Narcissists form powerful bonds with their partners that are difficult to break and, on average, it takes seven attempts to leave before finally succeeding. Understanding how narcissists manipulate you to keep you tied to the relationship can give you the leverage you need to prepare yourself to break up and go no-contact. Here’s why it’s so hard to get out.
He studied and mimicked exactly what you like so he could become your perfect partner. During the love-bombing stage at the beginning of the relationship, he learned exactly what it was that you desired most out of a partner and then mirrored it back to you to become your soulmate. Narcissists manufacture an environment where you develop a strong psychological attachment to them. They do this by making grandiose declarations of love, plying you with excessive flattery, and reassuring you about your deepest insecurities. The goal is to get you to drop your guard and make yourself vulnerable to them. Because of this strong attachment, you may still feel a romantic connection to him that you can’t shake.
Narcissists don’t ever consider the relationship to be over. They may temporarily think of the relationship as being “on pause” if they’re angry or attending to other women in their rotation, but they never really break up with you. In their eyes, you “belong” to them and they’re entitled to come in and out of your life as they please. Until you realize this, you’ll be vulnerable to their repeated attempts to get you to break any no-contact policy you try to implement.
You’re overwhelmed with questions that don’t seem to have answers. There are so many things about the relationship that you just don’t understand. Did he ever love you at all? If he did, then how could he have done all those things to hurt you? Did he know he was hurting you? Which moments you shared were real? You may feel stuck trying to figure out who he really is instead of moving forward and realizing you may never get all the answers you’re seeking.
You developed a chemical bond with him. When the narcissist cycled between cruelty and kindness, those extremes in emotions dysregulated the neurochemicals dopamine and oxytocin in your brain. You literally became chemically addicted to him because of his behavior. As a result, you may have felt dependence and withdrawal symptoms that were not your fault. This addiction can keep drawing you back in like a drug and make it difficult for you to leave.
You may be trauma-bonded to him as well. Trauma bonds are similar to Stockholm Syndrome, in which you’ve been brainwashed into feeling loyalty toward him. This happens because of the intermittent kindness he provides that temporarily eases the pain you’re going through. Over time, it becomes normal to cling to the hope that each new start means the callousness will come to an end. The acts of love he meted out may have trapped you in a repetitious cycle as you continue to wait for a future that never comes.
You may have been gaslighted into doubting your own judgment. Narcissists will change stories, lie or contradict your version of events in order to avoid admitting to things they have done. They will do this even when there is blatant evidence to support a different view. Over time, the effects of this gaslighting can take their toll. You may begin questioning what’s real about anything he says to the point to where you stop trusting your own intuition, and you don’t know whether you’re wrong or whether leaving really is the best option.
You may blame yourself for the problems in your relationship. He’s an expert at verbal and mental games that twist conversations back around on you every time you try to have a discussion about something he’s done or how you feel about it. You’ve heard it all: projection, accusing you of being the one who’s jealous or abusive, calling you crazy or argumentative, and blaming his actions on something you did. This is not an accident.
You may feel isolated from sources of outside support. Are your friends tired of hearing about the relationship? Do they blame you for still being in it? Maybe you’ve only told them what a great guy your boyfriend is and hid all of his abusive behavior, so now you don’t know how to explain why you need to leave. Perhaps you haven’t even seen them in a long time because your boyfriend has made it so difficult to hang out with them. Whatever it is, you may feel like you just don’t have anyone on your side or anyone you can you can turn to for support or advice.
You want to see the good in people. You really want to believe he’s not doing it on purpose, that he has your best interests at heart. Facing the fact that your boyfriend is manipulating you means you have to accept the fact that not all people have good intentions. If you’re the type of person that forgives easily and looks for the best in people, this can be a painful realization to have to face.
You desperately want the closure of a regular relationship. Relationships with narcissists do not end like regular relationships. If you tell a narcissist that you are breaking up, he’ll usually either become angry and rage at you with an onslaught of verbal abuse, or he’ll do everything in his power to try to get you to stay. Either way, he won’t let you go in peace, so when you decide to leave, you must cut it off knowing that the only closure you’ll ever get will be the closure you give yourself knowing you deserve better.