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Leaving Behind Guilt When You Leave a Narcissist or Addict

When emotional healing outweighs the fear of leaving.

It is difficult to leave anyone in a relationship if you have an emotional connection and a concern about the well-being of the other person. For people in a relationship with a narcissist or an addict, even though the relationship has been difficult and perhaps even destructive, there is still a genuine concern for the other person.

What may be hard to realize is the level of concern and commitment to the relationship is not reciprocated by the other party. Addicts are often consumed by the addiction, and this creates emotional unavailability to the relationship. Narcissists are unable to reciprocate and see the relationship as a way for their needs to be met with no intention of giving back or engaging in a healthy, balanced relationship.

Leaving an addict or a narcissist is often an essential part of self-care. Staying in these relationships is destructive and damaging to your emotional and mental well-being, and it can also dramatically impact physical health. Even if there is no physical abuse or violence in the relationship, there is often long-term damage to self-esteem and self-worth.

The Guilt Factor

Guilt is a common emotion for people leaving an addict or a narcissist. Those leaving addicts often feel guilty as they fear the removal of stability and support may lead the addict into a downward spiral in the addiction. There is always the thought that he/she just needs a bit more time to change, or that somehow you are responsible for creating the situation to facilitate that change.

Guilt in leaving a narcissist is not that much different from guilt in leaving an addict. However, the narcissist also manipulates your emotions, providing you with glimpses of the "perfect" partner he can be when he chooses to do so. Of course, he is also very clear that it is your fault he is not that perfect partner, so this builds on your guilt, loss of self-esteem, and your need to be in a relationship.

Both of these partners often weaponize your own guilt, insecurity, and fear against you. You may hear statements that play on your sense of commitment to them, blaming you in advance for their actions and emotional state if you leave.

Leaving is essential; it is the only way to begin to heal. To avoid being trapped in a dysfunctional relationship by an addict or a narcissist, use the following strategies and tips:

  • Plan your exit — work with a therapist or counselor to plan your exit from the relationship. Having the accountability to a trusted professional helps you to avoid the tricks and tactics that draw you back in.
  • Understand your reasons — when you are clear on why you are leaving and how it is essential for your health and well-being, it is easier to make a decision and avoid the manipulative actions of the other.
  • Break all ties — the narcissist or addict can make you feel guilty even after you leave. Break off all interactions with the individual through social media, phone calls, letters, and talk to friends about not relaying messages. If you do have contact or communication, keep it brief and on your terms.

Finally, do something wonderful for yourself. Go on a trip you have always planned, reconnect with old friends, create your own space just as you want it, or celebrate your freedom by enjoying your time getting comfortable in being an independent, empowered person.

More from Sherry Gaba LCSW
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