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8 Signs It’s Time to Leave a Relationship With a Narcissist

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8 Signs That It’s Time to Leave a Relationship With a Narcissist JackF/Fotolia

At first, you thought your partner was just overly confident, maybe a little cocky at times. But now after several months or even years, you’re starting to understand the reality — you’re in a relationship with a narcissist.

You’re trying to work things out, but soon you realize that trying is not enough. Should you stay in this relationship or leave before it gets worse?

Two professionals share eight signs of when it’s time to leave a relationship with a narcissist:

1) Your mental health is suffering from being in the relationship.

For example, you may develop depression and anxiety, experience suicidal ideation, or experience health deterioration, according to Ramani Durvasula, a psychologist and author of “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist.”

2) Your self-worth has started to plummet.

Even if you aren’t struggling with noticeable psychiatric symptoms as a result of being with a narcissistic partner, you may notice that you've stopped advocating for yourself or valuing who you are, Durvasula said.

3) If you have children, you may notice they are suffering emotionally.

According to Durvasula, narcissists are generally “on again, off again” parents, which is clearly unstable for children to grow up with. Children can become devastated and confused as a result of the disconnection, neglect, carelessness and coldness of a narcissistic parent or guardian.

4) Your partner may be consistent, but not in a positive way.

Narcissists tend to repeat the same mistakes over again, such as cheating, apologizing and repeating the cheating, Durvasula said. Even if they don’t cheat, they may forget important events like birthdays or anniversaries, and they’re unlikely to change.

5) It’s been a while since you’ve seen family and friends.

Isolation is not only typical in abusive relationships, it’s also common when you have a narcissistic partner, Durvasula said. Narcissists don’t want their partners to have advocates that may turn against them. You may also isolate yourself from others to avoid questions about your relationship, since surely your friends and family have noticed the red flags.

6) Your relationship is one-sided, specifically catering to the narcissist.

For example, a narcissist may mostly share their opinions and talk about themselves, with limited genuine interest in their partner, according to Veronica Swett, a matchmaker at Elite Connections. Basically, if you can’t get in a sentence without your partner trying to steer all the attention back to them, you have a major problem on your hands.

7) If you’re not happy, then leave.

This is the number one piece of advice Swett has for all troubled relationships, not just ones involving a narcissist. It’s unlikely that a relationship with a narcissist with result in much happiness.

8) You’re doing all the hard work in the relationship.

There is no even distribution of work when you have a narcissist on your hands, according to Swett. Since narcissists only really cares about themselves, the only time they will contribute to work is when it benefits them first.

So if you’re going through hard times, don’t expect a narcissist to stick by your side and help you through it. If there is no personal gain in a task, a narcissist will walk away.

Can you think of any warning signs these two professionals missed? Please share in the comments below.

Also, look out for my next article on narcissism in relationships, which will focus on how to move on from a narcissistic partner.


Durvasula, Ramani. Email interview. December 9, 2015.

Swett, Veronica. Email interview. December 10, 2015.

