Divorcing a narcissist is never easy. That is why so many women and men decide not to take that final step. It feels cataclysmic, like the movement of the tectonic plates along the ring of fire. There are terrors that the molten earth will open and swallow them up. A high powered narcissist, armed with the instruments of his/her power, influence and monetary resources makes the specter of a marital uncoupling loom like a ritual of being drowned and revived in an endless cycle of torture and brief reprieve.
Those who remain married to a narcissist are being abused on many levels whether they are conscious of it or not. Their children are often more aware of the hypocrisy and chaos of the marriage than the narcissist’s partner. The partner is in a state of massive denial. He or she complains, has insomnia, physical symptoms, anxiety attacks, migraines, digestive disorders —-a variety of painful symptoms punctuated by brief awakenings that this arrangement cannot work and is psychologically injurious to her/him and the children. But the voice of denial holds strong and fixed.
Shame speaks loudly in your ear: “It is shameful to be alone; I am ashamed about not leading my accustomed lifestyle; people, even my friends, will think that I am a failure because I have lost my social and economic status.” Many partners equate their lifestyle with their value as an individual. This is a vital part of the personal shame that infiltrates them. It began when they were small children through the chronic neglect, abuse, and cruelties of their parent(s). They experienced constant humiliations perpetrated by mother or father. Other children in the family, some of them narcissists, constantly bullied and terrorized this more sensitive, fragile sibling while the parents turned the other way, ignoring these sadistic behaviors. The psychological residue for a child growing up in these circumstances is a feeling of chronic shame and unworthiness. ” I am bad, unwanted, not worthy”. This is the message the child internalizes and becomes an integral part of his identity.
Marrying a narcissist is an attempt to cover this childhood wound. At first it appears to work. The partner is dazzled by the tremendous self confidence and success of the narcissist who has swept them up to a much better place. As the relationship seasons, the marital house of cards crumbles. The narcissist’s mask of charm and irresistibility, tears, exposing the dark core: a manipulative, selfish, exploitive human being who must be catered to and adored or all hell breaks loose. These moments of revelation of who the narcissist really is and the deleterious effect he or she is having on us, are a transformative opportunity, a gift for making a decision to sever the toxic bond and reclaim your self respect, your peace, your creativity, your entitlement and your power.
Sometimes in life we save ourselves by taking a longer higher leap than we could have imagined in the past. We personally prepare, research the divorce process, find an excellent psychotherapist, gather a supportive network around us, and then propel ourselves forward to land on firm ground to reclaim ourselves. As a result we leave the heavy burden of the personal shame we have carried so long. With renewed strength, we search the horizon, quicken our step, and follow the wide open road ahead. Visit my website:www.thenarcissistinyourlife.com
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.