Scary is having your son’s 1st grade teacher ask you if there are problems at home that might explain your son’s nervous tic.

Scary is loosing contact with family and friends because your husband doesn’t like you to keep in touch over the phone or have company come for dinner.

Scary is not being able to sleep because you fear the treatment you’ll receive the next day because you will – once again – disappoint him and fail to meet his expectations.

Scary is believing that you have done something to bring about the treatment you are receiving.

Scary is staring out the window while sipping the morning’s first cup of coffee and realizing that the emptiness you feel every day is what you are going to feel for the rest of your life, if you don’t get out of this situation.

Scary is realizing you have forgotten who you are.

Scary is finally getting the courage to write him a letter explaining your fears and desperation, only to have him tell you that the issues are yours and he’ll support you in your efforts to fix them.

Scary is believing you don’t deserve any better.

Scary is knowing that your husband can’t see his own children for who they are, but tries to mold them into what he wants them to be.

Scary is knowing that if you stay, your children’s spirits will be snuffed out.

Scary is feeling so frightened and desperate that you pack your bags and leave the house you’ve lived in for thirteen years without having a backup plan.

Scary is knowing everyone thinks you are crazy for leaving such a wonderful person.

Scary is getting out, and fearing you’ll end up in another relationship with a narcissist.

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  1. That last sentence….*shutter*

  2. What’s really scary is staying and living in that toxic environment. I’m happy for you and your kids that you’re on the other side now. Life is full of “scary,” but I would guess there’s not nearly so much of it these days for you three.

  3. Pat,

    Yep. Most the scary stuff is manageable now.

    Sleeping well. No nervous tics. Breathing deeply.

    So much less scary on this side. ;)

  4. Bravery is knowing when to get out of a relationship that is going to suffocate both you and your children. You did what you had to do and you’ll all be better off for it. It took me half my marriage to realize my mother in law was ruining lives because she’s a narcissist. It’s taken me the other half to get my husband to realize she has a serious problem. Congratulations on discovering the toxicity in your life and getting out of it….you’re braver than you think :)

  5. Jenn,

    Thank you. ;)

    It is my hope that those in similar situations come to know that it is not as scary on this side.

    In fact, it takes more bravery to stay.

  6. Sometimes we are pushed onto a path we never dreamed we would have to take.

    I am so thankful for the kindness and prayers of others and the strength we have that has allowed the kids and me to persevere. It is not easy, but we are getting to the other side of “scary” one moment at a time.

    It is such a comfort to read this blog. Thank you Jesse!

    All the best to all of you . . .

  7. Lynn,

    And once we are on that new path, we learn what we are truly made of.

    Hugs ;)

  8. Beautiful post, Jesse, I am very proud of you for overcoming all that fear and making the brave move to leave, not knowing what was ahead. Real life begins after you release yourself from the N.

    I thank God every day that I finally had the strength to walk away from my “friend” after 24 years.

    “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the entire staircase.”- Martin Luther King Jr.


  9. NM,

    You chose a most appropriate quote. ;)

    Thank you.

  10. Okay–the first and last lines broke my heart…I pray that your son is doing well.

    And I applaud you for writing with so much honesty, not to mention the experience to back it up.

    For some reason your closing line reminded me of the AA philosophy of “one day at a time.” Almost as if you have to remind yourself that even though you got out this time (and kudos to you for leaving so much behind for the sake of your mental health and your precious children), you’re one step away from the Narcissistic landmine.

    When I finally get my shit together and make a Resource List for my private practice clients, I’m going to include a link for this wonderful blog.

  11. Linda,

    HELLO! From my perspective, you already have your shit together. ;)

    I’m thrilled to say that we seldom see any nervous tics any more – a lot less anxiety and much more peace and contentedness around this little home.

    I often say that – “one day at a time.” I’m not wearing blinders anymore, and while I’m mostly confident that I won’t get into another relationship with a narcissist, I am wary.

    Thanks for your kind words about the blog.

    p.s. Not sure why your comment ended up in spam. Duh. It’s SO NOT spam.

  12. Ah.

    I am so glad I found this sight. I’ll admit, all that stuff is really scary.

