#whyIstayed

I came across someone on Twitter who is doing some research on narcissistic abuse and struggling with understanding why victims of narcissistic abuse stay in the abusive relationships. I reached out and recommended that they read the #whyIstayed hashtag where victims in all types of abusive relationships summarize the reasons why they stayed… and I also recommended that they read this blog. The researcher reached out to me still having a lot of confusion on the topic and asked me outright… why did it take 8 years for you to leave?!?

It’s actually a little surprising to me how complex this question is to answer, and I think that reflects the complexity within an abusive relationship. There are so many layers to why I stayed, and that is because there are so many layers to the manipulation and abuse that I withstood at the hands of The Narcissist.

So, in an attempt to summarize and make sense of a very complex thing… here are the high level reasons why I stayed:

  • It’s My Fault: I absolutely believed that the problems we were experiencing in our marriage were my fault. Years of The Narcissist’s subliminal and not-so-subliminal messaging about how everything wrong somehow came back to me had set in. I internalized those things. I really believed that if I tried harder, gave more, did the things the he asked of me, stopped feeling angry, etc. etc. things would get better. It became a constant and relentless carrot dangled in front of my face were it seemed like every day I woke up a la Groundhog Day and tried a different method to get a different outcome. Even at the very end of my journey with The Narcissist, I showed up at my therapists office looking for her to help “fix me.” I asked for help saving my marriage, I asked for help dealing with my depression, I asked for help fixing my “anger issues.” I did not show up saying “Help me I am in abusive relationship” and I think this speaks volumes to how brainwashed I was.
  • I don’t really know what’s wrong here: With narcissistic abuse, defining exactly what is happening to you is such a huge part of the problem. When a partner is physically abusive it is easier to define that something wrong is being done to you. If you say out loud to another person, “My husband is hitting me” they are going to react in some way shape or form with “that is wrong!” However, when the abuse is emotional, spiritual, psychological, financial, sexual… it can be much harder to define and even harder to explain to other people. I did not even have the vocabulary to talk about these things until I started learning about emotional abuse and narcissistic personality disorder. When I did learn about these things I started being able to talk to my therapist about them and that began my journey to leaving.
  • I think I’m the crazy one: The Narcissist was gaslighting me hard core. I reached a point of depression that was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I had anxiety over completing the most mundane tasks. I was struggling with intense anger and coping with my emotions. I literally thought that I was wrong. I thought that I was confused. I believed The Narcissist when he told me that he loved me, when he told me that I was not seeing things clearly due to my depression, anxiety, etc.
  • I’ll never find anyone else like him: The Narcissist really had me believing his narcissistic beliefs that he was special, he was unique, he was chosen by God, he was my soulmate, he was unlike any other man on the planet. When you are brainwashed and condition to believe that you have won the lottery with your man… it is scary to think about losing that… no matter how much crap you are dealing with. You start to justify the crap and rationalize that something this good requires extra work, extra effort. You believe that you don’t deserve him. You are slightly horrified of the idea of even considering another person to fill his shoes.
  • I have no one:  In order to keep The Narcissist happy over the years I literally cut off ties with pretty much everyone I loved. The few people that I still had relationships with… were distant and strained and blurred with my facade of having a perfect life. It is scary to leave an abusive situation for a number of a reasons, and believing that you have no support system in place makes it even scarier. An abuser isolates victims exactly for this reason – you are less likely to leave if you feel like you have no one to turn to for support. Keeping other people out of your life also keeps different perspectives out of your life. You hear everything filtered through The Narcissist and you have no one else to help you see that maybe, just maybe he is flipping crazy.
  • I don’t deserve to be happy: My self esteem was at an all time low throughout my entire marriage to The Narcissist. I believed myself to be fat, ugly, old, and so very imperfect. I could barely hold eye contact with people in conversation. I felt like I was stupid, I didn’t think things through, I couldn’t handle stress and I couldn’t trust myself to make decisions. I literally reached a point were I believed that I deserved the treatment that I was receiving from the Narcissist… I believed that that was as happy as I would ever be.
  • I’m ashamed: One of the tweets I have personally shared is: “#whyIstayed I was ashamed that such a smart girl ended up with an abusive man.” When I started to come out of the fog and realize what was really going on in my relationship, I was very ashamed. I was ashamed of my decision making. I was ashamed of the things I did out of love for The Narcissist. I was ashamed of the crazy things I said and did to my loved ones in an effort to prove that The Narcissist was right, that our marriage was okay, that I was okay. I felt like an idiot for not believing the people who concerned about me. I felt stupid for believing that things would change. I felt like I wasted so much time and energy and love and money. It’s not always an easy thing to admit that you’ve been wrong, and this one felt overwhelming.

