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How to Safely Leave a Narcissist for Good!

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC

Once people realize they are married to a narcissist, their first thought is likely how to help them heal.  Once they realize that the vast majority of the world doesn’t believe a narcissist can heal, their next thought is probably how can they become untangled from the narcissist’s overpowering abuse.  And then the very next thought is likely how can they do that safely.  Most people who are in relationship with a narcissist feel incredibly trapped and getting out is not an easy task.

So, let’s answer the question of how to safely leave a narcissist for good.  First, you must have your head in the game!  This is going to be one of the toughest battles of your life.  Then, you must have support in the form of a few close friends who understand, counselor(s), lawyer(s), church leaders if you are religious, neighbors who know what is going on, and family members if they too know what is going on.  Next you need good documentation in the form of texts, phone messages, emails, letters, medical or police reports, tax returns, etc..  You will need a way to support yourself and any children financially.  You need a plan to  outline all the steps and do it all well.  And finally,  you may need a restraining order or other way to make sure you are physically safe!

I know this all sounds like a lot.  It is!  Let’s break it all down into bite sized pieces that you can absorb and apply.

To Leave a Narcissist You Must Have Your Head in the Game

This step in beginning your journey to leave a narcissist is probably the hardest one.  It is the first necessary step.  And it is the hardest because the narcissist has kept you in a fog of gaslighting from the very beginning.  Being able to see outside of your circumstances to know how to heal is a very difficult thing to do.

There are several things that you need to consciously realize in order to get your mind where it needs to be.  Following are some of the most important things.

A printable graphic that explains all of the ways to know how to safely leave a narcissist for good.

You Must Realize You Did not Cause the Situation You are In

You did choose your partner, but that doesn’t mean you chose for him to continue to abuse you throughout the relationship.  This is especially true when you tried to explain to him the issues and he would immediately shut you down.

You can definitely take the blame for not seeing the red flags.  Although narcissists are experts at love bombing.  So, take the blame, but don’t beat yourself up!  Some incredibly smart people have fallen for the tricks of narcissists.  And honestly, we like to see the good in people.  So just because we chose to see the good in the narcissists, they used it to hook you.  That is on them, not you.  You fell for the act they wanted you to fall for.

Beyond that, it is on them for what they did to you in the relationship to destroy it.

You Must Understand That the More Narcissistic Your Spouse is, the Less Likely He will be to Heal

I thought that because he was a professing Christian, he would change for the sake of serving and honoring God.  My first tipoff that he would not was early on when we started trying to work things out with a counselor and he said, “What if I can’t change?”  That showed me that he did indeed know what he was doing.  He just wasn’t willing to do the hard work to change it.  Soon after that, he went back to his denial that he was responsible for anything.  It was always all me.  For more information, check out this article on whether a narcissist can heal, check out this article.

Make all Contact With Your Narcissist in Writing

In order for you to get the clarity you need, you must make all contact with your narcissist in writing.  This can be handwritten notes, emails, texts, or anything you can go back and reference later.  If you have every contact documented, you can get a clear picture of what is going on.  You can catch him in his lies.  And you can craft a well-thought-out response, which will help to keep him from going off the deep end at your responses.  Plus it will all make great evidence in court when you need to show the judge what is going on behind closed doors.

I have to say I was so surprised that even though he knew everything was in writing, my ex continued to abuse, lie, and gaslight in all of his contacts with me.  As long as I responded in healthy ways, he could hang himself to his heart’s content.  And honestly, when he moved on to his new life, he didn’t really care.  He still writes incriminating messages to me all the time (we have a child that he gets a few hours of public visitation a week, so we have to communicate on some level for now).  But his new people think he’s amazing.  Sigh.

Your Narcissist Became a Narcissist Because of Tremendous Abuse and Neglect as a Very Young Child

Know that your narcissist is the way he is because he was likely deeply hurt as a young child.  Psychologists think that most narcissists are that way because they were severely neglected and/or abused as children.  In my ex’s case it was both.  And all three of his sisters ended up just as narcissistic as him, some covert, some overt.

The point here is that this is an incredibly heart-wrenching  situation.  It is so unfortunate that they believe they have to protect themselves in this way and cannot be real or human.  And in a way it isn’t their fault, as studies have shown they are actually missing a part of their brain, the grey matter in the left anterior insula region of the brain.  The left anterior insula region of the brain, which is thought to be involved with cognitive functioning and the regulation of emotion, has also been tied to the generation of compassion and empathy.

