It's a Mistake to Leave a Narcissist Without a Plan

Colleen Sheehy Orme

I exit my lawyer's office. The decision I have lamented for years is finally made. I am leaving my husband. I think I am ready, prepared even. I've done the hardest part by making the break.

I have no idea the battle which rages before me.

I have provoked a narcissist.

The behavior I have witnessed to date will turn out to be child's play.

I think my husband can no longer hurt me. I understand narcissists make their own rules and discard societal norms. I have felt the powerless desperation that accompanies it. But now there's an administrator on the playground to deflect the bully.

I see freedom never realizing I have embedded myself in the narcissist's crosshairs.

I am a stay-at-home mom who works part-time, I understand I will need to rebuild.

I have yet to grasp my financial vulnerability.

Or how my husband will yield it like the powerful weapon it is. Me, the rule follower up against the unconquerable rule breaker. My husband doesn't care what is right and what is wrong. What is legal and illegal. What is respectable and dishonorable. He doesn't care if he hurts our children to hurt me.

He cares about money, control, and winning.

Alternated with a dose of punishment directed at the woman who dared to leave him.

My life spins into chaos. Unpredictability turns to stress then fear. My phone rings with creditors, my mailbox floods with past-due bill notices, my driveway ushers the repo man, my door knocks with warrants in debt and my sleepy cul-de-sac displays vulture-laden cars who watch foreclosure lists.

I don't sleep, I can't think, I struggle to complete sentences.

I am overwhelmed, frightened, traumatized by an unrelenting tormentor. What will happen next?

My children are equally unnerved. Kids understand two adults who don't get along. They may not welcome divorce but they can grasp it. They don't understand a parent who is willing to hurt them to achieve their desired outcome.

"I know dad is angry with you but what about us?" asks my son. "We live here too, we need to eat."

My husband is refusing to give me grocery and school supply money. My friends and neighbors drop off meals. My family takes me to the grocery store and to buy the necessary high school items. I am grateful and humbled while feeling a complete loss of dignity.

Worse, my children have to witness others step-in where their father has stepped out.

But the diagnosed narcissist I am leaving does not live in reality.

He creates a delusional narrative distinctive to those with this alarming disorder.

"There would be money boys if you're mother hadn't left me. We can't afford two households. Your mother should be working full time to feed you. Your mother has let you down. She hasn't carried her weight all these years."

I am now existing rather than living. I solve one problem and my husband creates another. I struggle in nearly every area of my life. The man with Narcissistic personality disorder leaves no stone unturned.

My car is ten years old and in and out of the shop. He refuses to pay the bill and leaves it there for weeks at a time. When I beg him to pick it up or get me a new one he responds the same way.

"You wanted to leave," he says. "You buy your own car."

"I need a car to get a job and a job to buy a car," I say.

This is pre-pandemic and remote work is far less available.

I heard my marriage counselor say my husband lacked empathy. I stayed in counseling alone when my husband refused to continue. I comprehended his unsettling diagnosis. I thought I understood who I was dealing with.

But an angry narcissist possesses an unfathomable rage.

And reminds you it's never been your world, you've been living in theirs.

It's their home, their possessions, their career, their accomplishments, and their money. My husband told me it was his house and his money. In his distorted mind created by a disconcerting personality disorder, he had built everything we owned.

Which meant I deserved nothing. He lowered our business income and said all of our savings and retirement were gone. He was siphoning money in the years I was attempting to save our marriage. Ironic really, I devoted myself to us emotionally and he to our, I mean 'his" assets.

Did I understand what a lack of empathy was? Absolutely.

Did I believe it was so severe he wouldn't feel his own children's pain? No.

I talked myself into believing while extreme, he had some ability to be human. At least where his family was concerned. While a narcissist only feels their own distress, this was essentially his world so our kids had to be a part of it. Right? Wrong.

I went round and round with the narcissistic bully for five long years.

I was in the fight of my life, protecting myself and my boys from their own father.

Did my husband care what they thought? No. And our children are too loving and kind to treat him poorly. They are also smart enough to know he wouldn't care what they thought because they attempted to tell him multiple times. They maintain a superficial relationship.

It's not only all that's left, it's all a narcissist is capable of.

I left a narcissist without a plan and it was a huge mistake.

If you leave a narcissist you need to be solidly prepared. I should have created an emotional and financial blueprint. I should have saved money, gotten a new car, and had a full-time job. I should have stockpiled items we would need to decrease expenses.

I should have routinely checked my credit, bank accounts, business accounts, and insurance policies for irregularities to alert myself to potential financial abuse.

I should have established my credit by getting a bank account and credit card in my name only. At the same time, making sure I was still listed jointly on other bank accounts, mortgages, investments, and insurance. I should have made sure no money had been borrowed against our house or policies.

I should have made annual doctor and dentist appointments for my children and me in case he prolonged the divorce and canceled insurance. I should have made sure my children were in regular counseling to avoid manipulation by a narcissistic parent. I should have changed cell phone carriers.

I should have checked every possible box.

In order to minimize the areas, my husband could control me and inflict abuse.

More importantly, I should have left sooner.

The longer I stayed with a narcissist especially as a stay-at-home mother, the more susceptible I was to his abusive tactics. I attempted to leave twice when I was younger but he convinced me to stay. I was confused by his dual personality but the charming side of him was weightier then. So I was more easily swayed.

I had no idea of the battle that would rage before me.

Or that I had embedded myself in a narcissist's crosshairs.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a National Relationship Columnist, freelance journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, relationships, and self-restoration. She has spent more than a decade in research and counseling on the topics of divorce, relationships, and Narcissistic personality disorder.

Reston, VA
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