How To Leave A Partner Who Has Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Free support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

It can be challenging to maintain a relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). If you’ve been experiencing narcissistic abuse, you may decide it’s time to leave. Before doing so, it may be helpful to consider strategies that protect your physical and mental health during the process of leaving. 

For example, you might avoid unnecessary conversation, reduce contact after the breakup, and get ready for retaliation. You may also find it helpful to put away any reminders of the relationship, build a support system, choose your battles carefully if co-parenting, and seek out professional help. Below, we’ll explore eight tips for leaving a person with narcissistic personality disorder. 

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Leaving a partner with NPD can bring up many emotions

Understanding narcissistic abuse

There may be a range of behaviors involved with narcissistic abuse, which is a form of psychological abuse.* Because it often doesn’t leave any physical signs behind, it can be difficult for survivors to realize that they may have been abused.

Some examples of narcissistic abuse may include:

  • Belittling and criticizing
  • Withholding (e.g., money or affection)
  • Verbally abusing someone (often disguised to look like jokes)
  • Blaming
  • Ignoring

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 might tell you that it’s your fault that it’s happening or that you’re not perceiving the situation correctly, which is known as gaslighting.

How to leave someone with NPD

Leaving a person who lives with narcissistic personality disorder may not be like leaving someone who doesn’t have this disorder. Those with NPD can be skilled at twisting words, using guilt, and employing other strategies to convince you to stay in the relationship. Sometimes, you may even end up feeling like the problems in your relationship are your fault.

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

1. Prepare before you leave

It may help if you prepare to leave before you ever say a word about it to your partner. This could include creating a plan for where you’re going to go and where you will live. It may also include slowly taking some things out of the house when your partner isn’t present so you can leave quickly when the time comes.

It may also be helpful to ensure that all your legal and financial documents are in order and that you have copies of any of the documents you need. Talking to an attorney and an accountant before you announce that you’re leaving may also be beneficial. They may be able to help you identify other actions to take in order to leave as safely as possible.

2. Avoid unnecessary conversation

When the time comes to leave, it can be helpful to make it quick. You might consider how to avoid getting into a conversation about the relationship because those with NPD tend to be good at drawing people back in.

Once you’ve made up your mind to go and you have your plans in place, it may be best to leave quickly. You might try to leave your emotions out of it when talking to your partner. It may be helpful not to 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, you might choose to 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 present to witness it.

3. Reduce contact

Once you have left, it may be best to avoid having any unnecessary contact with your ex. If you do have to be in contact with them, you might try to have a third person involved in the conversations or cc’d on any emails. It may even be helpful to have your attorney included in emails.

If your former partner continues to call, text, or email you, you might avoid responding unless it’s something that you legally need to respond to. It can also be helpful to limit the number of ways that they can communicate with you if possible.

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4. Get ready for retaliation

You may find that your ex retaliates against you out of their anger and hurt. They may also be able to move on more quickly from the relationship than you. You might take time to think about your partner and what their typical behaviors are so that you can do your best to try to predict how they retaliate and prepare yourself for it.

It may be wise to change passwords and PINs to any of your accounts. This can include your email, bank account, and any other account that they may have had access to before. Doing this proactively might stop them from draining your bank account. You may also want to block your former partner from viewing your social media accounts.

5. Put away reminders of the 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 you may still look for ways that you can limit the number of things that remind you of them.

6. Build a support system

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

If you don’t have anyone on a personal level that you can use for support, you might consider joining a support group of people who 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.

7. Choose your battles carefully when co-parenting

When it comes to leaving a person with NPD, co-parenting can be difficult to do. If you are dividing custody and expenses, there may be some decisions that you need to make together. Your former partner may want to control those decisions. It may be helpful for you to take time to consider what things are worth fighting for and what things aren’t. If you’re discussing a topic that’s not very significant, then you may find it easier to just allow them to make a decision to avoid further conflict and the potential for abuse.

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Leaving a partner with NPD can bring up many emotions

8. Get professional help

It may be helpful to speak with a therapist when you’re in a relationship with a person with NPD. Many people who have been in relationships with people with NPD find that their self-esteem and self-confidence are low. It may be hard to trust other people, and you may feel confused and overwhelmed. There may be many emotions that arise after leaving a relationship, even if leaving is the best and safest choice for you.

After leaving a partner with narcissistic personality disorder, you may experience a lot of stress and anxiety. This can be completely normal given the situation, but you may benefit from speaking to a counselor about what you’re going through. If you feel hesitant to visit a therapist’s office, you might consider online therapy, which numerous studies have demonstrated to be just as effective as in-person therapy. 

One study concluded that online therapy was effective for various mental health challenges, especially for anxiety and stress.

Takeaway

Being in a relationship with someone who lives with a narcissistic personality disorder can present significant challenges. If you’re a survivor of narcissistic abuse, you may eventually make the decision to leave your partner. If this is the case, it may help to avoid unnecessary conversations about your decision with your partner and to prepare before leaving. Reducing contact after leaving and preparing yourself for potential retaliation can also be helpful.  If you must stay in contact because you are co-parenting, picking your battles carefully may be beneficial. 

Working with a mental health professional may also help you get through this challenging time. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people who have been in a relationship with someone with narcissistic personality disorder. Take the first step toward healing and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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