It goes even deeper into the brain than this.  Basically, the narcissist’s brain does not communicate well between the sections that deal with emotions and even memory.  It actually affects their prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebral cortex.  So they don’t live with regular real memories, only the fantasies that they convince themselves are real.  It is tragic to watch play out.  But as much as you feel and hurt for these people, you still need to keep yourself safe.  And you will never be safe around your narcissist.

For more information, read this article on how the narcissist’s brain functions/dysfunctions.

You Need to Know That You Can’t Leave a Narcissist Well Without a Good Plan

This doesn’t mean you have to have everything lined out perfectly so you can check all the boxes.  It does mean that you can’t leave without a care in the world.  Most people who are married to a narcissist and try to leave their abusive marriage end up returning, sometimes several times, before finally leaving for good.  According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it takes an average of seven times for a victim to finally leave the relationship.

There are a few critical things that need to be in place before you leave.

  • You cannot leave without telling someone else.  Make sure it is someone you trust!  Involving counselors and other authorities is even better.  Once again, this will benefit you in court because it will be documented.
  • Make sure you have a safe place for you and the children to go.  If you already have a court order that gives your spouse some sort of shared custody, you cannot take the kids away.  You will need to get some sort of protective order to be able to leave.  And it has to be proven a valid reason for the court to give it to you!
  • Make sure you have some money to tide you over until you can get on your feet.  Having no money and nowhere to go are the top two reasons victims end up back in the home of their abuser.

I will speak more about having a good plan below.

A woman sitting at a desk with her computer, paper, pencil, and calculator. This symbolizes having a plan for how to safely leave a narcissist for good.

To Leave a Narcissist, You Must Have the Best Support

Once you decide that it is in your best interests to leave your narcissist, you will be surprised at all the places your support will come from.  Here are some of the places I got support (take note that I did not tell them I was leaving a narcissist–I simply told them what business I needed to do with them:

  • The court clerk when filing documents.  She knew what was going on right away because of the way my ex filed the case.  He even subpoenaed all of the kids to court.  What dad does that?!?!  And honestly, court clerks have seen it all.  It doesn’t take much to tip them off as to what is going on.
  • The lady who answered the phone with the power company.  When I told her that I needed to change my electric power to an apartment but my husband would be taking over our household electric, that was all she needed to hear.  She said she would put me on hold for a bit of time but to be patient.  Ten minutes later she said she had me covered.  She opened an account in my name, closed our family account but forwarded the balance to a new account in my husband’s name.  When he got the huge bill a couple months later and realize what had happened, he was so mad.  But there was nothing he could do about it because I had nothing to do with it!  I never even had to tell the lady that my ex had actually taken most of my money and kicked me out of my home of 17 years, giving me two weeks to find a new home with our kids.  She knew what he was not playing fair and leveled the playing field for me and the kids.
  • My lawyer.  She had been married to a narcissist who behaved nearly exactly the way mine did.  And she had the same religious background which enabled her to understand the religious abuse even more.
  • The lady at the military base that issued my new military ID.  She said she saw women come in all the time in my same circumstances.  Military wives are among the highest abused because the nature of the military is to hide abuse and glorify the service member.  She was a breath of fresh air in a man’s world of control and coercion.
  • The guardian ad litem who was assigned to my kids when their dad tried to take custody of the kids he rarely ever related to.  The used to joke that kids were only for free labor.  Until one day I realized he wasn’t laughing because he was joking.  He was laughing in glee at all the free labor he had attained.  The guardian ad litem saw it clearly and protected the kids accordingly.
  • The judge who watched my ex represent himself in court and question his kids in such an emotionally abusive way.  In her final ruling, she told him she was appalled at the way he treated his kids and said that religion had destroyed our family.  She was a devout Christian.

There were many more people.  If you have read more of my articles, you have certainly gotten bits and pieces of all the support I have received.  Just know that if you hold your head up, learn to deal with people in emotionally healthy ways,  and seek out healing, you will get support at nearly every turn!

