“If it’s so bad, why don’t you just leave?”
My guess is that if you said yes to those two questions, you probably also know what it feels like to walk on proverbial eggshells all the time.
You might be in a toxic relationship.
Toxic Narcissism: Pretty on the Outside
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist or sociopath, it often looks nearly perfect from the outside, especially to people who aren’t aware of the dynamics that happen behind closed doors.
And most likely, you don’t want anyone to know how ugly your relationship really is on the inside. Am I right?
If you’re in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, and you still manage to talk to someone outside of the relationship about the problems you have, you’ve probably heard the “why don’t you just leave” line (or some version of it) more times than you care to admit.
But what the (probably genuinely) concerned friends and family members don’t know is how very, very complicated your life can be.
The Complicated, Convoluted Price of Loving a Narcissist
When you love a narcissist, you might be mentally exhausted already – and for anyone else to add problems to your plate? The sheer thought of it makes you want to vomit.
You might find yourself becoming increasingly isolated in an attempt to maintain your sanity. The simple act of engaging with normal, happy people can make you want to run and hide, sometimes.
And in some cases, your narcissist will do everything in his power to add to your isolation, to make you feel more alone – and to put you in the position to be completely dependent on him, physically, emotionally and even financially.
What They Don’t Know Can Hurt You
While you understand that your friends and family members love you and mean well when they ask you questions like this, it can seriously affect the way you see yourself and your life.
Often, you forget that you’re even “good enough.”
In fact, for many people in relationships with narcissists, it gets even more serious. Not only does your self-esteem take a nosedive (as if there were much lower it could go at this point), but the isolation factor brings trouble to your relationships with other people in your life.
Why Friends and Family Cut You Off When You Won’t Leave
Often, a concerned loved one becomes tired of hearing about your problems and cuts you off because they can’t stand to see you go through that – they don’t understand “why you just don’t leave if it’s so bad.”
You have no choice but to let them walk away because you’re so exhausted already and you don’t even have the energy to explain to them anymore. Then, of course, your abuser gets what he wants – you, more isolated and under his or her control.
And you? You feel more trapped than ever.
Why You Hate It So Much When They Ask Why You Stay
It’s probably one of the most upsetting and annoying questions anyone could ask you, when you’re in the thick of a narcissistic relationship. So, why does it bother you so much when someone asks you why you don’t just leave?
For one, you’re the only one who really knows how very complicated that would be to make your escape.
Plus, you know he or she will make it as difficult for you as possible if you do choose to go. And, in many cases, you’ve lost a lot of friends and don’t have much money of your own – the narcissist made sure of it long ago.
The Narcissist’s Spider Web of Control
The more your abuser can control in your life, the more you can feel trapped in the narcissistic “web” of control.
And often, the people who love narcissists don’t even see it happening. But bit by bit, they tinker away on your personal boundaries, repeatedly and systematically crossing them, one by one.
Before you know it, you’re in the middle of your worst nightmare – and you can’t tell anyone about it because you’re so…damn…humiliated.
Because you know better, you’re smarter than this – and because, honestly, you don’t want anyone to see how weak you’ve become.
And somewhere in your mind, you focus on the good stuff, because you know that it’s right around the corner. It’s part of the ups and downs you experience in a narcissistic relationship.
Know This: It is NOT Normal, No Matter What the Narcissist Says
Despite the lies and gaslighting the narcissist has been feeding you, the way they are behaving is NOT normal. In fact, if your relationship with a narcissist were a mental illness, it might look something like a bipolar disorder – extreme highs and the lowest of the lows.
The most intense pleasure and the most profound pain. Exhilaration and exhaustion. The happiest you’ve ever been…and wishing yourself dead – all in the same day. You feel me?
But I’m here to tell you something an amazingly intelligent woman once told me: love isn’t supposed to hurt.
Stop. Read this once more: Love isn’t supposed to hurt.
How does that sentence make you feel? Have you come to believe that being in emotional pain is part of love? Apparently, it isn’t.
And know what else? Love isn’t supposed to beat you up, mentally or physically.
Love should make you feel safe, not afraid, not trapped. Love should make you feel free.
Are you being emotionally abused? Know the signs.
According to the Domestic Abuse Project, the kind of emotional abuse inflicted by a narcissist is the most pervasive
“Emotional abuse is harder to pin down or prove, but it’s just as destructive as other, more obvious forms of violence,” the foundation’s website says. “We consider it domestic abuse if a person makes cruel, unfair comments or otherwise emotionally attacks their partner in order to gain power or control over that person.”
According to the foundation, signs of emotional abuse might include your spouse or partner engaging in one or more of the following activities on a regular basis:
- swearing or screaming at you (part of narcissistic rage)
- repeatedly harassing, interrogating or degrading you
- attacking your self-esteem or insulting you, such as name-calling, put-downs, and ridicule
- attacking or insulting people you care for, like your family and friends
- blaming you for everything that goes wrong
- forcing you to do degrading things, like making you kneel, or making you beg for money
- criticizing your thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, and actions
- being extremely jealous
- telling you that you are “sick” or “crazy” and need therapy (also known as gaslighting)
- using physical disabilities against you, or putting you down for your disability
- blatantly ignoring and denying basic facts and make up lies that better suit him or her (also part of the gaslighting process)
Do you feel trapped in a relationship with a narcissist? Are you being emotionally abused? Be honest with yourself. It might just change your whole life – and in a good way. Knowing there’s a problem is the first step to creating a better outcome.
Are you tired of doing for others while no one does for you? Are you tired of waiting for your turn, and it never comes? Would you like to feel powerful and strong as an individual? If you are dealing with narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship, chances are you’ve grown tired of not owning your power.
You might feel overwhelmed, worthless and simply not good enough – and if you’re like most survivors of narcissistic abuse, you might be in despearte need of validation of your experience. If any of that sounds familiar to you, you might want to check out my book – Take Back Your Power: How to End People People Pleasing, Stop Letting Life Happen to You and Start Getting What You Want.
About the book: Do you find yourself giving all you’ve got and people still want more? Do you sometimes do without what you want or need in order to keep the people around you happy?
Are you afraid to deal with confrontation and do you often find it easier to just go with the flow in order to keep the peace?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a people pleaser. Many people pleasers are also very empathic people, who are especially attractive to toxic types who love to take advantage every chance they get.
In this book, you’ll learn how to stop feeling the need to make everyone else happy and start figuring out what makes you happy, personally, and really – not someone else’s idea of what’s supposed to make you happy,
Listen up: you deserve to be happy just as much as anyone else. Stop beating yourself up and start embracing your personal power. Take your life back starting today!
Related resources for people dealing with gaslighting in a toxic relationship with a narcissist
- Are you in a toxic relationship with a narcissist? Find out with this free toxic relationship self-assessment.
- Worried YOU might be the narcissist? Take this free NPD self-assessment.
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups
- Toxic Relationships and Narcissism: Stages of Gaslighting
- Free Help for Victims of Narcissism and Gaslighting
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.