    What do I do now, that I’ve conquered those fears? Now my fears look like this:

    1. Scared to file for sole custody, because I can only afford a battle for so long and then I’ll run out of resources, (but he won’t)

    2. Scared to use N as partial reason for filing, because ex is very good at charming pants off everyone, including therapist for last psych exam who thought he was the next best thing since sliced bread (some therapist)

    3. Scared for children’s sanity, because every week they come home is another week of hearing about their deteriorating self-esteem

  13. Kristin,


    I just walked the park and tried to compose an encouraging response based on what worked for me.

    1. The first attorney I talked to told me that I can’t expect to keep/protect my kids from their dad. The best I could hope to do is equip them with the necessary tools for dealing with their dad.

    It took me a long time to get over fantasizing about keeping them away from him for good. (I still fantasize about that on occasion.) So I chose not to fight for sole custody. In my situation, I have my kids about 95 percent of any given week. Even though their dad says he wants to see them more, that hasn’t materialized.

    2. There are counselors and attorneys who are finally educating themselves on narcissism. Keep looking. I spent a great deal of time surfing the web looking for info on “narcissism in a court of law.” There are resources. Educate yourself. Become an expert. Learn to talk knowledgeably about narcissism without emotion. It’s hard. I know.

    3. As far as being scared for your children’s sanity… my heart goes out to you and your kids. My eyes tear up as I write this to you. Please know that you can handle this. You have already taken steps away. Keep moving. Keep talking, explaining, wiping tears, offering encouragement and validating their feelings. But MOST importantly, constantly tell them that they are not being treated poorly because of who they are or anything they are doing.

    Take care, Kristin.

  14. Dear Kristin,

    Please know you are not alone. Please know that if you decide to leave you will get to the other side of it one step at a time. You will be supported in expected ways–friends and family and even unexpected ways. You can lessen the damage done by a N by less exposure. The courts are not structured to deal with the kind of abuse a N does to children. It is SO hard. However, less is better than constant exposure.

    If you have limited resources, fight for what is essential and doable–like getting out, financial support for your children and you, and limited visitation. Sole custody is very hard to get if not impossible unless there is clear evidence to support it–that is where the insidious nature of N abuse is so hard to peg and substantiate in these matters.

    The healing process for your children and you may seem like you are falling apart worse than before once you are out–but you will rebound and become strong and healthy once again.

    I am sorry you are walking this path. I will pray for clear direction and all the emotional, physical, and spiritual resources you need to take each day as it comes and to know you will make it. I wish you and your children peace and joy–laughter and wholeness.

    Take care of yourself . . .

  15. Hi Kristin,
    Jesse and Lynn have already given good advice. I agree with not battling for sole custody. It is difficult and often a waste of money and energy. I choose my battles and have been mostly accommodating him…for now. I have been pro se this past year and honestly have seen a shift in the courts perception of our arguments (in my favor). My focus has been to preserve myself and protect my child with as little effort as possible because the N doesn’t deserve my attention or energy. When we go back to court to limit visitation or to change custody (we have joint legal, I have physical), it will be when my son is old enough to tell them what he wants. He already is counting the days until he is 18 and has full legal rights over himself.

    This past summer, we had mediation through the court of appeals. They offered a confidential questionnaire to ask about history of the case and what happened in the past with mediation. I took advantage of that to educate about narcissism and explain the behaviors they would see from him in negotiations. He proved me right in the first 5 minutes. Now, I am trying to do the same with the parent coordinator, but I think she sees it already.

    Sometimes, I think I should send my son to a therapist to learn how to deal with his dad, but I find that I know much more about narcissism than they do, sadly. I feel sometimes I am overcompensating for the stifling environment at his dad’s, but I encourage decision making at my house. What he decides goes, even if it will inconvenience his dad or make him angry. I take the responsibility for the choice, but it allows my son to have some control over his life. Of course, the N switches it up as I am not allowing him to be in the decision-making process, but I CAN’T! It is frustrating, but sometimes all you can do is provide the safe place in your home where they can decompress and be themselves. They will know that difference.

    All the best to you!

