Why Do We Stay? Dismantling Stereotypes about Abuse Survivors

Why Do We Stay? Dismantling Stereotypes About Abuse Survivors by Shahida Arabi

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To the outside world, abuse survivors appear to face an easy decision: leave or stay in the abusive relationship as soon as they endure an emotionally or physically abusive incident. Internally, however, they struggle with cognitive dissonance, damaging conditioning from intermittent reinforcement, PTSD-like symptoms, trauma bonds,  any previous trauma from past abusive relationships or experiencing abuse in their childhood, Stockholm syndrome, feelings of worthlessness and learned helplessness just to name a few.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, leaving a long-term abusive relationship can actually be even harder than leaving a nourishing, supportive and positive one. This is because narcissistic or antisocial abusers are masters of playing mind games and covert manipulation, are able to deny the abuse through gaslighting and present a false image to the world which supports their denial. Survivors are then subjected to a battle within their own minds about whether the reality they experience is truly abuse – a type of cognitive dissonance that society seems to encourage by engaging in victim-blaming.

Remember that abusers present a false, charming self to the world and their true self is exposed primarily to their victims. In the initial stages of dating or the relationship, abusers are likely to present their best image. It is only after they’ve “hooked” the victim with their covert manipulation tactics such as mirroring and lovebombing, that they begin devaluing, demeaning and hurting the victim. The victim then has to find ways to psychologically process  the trauma of this sudden “turn” in personality – a process that can take months to years depending on the duration of the relationship, the availability of the victim’s own coping resources, as well as the severity and nature of the abuse.

I am a passionate advocate of ending abusive relationships, going No Contact and owning our agency after abuse. However, at the same time that I want to encourage survivors to empower themselves after the abuse, I also want people to understand that the act of leaving such a relationship is rarely as easy as it seems.  Not leaving sooner is not an indication or a measure of a victim’s strength or intelligence. It has more to do with the severity of trauma they have experienced. This false narrative of how easy it is to end an abusive relationship is actually holding us back from creating safer spaces for survivors to feel validated, supported, and being able to speak out about their experiences – this support is essential to any victim in an abusive relationship. This is why I want to dismantle the harmful stereotypes of why abuse survivors stay by offering some insights on why they really do. If you’re not an abuse survivor, the reasons might surprise you.

The reasons survivors stay are complex and tied to the effects of trauma, the ways in which abuse survivors start to see themselves after the abuse, and the ways in which society makes it more difficult for them to speak out about their abuse.

1. In a nourishing, positive relationship, we can love the person enough to let go with a sense of closure. In an abusive one, ending the relationship is a decision filled with fear of retaliation and anxiety. In healthy relationships, there is mutual respect and compassion, something that has existed throughout the course of the relationship despite any obstacles. Even if it is difficult, we trust that the person we are letting go will respect us enough to take time to heal before jumping into another relationship the day after the breakup, will not threaten or stalk us because we left them (only they are allowed to discard us in a narcissist’s mind), will not violently assault us and will not stage a smear campaign against us due to the fact that we discarded them first. Partners who are not narcissists or sociopaths will most likely leave us alone after a breakup and not bother to “hoover” simply because they need supply. They are understanding about boundaries and the need for space after the ending of a relationship.

Due to the potential infidelity, manipulation, put-downs, gaslighting and deception abuse survivors endured throughout their relationships, cognitive dissonance about who the abuser is, as well as a sense of incessant doubt, survivors may lack a sense of closure and certainty about ending an abusive relationship.  Understandably, many abuse victims don’t wish to let their abusers move onto the next victim after terrorizing them, because they fear that the next person might be treated better, thereby confirming their own sense of worthlessness that was instilled by the abuser in the first place. They may also have an unending sense of needing a real “apology”  or seeing karma at work before they feel they can truly let go.

Of course, abuse survivors eventually learn that they can only gain closure from within – after they’ve ended the relationship and begun the work of healing and recovery.  They also realize that the next victim will most likely be subjected to the same abuse, even if it appears otherwise when their abuser treats the next victim to the idealization phase. Apologies from the abuser won’t suffice, as they are recognized for what they truly are: pity ploys or hoovering tactics designed to pull us back into the toxic dynamic rather than signs of genuine remorse. Self-forgiveness, instead, becomes paramount.

2. Abuse survivors start to view themselves through the eyes of their abuser. The belittling, condescending remarks and the physical violence abusers subject their victims to leads to a sense of learned helplessness and self-doubt which make survivors fearful that they really aren’t as worthy as they think they are. Abuse survivors could be the most confident, successful and beautiful people to the outside world, but they are subjected to an internal world of fear, self-doubt and a shaky self-esteem as a result of the traumatic conditioning their abusers have put them through. They have been taught to live on a diet of crumbs (the occasional compliment, some shallow show of attention, perhaps even a showering of gifts and flattery before the abuse cycle begins again) which serves to remind them that they must “work” for a love that will never be unconditional, a love that will never contain real respect or compassion.

As a result, they may compare themselves to people in happier relationships or even to the seemingly idealized way their abusers treated their exes (as narcissists are likely to either place their exes on a pedestal or demean them as crazy) and wonder, why not me? What’s wrong with me? Of course, the problem is not them – it is the abusive relationship which is the source of toxicity in their lives.

