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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
For many who have managed to escape from an abusive relationship there is initially a huge sense of relief, finally life can become more ‘normal’ again and they can begin to rebuild their self -confidence and self-worth. Whilst this is true, the reality is that separating from or divorcing a partner who either has narcissist traits or even a narcissistic personality disorder is never simple.
In my work as a therapist, I have had numerous conversations with partners and ex partners of narcissists, very rarely do narcissists come into therapy individually. Why would they, they believe they are never wrong or feel the need to make any changes in their own behaviour? I have worked with narcissists in the couple context, but they are usually there to get their partner ‘fixed’, none of the existing relationship problems are ever their fault, nor do they make any contribution to the difficulty.
If you are making your escape from a narcissistic partner the reality is it won’t be easy, it will be the best thing you can possibly do, sensible and worthwhile but it won’t be simple. What seems to happen when the partner of a narcissist makes the decision to leave is that it is perceived as a loss of control by the aggrieved soon to be ex. Their reaction to that is usually to ’up the ante’, they become more controlling and this can be demonstrated in how they approach any financial split and childcare arrangements. The narcissist will probably continue to blow hot and cold, so the departing partner won’t quite know where they stand, they will remain critical and gaslight their ex. Nothing will ever be good enough for them, they will create their own narrative of events and continue to make and break rules.
Despite all of these potential challenges, making the decision to leave an abusive
relationship and taking that decision forward is the hardest thing to do, it takes courage and fortitude and once that is done there is light at the end of the tunnel.
During the course of a coercive and controlling relationship, the abused partner will have been ‘trained’ to respond in ways that appease and comply with their abuser’s demands. They will have learned that they have no voice in the relationship and any suggestions they might make will be denigrated, ridiculed or ignored. This learning can be unlearned, new scripts can be created that defy the demands of the narcissist. By exiting the relationship there is now opportunity for victims to find their voice, state their case and make their feelings known. Of course, they may need some support to do this, as it has possibly become habitual to give in to the demands of their ex-partner. Friends and family may need to remind them that they don’t have to acquiesce to their ex’s ultimatums any longer, there needs to be collaboration and negotiation when sorting through the detail of the end of the relationship.
Sometimes the only way forward is to enlist legal help as it just might be the only thing that the narcissist will listen to and that will probably be with some resistance.
Brethertons can offer both legal and emotional support to those trying to extricate themselves from a narcissistic partner. If you feel a chat might be helpful and reassure you a little, please call 01788 579579 to speak with one of the team.