Ending a relationship with a narcissist is incredibly difficult, for many reasons. Your loyalty, compassion, and desire to be true to your promises make it hard for you to consider leaving the relationship. The narcissist can also make it hard for you to leave because he wants to be in control of the decision to end the relationship. As long as keeping the relationship is the most important factor to you, the narcissist has free rein to dominate you and your decisions.
Caretakers are most likely to leave when the narcissist crosses a line that they finally can’t or won’t tolerate. But over the years, I have found it hard to predict when a caretaker will leave. The client whose narcissistic husband suffered a stroke and became physically abusive didn’t leave. But the client whose husband moved his pregnant girlfriend into the spare bedroom, saying she was an old friend from college down on her luck, did file for divorce. Caretaking men seem less likely to leave than women, perhaps because of the extra burden of responsibility that men culturally feel to take care of women.
When caretakers do leave, they find it is difficult to stick with their decision due to feelings of guilt or pity for the narcissist. And if the narcissist doesn’t want you to leave, (s)he’ll keep pressuring you to change your mind, often with those same old promises to change. The narcissist can make your life extremely arduous in order to keep control of you and the relationship.