The abuser is likely to subject the victim to many comparisons to drive the point home that it is somehow the victim’s fault that he or she is being abused (also known as triangulation). Due to this, survivors have a difficult time accepting the fact that even if they were the most confident, successful, beautiful and charismatic people on earth, they would still be abused by the abuser because that is what abusers do in intimate relationships. They abuse victims because they enjoy the feelings of power and control, not because victims themselves lack merits. In fact, narcissistic abusers feel particular joy at bringing down anyone whose accomplishments and traits they envy to reinforce their false sense of superiority.

Due to the skewed belief system which develops after the abuse, survivors feel that ending it would paradoxically confirm the narcissist’s view of them. They associate the ending of the relationship to a failure on their own part, the inability to win the affections of someone who has made themselves look like a prize by constantly idealizing them then subsequently withdrawing from them. Narcissistic abusers blow hot and cold throughout the course of an intimate relationship to make it seem like you’re the problem and not them. Survivors struggle to win the game of gaining an abuser’s affection, especially if they’re prone to people-pleasing habits and fears of rejection as well as abandonment. The terrible things the abuser has done to us somehow doesn’t compare to the pain of also being abandoned after being abused: it’s almost as if the abandonment would prove our so-called “unworthiness” which has been manufactured by the abuser to make us feel unable to leave.

On the healing journey, survivors rediscover their authentic selves and learn how to depart from toxic people-pleasing habits instilled in them by their abuser as well as in childhood. They begin to reclaim their worth, separate from their social interactions and romantic relationships. It is one of the most freeing, empowering experiences to finally leave an abuser and stick with No Contact. Rebuilding your life after abuse is not easy, but it is an unbelievably transformative experience.

3. Ending the relationship would mean that the survivor has to face the reality of all the traumas they’ve experienced, on their own.

Although this is not always a conscious choice, abuse survivors may feel more comfortable rationalizing the abuse and avoiding the pain of the harsh reality they’re experiencing, which can be quite easy given that the tend to experience abuse amnesia during the good times. They may also experience the defense mechanism of disassociation  which enables them to survive during moments of horrific abuse. Staying in the abusive relationship allows survivors to still engage with the good parts of the relationship while psychologically protecting themselves from having to face the trauma of it.

As narcissists and sociopaths tend to be excellent masters of gaslighting, flattery and even sex, creating certain pleasurable bonds that appear to surpass the pain we experience during the abuse, abuse amnesia becomes a tempting form of psychological protection from their own demons. Abuse amnesia is aided by the abuser’s performances of being apologetic, kind, caring and compassionate during the positive highs of the abuse cycle.  Dissociation, on the other hand, is often not intentional on the survivor’s part – the mechanism of dissociation occurs quite naturally in response to traumatic events.  Of course, the reality is that those bonds we have with our abusers are trauma-based bonds that have little to do with actual fulfillment, love or respect, and everything to do with the illusion of who we believe narcissists are.

Ending the relationship is made even more difficult if trauma from previous relationships or childhood exists. It’s a fact: children who grow up witnessing domestic violence within their own families have been reported to more likely to be victims of abusive relationships themselves.  It may almost seem normalized because of the behaviors we’re unconsciously modelling from our childhood. We might identify with the victimized parent, or may even have promised ourselves we would never be like them, only to have unconsciously chosen a partner that has enabled us to attempt to “fix” our past by attempting to fix our abusive partner. Knowing what we know about the effects of trauma on early adolescent brain development, the idea that someone who grew up witnessing such violence and abuse would not be psychologically affected is dubious. Thinking that someone would not be affected by the same type of trauma in adulthood (especially if they’ve already experienced it in childhood) is even more unlikely.

After the ending of an abusive relationship, survivors have the great privilege of uncovering their past traumas and the trauma they’ve just experienced and begin to work through them. The ending of this relationship is actually a golden opportunity to heal from the wounds that were never healed in the first place. The fear of being left alone with the pain has been overcome – the survivor now has the space and time to independently act, think and feel outside of the toxic dynamics of the previous relationship.

4. Society shames abuse survivors into thinking it’s their fault and this can create barriers to a strong, validating support network. As a result of the stigmas associated with being and staying in an abusive relationship past the first signs of blatant disrespect, many people who have not undergone abusive relationships themselves are prone to pass judgment upon survivors. How could he/she stay? they ask. Why didn’t you leave the first time they hurt you? Are you sure it’s really “abuse”? The victim-blaming, shaming and doubting leaves abuse survivors feeling incredibly isolated in their situation and alienated from their own support networks. This question of “why didn’t you leave?” can further persuade survivors to seek the false comfort of the abusive relationship because they would rather stay than speak out and risk being shamed, stigmatized, judged, questioned by the very people who are supposed to care about them – friends, family, and even the criminal justice system.

Here’s a thought: if society stopped viewing abuse survivors in such a negative, judgmental light, they might actually be more likely to report domestic violence. If friends of abuse survivors adopted a mindset of compassion and understanding, rather than ignorant judgment, they may actually get the support they need to feel like they wouldn’t be alone after the end of the relationship.

The fact of the matter is, if you haven’t been in an abusive relationship, you don’t really know what the experience is like. Furthermore, it’s quite hard to predict what you would do in the same situation. I find that the people most vocal about what they would’ve done in the same situation often have no clue what they are talking about – they have never been in the same situation themselves.

