If you’re involved with a narcissistic husband, there are probably several times you’ve tried to walk away and start over. It’s a common pattern. But as soon as you try, he suddenly changes his tune and begins to hoover you right back in. You think to yourself that maybe this time he’s really changed. It seems you’re both unhappy, but why won’t he let you leave?
There are several complicated reasons why narcissists have trouble letting go. They fear losing their narcissistic supply, they love maintaining control, they thrive on drama, and they fear losing you reflects badly on them. Above all, they fear you might expose the truth about their true self.
Narcissism is a complex personality disorder that affects men more than it does women. It’s why many women face this very dilemma. If you’re in this situation, you need to understand exactly what is motivating your narcissistic husband’s behavior and why it’s unlikely he will change even if you do leave. Let’s explore the reasons why he just can’t quit you!
Why Won’t a Narcissist Let You Go?
Narcissism forms in childhood when a child fails to develop a healthy sense of self. Consequently, the narcissist constructs a false self-image and needs other people to constantly validate their self-esteem.
A spouse is a great source of external validation for the narcissist. For narcissistic men, a spouse shows the world that they are so great they can get this charming, attractive spouse. They often seek out accomplished spouses who they use as a trophy they can show off to the world. You are validation of his superior virility and masculinity.
Moreover, you’re someone who can provide a steady stream of adoration for his fragile ego. They consider that it’s your ‘job’ to continuously demonstrate that love.
To the narcissist, you are an extension of their identity, and that’s why they believe you should be singularly focused on their needs. As a loving spouse, you are focused on your husband’s needs and want to help him achieve his goals, but your narcissistic spouse believes this should become your only focus in life.
He fears losing you because that would mean losing that valuable source of narcissistic supply. While he can, and probably is, cultivating other sources of supply, a spouse is a much more productive source and one that it takes time to groom.
It’s also true that a narcissist is projecting an image to the world. Losing a spouse to divorce often damages that image and makes the narcissist vulnerable to criticism. No matter that it takes two to tango, the narcissist believes the world around him will perceive divorce as a failure on his part.
He also likes maintaining control. As holistic health practitioner Karen Elisa simply states, “Probably because he wishes to maintain control of you. Your leaving, also, makes him look bad.”
What Will a Narcissistic Husband Do to Keep You?
There are a number of things your narcissistic husband might do if he thinks you’re really going to leave him. These can range from turning back on the charm – something called hoovering – to physical abuse.
On one hand, the narcissist who realizes you are serious about leaving will often turn back on that charm that caused you to fall in love with him in the first place. He may tell you that he realizes he needs to change, and he may promise you the world.
He will also suddenly have a renewed interest in your needs and desires, just like he did when he was getting to know you. This type of behavior is known as hoovering after the Hoover vacuum cleaner. That’s what he’s trying to do – suck you back into his life and his drama.
But hoovering is not the only thing he might do. All throughout your relationship, he’s been emotionally abusing you, and he will use some of those same tools to try to make you doubt your decision. He may use gaslighting, lying, and guilt to make you feel bad about yourself and rethink your ability to make such a big decision.
Additionally, it’s likely he’s been trying to isolate you from friends and family all along, but those efforts will intensify if he fears you might leave. He doesn’t want you to be around anyone who might validate your decision and who really does have your best interest at heart.
Why Don’t You Feel Like You Really Want to Leave?
It’s common for people who are victims of any kind of abuse to blame themselves for the abuse. Moreover, you’re likely somewhat embarrassed that you got yourself into this situation, but while it’s understandable that you might feel that way, it’s not your fault.
Still, many people find it difficult to walk away even when they’re being abused. It may be the case that you can sense the pain of your narcissistic abuser. This is particularly true for empaths. They see through the false image of bravado and see the vulnerable, injured child underneath. They naturally want to help.
It’s also possible that you’ve been isolated from friends and family, you may have financial obligations you don’t think you can fulfill by yourself, or you might share children with your narcissistic husband. All of those factors can play into making it more difficult to walk away.
Narcissists will try to make all of these parts of your reality so that you won’t be able to walk away. This was their goal, and it’s only when you realize your narcissistic husband is unlikely to change that you can start to make the best choices for yourself.
Another factor that comes into play if you’re having trouble leaving is codependency. A codependent person is usually someone who has been abused themselves in their childhood. They are conditioned at a young age to put their own needs aside and focus on keeping other people in their family happy.
This behavior carries over into their adult relationships. This is a great situation for the narcissist, and they will work to encourage that kind of behavior. All of these are some important and understandable reasons why people won’t leave despite significant abuse.
Will Your Narcissistic Husband Ever Change?
Many people fall into the trap of thinking that if they can just say or do the right thing, their narcissistic husband will change. This is a fallacy, and the sooner you accept that, the better it will be for your long-term wellbeing.
It’s not that a narcissist can’t change. With long-term, intense therapy, they can reduce their narcissistic tendencies and develop empathy, but the key to successfully changing is that they have to truly want to change. You cannot change them.
What created their narcissism was significant trauma in childhood, and there is nothing you can say or do that will heal that if they don’t want to change. Many narcissists don’t recognize they have a problem because they externalize blame.
Until your narcissistic husband recognizes the internal shame and self-loathing he has for himself and decides he wants to change that, he will continue to be a narcissist. Even if he does want to change, that will involve consistent, long-term therapy where he will have to closely examine his behavior and the underlying reasons behind it.
Most of the time, narcissists are unwilling to do this, which means that it’s unlikely your narcissistic husband will ever change. Once you accept that, you can at least make an informed decision about how best to proceed.
There are many reasons why your narcissistic husband doesn’t want you to leave. Unfortunately, they are all about how it will affect his image rather than anything to do with his love for you. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you, but his focus is on how a divorce could affect his image of superiority.
If you are considering leaving him, you’ll need to be prepared for that. This article on 5 steps you can take when you’re leaving a narcissistic spouse has important information you need to know. There is a way out and you don’t deserve to be in an intimate relationship with an abusive narcissist.
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