Marriage and Narcissism: How to Leave a Narcissist

Posted on May 13th, 2023
A sticky note in the shape of a cloud saying goodby narcissist

Most people don’t know that they are in a relationship with a narcissist until they are in a very serious relationship, have already married, or have started a family together. Narcissists tend to be very good at hiding their true selves for as long as they need, but a point eventually does come when the cracks begin to show.

Being married to someone with narcissistic traits can work in a few instances, where the narcissist is willing to admit their behavioral problems and put in the work with a mental health professional in order to improve.

Unfortunately, given a narcissist’s propensity to place the blame at everyone else’s door, these scenarios are few and far between. A marriage to a narcissist is more likely to be an incredibly unhappy one and will more often than not end in divorce.

That being said, leaving a spouse that displays narcissistic behavior can be incredibly difficult. Not because there is a reluctance to leave the marriage but because narcissists can use all the best tactics available in their manipulation repertoire to convince their partners to stay. Narcissists will twist words, use guilt, and gaslight their spouse until they truly believe that they are the problem and no longer want to leave.

So, with this in mind, how do you leave a narcissist? Here are some of the practical things that you can do to make the process a little easier:

Prepare before leaving

It is always a good idea to be as prepared as possible before you leave or even mention leaving to your partner. One of the most important aspects is creating a plan on where you will go, where you will live, and how you will make money. If you have access to finances, it’s a good idea to start a separate savings account or start taking out cash. You could also start taking some of the things that you want with you out of the house while your spouse is out.

It’s also essential to have all your financial and legal documents in order and to make copies of the most important ones. Talk to an attorney or an accountant before you decide to leave.

Why all the preparation and planning? Well, it means that you can leave with as little fuss as possible. When you decide to leave, it needs to be a quick process, and doing these things will give your spouse less ammunition to change your mind about going out on your own.

Avoid having a long conversation about the breakup

As I’ve already mentioned, leaving as quickly and painlessly as possible is the best scenario when leaving a narcissist. Simply let them know you are leaving and try to avoid having an unnecessary conversation about the relationship. Narcissists are excellent at drawing people back in and this is the point at which they will try and do it. Don’t linger and allow yourself to listen to what they have to say.

If your partner is prone to violence or you are worried about the quick goodbye, then ensure that you have another person present. Narcissists only like to show their behavior to certain people, and the presence of another person should be enough to keep them in line and they may be less likely to lash out or try and manipulate you.


Avoid unnecessary contact

Once you have left your spouse, it is best to avoid having any unnecessary contact if at all possible. Again, this will give them the opportunity to manipulate and guilt you back into the relationship.

If you do have to be in contact with them, then it’s always good to have a third party involved, whether that’s in face-to-face conversations, over the phone, or over email. It might even be useful to have your attorney cc’d into emails.

If they continue to call, text, email or contact you in any way, then it’s best not to respond to the communication that you are not legally obligated to. Limit the number of ways that they can contact you if necessary.

Prepare for retaliation

One of the guarantees of breaking up with a narcissist is that there is going to be some form of retaliation. Go over the things that they have done in the past to try and prepare yourself what they could do in the future. Have they threatened you or withheld finances before? Expect an angry retaliation. Have they threatened to find someone else if you weren’t behaving exactly how they wanted? Expect them to move on very quickly.

If they’ve ever told lies, gossiped, or said nasty things about you to family and friends, then it’s only fair to assume that they could go on a smear campaign.

It’s a good idea to change PINs and passwords to accounts like your email and bank account, as well as social media accounts. It’s also a good idea to block them from social media platforms too.

Choose your battles when co-parenting

It’s all well and good taking the above into consideration, but things become a little more complicated when you have to co-parent with a narcissistic ex. It’s important to keep contact as limited as you possibly can.

When it comes to custody and expenses, it’s important to have an attorney involved to ensure fairness. However, another thing to keep in mind is simply choosing your battles carefully can make a big difference.

Chances are that your ex is going to make this process as difficult as possible for you, so if it’s something that you are asking for but that isn’t of huge significance, it can be worth relenting and giving your partner what they want. Take the time to consider what it is when it comes to your kids that is worth fighting for and what things aren’t. Allowing your ex to make the decision on a smaller topic avoids unnecessary conflict and could give you more leverage on one that you care more about.

Ensure that you have a support circle

Isolating the other person from their friends and family is one of the most common behaviors of a narcissist. When you decide to end the relationship, you might find that you don’t have the close relationships that you had before the marriage. However, chances are that your close friends and family still care deeply about you and will want to help you in whatever way they can. Re-establish these relationships before you leave (if possible) and build your support system for when you are on your own.

Of course, if you aren’t able to reconnect with friends and family for some reason, you could always reach out to a support group that is made up of people who have similar experiences. This can be really comforting during a turbulent time.

Seek professional help

Most people coming out of a relationship with a narcissistic person will have shattered self-esteem and super low self-confidence. It might be difficult to trust people and it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed. Leaving any relationship causes emotional turmoil, even if it was the right decision and the safest choice for you.

Seeking help from a professional is one of the best things you can do if you’ve left a narcissist. They will help you to unpack and heal from your trauma and put you on the path to recovery and self-love.

The Narcissist Abuse Recovery Program

At Naked Recovery, we deal with a huge variety of traumas from all walks of life, and we have created specific programs to deal with individual traumas. The Narcissist Abuse Recovery Program is a structured and supported four-month program to support healing and recovery from those who have suffered trauma through a relationship with someone with narcissistic personality traits.

Contact us for more information on The Narcissist Abuse Recovery Program or any of our other specialized trauma programs.

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