By invalidating the survivor’s experience, these people  are defending an image of themselves that they identify with strength, not realizing that abuse survivors are often the most strongest individuals out there. They’ve been belittled, criticized, demeaned, devalued, and yet they’ve still survived. The judgmental ones often have little to no life experience regarding these situations, yet they feel quite comfortable silencing the voices of people who’ve actually been there.

While being a survivor can sometimes alienate us from society, it can also give us an intense connection with other survivors, in interactions filled with understanding and compassion. We have the ability to offer empathy and insight to others on a level other individuals aren’t capable of. Survivors on the healing journey learn how to use their voices, connect with alternative communities and reach out to those who have been there.

5. They aren’t psychologically ready to leave.  Tony Robbins makes an astute observation in his book, Awaken the Giant Within: we only stop a bad habit or behavior when the pain of it far surpasses any pleasure or reward. While this might be a bit too simplistic of a theory to apply to the complex dynamics of abusive relationships, it often plays true for the moment the survivors finally leave. Considering there are many psychological factors that may be holding abuse survivors back (learned helplessness, Stockholm Syndrome) as well as external barriers such as financial dependence, having children with our abuser, the threat of physical violence or a combination of the reasons above, our readiness to leave just yet is hindered. We may plan when to leave and how to leave, fantasize about that moment, but there are usually a couple of factors that postpone the time of escape.

None of the best advice in the world can convince us until we feel that inner transformation and until we reach that turning point where we say to ourselves, “I’ve had enough. I am enough. And so much better than this.” That moment often comes after an experience of extreme pain – a turning point when we’ve reached our pain threshold, whatever that threshold may be. Unfortunately,  until we’ve made this decision from our own internal compass, there is not much others can do to intervene apart from offering their support. The decision must come from the survivor – and because he or she has been in the abusive relationship for so long, robbed of his or her choices, it may be the first powerful choice they have made in years.

Once the decision has been made and actions have been taken to maintain No Contact, leaving becomes the ultimate victory. The turning point, whatever it was, has made them psychologically ready. Survivors have truly owned their agency and power when they can leave an abuser and never look back. They have learned all they can from being in the relationship and are ready to begin their healing.

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Copyright © 2015 by Shahida Arabi. 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.


Watch the video on why abuse survivors stay here.

Since writing this post in 2014, I’ve started a new monthly online coaching program for survivors and have a new book available for pre-order.

Interested in learning more about narcissistic abuse? Pre-order my new book on narcissistic abuse, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself.

Becoming the Narcissist's Nightmare

I want to hear from you. What made you stay in the relationship with your abuser? What made you finally leave (or if you were discarded, implement No Contact)? Even if you’re still in a relationship with your abuser and in the early stages of developing a plan to leave, feel free to share your story. We need every voice that’s been silenced on this topic. We all have the power to break through and leave our abusers, but we need support in doing so. Let’s break the silence. Let’s fight the stigma. Let’s create a safe space for all survivors on this journey.

This blog post is protected under DMCA against copyright infringement.This entry has been adapted from a chapter of a book and are copyrighted by law.

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About the Author

UntitledShahida Arabi is a graduate student at Columbia University, the author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care, a bestselling Kindle book also available in print. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. You can check out her new blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

To learn more about recovering from emotional trauma and staging your victory from abuse, please see my book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care available in Kindle and in Print.


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36 thoughts on “Why Do We Stay? Dismantling Stereotypes about Abuse Survivors

  1. Interesting question – why do they stay? For me, it was none of the above. For me, my daughter had died. To be honest, dealing with his sociopathic drama was firstly a distraction. Believe me the pain from the grief of losing a child is far worse than anything a sociopath can throw at you. In fact, to leave, makes that pain feel worse. Why? With a charismatic sociopath, they are if nothing else, charming and charismatic, uplifting, funny and entertaining (most of the time). They mirror you – so they do things that you like to do. Sometimes, there can be similar interests in common. Mostly it is how you feel about yourself when with that person. At least that is how it is for me, With that relationship, I don’t feel bad about me. Yes its sometimes a juggling act, but its far easier than it would be to deal with grief, a grief that will be with me forever. Some things in life you never get over. Of all the things about sociopaths – they can accept peoples imperfections. Unlike narcissists they don’t think they are perfect….. its just not like that.

    With the one before, it was different – why stay? I stayed for a lot of reasons that I write about, dependency, that was deliberately created by him. Abuse was so severe, that I felt I couldn’t leave. He also used my dead daughter to mentally abuse me, so I felt a connection between him and her – that was fairly twisted. Lack of support from professional agencies, it was when I spoke to a medium, who said ‘you are being abused in every single way, please promise me that you will not have contact with him for two months. Just two months. That is all that I ask? …. So I did. By chance, or fate, during those two months, life made him busy so it was easy. That time alone forced me to focus on me. During that time I was diagnosed with PTSD, started therapy for that, which pulled my brain out of shock (not to do with him) – maybe it was, but that wasn’t what I did therapy about. From that I grew in strength. I did take him back for a very short time, but I had grown stronger in those 2 month away. I ended things and never looked back. I knew that I deserved better. This man made me feel bad about me. or I felt bad about me, with him in my life So, with that, I only stayed, as I was too traumatised to leave, and lost support network. When I got support, I left. When I healed I left. When I did no contact, I left. I never returned. He did still try to contact me, for I think 2 years later, I ignored him. he eventually went away.

