"We’ve got to make it work, or we’ll be seen as failures," he urged me. Every time we tried to "make it work," it became harder to end things. It took me six years to realize I was being abused—and then I feared I was a failure because I'd been hoodwinked and lured in under false pretenses.
I’m not the only woman who feels she’s defective if she’s been abused. Actually, I was merely falling prey to the social prejudice that a woman isn’t believed when she’s abused—instead, she’s blamed. But once I cut through the smoke and mirrors, deep within my gut, I knew I was doing the most courageous thing ever by walking away.
Because I understood one truth: I had outgrown him. I had outgrown my narcissist. As I tell my clients these days, a jungle cannot flourish in a pot. If you, too, have outgrown a narcissist, here are four other things you've outgrown as well.
You outgrew illusion.
A narcissistic abuser is the master of illusion. He lures you in, prods subtly at your boundaries, tells you not to be sensitive and crazy—perhaps even kissing you while saying those words. Before long, your boundaries and standards have lowered. He drops his mask as he feels he's in control. Perhaps you’re living together or have a child, and in that case, he knows he has you.
So he thrusts in your hands the responsibility to help him through his "issues." He doesn’t mean to hurt you or be paranoid; it’s just that his exes have shattered him. He doesn’t mean to drink and abuse you; it’s just that he needs to escape his pain, and you’re left chasing every new wound he invents. Sometimes he changes, but those times are ephemeral. Every time he slips, he regresses further than when he started.
Because you’ve tasted the wonderland that was the honeymoon phase of your relationship, you know what’s possible. And one day the truth hits you: Wonderland was Oz, and you wore the wizard’s glasses. And then you outgrow the illusion that he’s a good man with a kind soul, and you pack your bags for good.
You also outgrew putting yourself last.
Women with high levels of empathy are prime prey for narcissists because they overgive. Yes, it is important to care about someone else, and everybody has a story that explains why they do the things they do. But when you honor someone else’s story at the expense of your own sanity, well-being, and safety, this is when empathy is your kryptonite.
To quote author Jeff Brown, "Yes, they may well awaken, but we should never postpone any part of our own life waiting for that to happen. Unconditional love begins at home, with the protecting and honoring of our own unique journey."
You outgrew the tiny box he imprisoned you in.
Narcissists isolate their partners. They often suggest moving somewhere far away, under a romantic guise, or they guilt-trip their partners into ending friendships or curtailing their career opportunities. This way, he has you all to himself.
He doesn’t want you to shine, so he denigrates you—then he shames you for not shining. He has architected a tiny future you’re condemned to, even though he speaks of an incandescent tomorrow. But words are cheap, and narcissists are misers, so that’s the only currency they’re willing to spend. He indulges in irresponsible behaviors, and he justifies it by saying things like, "That's just the way men are." You live on edge, walking on eggshells.
He disturbs your sleep, disrupts your work, and sabotages your life while playing the victim. "I was high; I didn’t mean it," he pleads. Then he vacillates into the persecutor, telling you you’re judgmental. And then you take a stand, declaring that it’s unacceptable that your life is growing smaller and smaller because you have outgrown the tiny box he imprisoned you in.
You outgrew losing yourself because you've found yourself again.
"She doesn’t want to be Mrs. X," he bitched to mutual friends. He talked about marriage several times, and the prospect of taking his name. It wasn’t simply that I didn’t like his name. Rather, my gut felt shattered. It asked me, "You’ve lost enough of yourself. Do you want to lose your name too?"
I’d reached my pit when I faced the darkness of suicidal thoughts and nonstop panic attacks, but there was nowhere else to go but up. So I embarked on a deep healing journey. As my strength solidified and I reclaimed myself, I felt increasingly disgusted with him. When I finally left, I’d come to terms with the fact that I was being abused, and I was with an abusive narcissist. But unlike the stereotype of the weak woman, I felt strong and powerful.
You see, I'd initially longed for my happier, 20-year-old self before he corrupted my life. The lens of nostalgia aside, she was fraught with her own insecurities, which was how he wormed his way in. And in leaving him and healing myself, not only did I find my 20-year old self, I found a wholesome version of her who is comfortable with her scars and owns her story.
So you’ve made the decision to leave, or you have left. Congratulate yourself for that. It is my sincerest hope that you join a growing tribe of women who no longer see themselves as failures but rather as strong, worthy human beings who outgrew a toxic, stifling narcissist. Now it’s time to outgrow the trauma and pain he caused you because they don’t have to be the ghosts that haunt you forever.
Want more tips on ending a bad relationship? Here's how to get through a breakup with a narcissist.
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