Reviewed December 28, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment14 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I've been married to him for 22 years have 3 children together. 16.19.21. I was 20 and he was 30 when we met. Boy was I right for the pickin... he really swept me off my feet. I had been shielded and sheltered and was so naive.at the same time I was confident and strong. For years prolly 20 I didn't let him get to me for the most part cause he pushed until he seen I was getting ready to leave then he would stop and throw the charm down. I am very strong. Very strong. As from being molested when I was 4 and in 2001 my father was murdered on xmas eve. Just to say a few. Those times make you or break you and I have an awesome Christian family that sees what I'm living in. Their continuous prayers and support and build up have more doubt saved me. But I'm so confused... I thought our life was perfect we had finally worked through all the bullshit. He had just said how happy and blessed he was and he was happy you could see it on his face. Then March 20 this year he did a sudden pivot called me and he hated his life and I was a fu.k up I f'd everything up I was a pill head etc....girls you know the drill... it shook me off my foundation. I was in shock.. broke my heart...I had accidently let him in my heart all the way...I had always kept him at a distance for this reason. AMD instead if it calming down and him apologizing it continued for 9 months! He disposed me. Treated me like some cheap piece of crap dope whore. I changed everything he wanted me too. O took the blame for everything the last 20 years. Didn't help. always before once he seem me cry realized he had hurt me he felt bad and would immediately stop. Not this time he enjoyed it. I had as nervous breakdown and was suicidal still can't believe that could happen to me ...but he didn't care he kept pushing. I think he wanted me to kill myself.. I had a wreck and am in a lot of pain but intuit getting my pain meds just to prove to him I'm not a dope head. Quit cold Turkey let me tell ya it was rough. Ya know what? It didn't matter inwas still lying and conniving over pills behind his back. The last argument a month ago he got me in the car 90 miles an hour screaming punching the steering wheel. Said he wished he never met me. He hated who I had become. Broke my heart again. It's been a constant break for 9 months. When he calmed he would say he don't know who I am..??? With? But his friends wife is a piece of crap dope head for real... he lost something for me. A certain feeling a look in his eyes a touch... and it ain't coming back... something finally broke in me ... and now I'm done...just waiting till after xmas.. see I've adopted a neglected 2 yr old and it's her first real xmas... anyway so he felt my change...I stopped jumping hurtles 24 hours a day and trying to please him. I tried so hard to show him I really did love him and I really wasn't a piece crap dope head....I know lol I'm so stupid...so he realizes I'm over it and I'm gonna leave...the sob...does another 180 pivots and everything is great!!! With? He's sweet nice loving caring...that's just freaky scary right there...I'm not buying this time...cause it may next week next month next year but out of the blue when it's all good the viper will strike again... I just don't know why he changed so much so quick that he crossed the line he would never cross with me and then did some laps around it. I'm confused as to what really happened... what did he do so bad that he needed to justify? It's just so sad that a 22 year marriage is gone over what? Over nothing...nobody cheated... we weren't fighting... it was great. I know he was happy everyone could see it on his face... then suddenly it changed in one day... I'm getting the heck out of here...I've got family friends that love me. I'm very pretty and I know there's plenty of men that would be good to me and if not that's ok too. I'm moving in with my oldest daughter. So I won't be alone. I'll still be with my family. Our kids can't stand him they all move out as soon as they get 18. They can't stand his manipulating overbearing controlling bs. They can't stand what he's done to me. They say why you out up with that you always got a place to go you're coming to live with me. At the moment I've got several enlarged lymph nodes and prolly getting ready to find out I have cancer. Do you think he cared ? Heck no... I can't believe I've let this go on...this ain't like me... but I'm thankful that I woke up thanks to my sis and bf... I can't wait to start my new life...

December 10, 2018 - 10:40am
EmpowHER Guest

Oh god! I am 29 years old and i meet my narrs partner when i was 15 and he was 16! He is the most selfish guy i have ever seen, he cheated on me more than twice and he even beaten me in my face. My mother and my sister convinced me to leave his ass but i never listen to them! Here i am exhausted, with depression at young age. Everything he did was my fault and he made me believe I wasn’t beautiful even though i am really beautiful. He eat my soul and he destroyed me at young age. Thanks god i never married him but it will takr for me time to rebuild my self and my self confidence. I always asked my self why i back to him every time? Why? Why I allowed him to treat me likes this? Why?

October 25, 2017 - 8:44pm
EmpowHER Guest

My story all over again. except I got away and divorced him even though I thought I was madly in love. he would call me names liar, lazy, bitch what ever infront of my girls I never did nothing the girls had chores so instead of it being chores I made them clean the house because I was to lazy. hes never wrong no matter what. I never get a minute to speak. we divorce and then remarried after he convienced me he had changed an had decided to put God first. Things were good for a minute. then it was everything I did was wrong I had a heart attack it was from the stress he had me under but it was my weight and the way I eat. he gets up and eats during the middle of the night. he don't want me spending time with my friend says I never want to spend time with him and no not really all we do is fight. everything is a fight. I put gas in the car and its why do you need gas he watches the bank acct like a hawk all the time called me on spending $2.71 2 different morning at mcdonalds for breakfast before work. I told him the last time I checked my check went in the bank on Friday to. I have become overwhelmed. its a burden to him for me to have the grandchildren over to me its a blessing something I enjoy. he treats me like a child instead of his wife. I don't know what to do. I know my worth in Jesus Christ but I don't feel it do to his constant badgering and manipulation. he says im always gone I chose others over him. but if he has something planned to do he don't care what I do He get up sometimes as early as 3am cause he will have to be at work at 5am I don't get up unitl 5;30 or 6 cause I don't have to be at work til 7:30 he thinks I should get up with him Im exhausted and have been ever since my heart attack last summer. my kids and friend are like you never had all these health issues until I you got with him and now they are all worried. I know what I need to do but im scared to leave him