    Why people stay – I don’t think that there is a one size fits all. Everyone is different, and everyones life is different. All abusers are different, and their impact on each individual is different, dependent on circumstances.

    I had never been in abusive relationship prior to my daughters death. Relationships were fairly normal. Certainly never dated a narcissist or sociopath prior to her death. I probably wouldn’t have been a good partner to one – I wouldn’t give attention to the drama (sociopath), or attention to the preening and fragile ego (narcissist).

    1. Thank you for sharing your story positivagirl. I so appreciate you giving us new insights into your experience. I am deeply sorry to hear about your loss and I can’t imagine the pain you have been through. When you said this, “Believe me the pain from the grief of losing a child is far worse than anything a sociopath can throw at you. In fact, to leave, makes that pain feel worse,” I think this will resonate with a lot of abuse survivors who stayed because they did not want to compound the extra trauma that comes with leaving with the other traumas in their lives. I think this is particularly resonant with #3, which is the idea that leaving an abusive relationship would mean having to face not only the pain of the relationship but the pain of life as a whole, its losses, its devastation and crises without the security blanket of the relationship.

      While I think that the majority of abusers do use very similar tactics, I think you are right in saying that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to why we stay. There will be a combination of reasons and everyone will come with a different life experience. There are some abuse survivors who have experienced relationships with multiple narcissists, others who have narcissistic parents, and again, others who had never encountered a narcissist before meeting their most recent partner. However, as survivors, I believe we share a bond of common knowledge and understanding of what it is like to experience that sort of trauma and to witness the erosion of an illusion we held onto of the relationship we deeply desired and wanted, of the person who we thought the abuser was.

      Thanks again for sharing your story and for your feedback – it helps other survivors on their journey to healing and adds important nuance to the dialogue about surviving abuse. Many blessings to you and take care <3 <3 <3.

  2. It is very easy to feel like you are trapped. =( Also there’s worrying about what the abuser will do. Will he kill me? Will he totally slander me everywhere and ruin my life? It’s very, very scary.

    1. nenamatahari, I completely agree. The unpredictability of the abuser leaves survivors walking on eggshells. The possibility of leaving then can be not only emotionally damaging but even physically threatening. It is so scary and yet this is an effect that the general public underestimates. They don’t recognize that it is very difficult to extricate yourself when you’re already in the middle of the abusive situation, when you are emotionally and psychologically invested, manipulated, coerced and controlled. Thank you for sharing your insights, they add onto the very important dialogue of what it means to be an abuse survivor. Blessings to you on your journey to healing. <3 <3 <3

  3. I have been toying with the idea of finally getting out but it is very difficult due to the multiple layers he has intertwined. I am an educated woman with a Masters in Social Work…you think I would have known better. However my history tells me that I clearly am co-dependent as all the men I pick have been narcissistic in one form or another. I have the internal fear that I am a failure while my mind tells me otherwise. I have a fear that my disabled son would suffer even more than he already has ( abuser has woven into his life immensely.
    Yes he consistently informs me that I must be a total bitch and cannot keep a man, although I have ALWAYS been the one to leave. He cannot keep a disagreement between the two of us he MUST bring in someone else typically one of my children into the issue. He CANNOT admit his wrong doing EVER. He does not acknowledge me at any holiday,birthday, or even anniversary. I provide all his needs and most of his wants and still he manages to make me feel guilty when I cannot.
    This is such a crazy situation I just cannot understand why I cannot find the courage, will power or just plain passion to get out….I am exhausted, sick, and loosing faith that I deserve anything more or better.

    1. Honey i did it for 18 years ..it only gets worse and you get weaker and sicker from the toxic ..my advice is don’t waste anymore of your life away..before you know it you will be older and have much more to lose.Not to mention you STILL haven’t worked on what life is REALLY about before it’s gone and that’s having a companion to spend your golden days with that IS your best friend and someone that cherishes and respects you for being YOU ..You gotta learn to love yourself and set boundaries for no one to cross and people will have the respect for you that EVERYONE deserves and is your birthright….I have faith that you will do the right thing ,it’s all about loving yourself and respecting the life God gave you . Good luck ,Debbie

      1. Thank you Debbie for empowering other survivors, for sharing your insights and demonstrating your faith in their ability to leave the abusive relationship. It is indeed everyone’s birthright to be respected, loved, and shown compassion. By being our own best friends first, we leave only room for those who will treat us with the respect that we truly deserve. Many blessings to both of you. <3 <3 <3

    2. dmsdawn, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story with us. I am so sorry it has taken me a while to reply to this comment but I hope you are doing all right since you last posted. Please know that many survivors feel this way – they feel an immense amount of cognitive dissonance about their internal worth and the terrible put-downs that their abuser subjects them to. You know yourself that you are a person of value and worth. No one can take this from you. However, ruminating over the abuse is inevitable when you’re in this type of situation – abusers are skilled at making you feel so deeply ashamed of yourself, guilty of everything you do. They will create nonsensical arguments, they will project blame, they will gaslight you, they will put you down and make you feel like the unstable one. You must know this: it is not you, it truly is him. Abusers have a disordered way of interacting with their loved ones – this is unlikely to change. The only person who can change in this situation is you – it will take time, it will take a great deal of effort to detach, but know in your heart and mind that you CAN and will do this.