I hope this is helpful to anyone out there struggling with understanding why someone would stay in abusive relationship. Its complicated, its messy, and unfortunately it is one of those things that unless you have experienced it on some level… it is really difficult to grasp.

For me I finally reached my breaking point at 8 years. I was so depressed I was barely functioning, we just had a miserable holiday were I wasn’t allowed to see my family and for whatever reason I had had enough. I made a decision that I was going to get help and seek a therapist who could help me “fix this marriage once and for all.” I really didn’t think at the time that that path would lead me to a divorce, but that is exactly what happened. The more that I said the things that I was experiencing out loud to my therapist the more I realized what the real problems were, and the easier it became to decide to leave.

45 thoughts on “#whyIstayed

  1. I always explain to people that they never start off by being abusive. They’re usually the sparkliest, most fantastic people around. They shower you with love and gifts and attention. And then it begins oh so subtly. Before you know it you’re neck deep in an abusive relationship and like you said, one of the things they tend to do is isolate you from everyone else, so you’re left alone with no one and feeling like no one will ever love you, that you’re not worth anything.

    I’m curious. Did The Narcissist know you were going to see a therapist or did you keep that from him? If he did know I’m amazed he “allowed” it. I would think he wouldn’t want you sharing your innermost thoughts with someone who might be able to see the crazy in him.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Sam, Thanks for your comment. So yes the Narcissist did know that I was going to the therapist, but he was okay with it because I was going to get help for my “anger issues.” He actually encouraged and supported it. But right before the first appointment we got into a big fight because he wanted to come with me to the actual appointment. The way I was able to get around it was he also started seeing the same therapist separately. I think he felt like he could have enough control over the therapist’s thoughts and ideas if he also saw her.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I never asked myself that question but now that I am divorced, I hear it all the time. “Why did you fucking stay with him?” I have answers…now….but it doesn’t really help. I wasted my entire life and he ruined me. The only good thing that came out of it is….I will NEVER be in an abusive relationship again. EVER. The thought of ever trusting a man is repulsive to me and I won’t do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. laurelwolfelives, I read a great quote today “Though the experience with the Narcissist is painful and overwhelming, the Empath usually learns their soul lessons and undergoes an awakening, whereas the Narcissist remains the same.” I guess the perspective I have been trying to take lately is that wow I have completely and absolutely changed my life for the better this year. I have removed The Narcissist, I have healed (and continue to heal) my wounds, I am focusing on the things that make me happy, I have rebuilt my relationships with my loved ones… I have figured out what is most important to me, and I will NEVER again give up any elements of myself to be with another person. I still struggle with the years wasted and the amount of pain I endured… but at the end of the day I am in an amazing place in my life right now and that is what I am going to focus on moving forward. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am guessing that you are relatively young. I waited far too late to get out. Now, I’m old and not very likely (like him) to wander into a bar and pick up a tramp who will whisper sweet nothings in my ear in return for money.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Laurelwolfelives, I am 32 which is relatively young, however I have struggled a lot feeling like I’ve wasted all my good child-bearing years on this man. What I have experienced through this process that I absolutely never expected is that I’ve realized that I can be okay on my own. If I never find another man, if I never get to have kids in the traditional sense… I will be okay. I certainly didnt think that when I was with The Narcissist and it has taken me the last 8 months to get here… but somewhere along the way I remembered that I really like me and I’m okay with that. I’ll send some good vibes your way as I believe that everyone deserves a happy ended after the suffering, and I hope you find yours whatever that looks like. ❤

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I was reading through these comments and I just want to tell you, you didn’t “waste” your “good child-bearing years” on him! You still have time! 🙂 One of my struggles now is having to co-parent and share custody with an awful man. To be honest, I have thought “This would be so much easier to deal with if we didn’t have kids.” but then I wouldn’t know these amazing little people. It just makes it a little harder when you can’t cut all ties completely.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Hi Laurelwolfelives, I know exactly what you mean. I felt exactly the same way when I finally got out of my abusive relationship. The only difference is that I am a man, and my abuser was a woman. I’ve had to work through my deep distrust and anger towards women after what happened to me. And I was lucky enough to meet a woman who is the exact opposite of my narcissistic ex. Trusting her didn’t come easily, and didn’t happen right away. Even now, though she wants to get married, I have my fear and misgivings about it. But she is patient and understanding with me, so I know I’ll get there eventually.