As you move through this process, the one piece of advice I would share with you is not to broadcast your victimhood circumstances!  Hold your head up!  Don’t let him get to you, and don’t tell your whole story to the world!  They will come to your aid so much more if you show them your strength and grace through the pain and process you are going through!  And the more you go through this process, the more strong you will become!

Partial photo of two women sitting near each other, one lady with pad and paper on her lap. This symbolizes support for someone learning how to safely leave a narcissist for good.

To Leave a Narcissist, You Need Tons of Documentation

I touched on this a little bit above, but one of the biggest things you will need is documentation.

This was always so hard for me.  Every single interview or counseling session I did, the other person would ask me for examples to describe my circumstances.  And I could never remember anything.  I hated trying to come up with those examples.  I usually just told them I couldn’t think of anything at the moment.  The truth was I was still living in the fog of narcissistic abuse.

My counselor had me keep a journal of things that happened to me as they occurred.  I wasn’t especially good at that.  I have never been a great journaler.  But I would remember what had happened throughout the week and write it down for the next counseling session.  It didn’t take long to come up with a whole lot of things very quickly.

By the time I got to the lawyer, guardian-ad-litem, and others, I had plenty of examples to give them.  Once I told all of the critical players these experiences, they were able to fill in a lot of other blanks about the abuse and life we had lived.  And they were all able to substantiate the documentation based on my ex’s responses.  It was amazing to me that he was so proud of his oppression and control that he didn’t even try to hide his abuse.  That proved incredibly valuable to me throughout the legal process.  And him thinking he could represent himself in court was icing on the cake.

In addition to all of this, you will need phone messages, texts, emails, and physical letters and notes that back up what you have told all of the involved parties.  The more you have, the easier it will be for them to see the big picture.  Often, narcissists will constantly send all of these forms of communication just so you feel like you are under their thumb.  They have no idea that they are actually hanging themselves.  If you have them, use them!

To Leave a Narcissist, You Need a Financial Plan

It took me over a year of discussing separation before I was brave enough to even consider it.  Our household finances were a disaster.  I thought I had nowhere to go.  And I thought there was no way we could make our money stretch to two households if it wasn’t working for one.  Once I could see my way through this, my world changed more than you could know.

First, I learned that my ex’s money mismanagement wasn’t coming with me.  I would be in control of my own finances.  And I wouldn’t have to do damage control anymore because I could do the right things to get me on my feet from the start.

I got a job as a server from my neighbor, who was a manager in that chain.  My plan was to work there for a few months to save up money before announcing to my husband that I had decided to leave.  My counselors and church all knew I was planning to leave and were helping.  But nobody was telling him because by that time he was becoming increasingly more angry and controlling.

I told him about my job the night before my first day.  To say he was pissed is an understatement.  And when that happened, the church and counselors all stepped in for our protection.  They told my ex that they were recommending, or actually insisting on our separation.  And the anger hit new highs.  The church and counselors had the kids and me removed from the home and we remained in hiding until we had a legal separation agreement drafted, signed, and notarized.  We had been in hiding for 10 days at that point.  And this all blew up the first week of my job.  So much for working and saving up money.

At the end of the day, it was nearly three years from the separation to the divorce being final.  And those three years enabled me to get on my feet in the best of ways.

You will land on your feet too!  But it will be so scary making that first move.

To Leave a Narcissist, You Need a Full Plan

I also talked about having a plan above.  You don’t have to have everything totally planned out before you begin the process of leaving.  But you have to have a good idea of what you need and want in the near future.  But also know that even the best plans will not always go the way you expect.  You have to be ready to change plans as things come up.   Here is an article that helps you with what a narcissist tries to do when you leave.  You need to be aware that you not only have to get yourself (and your kids) on your feet, you will also have to dodge the further attacks of the narcissist.  He WILL try to punish you for leaving.

I have a free 57-page divorce guide for my subscribers who are looking for help getting through their journey of healing from their narcissist.  It will greatly help you as you try to figure out what’s next.  It covers action steps from before the separation, during the separation, and then during and after the divorce.  It covers all the bases for you!  Click the link at the bottom of the article to learn more!

To Leave a Narcissist, You Must Protect Yourself and Your Children

I saved the most important point for last because I need this one to stay with you the most!

