Whether you stay or leave is entirely your decision. If you decide to leave, make a plan and, if possible, work with a therapist to help guide and support you. Even if you stay, you’ll need support to maintain your sense of self and keep your self-esteem from being eroded.
For most women who eventually decide to leave, it’s because of a specific tipping point, such as in the cases described in my book. Physical abuse may hasten the decision to leave. But remember that psychological abuse causes just as much destruction as physical, and shame increases the more you keep the abuse secret. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, states that empathy (i.e., sharing with another and having them understand) is the antidote to shame. If you’ve kept the destructive aspects of the relationship a secret, you need to identify whom you can trust, because you’ll need the support.
Your partner’s level of narcissism may determine whether you stay or leave. Some partners may have only a couple narcissistic traits, and you may decide you can deal with them. For example, you may be willing to tolerate a degree of selfishness but not someone who is self-absorbed, controlling, and critical.
When deciding if you should leave a narcissistic partner, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you happy — truly happy? Or are you merely convincing yourself you’re happy?
- Do you make excuses for him to your children, friends, family, or yourself?
- Is your relationship with him hurting the children?
- Is the relationship hurting you?
- Have you noticed you don’t enjoy your favorite activities as much as you used to?
- Have you experienced increased stress, sleep problems, weight gain or loss, irritability, fear, fatigue, or worry?
If you answer yes to even just one of the above questions, I recommend seeing a therapist for support. If you cannot afford one, you can research community resources such as health organizations and faith-based support groups and/or find a trusted friend or family member you can talk with.
If you ultimately decide to stay, you need to learn skills so that you are not baited into argument with your partner. Such skills may include recognizing triggers in your partner such as when he is tired or stressed or has been drinking. When you recognize he may be looking for a fight, you may chose to leave the room or let him vent without commenting back. He may be very provocative, but you will have to not take the bait.
Whether you stay or leave a narcissistic relationship, you will need to practice self-care techniques — either to heal afterwards or to maintain your sense of self and sanity.
In the end, the choice to stay or leave is solely up to you.
For more information on identifying triggers and learning how to approach baited situations, see my book, No More Narcissists! How to Stop Choosing Self-Absorbed Men and Find the Love You Deserve.