      My point is, there are narcissists among both men and women. And there are also good people who are both men and women. I’m not saying you should drop your guard right away. But you should at least keep open the possibility that you could trust again one day. I wish you all the best in your journey.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh for sure the gamut is run for both sexes. My ex is with a narcissist that far outdoes him. She has turned him into a veritable puppet…but as long as she lays it out, he will continue to open the checkbook because he is anathema to be alone.
        If you are able to trust again, that is wonderful. It’s a long road, isn’t it? I don’t mourn the loss of him. I mourn the loss of what he took from me. The worst thing he did was take my children. They are so desperate for his attention and affection, they will do anything to get it and he has honed his pretentiousness to impress that tramp he’s with. I guess I understand.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Wow, our stories are similar. I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through. I’ve lost my sons to this as well. I have my daughter back now, only because the ex was caught physically abusing her, but I lost three years with her before that happened. I honestly believe that losing our children this way is the worst thing that can happen to a person. It’s like they died, only you don’t get the closure of a funeral, but only the pain of seeing everything about them die a little piece at a time, all while being tormented with the hope that one day you’ll get them back.

        I don’t know if you’ve done any research on parental alienation, but there are several blogs and Facebook groups dedicated to it. There are more parents, both fathers and mothers, who have been intentionally cut off from their children than I ever would have guessed.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. No. I have never done any research on that. I don’t think it ever occurred to me. Of course, I would have never believed that anybody else would have been tortured by an abusive narcissist either. When I started my blog, I thought “nobody is ever going to believe this. They’re going to think I’m crazy.”
        My children won’t be back and as long as they place such a high value on the very people who did everything they could possibly do to destroy me…I have to say, it’s okay. Loyalty is paramount to me. I was loyal to them their entire lives. They know what they’re daddy did to me. They know what that tramp did to me. They know what that drunken grandma did to me….and they don’t care.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I don’t know how old your children are, but their reaction is very common. Parental Alienation Syndrome is very much like Stockholm Syndrome, or like a cult leaders brain-washing influence over his followers. The children often reject the safe parent, and form unhealthy bonds with the abusive parent. Here’s a few sources, but there is a TON more.
        http://www.paawareness.com/what-is-pa.asp
        http://www.parentalalienation.com/articles/symptoms-parental-alienation.html
        http://www.drcachildress.org/asp/Site/ParentalAlienation/index.asp

        Liked by 1 person

  3. My Precious Friend!

    Are you aware of this source of info? http://www.selfcarehaven.org/
    I have one of Ms. Arabi’s books and I have her next one on pre-order.
    The book I have has helped me soooo much! She has tapped into an enormous body of research on this far-too-common experience & so lovingly compiled and shared with us.
    Please, check it out! And share it with the researcher of which you spoke. Your experience is far too common yet still so poorly understood.
    Keep up with this very important work

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I didn’t deserve to be happy. I went into the relationship already feeling like I didn’t deserve love, so it’s fitting I would choose someone who wouldn’t even notice that feeling was wrong. Doesn’t matter, though…because I’m not there anymore:)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on Blog of a Mad Black Woman and commented:
    “I hope this is helpful to anyone out there struggling with understanding why someone would stay in abusive relationship. Its complicated, its messy, and unfortunately it is one of those things that unless you have experienced it on some level… it is really difficult to grasp”. ~ Divorcing a Narcissist Blog

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I agree, there are so many layers to an abusive relationship. Sometimes you don’t even realize you are in one until you are. And when you haven’t been in one before, it IS really difficult to understand why one person stays. Glad you are out, even though it must have been a very scary thing to do.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Reblogged this on Walter Singleton and commented:
    Reading this seemed like an echo of my own life and thoughts. Sometimes I even ask myself, “WHY did you wait nearly 20 YEARS before finally getting out of your abusive marriage??”. This blog posts puts my answers into words that I haven’t been able to find for myself.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you so much for this! Reading this seemed like an echo of my own life and thoughts. Sometimes I even ask myself, “WHY did you wait nearly 20 YEARS before finally getting out of your abusive marriage??”. This post puts my answers into words that I haven’t been able to find for myself.

