“Do I really have to move on?” is a question that haunts and confounds the partners of narcissistic abusers. You have woken up to the fact that the person that you love is an objectionable, hurtful, toxic human being. So, a person could be excused for thinking that you would storm off with ne’er a backward glance. Sadly, real life is rarely that linear. In this article, we shall take a new look at what gets in the way of that glorious exit with ne’er a backward glance.
Common Can-I-Make-It-Work questions
Women rarely say to me, “Do I really have to move on?” in so many words. Yet that question that haunts them through most of their waking hours. With me, they tend to use different forms of words such as,
- “Could the relationship improve?”
- “But he has so much potential.” (This is, actually, a statement designed to preempt the question.)
- “Can an abuser ever change?” and
- “Is it my fault.” (Subtext, “Because if I have any grounds for hope, however slight, I am still willing to work my socks off right where I am.”)
Why you don’t want to move on
One powerful reason for not wanting to move on is that we lose that problem focus outside ourselves. We lose the best diversion tactic we never even realised that we had. Anyone who would rather not really have to move on, senses that this will leave them with a distraction vacancy.
Of course, you will have a choice – not a great choice but, still, a choice of sorts. You don’t really have to move on in the sense of addressing and resolving your underlying wounds. You can always,
- Bury your head in some metaphorical sandpit of your own choosing.
- Keep on doing what has not worked so far, in the hope of earning your miracle.
- Find a replacement love object.
All three options suck.
In reality, when you agonise over whether you really have to move on from a relationship with a Narcissistic, abusive partner, your anxiety is multi-faceted. It incorporates every last anxiety you have – about yourself, your children, your finances, and your future. Still, ultimately, it is that desire not to embrace the reality and move on that paralyses you.
Below the surface
Talking with a client this week, it struck me that those of us who have been brought up in a toxic family have a few special quirks. For now, let’s stay with this one; We grow up so used to emotional neglect that we don’t even register it.
In the absence of the kind of support and validation that we might have liked of, we learn to “just get on with things”. It is a reflex that I still encounter in myself. It shows up in the strangest places. I can still, occasionally, find myself shuffling along with difficulties and inconveniences for longer than is necessary – because I hadn’t realised I could ask for help.
When you have been brought up in a home where emotional neglect is the norm, you become overly self-reliant.
Why I never asked for help
If you know that the help you need will be denied, plus you may well be reviled for sticking your head above the parapet, you don’t ask. You just get on and do the best that you can. You muddle through somehow. It never crossed my mind to tell my family that the wasband was making my life miserable. I assumed – rightly – that all I would have got back would have been some kind of brickbat like,
- “I’m not surprised. You’ve always been difficult and selfish.”
- “What did you to provoke him?”
- “Your brothers don’t have that problem. I’ve never heard such a thing before.”
- “Well, you had to marry him, didn’t you. You made your bed…”
- “What do you want me to do about it?”
When you are conditioned to expect brickbats, you cultivate – often excessive, or unfortunate – self-reliance in an attempt to protect yourself. Sadly, it works beautifully for the negative, critical people in your life but it won’t work for you.
An abusive relationship is always carefully crafted to be a win-win scenario for the abuser – and a lose-lose scenario for the person abused.
It was ever thus
The consequences of emotional neglect do not stop there. Emotional neglect conditions you to believe that It was ever thus – and always will be. That “it” can apply to any situation that you find yourself in. You develop an unhelpful and unconscious fatalism.
Recently, I declined to eat most of the dish that I had ordered in a supposedly good restaurant -yet I did not complain. My rationale for not doing so was that, as a sometime foodie and onetime outside caterer, I thought the kitchen had done a thoroughly mediocre job. It wasn’t execrable. I didn’t imagine that it would give me food poisoning. It just wasn’t at all nice. So, I quietly left it.
When the boss came over and spoke to me, I had one of those little lightbulb moments. Showing genuine concern, he asked, “Why didn’t you let me know that it wasn’t to your taste? Can I get you something else, instead?”
I hadn’t let him know because I had fallen back into an old pattern of simply sucking up what I didn’t much like. I had just decided that the food wasn’t bad enough to flag up- forgetting that – for me – it was unpleasant enough not to eat.
The whole episode was no big deal – apart from my old pattern returning to play a brief, informative cameo role in my evening.
The Failure problem
And that brings us on to another key component of why we stay and put u with so much more than we should. Together with the excessive self-reliance and the fatalism, we have a deep-seated “make do and mend” attitude. One way and another, we learned to constantly attempt to repair – broken – relationships.
Since it was ever going to be thus and we could expect no real support, make do and mend became the best option we had. When you have always been labelled The Failure, you can get very sensitive about chalking up further, apparent failures.
Make do and mend
Your family trained you in the “make do and mend” process. It never worked but they programmed you to keep on trying. They programmed you to accept, as your normal, the “Rinse, Repeat and Hope Against Hope” strategy in your intimate relationships. When your distress levels become raised – and it doesn’t take much to raise them – that old “make do and mend” mode kicks in. That is when you ask yourself, “But, if I just worked harder at it…”, “Surely, I/we can make it work?” and all those other, similar questions.
When I pointed out to my client that she had gone into “make do and mend” mode, she breathed a huge sigh of relief. Finally, she made some sense to herself. Then, we worked on liberating her from that old pattern If you are struggling because you really have to move on but can’t bring yourself to, get in touch. That is something you can get beyond. You will just need a bit of help.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.