October 23, 2017 - 9:11am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Oh does these things ring in my ears like a tornado siren!! I left a few weeks ago and he would not stop calling crying, texting, flowers etc...i was not prepared for what lengths he would go to...Im going to go out that door one more time and it will.be permanent. No Contact!! I won't make this mistake again.

November 18, 2017 - 6:08pm
EmpowHER Guest

I left my narc husband a year ago Sept 14, 2016. I've left him before when our son was 7. My son is now 20. We were separated a year. I went back because I saw signs he had changed. WRONG. He just was a able to cloak his sickness in a different wolf package. They are nothing but predators. Really sick. And because I suffer with bipolar disorder and anxiety I was an easy victim. My last mental health hospital stay (I tried to commit suicide) he was so rude to me. He didn't care if I lived or died. I desperately tried to call him before I took the pills to tell him how much I hurt and wanted to die. I told him I was going to kill myself. I wasn't joking. I wasn't crying wolf. I was just praying somehow he would see how desperately I needed him and how adversely his attitude his mental and abusive speech and actions had affected me for two decades. Why don't we believe people when they have shown us time and time again who they are. One poet said When someone shows you who they are believe them!! Well when I called him he said, with as much angst and attitude he could muster "What do you want me to do about it??!!" Now why would I think he would even care. He doesn't even care about our son. Why would he care about me?? I think that's the biggest regret and source of pain I have--I stayed too long and my son has suffered the most. My baby boy has been through so much ugly. We were both victims. But I should have taken my son and left years before. Whenever I don't follow my first mind I REGRET IT!! I saw the handwriting on the wall when our son was 6 months old. I was going to leave then. I should have left. But I allowed my mother in law to talk me out of it. I wanted to keep my family intact so badly. Plus I was not fully aware of his sickness. But something in me said LEAVE. Now 22 years later I see he is a narcissist and there s no cure. So I say to all the victims--it's NOT GOING TO GET ANY BETTER. YOUR MATE IS NOT REPEAT IS NOT GOING TO GET BETTER. THEY ARE ILL. THEY DONT KNOW THEY ARE ILL. BUT THEY ARE. IT ISNT YOU. I thought because of my illness it was all my fault. They want you to believe they. He was "gas lighting" me. Making me think I was the main "crazy" one. He would actually tell me about an event or something he did. If I expressed my displeasure of his actions he would retell the story a totally different way. I would tell him that's not what you just said. He would look at me with this "puzzled" look on his face and say "That's exactly what I just said." Like I'm a fool!! He relished making me feel stupid sad frustrated. He made everything in our home convenient for him. No one else. My son and I got the crumbs that he left over. He loved football. I mean it was his second wife. He would say Well get ready it's football season. You know you're the less loved wife from mid Augus to the super bowl. He would plant himself in front of the tube all day all afternoon into the late hours. Sat & Sun. Then Mon night. Thurs night. I couldn't talk to him unless it was commercial. For years I tried to watch it with him so we could "bond". But he wouldn't even sit on the sofa with me. He sat in the MAN CHAIR with his feet up and I was on the couch. But he would ask if I'd like to have a "quickie" during half time?? I had to attend weddings alone. Gatherings alone. And he wouldn't let me get another tv for our bedroom so my son and I could watch anything. I don't want another tv in this house. I stood up to him and told him I was gonna buy one. He said he'd thrown up out the window!! Now that my son and I have our own places, every time we even hear the sound of a game we cringe and become ill. Football was just another weapon he used to emotionally abuse me. And our son too. Finally he forced me out of our home. He would never leave because that would make him look too bad. But he knew I was past my breaking point. So he just kept putting the pressure on me until I left. In order to save myself I left. My son did too.
People who are in this situation as victims--save yourself and esp your babies. Your mate is not going to change. They won't be happy with you no matter what you do. Why? Because they are sick, ruined by someone probably during their early childhood. Please believe me I sold myself to the Devil to make him happy. I lost myself. I almost lost my life literally several times because of his abuse. People would always remind him of my emotionally fragile state. He didn't care. He didn't give a damn!!! He didn't care about me or his son. He doesn't care about anyone but himself. Now he just whines about how I've given up on our marriage. I left him. I deserted the union. Well now he has what he wants. He's alone. His money time everything is all his. I heard he may have a new woman in his life. I don't even care. If it's true poor her. Poor poor her. I hope she sees him for what he is sooner than I did. Over 20 years was too long to suffer. Now my depression & anxiety are under control. I'm using less medicine. I'm losing weight. Eating better. Learning to love the things I'd forgotten I love. Helping my son with his residual problems from years of abuse. Yes, there is a life after leaving a narcissist.

