How To Leave A Narcissist When You Can’t Make It Work Any Longer

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is difficult. So, if you feel like you’re at the end of your rope and you just can’t do it anymore, you’re not alone. When you just can’t make it work anymore or don’t want to keep trying, it’s time to learn how to leave a narcissist.

The common symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) make maintaining a healthy relationship difficult unless the person is very aware of their behavior and ability to control it. Unfortunately, this is often not the case for people. And while you may have tried your hardest to make it work, you may find that it is draining on your mental and emotional well-being.

If you’re in a relationship with someone with NPD, you have likely been a victim of their narcissistic abuse.

Understanding Narcissistic Abuse

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There is a range of behaviors that can be included under narcissistic abuse, which is a form of psychological abuse. Because it doesn’t leave any physical signs behind, it can be difficult for the victims to identify that they are being abused.

Some examples of narcissistic abuse include:

  • Belittling and criticizing
  • Withholding (i.e., money or affection)
  • Verbal abuse (often disguised to look like jokes)
  • Blaming
  • Ignoring

And, you may find that anytime you try to address any of these abusive behaviors, your partner finds a way to turn it back on you. For example, they tell you that it’s either your fault that it’s happening or that you do not perceive the situation correctly.

Why leaving a narcissist is hard

There are several reasons why it’s so hard to leave a narcissist. Some of the reasons are the same as leaving any relationship. If you’ve been with the person long-term, or if you have children together, it can be difficult to think about not having that person in your life. Most narcissists do not behave in a bad way all of the time. They know how to turn on the charm, and there are many times that you have enjoyed it with them. And you’ve created good memories together.

However, you may find that the cons of the relationship have started to outweigh the pros. And if you reach this point, you may find that it’s in your best interest to end the relationship instead of allowing it to continue.

How to leave a narcissist

It’s important to note that leaving a narcissist is not like leaving another person. They can be very good at twisting words, using guilt, and other strategies that end up convincing you to stay in the relationship. Sometimes you may even end up feeling like the problems in your relationship are your fault. These feelings are most likely happening because you’ve been a victim of narcissistic abuse.

If you’re going to leave, the following tips can help.

  1. Get prepared before you leave.
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It can help if you get prepared for leaving before you ever say a word about it to your partner. This includes doing things like creating a plan for where you’re going to go and live. It can include slowly taking some things out of the house while your partner doesn’t know, so you will be able to leave quickly when the time comes.

It’s also helpful to make sure that you get all of your legal and financial documents in order. Make sure that you have copies of any of the documents that you need access to. Make sure you have the keys that you need to have. And, talking to an attorney and an accountant before you announce that you’re leaving may also be helpful. They can help you identify other stuff that you need to make the split as clean as possible.

  1. Don’t try to have a conversation about it.

When the time comes to leave, it can be helpful to make it as quick as possible. Let them know that you’re leaving and any other details that you need to share, but make that it. You do not want to get into a conversation about the relationship because narcissists tend to be good at being able to draw people back in.

Once you’ve made up your mind to go, and you have your plans in place, make it a quick goodbye. Keep your answers short. Try to leave your emotions out of it when you’re actually talking to them. And don’t allow yourself to stay and listen to what they have to say.

If you’re worried that you will have a hard time leaving quickly, have another person there to support you through the process. Your partner may be less likely to try to manipulate you when someone else is around to witness it.

  1. Stick to no-contact or include another person
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Once you have left, do not have any unnecessary contact with your ex. If you do have to be in contact with them, try to have a third party involved in the conversations or cc’d on any emails. It may even be helpful to have your attorney included in emails.

If they continue to call you, text you, and email you, do not respond unless it’s something that you legally need to respond to. It can also be helpful if possible, to limit the number of ways that they can communicate with you.

  1. Prepare yourself for their retaliation.

You may find that your ex is going to try to retaliate against you out of their anger and hurt. They may also be able to move on more quickly from the relationship than you. Take time to think about your partner and what their typical behaviors are. Do your best to try to predict how you think they’re going to retaliate and then prepare yourself for it.

Change passwords to any of your accounts and pin numbers. This includes your email, bank account, and any other account that they may have had access to before. Doing this proactively can stop them from doing things like draining your bank account.

You may want to block them from viewing your social media accounts. It can also be helpful to delete any connections you have with their friends.

Also, it’s important to prepare yourself mentally. As someone who’s been in a relationship with a narcissist, you have probably already experienced verbal abuse and emotional abuse. Once you leave, you may notice that this behavior continues. Do not allow it, if possible.

  1. Pack up reminders of your relationship

It may be helpful to either get rid of or put away any reminders of the other person. If you have children together, you may not be able to do this completely, but look for ways that you can limit the number of things that remind you of them.

Over time as you heal, there may be some things that you’re able to get back out because they mean something to you and provide you with good memories. But if that’s not the case, don’t keep those things around if you don’t have to.

  1. Build a support system

One of the common behaviors of narcissistic abuse is isolating the other person from their family and friends. You may find that you don’t have close relationships with other people anymore. However, there’s a good chance that these people still care about you and want to help you if they can. Work on re-establishing these relationships and building a support system that you can surround yourself with.

If you don’t have anyone on a personal level that you can use for support, consider joining a support group of people that have been through similar situations. It can be comforting to go through this difficult time with other people who have been there before and can offer you support from personal experience.

  1. Choose your battles carefully if you have split custody of children.
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For many people who have left a narcissist, co-parenting may be difficult to do. It’s helpful to have limited contact with your ex. Don’t spend time feeling guilty because your relationship with your ex is not able to look the same way that somebody else’s can. You have a unique situation, and it can help to keep that in mind.

If you are sharing custody and sharing expenses, there are some decisions that you’re going to need to make together. Your narcissistic ex is most likely going to want to control those decisions. Take time to really consider what things are worth fighting for and what things aren’t. If it’s something that’s not really that big of a deal, then you may find it easier to just allow them to make the decision that they want.

  1. Get professional help from a therapist.

It can be incredibly helpful to talk with a therapist when you’re in a relationship with a narcissist or when you’ve left one. Many people who have been in relationships with narcissists find that their self-esteem and self-confidence are low. It may be hard to trust other people, and you may just be confused and overwhelmed. There are a lot of emotions that can come from leaving a relationship, even if it ends up being better for you in the long run.

A therapist like those at BetterHelp can help you to process through the situation that you’ve been through. They can provide you with strategies that can help you heal and rebuild your self-esteem as you move forward.

Allow yourself time to heal.

It can take time to heal from any broken relationship. Allow yourself that time to grieve. Don’t try to rush into another relationship right away. Work on rebuilding yourself and finding the parts of you that you may have lost along the way.

It may take time to recover from leaving a narcissist, and the process of leaving may be hard, but it may be the first step towards improving your life.


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