Recovery from a relationship with a narcissist can be a long road. I have many clients who have been through the nightmarish reality of healing from the abuse of a narcissist.
It is rare that I have a narcissist as a client, because they almost never think they are the problem. The handful I have had, stopped working with me almost immediately upon having to come face to face with their story. Once a narcissist encounters a shaman, therapist or healer who calls them out on their story, they project their story into the therapist/healer and blame them. They look for fault anywhere but within themselves. They question the capabilities of the therapist the minute the therapist/shaman/healer points to the narcissist as the potential cause for the problems.
Narcissists don't want healing, they want people who support their toxicity. That's why they almost never have very close friends, the "friends" they have are mostly opposite sex friends (easier for them to manipulate using classic narcissist tactics, including sex), who support their toxicity.
It's important to have practical examples in order to understand the deceptive nature of the narcissist in order to extricate yourself from the situation.
One example is a woman, let's call her Mara*. At the more serious end of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, she manipulated the men in her life using sex.
She met her husband while he was still married, as was she, had an affair, both marriages broke up and she married "Tom". While married to Tom, she had affairs with several other men including subordinates and superiors at her workplace. When her advances were rejected by a superior (who feared losing his job AND was able to spot her disorder) she became despondent and depressed at first, but then enraged and vengeful.
Later, when she was passed over for a promotion, it was as if a hornets nest was kicked over. She felt entitled.
Entitlement is another hallmark of a narcissist. She was envious of the woman who "took" what she thought was her job. Not only was she hateful towards that woman, she had extreme anger towards her superior who she believed should have "fought for her", the same guy who had rejected her advances.
Narcissists are abusers, though they do not see it that way. In their distorted minds they believe that they are the victims in every situation, which puts them forever on the defensive.
Narcissists objectify people—people are only considered valuable for what they can give the Narcissist in the moment. Devoid of empathy Narcissists feel entitled to treat others however they want to without remorse. It's never them, they see themselves as the perpetual victim.
That's how a narcissist can treat their marriage so callously, while continuing to rely on a spouse for emotional or financial support. Narcissists often "keep their options open", as in the case of Mara who said she would leave her husband in a heartbeat if her boss would give in to her advances. Narcissists don't know how to love. What they describe as love is the extent to which another person serves their increasing needs.
Many times a narcissist doesn't even try to hide the infidelity. After a while, they tell the story that the spouse "pushed them away". The narcissist doesn't believe that the decision to step out of a marriage is 100% the responsibility of the person stepping out if the marriage. They blame the partner for not meeting their needs.
Serial and chronic infidelity is a hallmark of the narcissist, because they believe they can do what they want and others should just take it. And the reality is, partners and spouses of narcissists often DO take it. They are too ashamed, and in a place of incredibly low self-esteem, to walk away.
The narcissist brilliantly places the blame for their own behavior onto their partner, their parent, their friend, or even their therapist or teacher.
So although they have a long history of leaving a trail of wreckage behind them, narcissists can even find fault in someone they've known for 5 minutes. Their story is always that someone "betrayed" them, abandoned them, harmed them. There is never any acknowledgment that their life is a mess precisely because THEY created the mess.
Boundaries. They have none. A narcissist believes she/he is entitled to invade your life, your personal space, your workplace, even your marriage. They abuse your time, your kindness, and your generosity. They don't hear you when you express boundaries, because to the narcissist, they can do what they want without consequence.
Should you choose to divorce a narcissist, be cautious. Ross Rosenberg, author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us, says "Narcissists have a huge fear of abandonment. So the very essence of divorce triggers their deepest fear, giving way to narcissistic injury, which is a perceived threat to his self-worth. Once the injury occurs, narcissistic rage then ensues, which is then excreted into the entire divorce process."
According to Rosenberg, "All of their rage, hatred and contempt, which was perpetrated on them in their childhood, is projected onto another person."
Add that to the fact that a certain percentage of people with NPD also have sociopathic traits, and it could be a recipe for a disaster.
I am writing this for any of you who are survivors of Narcissistic abuse. It is important to get help, and nearly impossible to heal from the deep trauma of this kind of abuse without a great support system. The best support comes from those who understand NPD inside and out.
Narcissistic abuse ALWAYS takes place behind closed doors while the Narcissist charms everyone else, so very few will ever see the Narcissist for who s/he truly is, besides you.
One of the tragedies of Narcissistic abuse is that the victim is often seen as the abuser and the abuser seen as the victim, when it couldn't be farther from the truth. In Mara's case, everyone blamed Tom. He was seen as the bad guy, the big bad wolf and she portrayed herself as the victim. So skilled at this manipulation that almost everyone bought it.
I encourage you to seek whatever type of help resonates with you, either spiritual, psychological or physical, or perhaps all three.
*names and circumstances have been changed and example is for illustrative purposes only.