Ending Emotional Abuse: 12 Tips for Leaving a Narcissist or Psychopath

Updated on April 26, 2019
Karli McClane profile image

Karli writes as a therapeutic outlet and with the hope that her articles will be useful to others who have suffered psychological abuse.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing


Love or Stockholm syndrome?

I am not a licensed mental health practitioner. My advice comes from having lived with a psychopath for several years and from my husband's experience with divorcing a borderline personality disordered individual. When I originally drafted this article, Valentine’s Day was coming up, and this was meant to be a humorous post that called attention to a serious subject. It gradually morphed into an advice article. People who have survived toxic relationships can, understandably, have difficulty finding much humor in the ordeal.

There’s a big difference between love and Stockholm syndrome. Love is given freely, by choice. In the case of psychopaths, you do not “love” them for their “good side”, because they do not have a good side. That’s a mask they wear, an act. Understanding this is key to successfully escaping, staying gone, and learning how to avoid abusive personalities in the future.

Just to be clear, I’m not knocking romantic relationships. I just want people to be sure that the person they become involved with is a decent human being who is capable of love, empathy, compassion, etc. and not a controlling, manipulative, gold-digging, soul-sucking ghoul. Abuse is not limited to violence; it can be verbal and psychological. Emotional scars sometimes run much deeper than physical ones.

NOTE I have a tendency to point out women abusing men. This is because it DOES happen, and I want to make people aware of it. I think that women get away with more, because people don’t want to believe that we are capable of doing any real damage to another. The truth is though, men and women alike can be victims.

Have you ever been in a toxic relationship?

Did you leave one?

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Committing to A Sociopath: Your Initiation Into Insanity

Exchanging vows is supposed to be an act of devotion between two equal partners who have each others’ best interests at heart and want to grow & change with each other for as long as they have in this existence. And it can be. But not if your partner is a sociopath. Ah, they can be so charming at first. They can convince you that they are the best thing to ever happen to you, the answer to your prayers, everything you could ever hope for in a mate. But if their mask of sanity hasn’t slipped a time or two before you marry them, it inevitably will come all the way off sometime afterward.

These highly dysfunctional monsters rarely ever say what they mean, and wedding vows are no exception. When you marry a personality disorder, you may as well vow to sacrifice your own health and to acquiesce to her every demand until she grows tired of you or until you drop dead, because that's basically how she interprets your legal commitment. I now pronounce you victim and succubus. You may kiss the beast.

Thinking about leaving your abusive partner?


1. PLAN YOUR ESCAPE Seek out a qualified attorney, do everything you can to protect your money and property, and basically just get everything in order.

2. COVER YOUR TRACKS If your abuser finds out that you are attempting to leave, there will be hell to pay. Do not do any research (regarding your exit strategy, psychopaths, sociopaths, personality disorders, etc.) on a shared computer, be sure to delete texts and phone calls from any attorneys, accountants or therapists you are in contact with.

3. TELL TRUSTED FRIENDS AND RELATIVES THAT YOU ARE PLANNING TO LEAVE YOUR TOXIC MATE Tell only those whom you are certain will not side with your abuser. These people will be your support network.

4. EXIT AS PEACEFULLY AS POSSIBLE If at all possible, take your personal belongings and get out while your mate is not home. Otherwise, have one or more of your support group with you to act as a witness. If your spouse has violent tendencies, it’s probably a good idea to have a police officer present while you gather your belongings.

5. REMAIN CALM IN FRONT OF YOUR KIDS Whether you have to leave them with your spouse, or whether you are the one taking them, do not lose your cool. Especially if your abuser becomes a drama queen or maniac.

6. CONSIDER TELLING YOUR BOSS Once you remove yourself from your crazy clown, be prepared for that person to try to sabotage your life. Getting you fired (by calling repeatedly, slandering you, making threats, etc.) will be one of the first routes they take, so you may want to warn your boss.

Relationship Red Flags (Humorous, but Useful)

When Exiting Dysfunction


1. ALLOW THEM TO PROVOKE YOU They love to push our buttons, but try to disengage as much as possible. You don’t want to wind up blurting out that you are planning on leaving. That would be very bad.

2. BE MANIPULATED It’s very possible they’ll sense something is up, and they will try to get it out of you any way they can. If they sense you pulling away from them, they will do everything in their power to reel you back in. Do not fall for the look-how-sweet-I-can-be routine. It’s an act.

3. BE COWED BY ANY THREATS OF SUICIDE This may very well happen right after your departure. It’s usually nothing more than a pathetic attempt to guilt you back into the unhealthy relationship. However, if you are concerned, call 911.

4. GO BACK TO YOUR CONTROL FREAK BECAUSE THEY THREATEN TO HARM YOUR CHILDREN OR RUN AWAY WITH THEM This is so common and so sad. Call the police. Besides, if your partner is capable of harming their own children, how do you know they won’t harm all of you, once you return?

5. BE ASHAMED TO SEEK HELP FROM A QUALIFIED THERAPIST Depending on how long you were constrained by your personality disordered partner, you could have some deep seated issues that you need to resolve. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t wind up attached to another one of these crazy people. Also, there’s a good chance you’ll be feeling some emotions that you had to keep suppressed for a very long time, and you might not know how to handle them.

6. FORGET TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF Many people in abusive relationships neglect their own needs, always putting their abuser first. With your newly earned freedom, you can start a fitness routine, eat healthier, sleep better, watch what you want on t.v., read the books that interest you, spend time with friends and relatives you may not have seen in a while, make new friends of your own, take up a new hobby, the sky’s the limit!

Set Yourself Free

People stay in toxic relationships for all sorts of reasons. Some of the most common ones are fear for their own safety, fear of losing their children, and fear of losing belongings and finances. Seek legal counsel, and find out what your options are. It's also helpful to talk to a therapist, if you can find a good one whom you feel comfortable with. Come up with a solid escape plan that you can gradually put into action. Most importantly, make sure your significant other remains unaware of your plans and any contact you've had with lawyers and therapists.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Karli McClane


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    2 years ago

    I am still very confused with my own relationship i know is toxic but i just do not get the streght to go...

  • Karli McClane profile imageAUTHOR

    Karli McClane 

    3 years ago from USA

    Ah, I remember that movie; you are correct about the title. Thank you so much for taking time to read my article.

  • grand old lady profile image

    Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

    3 years ago from Philippines

    This is a very interesting article with lots of compelling information. I also think your practical list of things to do is fantastic. It reminds me of this movie that starred Julia Roberts, I think it was Sleeping With the Enemy.

  • Jay C OBrien profile image

    Jay C OBrien 

    4 years ago from Houston, TX USA

    All good advice, especially about getting a good lawyer. My viewpoint is from that of a child. My mother married a paranoid schizophrenic had my brother, then me and then got divorced. My brother is also paranoid schizophrenic.

    My mother then married a war veteran who had PTSD and eventually divorced him due to abuse. It is not nice to shoot at people in the house.

    I learned to observe people carefully and keep my mouth shut. I also learned to analyze people and their fundamental assumptions. I got a J.D. and am a retired peace officer. My upbringing with mentally ill people made me uniquely qualified to do my job as a peace officer.

  • fpherj48 profile image


    4 years ago from Carson City

    Excellent step by step instructions for anyone about to exit an abusive relationship. Leaving is the best decision they can make, but the the rest of it is vitally important to keep you and your children safe!

    There IS help. There IS support and best of all, there is life...a better life after an ugly situation. Bravo ....great hub. Peace, Paula


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