I hear from many spouses and ex-spouses of narcissistic personalities. They found it difficult to identify that the person they married had a serious personality disorder. Some of them took decades to realize that they were married to someone who was psychologically and emotionally abusing them. They kept normalizing cruel, controlling and exploitive behaviors. Most of these spouses blamed themselves for the marital problems. Many went to couples therapy and had no positive results.
My clinical experience and that of many others is that the narcissist is a fixed personality disorder that does not change. This psychic structure develops early and the defense mechanisms that the narcissist uses are like concrete. They include massive denial and primitive projections that provide the narcissist with a bulwark of protection against changing his/her psychopathology. The narcissist develops a false self as his/her response to the parent/parents during the early years. This structure grows over time and becomes firmly consolidated within the narcissist. If this individual is the chosen child, he allowed to do whatever he wishes, is given no sense of limits or guidelines for treating others with respect or empathy. Children who are not chosen can also become narcissistic as well.
If you have been through a series of ordeals with your narcissistic spouse you understand how stressful, painful, confusing and disturbing this experience is to your life each day. You are paying the price of not having a self that belongs to you. The narcissist without a sense of healthy psychological boundaries is constantly criticizing you, demeaning you, humiliating you and trying to break you down. Then when you are at the point of giving up, it is not unusual for him to use all of his gifts of persuasion to bring you back and make promises (empty ones) that he/she is definitely going to change and wants to remain your partner. This is a dizzying merry go round ride that does not stop.
Unless you are discarded by the narcissist, which happens in some instances, you are the one who must make the decision (or not) to finally disengage by separating from and divorcing them.
Your self healing is the essential issue. You have been living in the fight or flight mode of the sympathetic nervous system for too long. Your nerves are frazzled. You catch yourself constantly in a state of free floating anxiety. You feel self hatred arising. You feel like giving up. Don’t! Get well and put yourself first.
Create a detailed plan for getting out of the marriage. Interview several attorneys. Make sure that the professional you choose is well trained in divorce law, has strong credentials, an excellent reputation, good character and will be your true advocate as well as understanding the manipulations and tricks and ruses of the narcissistic personality. It is very important that this individual have you best interests in mind throughout the entire process.
Make a list of everything you need to do before the divorce papers are served. Make sure that you have the financial resources that you need in the interim.
As you go through this process, develop a practice of self care. Exercise in the way that is best for you, get the sleep that you need, eat healthy, take time in solitude and quiet, journal if that is helpful to you; listen to short guided meditations, practice gentle hatha yoga to calm the nervous system and strengthen the body/mind, listen to your favorite music that is a source of beauty and peace, spend time with a few friends whom you trust and can count on. Maintain a practice of self care now and throughout your life. You deserve to heal and you will. Healing and evolving are lifelong processes.
Disengaging from the narcissist and moving forward with your own life is waiting for you. I hear from so many individuals who have taken this route to freedom. They are so grateful and happy and lighter and inspired and creative now with their lives. You are on the right pathway–the one that leads to inner peace and your healing.