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Why is it so hard to leave a narcissistic spouse?

Narcissisitic-spouse.jpgOne of the hallmarks of a narcissistic spouse is that they start out as a loving partner. They may have even put you on a pedestal for a time.

Then, suddenly, you can do no right. You find yourself walking on eggshells. You feel guilty all the time because everything you do seems to upset them. Further, your attempts to communicate fall apart because your spouse seems to think that the problem is all yours -- and that you are not understanding and sympathetic enough.

Just when you've had enough and you know that you can't take any more, your spouse flips the script. They're sorry, and they're back to acting like the loving spouse you remember. You're drawn right back in.

The problem is that it never lasts. It becomes a vicious cycle that takes you to the brink of divorce and then pulls you back with the promise that things will change. Since physical abuse is seldom involved, you convince yourself that things aren't really that bad.

Psychologists say that narcissists have essentially a perfected a knack for what is known as intermittent reinforcement. Once they get someone to bond with them (through all that showered attention and love at the beginning), they will withdraw their affections and then dole them out without a predictable pattern. This has the victimized spouse constantly seeking to please the narcissist -- even if there's rarely (or never) any reward for their efforts.

Stockholm Syndrome is another reason that it can be so hard to leave a narcissist. Like hostages who have become dependent on their captors, the victimized spouse starts to overinflate the value of what should be normal behavior. Any sign of approval or affection is given magnified value.

If you believe that you're in a relationship with a narcissist, it's important to get therapy so that you can first find your footing and reclaim your sense of self. Then you can prepare for the onslaught of emotional abuse that's likely to come when the narcissist realizes that you won't fall for the same games anymore.

The divorce process in Texas can be complicated. The stronger your emotional foundation is when you start the process, the easier you'll come through it in the end.

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Accolades & Achievements

Brandon, Karen, Michael, Megan and Laura Are Proud To Have Achieved The Following Legal Accolades for Exemplary Legal Service.

*Karen Marvel was recognized in Texas Monthly in 2008-2019 as a Texas Super Lawyer by Texas Super Lawyers (a Thomson Reuters service)

**Karen Marvel is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization