave-a-narcissist-in-14-steps-2018-10#avoid-arguing-at-all-costs-5) Accessed 01/13/23.
- HelpGuide.org. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder.htm) Accessed 12/19/2022.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.