This should be prefaced by saying that if you or your children are in physical danger or you fear for your life or the life of your children, don't bother reading the rest of this. Trust your gut and just leave. Stay with a relative. Go to a shelter. Go to a campground and stay... whatever you have to do to get away from this person, you need to do that. Get away from this person while you can, before it's too late. Narcissists can be dangerous people, and if they have already crossed the line into being physical, consider how much harder it would really be for them to seriously hurt you or even kill you, especially since narcissists don't even really see others as people. The only thing protecting you is that this person feels what they're already doing is enough to control you. If the day comes when they feel it isn't enough, it's going to be too late. Leave now, however you can.
The first step is to really understand that the relationship is never going to be what you want. Too many people want to leave the narcissist to teach the narcissist a lesson. This will not work. Sure, it refocuses the narcissist's attention on you, but this is only because you are stepping out of line. Narcissists will do whatever they have to do to bring you back under their control. It's just another manipulation, so even if it seems that the narcissist has suddenly seen the light and become everything you need, don't believe it. They will say and do everything you've wanted for years, but it won't last because it is not genuine. The zebra cannot change it's stripes. He can hide them and he can ignore them but he cannot change them. They will always show through eventually. It is the same with the narcissist. Once they have you back under their control where they want you, it will very quickly go back to how it always was. This is the only way it can ever be. The relationship with the narcissist can only ever be abusive. There is no other way it can go. They don't know any other way and more importantly, they don't really want it any other way. These are miserable, disordered people who only know how to spread misery around.
Once you've accepted this relationship is only ever going to hurt you and drag you down, now what? It's time to leave. This is not something to do lightly, however. It sounds easy, but it bears repeating that narcissists will do whatever they have to do to bring you back under their control. This can mean begging, crying, suicide attempts, mounting smear campaigns against you, destroying your things, trying to get your fired from your job and much more. It also means that when they see they really can't control you anymore, this kind of thing will usually be stepped up tenfold - up to and including violence against you or your children. History is full of narcissists who resorted to violence and even murder when they found they could not control their target anymore.
In fact, many murderers end up being diagnosed with one or more of the cluster b personality disorders: Histrionic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. A few famous ones that come to mind are Diane Downs, Susan Smith, Pat Allanson and John Wayne Gacy. It has been speculated that Jodi Arias suffers from BPD, and that Jeffrey Dahmer did as well. Research supports the theory that many batterers (both male and female) are suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. Since all people suffering from cluster B personality disorders are narcissists to one degree or another, this tells us that leaving a relationship with a narcissist must be handled a certain way - regardless of whether the narcissist in your life has ever been violent or not. We are dealing with irrational, obsessive, angry people here who don't believe their partner has the right to leave, who do not even see their partner as a person and who believe anyone who hurts them - even on accident - should be punished indefinitely. It is better to be safe than sorry. Once this type of person feels they have nothing to lose, they can become very dangerous.
It's important that once you've made the decision to leave, you don't tell many people your plans to leave the narcissist. Not everybody is your friend, regardless of what they say. You're going to have to do this without the narcissist knowing, because they will try to stop you if they do know.
You are going to want to save up money if you can. Again, if you are in fear or are being physically abused, skip this step. There are programs that can help you and places you can go. If you do have the time and the wherewithal, save money. You need that money to get to somewhere the narcissist cannot find you. If you have to stay with a relative or a friend, make sure to instruct your friends and relatives not to talk to the narcissist and not to tell the narcissist where you are. This is very important. Narcissists can seem very broken and pathetic if they want to, and it can be hard for people to resist this, so your friends and family should not speak to the narcissist if at all possible.
You yourself are going to have to go No Contact with the narcissist. It's the only way to make sure they don't convince or guilt you into trying to work on the relationship again. If you have children, this can be difficult, but if you have an attorney or a trusted friend who can be the go-between, that is very helpful. This person can help set up visitation meetings and things like that. You can also communicate with the narcissist only in text or email, that way arguments are less likely to happen and everything is in writing but it really is better if someone else does it.
If you must deal with the narcissist (such as when you have children), be sure to practice the Grey Rock technique and make sure you don't react emotionally to anything the narcissist does or says. If you're not familiar with this technique, click the link to learn how to do it. Essentially, don't answer questions about your personal life and don't fall for attempts to bait you into an argument. Don't respond to accusations and don't defend yourself. If the conversation is supposed to be about visiting the children, the second it veers off into something else, let the narcissist know that you are only speaking about visitation and nothing else. If they persist, end the conversation.
It's important to note that you may receive an excessive amount of text messages or phone calls when you go No Contact - maybe even hundreds. This is not uncommon. It's very important that you do not respond, even to say "Leave me alone." Any response at all shows the narcissist that they have gotten to you and will only result in them redoubling their efforts. The correct response is no response. If the narcissist comes to your home or shows up at your job, call the police or have security remove them. Do not speak to them, do not let them in. You have to show the narcissist that 1. they are not able to control you or the situation anymore and 2. that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. That's why you left. Your boundaries are to be respected and that's that. If the narcissist cannot do that - and they can't - then they have lost the privilege of being in your life. You are under no obligation to spend time on anyone who does not respect you. Block them if you can, and if you can't, change their contact name to DO NOT ANSWER. It seems silly, but it actually helps a lot. When you see that name come up, you are naturally inclined not to answer.
One thing that needs to be addressed specifically here is the threat of suicide. This is something you might run into, especially if your narcissistic ex is a Borderline Personality. This may sound harsh to some but it needs to be said: if the narcissist is threatening suicide, tell them to call 911 and then hang up. Or, you can call 911 if you know where they are. But that's it. You cannot respond to this, even though it's very hard not to. In our society, we are taught to take threats of suicide very seriously and not to turn our backs on someone who feels suicidal. However, it is not right or fair to expect someone to jump into the fire with a suicidal person so that they both get burned, and that is the only thing that can happen here. You cannot save the narcissist. It may be a real threat or it may not, but if they are going to commit suicide, it is their decision, not yours. If you go back to the narcissist prevent it from happening, then what? They are no longer suicidal but you are still miserable, being abused and mistreated. Forever. At some point, you have to say "ENOUGH!" and accept that their decisions and choices are their own. It is not your responsibility anymore and it never was. The narcissist needs to figure that out, too. Maybe they will and maybe they won't, but this is also not your responsibility. It's theirs.
Separating yourself emotionally from a narcissist of any kind is very difficult. These people can be like human crazy glue. Because relationships with narcissists are often very codependent (exactly how they want it), you may feel a huge sense of loss and an enormous amount of guilt. This is completely normal. You may also feel cheated and have a lot of trouble with closure. This is largely because the relationship seemed to have the potential to be everything you ever wanted and then just... wasn't. It never really went anywhere and because of that, you might feel that it isn't over because there was no logical progression or ending. It is very hard to let go of, but you have to if you want to be well. There will never be anything like that with a narcissist. There can be no logical progression. There is no end and no closure. There is only you, spinning your wheels in an endless cycle of abuse, mistreatment, false hope and hurt until you die or go crazy. If you need some help getting started on breaking codependency, check out my article about how to heal yourself from codependency. It has a few good places to start.
Separating from the narcissist in your life will not be easy, but it will be easier than being abused for the rest of your life.
Joe Bridge from Mississippi on July 29, 2016:
Nice to share your idea ..
Michelle How on July 28, 2016:
My mothers narcissism is masked, or made worse, by her alcoholism. Growing up with her I am surprised I am as positive as I am. A good read, thank you.