If you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone with narcissistic tendencies, you know that leaving a narcissist is a particularly hard decision to make. It can have little to do with your feelings for your partner, and more to do with your fear of their reaction to you trying to leave.
Narcissists are self-centered. Everything has to be their way, and losing someone they consider to be “theirs” can make it a difficult and trying decision to pull the plug on your relationship. There are four types of narcissists you can encounter, and you may be confused by their behaviors and wonder if it’s truly narcissism to begin with, or if you’re being awful for even suspecting it.
Leaving a narcissist can be difficult because of self-doubt.
This uncertainty — added to the already difficult decision to end the relationship — can make leaving a narcissist all the harder. In fact, you’re not sure what they might try to do when you break the news. Will they cry, scream, rant? Will they beg and cajole? Or will they go even further, to scarier extremes? There are a lot of hard facts that come with ending a relationship with a narcissist, so it’s important to understand what you’re dealing with by identifying the different types of narcissists.
There are four types of narcissism.
Grandiose narcissists are usually seen in the news and depicted in films. They are focused on power, money, and prestige. Vulnerable narcissists are insecure and very sensitive to criticism, avoiding attention, but still, make everything in their lives about them. Communal narcissists enjoy power and attention (like grandiose narcissists), but gain it through their giving and kind nature. They may pass themselves off as empaths and philanthropists, even though the only thing they care about is how this reflects back on them. Malignant narcissists are mean and aggressive toward others. They may appear like psychopaths. Narcissists can exhibit a number of these behaviors, which can make it very difficult to understand and cope with in a relationship.
If you’re leaving a narcissist, here are 7 strategies you should keep in mind.
1. Don’t engage with them.
Narcissists will want to control the conversation and interaction, so the best strategy is not to engage them at all. If the narcissist is your child’s parent, this might be difficult. You will want to engage as little as possible and keep the conversation focused on facts. Provide as little information as possible.
2. Set boundaries.
Boundaries and more boundaries are needed with narcissists. Make sure you establish and follow through with them. For example, if you tell them not to call you, and you receive a call from them, don’t answer the phone.
3. Have a plan and stick to it.
They will not change their behavior if you’re more caring, loving, or understanding, despite what they lead you to believe. Decide how you will and will not interact with them and stick to your plan.
4. Don’t believe anything they say.
A narcissist will say anything to make you believe them. Expect and anticipate false statements and fake promises.
5. Don’t let your guard down.
They’re looking for when you’re feeling down or displaying any weakness, and will swoop in and take advantage of you. Narcissits are keenly aware and attuned to look for weaknesses. They are prepared to verbally attack and manipulate you.
6. Make suggestions, not demands.
If you tell, order, request, or demand something, you’ll probably lose in your interaction with a narcissist. Instead, try casually suggesting an idea and see if they will accept it.
7. Don’t get emotional.
When you respond with emotion, you’re feeding the narcissist’s ego. If you appear unemotional, they may get bored and usually leave you alone. It will be rewarding for the narcissist if you sometimes react and sometimes don’t react emotionally to their manipulative statements or gestures, so be consistent.
What are the character traits of narcissists?
Typically, character traits exhibited by Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are, “inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. Other symptoms of NPD can include having a “… grandiose sense of self-importance; preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, security, or ideal love; seeing themselves as special, unique, and exploitive of others.”
Why does this make leaving a narcissist so difficult?
Narcissists survive on manipulating others. You might find it difficult to leave because the narcissist has gradually encouraged the behavior that they want and discouraged the behavior that doesn’t suit them. You may not have anyone to talk to, as the narcissist ruins friendships and even family relationships by talking negatively about your friends and keeping you from seeing them.
If you think of leaving the narcissist, you might feel lonely and unsure where to get help because you have lost contact with your support system.
The narcissist drains your energy, so you are too exhausted to change the status quo.
You might also feel fearful of leaving because of the manipulative statements your partner said to you such as, “You’ll never find anyone who really cares and loves you as I do,” or, “You’ll always be alone.” They might even suggest you “can’t” leave them, or convince you that no one wants you but them. The narcissist proclaims their opinion as though these are indisputable facts, and over time, you may fall prey to their beliefs, as well.
You may be scared to leave because of the anger and rage you have witnessed.
You may be threatened by physical violence. The narcissist’s unpredictable behavior can make you feel fearful of communicating with them, which is necessary for a healthy relationship. If you do attempt to talk with them, you may feel like you’re walking on eggshells and have to think through and plan what you’re going to say to (hopefully) avoid a fight.
Narcissists are masters at gaslighting.
The narcissist convinces you and others that everything is your problem and if you would just be “kinder,” “nicer,” “listen,” or “change,” then your relationship would be great. You will be blamed and pressured into accepting responsibility for all of your relationship fights and disagreements. Because they act one way in public and another way behind closed doors, no one (besides you) may really know what’s happening in your relationship.
Narcissists don’t take criticism or rejection well.
Narcissists will have difficulty accepting and receiving criticism, which makes it difficult to ever discuss parts of your relationship you’re unsatisfied with, and therefore, makes fixing it impossible. Since they see themselves as special, they expect to receive special treatment from everyone and in all situations. When this doesn’t occur, they become irritable, short-tempered, angry, or hostile.
They are extremely sensitive to any perceived or real rejection, become emotionally dysregulated easily, and find transitions to be challenging. If they believe you’re criticizing them, they will respond by verbally attacking, berating, and insulting you.
Narcissists fear vulnerability and humiliation.
Underlying their superior attitude, they fear being vulnerable and feeling humiliated by others, so they put energy into avoiding feelings of shame and insecurity. Narcissists can not handle criticism, because it starts their narcissistic cycle of idealization, devaluing, and discarding.
The beginning of the relationship is fun, exciting, and may feel like a fantasy. You may experience receiving the love and caring that you always wanted, but something changes, and then the threats and devaluing start. The partner will discard you when you no longer are feeding their ego.
If you’re leaving a narcissist, you may not want to tell them you’re ending things.
This is because if you tell them you’re leaving, they’ll try to manipulate or guilt you into staying, threaten you so you can’t leave, or twist their negative behavior to make you think it’s your fault. When you decide that you’re ready to leave them, you should make a plan and follow through with it. If you have a very trusted family member or friend, you can solicit their help to get out of this relationship. You need to take care of yourself and your needs, rather than worrying about the narcissist and their feelings.
You don’t need to ask yourself any longer why leaving a narcissist is so hard. Manipulation and threats can make you feel trapped, but you must do what’s best for you and your well-being in the end.
Originally published on YourTango