Understand that if the things you did in the household made your narcissist angry, the things you do when you declare your own safety and independence will send him off the charts.  This is where all of the previous points will need to be in place.  You will need documentation of what has already happened.  And you will need a support team who is helping you through this.  My pastor actually brought him to church to tell him that we needed to separate because he knew I would not be safe doing it at home.  I would strongly recommend that you not tell your narcissist you are leaving while alone with  him at home!

If you feel that his anger has reached a point that it may get physical, DO not try to handle things alone.  I don’t want to unnecessarily alarm you, but many domestic murders happen without any prior history of the murderer.  While most narcissists won’t kill their spouse, you need to be keenly aware of your need for safety.  Don’t allow an opportunity if you don’t know what could happen.

If for any reason you think you are in any danger in your relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Or you can visit online at thehotline.org.

Conclusion

In order to safely leave a narcissist for good, you have to be ready!  You have been on the downside in your relationship from day one.  And your narcissist is expecting you to remain that way.  You will need all the support you can get in order to get yourself on your feet and finally realize your newfound freedom from narcissism!

Where are you in your journey?  It took me 35 years!  I bet most of you are way further along than I was.  What has helped you the most?  Where are you still looking to go?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to share in the comments below.  Or, if you need more privacy to respond, you can contact me here.

Blessings and hugs,

If you found this article valuable, I think you will also love the following articles:

Will God Bless a Second Marriage?

When God Releases You From Marriage:  He’s Got You!

Divorcing a Narcissist After 30 Years

Do Narcissists Die Early?  The Whole Story

What Happens to Narcissists in the End?

5 Signs Your Husband Wants a Divorce and How to Prevent It

5 Signs Your Wife Wants a Divorce and How to Prevent It

Is My Husband a Narcissist or Just Selfish?

Guarding Against the Narcissist’s Divorce Tactics

Scriptural Ways to Deal With a Narcissistic Husband

What is the Narcissist Divorce Rate?

Who Does a Narcissist Marry?

How Many Times Does a Narcissist Marry?

Narcissists and Marriage:  The Complete Picture

How Does a Narcissist Stay Married for so Long?

Does Narcissism Worsen With Age?

Does a Narcissist Realize What They’ve Lost?

Do Narcissists End up Alone?

Can a Narcissist be a Good Father?

Can a Narcissist be a Good Mother?

Will a Narcissist Hurt Their Child?

Can Narcissists be Good Parents?

Can Narcissists Love Their Children?

How Can You Tell if Someone is a Religious Narcissist?

Can Two Narcissists be in Relationship With Each Other?

Understanding the Tactics of a Religious Narcissistic Father 

Dealing With the Trauma of a Religious Narcissistic Mother

When Narcissism Becomes Pathological

Will God Punish a Narcissist?

What to do When Your Narcissist Threatens You

The Bible Used as a Weapon Against You:  You Can Overcome! 

What Does the Bible Say About Abusive Husbands?

The Link Between Spiritual Abuse and Narcissism

Why Narcissists Want to Appear Godly

What Healing From a Narcissist Looks Like

Why Narcissists Love Going to Church 

How Religious Narcissists Think

Are Narcissists Evil?

Narcissistic Behavior:  What to Look Out For

Praying for Your Narcissistic Husband

Are Spiritual Narcissists Overt or Covert? 

Religious Trauma Syndrome:  How to Preserve Your Spiritual Journey

How to Navigate Religious Narcissistic Parents

What Happens to the Soul of a Narcissist?

How to Heal From a Spiritual Narcissist

Can You Maintain a Relationship With a Spiritual Narcissist? 

Can Narcissists Have a Spiritual Awakening?

How Will God Judge a Narcissist?

When the Church Says to Move Back in With Your Narcissist

What Can we Say to a Christian Friend Who’s Divorcing?

Why Does God Hate Divorce? 

12 Ways the Church Helps Narcissists Abuse Their Victims

When Your Church Believes the Narcissist’s Lies

23 Reasons Why Narcissists are Drawn to the Church

What Does the Spiritual Narcissist do When You try to Leave?

When the Church Doesn’t Recognize Narcissistic Abuse

Will the Church Support Divorcing a Narcissist?

Are Narcissists Demon Possessed?

What Does the Bible say About Narcissism?

Can a Narcissist be a Christian?

Can a Spiritual Narcissist Heal?

What is Spiritual Narcissism?

Marie
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Marie

Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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