    My narcissist ex went ballistic when I finally decided to leave. She destroyed my relationship with my children, obliterated my career, cut me off from any friends we had in common, and took every piece of material property I had spent a lifetime accumulating, including pictures, writings, and keepsakes that were important only to me. The kicker is, I helped her do it. I was still under the influence of everything you talk about. I thought I was leaving because I was the problem. So when she set out to destroy my life, not only did I not put up a fight, but I willingly supplied her with the ammunition to do it.

    I cannot even begin to measure the things that I’ve lost. My children, my career, my reputation, my relationships, all my belongings – all gone. Still, even after all that, leaving was still the best decision I’ve ever made. You can follow parts of what I still deal with here: https://waltersingletons.wordpress.com/seth-and-aiden-singleton/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walter, Thank you so much for reading and for sharing. I’ve found that un-brain washing myself has been the most difficult part of my healing journey, and I too let a lot of things happen during the divorce that I wish I had stood up against. I am just so thankful to be out of that situation and able to be me. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You articulate it so well. I stayed for 17 years and in the end, it was he who traded me in for a younger woman. Why did I stay? I was willing to believe it was all me, and as you said, couldn’t pinpoint the source of my unhappiness.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s so hard to explain to people. I still have difficulty expressing how it is abusive. For example, I am low income and when I was pregnant I applied for Social housing. My narcissistic partner asked me to follow up recently because I’ve been on the waiting list for so long. I called today and it turns out because I didn’t follow up with them that they closed my account 2 years ago (!) and will have to reapply. Now any supportive partner would understand that a mistake was made and all we can do now is move forward. But not him. He will berate me and tell me how stupid I am. How I could have been saving money all these years, and how he never wants me to complain about money again because I am so irresponsible.
    People can’t imagine what it’s like. Living in fear like this…

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Yes to all of this. You defined the undefinable very well. My family is not being supportive at all, and when I asked if they would think differently if he had hit me, they all exclaimed, “Well of course, but he hasn’t.” Wrong. So wrong and I get too upset to even try and explain and probably seem crazy to them. One even suggested I may be dealing with post-partum hormones (even though it’s been over a year since my youngest was born!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Earthboundmisfit33, so sorry to hear that your family is having a hard time understanding emotional abuse. There is some great work being done with the hashtags #maybehedoesnthityou #thatsnotlove and #lovedoesnthurt that focus on emotional abuse maybe there are some good resources out there for friends and family. I hope that you get the support that you need because it is certainly a tough journey. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Thanks for all your sharing 🙂 I am participating in the #whyIstayed study, which I learned about through you. In fact, I learned the vocabulary for my own experience with a narcissistic/psychopathic partner (to whom I gave the boot almost a year ago) from your blog. It’s been indescribably helpful to know that the nightmare I experienced is a real thing that others have been through too. I’ve been accumulating un-sent emails of rants, stories, thoughts, etc, in my drafts folder for the past however long, and through the #whyIstayed study I realized just how helpful the stories of other survivors were to me, so I’ve just started a blog here to post some of those things; If my story helps even one person like yours helped me, it will be worth it!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. All of this is incredibly needed in my life. I am just beginning this journey of telling my story and meeting others who do the same. This community is what and who I need to take my next steps. I want a home for me and my children, I want to write this book and I want love from someone who loves me the way that I am, because I love me and the longer I stay here the harder it becomes…
    Your reasons echo my own – Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes!! I really believe that sharing our stories is one of the most powerful things we can do in our healing process. Domestic violence and Narcissistic abuse is all about keeping us quiet, smothering out our opinions and feelings and desires… so when we take back that power we often find ourselves in the process! ❤

      Like

  14. I stayed because I didn’t believe there was help or support. I’ve been abandoned now with 2 children and reached out to EVERY resource in my community, and THERE IS NO HELP. And THAT’S why women stay.
    That’s reality.

    Liked by 2 people

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