      A book I always recommend for survivors still in abusive relationships is Breaking Up With a Narcissist: The Little Book of No Contact by Zari Ballard which you can find on her website, The Narcissistic Personality. I have also listed other resources below – please take a look at them if you haven’t already and feel free to write to us on your progress. Sending much love, blessings and healing your way. <3 <3 <3

      The Narcissistic Personality – http://www.thenarcissisticpersonality.com/
      The Narcissist's Victim: No Contact Rules – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEFK1C36ios
      After Narcissistic Abuse: https://afternarcissisticabuse.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/digging-into-the-areas-of-your-life-affected-by-narcissistic-abuse/
      Breaking Up With a Narcissist: http://letmereach.com/2015/02/04/breaking-up-with-a-narcissist/
      The Smart Girl's Guide to Self-Care (I have a chapter that has tips on how to detach from emotionally abusive partners, but the book is also meant for people with codependent, people-pleasing habits who want to learn about better self-care): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JK86OAI

  4. Why did I stay? Such a hard question. When you haven’t worked in 18 years and have no money of your own anymore, part of it is fear about supporting yourself and the kids. I couldn’t see a way out. I was afraid of what he would do to me, or our son. The poor health of my son has been the main factor.

    Even with all of that I was strong enough to file for divorce last May. He didn’t want me to leave with our son so sick. He would leave. Well that has not happened yet. The divorce is final, he has been saying he’s going to leave but never does. The divorce papers even said he had to be out by Dec. 31 or pay me $100 a day. That has not happened.

    My state has a law…you can’t kick a person out of their legal dwelling. So I’m trying to get my attorney to file contempt of court papers against him. She’s very slow in doing so, because surely he’s going to move. He keeps repeating that to the attorneys.

    Meanwhile, he sits here day after day sorting papers, ruling the house, writing me nasty ugly letters, abusing me verbally and emotionally, and I don’t know how to make it stop. I have done all that I know to do. Been strong, been brave, tried to save myself and the kids. But yet the law does nothing to protect us or help us.

    I don’t know how to make him leave.

  5. All I can say is “wow” to have come across your blog as well as the comments above. I’ve been living trapped with a narcissistic abuser for about 4 years now and finding support from others who understand has been my hardest and loneliest challenge on this awful journey. I’ve lost friends who turned their backs on me and have family write me off as just “crazy” or a glutton for punishment. I worked so hard through my late teens through my 20s to make something of myself bc I grew up with nothing and no money. I was able to put myself through college and excel in my career and had found a happy successful time in my life in which I was full of confidence and always the happy silly one in the room. However I didn’t see him preying on me and seething with envy and fell for the “sweet charming emotionally vulnerable” act he played so well while he was reeling me in; took me to fancy dinners, sent me flowers, opened car doors, text me the sweetest stuff and posted the same sweet things on his FB page. I was so blind I missed the few but serious red flags and warning bells also and I accidentally came up pregnant so we moved in together quickly along with his daughter from a previous relationship. That’s when I met the real him; it was like someone flipped a switch! I’d even ask him “who are you?” Bc he def wasn’t that sweet guy anymore; instead he was taking shot after shot at me, always putting me down, questioning my character and judging me for the deepest secrets id revealed to him in confidence which he would then throw in my face and use against me. I was sexually assaulted as a teenager and told him about it – he threw it at me saying I deserved it bc I had “put myself in a bad situation bc I don’t make good decisions” and then proceeded to use that to justify why id be a bad mother to our then unborn son and said I was forbidden to go anywhere alone with his daughter and our baby bc I make bad decisions and he didn’t trust I would keep the kids safe from harm bc of that. That was one of the worst things I’d ever been told before!! And it hurt bad at the time bc I couldn’t understand why he was suddenly so vicious and mean toward me, esp while I was

    1. Oops it posted without me finishing!! I’m sorry! Anyway, he started the emotional and verbal abuse while I was pregnant which left me horribly depressed and destroyed my confidence. It continued for 2 1/2 yrs until I finally realized all the things he was saying about me couldn’t be all true and started looking on the Internet to find out what his obvious “issues” were and came across articles about narcissists and those who have narcissistic

      1. (I am so sorry! I hit the button again! I’m posting from my phone so I apologize) –
        Personality disorder and my jaw almost hit the floor; I couldn’t believe there was a diagnosis and actual medical term for him and what I was going through, and then that there were other people out there going through the same!! I’ve cried so many times reading stories from other abuse victims bc it’s like reading my own. But even after I had this breakthrough and did hours upon hours of research and reading, I couldn’t leave him. I did once for a year and got my own apt but didn’t follow or even know the “no contact” part and how important it is so he was pretty immediately back in my life even living separately. He still controlled me though and made me feel like I was so pathetic and worthless that I couldn’t be without him. He stalked me constantly, randomly showed up out of nowhere on my back deck at late hours of the night and had his friends watching me. But of course he had already spread the lies about me and had everyone believe I left bc I was with another man; what he doesn’t realize is that it will be a long long time before I can even bear the thought of meeting new guys. But of course everyone buys his charming hurt guy act and they all hated me, scorned me, judged me and spread gossip and talked about me behind my back. To this day I don’t know why these idiots don’t see him for the monster he really is – they may not witness his full abuse but they know he’s a liar, a thief, a cheat and a con artist who’s also spoiled from his childhood and is an obnoxious belligerent drunk who cares nothing about anyone else or their property. He’s smashed my things with a bat, thrown all my things into a giant heaping pile, broken valuable items I cherished and just destroyed or allowed most of my personal things to get destroyed and/or damaged. But still, even with a friend to witness it once, and his friend witnessing him going crazy and throwing me out of our house as he does whenever he is mad, nobody says a thing or disputes his stories of me being the crazy one having issues. And I still stay. It’s frustrating to me bc I do dream about life away from him and my happiness and esp my sons. I was stupid enough to let him back in after living apart and going back to him and have done it twice more since when I tried leaving but for much shorter