September 20, 2016 - 4:26pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Your post made me cry. I'm living almost the same way now. Tho we are not married thank God but have a 2 year old son and have been together 5 years now. In the beginning all my alarms went off but I ignored them for some reason. I thought, he loves me he can't be that bad I must just be nervous, nope he is that bad but I'm aging such and hard time leaving him. I'll try to talk to him and bout how he's hurting me and he says he's not and I'm dramatic. If I bring up a time that he was wrong he'll tell me that I dwell on the past and he's moved forward (meaning he's ignoring his actions) or he'll casually make up and complete and utter lie and tell me that's how it went and that he'll go to his grave defending that lie. I have never been wit and no-one who's been able to make me feel so bad andnnyoneble bout myself but also during good moments make me feel so good about myself. It's driving me insane. I just want I'm to see just one thing he's doing that hurts me. Just one. But I guess in 5 years he's never done anything wrong. I try to explain how illogical that it as we are human and not perfect and make mistakes so for him to have never been wrong is ridiculous. But no I'm he one who's always either wrong or I'm he reason he did what he did so it's my fault he did it.

October 14, 2017 - 10:13am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Thank you for posting your comment. Reading your words made me feel like you may have been spying on my 13 year relationship with my NPD/ BPD wife.
Aside from the advice in the actual post your words really resonated with me. I have also recently come to many of the same conclusions about the finality and futility of remaining in my marriage.
I have physically, mentally, and emotionally gone through many of the negative changes associated with being in a long term relationship with a personality disordered person. I, like you, wish I would have listened to my intuition when I noticed the initial warning signs and gotten out earlier. So much time has been lost and severe damage done to me and my children over the years and all in an effort to keep my family intact. I realize now that the trade off for keeping the family together is not worth the price of subjecting me and my kids to dysfunctional behavior.
I love my wife but I've come to fully embrace the fact that mental illness is real and I cannot "fix" her. I am not her "God". I hope at some point she gets help but from the research I've done those odds are "slim to none". In any regard, my children need me to be the voice of reason so that will require me focusing on making my needs a priority. I hope to be out soon and living independently of my wife.

February 9, 2017 - 10:13pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Did you get out? How are you? I am in a truly dysfunctional relationship with a narcissist. We have 3 young kids and they are so confused by what she says to draw attention to herself. I know I need to shield them from this negativity but haven't been able to do it yet. I fear that dealing with her from arm's reach will be even harder than dealing with her face-to-face.

September 14, 2017 - 10:27am
EmpowHER Guest

Only people who've been in a relationship wih a narc know how incredibly destructive they are.
It's not about getting them help. They don't want it. They don't think they need it.

Leaving a narc is the greatest (yet most difficult) thing anyone could do for themselves. These people are manipulative, and cruel. They're deceptive and know exactly who to target. They aren't anyone's project to fix.

