Dear Avalanche: “Maybe I just don’t have the strength to get out”

A woman feels that something is holding her back from leaving her narcissistic husband of 20 years.

Julianna posted on Feel the fear and leave an abusive relationship anyway. Hearing that this articulate, informed lady is struggling to escape more than 20 years of narcissistic abuse, resonated deeply with me.

Julianna: I have survived for over 20 years, so why not put up with it for more

Photo by takomabibelot

Photo by takomabibelot

“I made the decision that I can no longer live in the mind destroying abusive relationship that I am in with a pathological narcissist almost 1 year ago. I have sought support and received it from almost every possible source there is – both professional and personal. I have been told clearly and directly that I need to get out. I know and understand that the relationship is seriously detrimental and potentially dangerous to me.

“I hear it all, I understand it all but there is something holding me back. Having come so far, I now feel like I just can’t cross that line – and I can’t even identify what the hell holds me back. Is it fear, guilt, lack of confidence… who knows?

“I feel like my resolve is down and am considering making an executive decision to stay and just abort everything I have done so far and go back into the abusive bubble I have lived in for so long.

“My mindset at the moment is that I have put up with it and survived for over 20 years so why not put up with it for more. I have nothing to look forward to if I leave – nothing – no money, no home, nothing except a life of hardship. At least while I am here I have a roof over my head, financial support and a modicum of normality. In saying all of that it makes me feel like such a loser and that I am beyond help.

“This is way too hard and maybe I just don’t have the strength to get out. For all the success stories out there, I am sure there are just as many unsuccessful ones. Naturally, I am more than likely speaking like this because my NPD [Narcissistic Personality Disorder] husband has been “good” over the past few days. This always happens and just attests to my own weakness. Seriously, this is all doing my head in and I wish I could just erase it all. I seriously don’t think I can do it, despite really wanting to. Wanting and doing are two different things.”

Avalanche: Please don’t give up

Twenty years is a long time to have lived with a Narcissist. It’s therefore natural that you feel the way you do, and that his abuse seems normal. After all, it’s been part of the fixtures and fittings of your life for two decades. A significant trauma-bond has likely formed, and your abuser is reinforcing this by his ‘good/bad’ behaviour pattern.

You may feel exhausted and hopeless (I know I did, after a much shorter time living with abuse). What you are experiencing may be symptomatic of C-PTSD. This makes us feel that there is no hope of escape, but it is treatable.

You are right to point out that  for every success story, there are many more where people have not been able to escape. At my own local domestic violence support group, over half of the women on the programme are still living with their abuser. We can assume that many more women haven’t even made it to that stage.

Some  claim learned-helplessness as the reason that abused women stay. I don’t buy that at all. Most of the survivors that I have met have actively managed the abuse. Of those that are currently choosing to stay, their decision-making is rational (though damaging).

You, Julianna, are in a strong position to be one of those that do get out. You are not a loser, and nor are you beyond help. In fact, you have achieved much to be proud of.

You have sought support from all avenues, and are fully aware of the destructive nature of your relationship with this man. You are able to see a life without him in it, and that in itself is a huge milestone in the journey out.

Photo by FreeD

Photo by FreeD

What’s more, you have successfully identified the challenges to be overcome. They are not brick-clad barriers, but rather obstacles to be demolished or climbed over.

For example, you mention fears over financial security. You may wish to look at ways to achieve more financial-independence. If you haven’t done so already, contact your local domestic violence service to find out if you are eligible for any grants or hardship loans that may give you a safety-cushion away from your abuser. You don’t say if you have any other means of support – for example, trusted family or friends that could offer you a place to stay, or a job.

Finally, Julianna, please know that – despite his attempts to emotionally cripple you and leech away your future – you are far stronger than your abuser. That’s why he works so hard to convince you believe otherwise. You have come so far. Please don’t give up.

Take care and be safe.

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Are you struggling to close the door on your abuser? Do you have advice to share with Julianna and others in a similar position? Please share.

ALSO SEE: Information on disengaging from abuse, permanently, in Escaping Abuse.

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14

5 responses to “Dear Avalanche: “Maybe I just don’t have the strength to get out”

  1. Abusers are often first identified as our husbands, our fathers, our mothers, our families. The abuse is not every day. It’s a mistake. It’s because of pressures. It’s explained away. We know they are weak, that’s why they do things that are wrong. We are the strong ones, holding everything together. We can endure. We love despite imperfections, we made vows, we have biblical obligations to love and honor. No one supports the victim, other than to pay lip service. No one is there to hold our hands when we cry late at night in the dark. It takes strength to leave, but it also takes selfishness, ruthless tearing away of years of love, devotion and connection. Family is part of our very fiber, their words are written on the synapses in our brains. I feel so sad when people criticize those who stay. It’s so complex, so difficult to walk away from family and stay away. And yet, anyone who has walked away, will tell you it was the right thing.


    • Thank you for making a really powerful point, Brenda. I haven’t yet come across anyone who found it easy to walk away.

      Sometimes it is fear that keeps us there, sometimes it is practical things like a shared home, but most often it is the emotional ties. It is hard to walk away from someone in whom you have invested so much of your life.

      To walk away takes strength, and survivors have learned to be strong.


  2. @strongsoulsurvivor. It is NEVER easy to walk away from an abuse, emotionally destructive relationship. Yes, shared home, children, have to be considered- but the shared ‘home’ is as void of love as the person abusing you. It takes a great deal of strength to get away- and you have to love YOURSELF, more than the abuser to start the process of getting away.


    • Hi Tela – that’s absolutely right and thank you for pointing out that loving ourselves is important. It is often hard for us to put ourselves first.

      Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship has been conditioned to put their abuser first in all things – even when we don’t realise that we are doing it – but that can be changed 🙂


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