  6. Somehow I kept my faith during all that time and tho I felt I was at the absolute rock bottom, I knew there was life I had to live and my son who needed me and now I have the inner fire burning from my anger and hurt toward him and everyone who believed him and also the friends who blatantly turned their backs on me bc I was going through a difficult time and didn’t just do as they thought I needed to, so they washed their hands of me when I needed them the most. I’ve got so much hurt and anger but I try to use it as motivation and inspiration to do what I have to do to get myself out of this situation, continue on the road to refinding myself and the real, happy, confident me, and especially succeeding again and rising above to achieve the life I’ve been working toward and let everyone who gave up on me see that they hadn’t seen the last or even the best of me yet. But it keeps coming back to the question of “why can’t I just leave??” I am afraid. Afraid of him, afraid of not being able to make it on my own with my son, afraid of him trying to take my son from me using more lies and stories he dreams up, and mostly I’m afraid of not being strong enough to really cut off all contact with him for good and turn my back on him and our family. I know he doesn’t care in my heart and he’s never gonna change. I know that. He puts himself first even before his own children. There are so very many other things and stories I could share but I’ve already written prob an annoying amount already so I apologize. But I’m not gonna give up hope and I will leave and I will make it soon bc I can’t contin

  7. Somehow I kept my faith during all that time and tho I felt I was at the absolute rock bottom, I knew there was life I had to live and my son who needed me and now I have the inner fire burning from my anger and hurt toward him and everyone who believed him and also the friends who blatantly turned their backs on me bc I was going through a difficult time and didn’t just do as they thought I needed to, so they washed their hands of me when I needed them the most. I’ve got so much hurt and anger but I try to use it as motivation and inspiration to do what I have to do to get myself out of this situation, continue on the road to refinding myself and the real, happy, confident me, and especially succeeding again and rising above to achieve the life I’ve been working toward and let everyone who gave up on me see that they hadn’t seen the last or even the best of me yet. But it keeps coming back to the question of “why can’t I just leave??” I am afraid. Afraid of him, afraid of not being able to make it on my own with my son, afraid of him trying to take my son from me using more lies and stories he dreams up, and mostly I’m afraid of not being strong enough to really cut off all contact with him for good and turn my back on him and our family. I know he doesn’t care in my heart and he’s never gonna change. I know that. He puts himself first even before his own children. There are so very many other things and stories I could share but I’ve already written prob an annoying amount already so I apologize. But I’m not gonna give up hope and I will leave and I will make it soon bc I can’t continue living with someone I despise, being forced to be someone that isn’t me and knowing there is a happy life waiting for me and my son if I just take the damn right steps. My son is getting older now and has witnessed his fathers anger issues and rage over the smallest things and is terrified of him bc he’s watching him throw and destroy things when he’s been mad. He’s never hurt the kids and i know he never would but he allows them to witness his anger toward me and verbal abuse and assaults on me and has tried to drag his 7 yr old daughter into it as well by telling her awful things like I don’t like her or care about her etc. luckily she’s smart enough to know its all nonsense but still I hate that they have to see it. He’s even made it so his ex believes I’m a drug addict with issues and made part of their custody agreement for his daughter state that I would seek counseling and forbids me from being alone with his daughter for more than an hour! So why can’t I just leave?? I went to counseling and she told me I already know I need to leave and get out of this situation. I’m so frustrated and depressed over this and have very very few people to turn to for support so I feel very alone as well. Thanks to everyone who has shared their stories and those who have left are inspirational and strong and should def feel proud and know you are a warrior for overcoming and defeating such a volatile and wretched situation and basically escaped prison. Please keep it up and share stories so those like me can finally find the strength I need to do it for good and find my happiness again. Thank you and I’m so sorry for the uber long post!! You’re all in my thoughts and prayers now! Xoxo

  8. Thank you so much for this information. The narcissist I dated for nearly a year almost destroyed me. He wrote the book (omitted due to identifying information) and is a master womanizer. His writing was so eloquent, that I was head over heels before I even met him in person. He fit EVERY description in your blog of a narcissist. He dumped me when he knew it would hurt me the most…. right before Valentine’s Day. Luckily, a friend of his was kind enough to inform me that my supposed boyfriend who had moved into my house (convincing me it was MY idea for hims to move in!) had been dating and sleeping with multitudes of other women who he met on online dating sites the entire year he was using my home as his mailing address and telling them he lived all alone (he even got mail from some of his “harem” at MY house, and he never even paid rent! When I think back on what I put up with, it makes me cringe. The constant flirting with other women right in front of me, telling me there was something wrong with me for being “jealous”. I wish I had read your blog before I ever met this satanic nightmare. I feel so sorry for all his victims. I wish there were a way to warn everyone on the dating sites about him to save them the pain and agony I went through. I have had no contact for over 4 months, but am terrified of trusting another man for fear of falling for another abusive psychopath. He was SO charming. I have never experienced such devastation as I did when he so callously discarded me.