  16. Kristin Hi,

    I agree with the good guidance you’ve gotten thus far and would add that knowledge is power. The more you are able to explain their father’s behavior to your children the easier time they will have in finding ways to accept and adjust and cope. You can teach children to limit their expectations of an unhealthy parent so they can learn to protect themselves while still creating some form of a relationship with that parent. I think we sometimes don’t give kids enough credit for how insightful they really are. You are their mom so you know how best to speak in a language they can hear and understand…I have 3 adult-child narcissitic parents and I pass for normal most of the time :) So, I feel really hopeful for your kids because they’ve got a loving mom looking out for them!
    Finally I would suggest not giving any too much extra time or energy to the upset that their dad may invite. Make a fun ritual to sweep out the weepies and switch gears to something simple and fun you and your kids can do together to help transition after visits with dad…baking, art making, a stinky feet contest…my sister reminded me about watching QVC and doing these wacky impressions of pretend callers; that was our escape when our parents were being ridiculous and it created some of our best memories.
    All the best to you. -E

  17. E,

    It’s nice to see you here again!

  18. Kristin,

    I am so sorry you’re having to go through all this. This community that Jesse has brought together is one of the best I’ve run across in dealing with Narcissism and the fallout from it. Dealing with an N can make you feel like you’re losing your mind and coming to this community helps you regain that feeling of having your sense of self.

    I’ve not been through any legal battles with the N in my life so can’t really offer any help on that end. What I can give you is the hope that there are people who recognize Narcissists and the damage they can do. There’s a WONDERFUL book called The Narcissistic Family by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman that talks about what happens in a family where the needs of the adult override the needs of the children. It states very clearly in the book they are not addressing NPD per se, but they are addressing what happens when a child’s emotional needs are thrown to the side so the parent can have their needs and expectations met. There is a chapter on setting boundaries in this book that my husband read (he is the adult child of a narcissist) and afterward he said to me: I didn’t realize there was such a thing as an emotional boundary. HIGHLY recommend the book!

    As for the kiddos, the best thing you can do is be willing to talk to them about what happens when they’re with Dad. Things are going to be very confusing for them and if you’re able to just keep validating their feelings without downing Dad (it’s hard, but you can do it) and letting them know that they do have the right to feel what they do, they’ll be okay.

    Hang in there, and welcome to the Surviving Narcissism community :)


  19. Ladies

    Thank you all for your kind words and advice. It means the world to me that others are out there willing to sacrifice a few moments of their day to help bring light into my life. Not generally something I’ve been accustomed to over the first 50% of the last 15 years.

  20. This is a great article. You picked the best word SCARY. I have felt all these things.
    I read article after article and there’s almost always another part someone touches on that I haven’t heard from someone else. It just adds another piece to my life w my ex.

  21. Hi Brandie,

    Thanks for reading on the blog and leaving a comment.

    I still find it helpful that so many can relate to what it’s like to live/have lived with a narcissist. Anything that keeps us from thinking that we’re the crazy one is so valuable.

    All the best!

  22. Interesting posts! As I’ve read this blog one thing comes to mind. We could all trade those N’s with each other. It would be like trading baseball cards….regardless of who is on the baseball card…its components are the same as the other cards. So if we traded the N’s in… we’d end up with the same thing…a narcissist. Different face/same card or N situation. Wow, we have so much in common!

  23. Kay,

    So true. I’ve often marveled at how it seems as if all the Ns are playing from the same script. But the great thing is, that commonality creates an instant bond when you meet another survivor!

    There will be lots of, “Oh my! Yours did that, too?” “That’s exactly something that my ex would say?” Or, “My ex treated our kids the same way!!”

  24. Quite a “Scary” list. Looks like a long list. Hurts anyone who reads the list. Those readers know the horror of it.

    My heart goes to moms or it could be fellows, helping their children to find their way out of the doom maze. That’s what N’s desire. Doom for all. Nothing is sacred to them. Not even their own children.

    Once out of their 24/7 presence, into a big beginning when there are children….I feel for those who have children to nurture. That’s rough. Head spinning, trying to settle one’s own nerves & there are kids. Yet, perhaps it is a mega plus for the mom in their own survival…. to nurture their kids.

  25. Kay,

    It has been a mega plus for me. They are the reason for survival.

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