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Trapped In Their Web – Why Narcissists Won't Let Their Victims Go

Written by: Lisa Sonni, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is emotionally exhausting and mentally draining. Narcissists have an insatiable need for attention and praise, and seek it out through various ways, like manipulating and controlling others or boasting about their achievements to anyone who’ll listen. They thrive on attention, admiration, and adoration. So, it's not surprising that once they've secured someone as their supply, they become manipulative, controlling, and emotionally abusive.


A young woman looking anxious and fearful.

But when the victims try to leave, the narcissist often won't let them go. Why is that?


Narcissistic Supply

In simple terms, narcissistic supply is a term used to describe the attention, admiration, and validation that someone with narcissistic tendencies craves from others. They have an insatiable need for attention and praise, and they view their romantic partners as objects that provide them with this supply. They don't see their partners as humans with their own feelings and needs, but rather as things that exist solely to serve them.


This is why they're often so charming and charismatic in the beginning of a relationship ‒ they're trying to win over their partner's affection and devotion. They are building your trust and creating a dependency on them for love, approval, and validation. Once they've secured you as their supply, their behavior changes drastically. They become manipulative, controlling, and emotionally abusive, but they'll still expect you to continue providing them with the supply they need.


Narcissistic Fragility

Leaving a narcissist means that they lose their source of supply, and they internalize that as a failure. Narcissists have an incredibly fragile sense of self, and they need others to constantly validate them in order to feel good about themselves. To a narcissist, being left by their victim feels like a personal failure, a blow to their self-esteem, and a confirmation that they are not as special or powerful as they believe themselves to be. It can also trigger feelings of shame and inadequacy ‒ that’s intolerable for them. They feel rejected, and that devastates their sense of self ‒ which is all about being perfect, superior, deserving of special treatment and worthy. They will go to great lengths to protect their self-image and to avoid you leaving ‒ because your departure is a threat to their ego.


Defensive and Protective Behavior

Narcissists have an intense fear of shame and failure, and that leads them to be extremely defensive and protective of their self-image. They will go to great lengths to avoid anything that could be perceived as a criticism ‒ including the idea of you leaving them. As a result, narcissists are not ok with the idea of you leaving, even if it means they have to resort to manipulative or abusive tactics to keep you around.


They may try to control or sabotage your efforts to leave, by gaslighting, guilt-tripping, or threatening you. They also idealize you one minute and devalue you the next, in an attempt to keep you off balance and dependent on their approval.


Why Victims Stay or Go Back

So, why can't victims of narcissistic abuse just leave? There are many reasons why leaving a narcissistic relationship can be incredibly difficult. For one, the victim may have become emotionally and psychologically dependent on the narcissist for validation and approval. The narcissist may have also isolated the victim from friends and family, leaving them with no support system to turn to.


Leaving a narcissist can be incredibly dangerous. Narcissists may become violent or threatening when they feel that their supply is being threatened, and they may use tactics like stalking or harassment to maintain control over their victims.


Victims of narcissistic abuse may struggle to leave because they have been conditioned to believe that they are the problem in the relationship. Narcissists gaslight their victims, making them question their own reality and causing them to doubt their own perceptions of the abuse. This can lead victims to feel like they are the ones who need to change or that they are responsible for the abuse they are experiencing.


Narcissists won't let their victims go because they need their supply, feel entitled to their attention and admiration, and have a fragile sense of self that can't handle rejection. Leaving a narcissist can be incredibly difficult because victims may have become emotionally and psychologically dependent on the narcissist, may have no support system to turn to, and may fear for their safety. It's important for victims of narcissistic abuse to understand that they are not the problem and that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Seeking help from a therapist, coach or support group can be a crucial step in breaking free from a narcissistic relationship and reclaiming one's sense of self. If you are struggling in this kind of relationship, you can set up a meeting with me at strongerthanbefore.ca or enroll in my 12-week self-paced program called the Trauma Bond Recovery Course.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and visit my website for more info!


 

Lisa Sonni, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lisa Sonni is a survivor of domestic assault and narcissistic abuse, and her first hand experience led her to where she is today ‒ a certified Relationship Coach specializing in abuse education and trauma bond recovery. She helps clients from all walks of life overcome challenges stemming from traumatic partnerships. She is the author of the Trauma Bond Recovery Course, The Trauma Bond Recovery Journal, and Rebuilding After A Trauma Bond: A Self-Love Journal, as well as a popular content creator known as Stronger Than Before across all social media platforms.

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