  9. I feel so lucky right now, especially after reading everything above. I have been in a relationship with a narcissist for almost 2 years… I had no idea he was one at the time. I was struggling with a depression and I though it was just because of graduating from Architecture and working in the same time… So I entered a support group, more like an experiment coordinated by a psychologist friend… Although I was ashamed to speak about my relationship in the support group, I have learned there to set some boundaries and after only 8 meetings my relationship had ended. He had cheated on my on my birthday (while I was hosting the party) and he then broke up with me… Like it was my fault. Only after interrogating him, he admitted without remorse that he had cheated and when I wished to stop seeing him, he pretended he was regretting it… I took him back but he discharged me again after he found again somebody else… I was devastated the first time we broke up… I started therapy but didn’t continue the sessions when we “git back together”… Only after he discarded me for the second time, I went back into therapy and discovered he is a narcissist. I am sorry people have to go through all this pain. When he discarded me I felt like my hole world had ended. Luckily for me, I had some money in a bank for starting a business, but I’ve used them on therapy. It was the best investment I’ve made. I had leaned to understand things that affected me from my childhood, I have established a more healthy relationship with my parents and they have supported me for healing the toxicity… And now after only 3 months from having almost No contact, I have received a grant for financing my Start-up Business!!! I just want to say that grate things do happen after surviving an emotional abuse! Reconstruct your support group+ get authorised help+read all you can and understand what happened + rebuild your selfworth and confidence… Abusers have no power if you do this and this is what kills them!
    Now I started dating again… I am not afraid anymore to judge people upon how they make me feel… I also broke contact with other people that made me feel insecure and now I’d rather be alone than in a toxic bond… I’m sure that my attitude change on relationships will soon attract the right people. Narcissists should be with Narcissists, and Healthy people in healthy relationships!

  10. By the way, I found the blog very accurate with my experience and all the stuff that I’ve read. Thanks to the blog owner… You write so well. Not all of us are so gifted in writing, so be sure that what to do helps many!

  11. Feeling broken and weak and desperate for the friend and lover I thought I fell in love with. I developed PTSD from his actions, could no longer work, could not pay for repairs on my car so I also became dependent in that sense. He twisted everything so much that he made me believe I was the one who was cruel and abusive so I felt like I had to prove I was a good person. I, like many othets, blame myself and feel ashamed for not leaving sooner.

  12. Great post! The value of understanding that we are not alone cannot be underestimated. Because, ultimately, the cycle of abuse generates a feeling of being completely alone and without support. It took me 8 years to leave. And 5 years to realize I was in an abusive relationship. I left 8 months ago and stopped contact 4 months ago. That is costing me a lot of money in lawyer fees, but continued contact via text and email was preventing me from any real healing. He has narcissistic personality disorder. It was actually finding that out that set me on the path to realizing what the relationship was about. The co-dependence aspect for me played a huge part in preventing me leaving. He actually accused me of being co-dependent often. When I finally pointed out to him that it required two people to both be co-dependent (I was his source of “narcissistic supply), he dropped that from the tirades of criticism. I spent a lot of time trying to understand him – in the hope that I could “win his love” and heal the pain from his childhood (abusive). And for a long time, my own empathy for him was my rationale for staying – he couldn’t help it, and how could I desert him. At least for me, understanding more about what he is about goes a long way in helping me to break the self-blame pattern. If anyone else is interested, there is an enormous amount of information on YouTube by Sam Vaknin (https://www.youtube.com/user/samvaknin). Some are long videos, but he also has lots of short ones labelled with different topics so you can be selective. I’m still processing it all. But I’m also doing a lot of avoiding, using distractions, because the extent of damage is often too much to bear. I’m not working, and just can’t face it (this from someone who was a bit of a workaholic). Feeling guilty about it, but my counsellor told me to treat recovery as my job for now. And that concept is difficult in itself, because there is a part of me that still doesn’t acknowledge the enormity of the toll that relationship has taken on me. I started writing about it the other night – I feel like I’ve died. The life I had, my personality, my achievements, even my likes and dislikes – most of it seems to be gone. So I feel completely lost, like there is nothing of me to hold on to, no foundation. I occasionally get excited about doing something, but I can’t sustain it. Taking care of myself is often something I have to force myself to do – even having a shower every day is an effort, and one I don’t always manage. And I am in a horrible cycle of doing what he did – beating myself up for not living up to acceptable standards. Thankfully, I didn’t face any lack of support when I finally told friends and family the truth about our relationship. But none of them actually understand the depth of damage. And so I spend most of my time alone. I think it’s good for healing, but suspect that I am a bit too isolated. My counsellor is wonderful, completely non-judgemental. I trust her enough after 3 years to be able to tell her anything. And I think the next step might be asking her to recommend a group of survivors for support and understanding. Thanks again for your post. It rang so many bells, and your descriptions of abusers could have been specifically about him. And thanks to everyone else who shared, too. As I said at the beginning, knowing I am not alone makes a big difference to me.