Anyone who has had the misfortune of being with a narc knows it all too well. One must love and respect themselves enough to leave a situation once they understand the gravity of what is being done to them.
Narc abuse isn't something one simply gets over. The aftermath is terrible. This is why one must "up and leave"... It literally is either your sanity and life on the line.

April 6, 2016 - 12:17pm
EmpowHER Guest

Anyone whos ever been in a "relationship" with a Narc knows there is nothing cute or humorous about their situation. Narcs are brutally verbally abusive, always do it while others are home to hear him call you a thief, a liar, an ungrateful bitch as he goes on without taking a breath, and ignoring your attempts to defend yourself by never letting you utter a syllable, looking off in another direction often with his eyes closed as he screams so that he can focus on what cruel lies he wants to come out of his mouth that he knows you cant counter though you try with all your might. Its non stop for 30-45 minutes for him.. all you can do is cry.. and look away .. hoping maybe he'll realize hes gone too far again and stop .. that is .. once youve given up trying to interrupt or make him stop, looking at him with your eyes so full of tears you can barely see his silhouette youre painted as the worst, most useless, worthless, thankless, selfish, hated thieving liar that ever walked the earth. Ive noticed hes been asking me questions about work, my mom, my best friend and taking my words and twisting them into unbelievable hurtful lies and screaming them at me, with my uncle (who lives here following a stroke) 5 ft away. He says my hest friend of 38 yrs isnt talking to me and laughs .. he scream that im a piece of shit daughter for abandoning my poor helpless mom (she has a bf. He moved in.) He doesnt allow me to work. Before i met him i was at my job with CBS for 13 yrs. Because of that i was able to land several great jobs .. i have mysteriously been relieved of my duties with each of them. I was selected for a job with the City .. was taking part in 4 weeks of training. Because i could not bring myself to bave sex with him with his repeated humiliation, i was made to.sleep in my car.. he came outside it was dark and cold .. he laughed as he looked at me from the front door and said "boy its cold out here too bad you wont have a blanket and btw .. move to the street i dont want anyone seeing you on the driveway. I hadnt even changed out of my work clothes. The next morning i was still in those same clothes. He would not let me in the house. I went to work in the same clothes, whatever makeup was still on my face..i stopped at a gas station to rinse out my mouth as best i could .. i didnt have a brush but was able to at least put my hair in a ponytail. I arrived before class started..took my seat (5 students 1 trainer) felt phsychologically and physically beaten .. i couldnt stay awake .. i froze all night in my car .. i do t know whether anyone noticed my outfit was the same or not.. he asked if we would be having sex that night when i pulled in the driveway after work. I said "i cant" .. he screamed "no you CAN nothing preventing you from FIng me ots that you WONT .. Again i slept in my car.. it was the 3rd day in the same clothes im sure it was noticeable .. my hair .. unwashed (but wiped) face .. again falling asleep during training .. the City let me go. I waited 8 1/2 months for that job. Of course he had nothing to do with it and all i do is blame other people for everything bad that happens in my life .. bad things didnt used to happen or rarely but certainly never repeated job loss .. now i no longer have my impeccable 13 yr career with CBS .. former co workers have been hearing of my multiple firings .. im afraid to ask any of them to be a reference for me .. ive used the same ones for the last several jobs ..which i have lost .. i cant bring myself to ask them to put their reputations on the line again for me. I have to get out of this situation but i have to have income to do it .. he wants me to be beholden to him and ill be damned if thats going to happen. So as i said theres nothing even remotely solid, structured healthy, supportive, stable or funny about NPD ASPD HPD Psychopathy any way u slice it .. i am no where near the human being that ive been all my life. Im ruined. And no they really ARENT ppl who deserve help. A little research and youll see that a narc knows exactly what hes doing. Thats why he does it. He needs to be the center of attn .. hes the criminally minded unethical monster who mirrors all of his own traits onto you to take suspicion and the spotlight off himself and onto you. And to the uninformed it works .. you are portrayed as the heartless monster with zero empathy and zero conscience for anyone especially your current victim im liz

March 4, 2016 - 4:32am
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