Narcissists usually operate under the radar for quite a while. At least with the people they feed off.
It’s usually easier for outsiders who are close to you to see that something is off in your relationship. But when you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you may not see or want to see what’s going on.
People that are not close to the situation, often consider the narcissist charming. In general, narcissists do know how to play the game of keeping up appearances pretty damn well.
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it may take time for you to realize who you’re dealing with. Even though you have an ever-nagging feeling of something not being quite right.
But then a powerful a-ha moment wakes you up. Your unconscious mind added up every crazy-making incident in your relationship. Now that your eyes are wide open, more and more things no longer make sense. And you no longer tolerate certain behaviors. For the narc, this feels like a true rebellion. And narc’s don’t like to be found out, much less rebelled against.
What happens when a narcissist no longer gets his way? Most often they will leave the building before the show is over. Find themselves someone else to play games with. But some will stay and do everything in their power to keep your rebellion under control. Or to totally obliterate it.
The tactics they use can be frightening, are cunning and will disorient you. That’s what they’re meant to do.
But now that your eyes are open and your rebellion has started, there’s no stopping you. You devour information on what’s happening. And most probably you’ll want out. Asap.
When you decide to leave, you need to understand you’re not dealing with a “normal” person. You’re not in a normal relationship of equals, where partners agree to disagree. Where they can admit it’s over. And where they find a way to make the separation as smooth as possible for all involved.
Not so with the narc. Leaving a narc means meticulous planning. Preparing. Even if you don’t know when you’re going to leave, you better start thinking about the how. About all the practical matters. And you’d better have a plan B as well.
I know it’s hard to focus on practical matters when you’re scared, confused and exhausted. But it’s imperative you do. And it will save you a lot of grief.
You see, you must never underestimate the narc. That is the First Rule. Always.
For example, I had a client tell me that her narc actually installed wires to listen in to her conversations. Just to prove to you there’s no way of telling how far the narcissist will go.
With today’s easy access to all kinds of soft and hardware, narcs can do an array of things to control you. And they are cunning enough to use them.
So I want to touch upon some practical matters and tips to keep in mind.
- Make sure you put some money aside — or hide it— even if you can only manage a small amount. If the narc controls the money, find a way to do so no matter how you go about it.
- Have a place to go when you leave. If you can’t afford to rent a place, ask family and friends for help. Explain the situation —if they don’t know yet— and promise to repay them whenever you get back on your feet. Also, do keep that promise!
- Start sorting out the stuff you want to take. Make sure to keep things that hold emotional value and that are yours, in a safe place. Narc’s love to hurt you by not allowing you to take your jewellery, for example, or some really personal stuff. Ask your family or friends to store them for you for now.
- Make copies of important documents. Emails, bank statements, insurance policies, the deeds of the house, the mortgage papers. Backup files from your computer in case you can’t take it with you. Nowadays this is much easier with access to cloud services. Copy and keep anything you can get your hands on. And keep it somewhere safe. Again, ask a close friend or your parents to keep these safe for you. Make sure you can trust them 100%. Also, make sure you change all your passwords.
- Keep pride and ego out of the way. It doesn’t matter if people talk. They always will. Gossip is a pretty delightful sport to many. Don’t worry, next week there’ll be something or someone else to talk about.
- Talking about pride and ego, when people start to “talk”, the narc will feel offended. And he may take it out on you. Prepare yourself for these retributions. Don’t believe what he says. Stay grounded in your own truth. You don’t need to feel ashamed!
- Ask for help. This is so simple that we often forget it. But I’m sure you know people who are willing to help you. Not only in a practical way but also to support you in your emotions. They can help you with your escape strategy and with keeping your head straight. Organize help for when you move out, for dealing with paperwork or other stuff that overwhelms you. And have a compassionate ear ready for when it all gets too much.
- Get informed about your legal rights and obligations. Regarding children, financial matters, anything you can think of. Make a list of questions when you meet with a lawyer or counsel. You may forget things. The more information you have, the better. This makes it more difficult for the narc to throw you off your game. Which he will try.
- If you can’t afford a lawyer, go to local shelters or organizations that provide free counsel. Make sure they understand how emotional and psychological abuse works. Yes, the narc has abused you. The abuse doesn’t have to be physical, but this kind of abuse is much more covert. And it is as destructive as physical abuse.
- Keep track of your financial situation and make copies of everything, so you can hand them over to your lawyer.
- If you have kids, see if you need to change schools or daycare. Make sure your kids can stay at a safe place when it’s time to move.
- Put your game mask on. From now on you’ll have to hide what you’re doing. And being secretive may go against your grain. But you need to treat this like an undercover op. So keep your emotions in check.
- When the day comes to leave, make sure the narc is not around. That will make it easier. You don’t owe him an explanation. But you can choose to leave a note behind. Or send him an email when you’re gone. Again, if you have kids, make sure you get legal advice on that matter.
When you leave, the narcissistic games will not be over. The Narc will do everything in his power to get what he wants. And he’ll continue to try and exert control over you. Because he’s a master at pushing your buttons, he may well succeed in getting his way.
This is where the No-Contact Rule comes in. It prevents you from getting caught in his trap. No-Contact means you don’t respond to his calls, his text messages, his emails. Make sure you have a third party —a mediator or a lawyer or even a good friend if necessary —who can take care of this.
What you can do is send a polite answer to any communications. Respond with: “Please revert to my lawyer or X about this matter.”
Also be aware that you’ll break the No-Contact Rule a few times. That’s OK. You’ve been conditioned to jump through his hoops. So when you do get into messy conversations or texting, realise what you’re doing. Notice, stop and forgive yourself. Then try to do better next time. And be OK with that.
Small note: I used the term “he” for the narcissist. However, women can also be narcissists, so read the text according to your situation.
If you are dealing with an abusive or toxic relationship, check out my website https://christelvangelder.com/
If you want to start healing after a toxic/abusive relationship, check out this free guide to start the process.