  13. I just found your blog… I am a little overwhelmed because I read all your articles way too fast because finally I had some answers. It was 9 years of physical and all other abuse. And it began with physical violence when I was four months pregnant and I was affraid for my life. I did not leave for so many reasons – but mostly because I knew if I left him there was a chance I would have to sometimes leave my child alone with him. I couldn’t bare that.

    It is not an understatement that he is the most popular person I have ever met – everybody loves him – he is a huge strong bear-like man – and he really seems like every womans dream of the safe harbor – you just want to run into those big strong arms and be safe forever. Men are crazy about him to – he is the proto-type of the “stand-up” guy – that buddy you just know you can always count on has your back. He is in short the last person anyone would ever believe this about. He used to spit in my face and pull me in my hair and then after go down to a hipster coffee shop and have coffee with his greasy-culture/lumber-sexual friends. All his friend seems like good guys but they are extremely dedicated members of the narcistic-supply-fanclub – so they really despise me.

    To this day I have no idea what he told them about me – but it must be really awful because they would never say hello back to me when I used to meet them in the street. He has many “fanclub” circles – he comes in. I was always kept isolated from them or any of his friends the years we lived together – most of them I had no idea he knew. Some of his friend are guys who are into motor cycles and cars – but others are psychologists, midwives, doctors, journalist – and those people was also a huge reason I did not leave. They reflected back his view on me (as the worst of trash) believed his very suble smear campaigns (he is way too clever to ever say anything directly bad about me but he still managed to cement me as the crazy, insane horrible girlfriend that this poor amazing guy somehow was stuck with). And they reflected his view on himself back to me – the best guy in the world trapped in a relationship with this unstable terrible woman. As said before- to this day I do not know how he portrayed me to these various “fanclubs, supporters, supply” – but they hurt me as much as the abuse – because they were so many – and they made it clear to me that no-one would ever believe me or help me. I feel they helped to isolate me by how they judged me without ever speaking to me, I feel they enabled everything to continue.

    I am away now, I am safe. The N has told all the various fanclubs and they are many) that I left to another place in order to “pursue my career”. Consequently I am judged in the hardest way by the fanclub-members for being a selfish evil mother who seperated a father from his child because of her selfish dreams. The truth is I gave up my career in order to get away from him and save my child. But I am being judged by so many people for something that is so, so, so wrong and untruthful.

    All the countless injustices made me stay – hoping that one day the world would see and he would be exposed for what he really is. So that and fear made me stay. I blame the N fanclub, I blame the enablers – I blame every single person who is willing to believe the always charming guy over the seemingly unstable women without ever talking to her.
    Some people should know better – shame on you!

  14. I had a child with a psychopath 8 years ago. At the time it felt ok to do this because I believed I was completely worthless. I was the scapegoat in my family so from as far back as I can remember I have been told by almost everyone I loved that I was worthless. So I let him abuse me for three years until he left and I divorced him. After my divorce I did a lot of work and healing around the abuse. I read a lot about psychopaths and was in therapy for years which included medication for debilitating PTSD and depression due to the ongoing abuse (the courts never let me completely escape him) After the divorce I was determined never to be abused again. I was very careful and chose this one person I believed would not hurt me. I knew him when we were young and remembered him to be very sweet and loving. After reconnecting as adults, we were good friends for 5 years before we became romantic. He seemed very good natured and affable all those years. He never called me names or hit me, so I thought wow I have finally found a healthy relationship. I thought he was God’s gift to me. Then slowly he began to devalue me, gaslight me, punish me with chilling, inexplicable silent treatments, humiliate me in public. He discarded me twice and I went crawling to him on my hands and knees begging him to come back. He took me back and then the devaluing would begin again after a few months. The third time he discarded I did not beg him to take me back. Instead, I demanded that he fix it. Of course he would not, so he ghosted me. I’m pretty sure he was already lining up new supply before he even left me, so it was no big deal to him that I was gone. He wanted me to leave him alone, so I forced myself to delete him and block him. I forced myself to stay away from him. It took months and months for me to consciously admit he was a narcissist, even though deep down I had known for a long time and had even known he met all 9 of the 9 in the DSM-5, but I just kept literally forgetting it like I never knew. I have watched so many vlogs, read so many blogs and books about narcissists. I even have a therapist now who specializes in Domestic Violence recovery, and I work on myself every day sometimes for hours with many different modalities including 12 steps and Richard Grannon’s methods to deal with emotional flashbacks. I have gotten a lot better and am functioning on a much higher level. Nonetheless, I still have tremendous cognitive dissonance about it because the reality that I got out of a brutally abusive relationship with a psychopath and ended up in a relationship with a narcissist is so horrific that my mind doesn’t want it to be true. Sometimes I go into fugue states where I completely forget all the terrible things the narcissist did to me and fantasize that he is my “twin flame” and will one day return to me and love me. When I snap out of it and remember the truth I feel intense shame and grief. When I realize that his love was a story I made up that isn’t true my life feels very bleak and colorless. Because I believed he was the only person in my whole life who actually loved me, realizing that he never did means I have never been loved at all. That is my story.

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