Why It’s So Hard to Walk Away From a Narcissist

How does someone go from having a stable, happy life to being a wreck? Of course, there are many possible answers. One possibility that is not talked about enough involves narcissism. Getting into a relationship with a Narcissist can consume your life. You feel love for them but can’t understand how they can treat you so poorly.  It becomes an obsession. You do everything you can to “fix” things but nothing works. Nothing seems to make them happy. You’ve even tried to leave — several times. But just a few kind words from them bring you back. You could be dealing with Narcissistic Trauma Bonding and Couples Therapy might be the solution!

How Narcissist Trauma Bonding Impacts You

Sometimes our defense mechanisms can work against us. Whenever a human feels threatened, they naturally seek out those with whom they are bonded. It’s a hard-wired way to find protection. But this response is dangerous when the person you’re bonded with is also the person who is making you feel insecure. This is called Narcissistic Trauma Bonding. It usually happens in seven stages:

Stage 1: The Narcissist in your life begins by bombarding you with praise and compliments. This is often called “love-bombing.”

Stage 2: The praise you get leads you to trust them. This transitions into you feeling dependent on them for validation.

Stage 3: Slowly but surely, the love-bombing decreases. It is replaced with criticisms and demands. You tolerate this in the hope that the praise will return.

Stage 4: When the love-bombing remains withheld, you ask about it. The Narcissist responds by gaslighting you. It’s your fault. If only you’d do what they tell you, you’d be happy again. You begin to doubt your own perceptions.

Stage 5: In an attempt to get back to Stage 1, you give in even more. Their control of you is nearly complete.

Stage 6: No matter how much you surrender, the demands increase. So does the abuse. You’re left feeling lost. Your self-esteem is shattered.

Stage 7: You try to leave but can’t. You’ve built your life around the Narcissist. It feels like an addiction and all you can think about is getting back to Stage 1.

Why It’s So Hard to Walk Away From Them

Like any source of addiction, the Narcissist can make you feel better than you’ve ever felt. Who doesn’t want to feel calm, content, euphoric, or on top of the world? Once you experience it, you’ll sacrifice just about anything to get it back. Even when the addictive person sends you crashing down, all you can think about is returning to the top.

During the love bombing stage, you feel interesting, sexy, and important. From such a seemingly safe space, you feel as if you’ve found the ideal situation. You begin to trust them more and more. You don’t realize that this is making it easier for them to manipulate you.

  • They turn on the charm to secure your dependence on them
  • The more you fall for them, the less work they put into seducing you
  • When you feel them pulling away, you respond by running after them
  • With their help, you blame yourself for any problems you experience
  • Like someone addicted to drugs or alcohol or gambling, you crave the “high”
  • Part of you knows you should leave. But how can you when you’ve experienced the nirvana of relationships?

Good news: You can change your life. But you’ll need the help of a skilled professional. We’ve worked with many people in similar situations in the Denver area. There will be hard work. There will be struggling. Still, you can break the cycle.  Please read more about couples therapy on our Couples Counseling specialty page.   Let’s connect for a free consultation and talk about it.


Getting Started With Couples Counseling in the Denver area

We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. We offer both in-person and online couples counseling at our offices in Lakewood and Longmont Colorado. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with.  We look forward to hearing from you!