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Ask Dr. Zoe – In Love with a Narcissist

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‘In Love With a Narcissist’ Asked:

How long do I stay in a marriage with a narcissist who continually emotionally and verbally abuses me? Can he be treated/healed through counseling? I love this man with all my heart and have since middle school. (I’m in my mid-forties.) I left and divorced him once and then after 18 months apart, we reconnected and went to counseling weekly for 8 months. We remarried and it hasn’t even been a year since our wedding and I’ve moved out again. I do not want another divorce but can he be healed from narcissistic traits? I cannot stay in an abusive marriage, no matter how much I love him.

In Love With a Narcissist

Dr. Zoe Answered:

Dear In love With a Narcissist,

Because he is emotionally and verbally abusing you, you have already stayed too long! I could drop the mic there because that’s a complete answer and none of the other stuff really matters, but I know you want and maybe need to hear more, so I will say it.

I know you love him, but the truth is that love is no good reason to get married or to stay married. You have called him a narcissist. I don’t know if he really is or if he’s just a jerk. Once again, it doesn’t really matter. True narcissistic personality disorder is formed very early and is longstanding. There is no medication for it, and many professionals believe that there is no cure. If there is a cure to be had, it would take a couple of years of intensive individual psychotherapy from someone specifically very skilled in narcissistic personality disorder. Eight months of weekly couples counseling will not do the trick.

I’m glad to hear you say that you know that you cannot live in a marriage with someone who is abusing you. This realization is the first step. You have known him since middle school. You divorced him once. He hasn’t changed. I’m very sorry to say that he won’t change.

I’m being super direct because I care and I really want you to hear what I’m saying. I’m glad that you have moved out. Don’t let him convince you again that it will be different next time. That realization hurts, and it’s tough to move on when you have put so much time, energy, and hope into a relationship. When someone shows you who they are, you have to believe it.

This next season of your life needs to be about you working on yourself, including individual therapy of your own so that you can understand how you got to this place and what effect the years of this relationship have had on you. There’s a lot of healing to do, but the good news is that you can and will heal from this. Reach out if you need more help.

You’ve got this! It just takes some grit and grace! (Hugs.)

Dr. Zoe


Read what some of our writers have to say about difficult relationships, divorce, and walking through life changes: Why I Share My Story of Healing After Domestic Abuse, Divorce Was Not in the Plan, When Dreams Die… Grieving What Should Have BeenWhen Life Gives You a New Normal, and Overcoming Shame in the Grit and Grace Life.
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To hear more from Dr. Zoe, listen to this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Is it Time for Counseling? A Therapist Helps You Decide (with Dr. Zoe Shaw) – 004!

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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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