Exit Wounds

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By Stephanie March

If you’re reading this article – or any others on this site – it’s probably safe to assume that you have found yourself involved with a narcissist or other toxic personality type. Perhaps you’ve come here after leaving the toxic relationship and are looking for some answers. If that’s the case, congratulations on your escape!

My purpose, though, in writing this article is to appeal to those who are stuck drowning in despair. It’s not easy to live with a toxic person and it’s equally scary to imagine leaving them. Maybe you’re afraid of the repercussions that stem from being alone, have financial concerns, and/or fear the emotional exit wounds. I get it. Starting over is scary, but it can be done. You can return to school, move to a new city, or anything else your abuser said you couldn’t do.

In regards to leaving, seemingly inflicting pain on ourselves never seems like a good plan, but using this mindset in a situation like the one you’re currently in is faulty. You are already in pain or you wouldn’t be here. In fact, you are causing yourself more harm with each day that you decide to stay. While you should give yourself credit for being strong enough to survive with this person as long as you have, it’s crucial to understand the need to leave because each day that you stay – and each resulting wound – is incredibly costly.

The first step towards change is to acknowledge the situation. Admit that the person you’re with is very likely a narcissist or sociopath – or whatever label is necessary to grab your attention. Own up to how bad it truly is and that however unhealthy it is now is only a tiny foreshadowing of things to come. Speak with friends, family, therapists, and social workers that can help give an outside perspective. Allow them to acknowledge how bad things are for you inside of your relationship.

Next, create a crisis plan. A crisis plan is an escape plan that will get you out of danger and away from your abuser. Any trained therapist or social worker can assist you with this. Contact your local domestic violence agency for assistance. They have amazing resources available. Keep in mind that even if he has not harmed you physically, there are many types of domestic violence. You deserve help and you deserve it now.

Once you have a crisis plan in place it is time to take action. Waiting around until things get worse is not the route to take. You’ve already endured it and it has led you right to your current situation. Additional waiting could lead to complete devastation and/or the loss of your life. There are danger assessments you can do with advocates, social workers, and therapists. You can even do one yourself online.

Again, do whatever it takes to build a mental fortress around the fact that you need to leave.

When you do leave, it’s going to be difficult and painful. There will be exit wounds. I have accumulated a few myself.  But I can tell you one thing for certain; I don’t regret for one second making the choice to leave or acquiring those emotional scars.

What I do regret is not leaving as soon as I knew it was bad.

One toxic relationship lasted over a decade. The other left me homeless in a safe house for survivors of domestic violence. Neither was easy and both were painful. So please don’t think for a second this advice is something I give lightly. I know how hard it is to leave. I also know how hard it is to stay.

What I can tell you, from the other side of all of that, is that the exit wounds begin to fade. It seems impossible at first, but they do. You find gratitude and hope in your freedom. You find empowerment and strength in your leaving.

So please, stop waiting. The rest of your (free) life and everything you’ve always wanted to be is waiting for you.

Stephanie March is a writer, survivor, and advocate. You can find her on Twitter.

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Liz says September 10, 2015

Interesting. I went NC on my narcissistic ex and, exactly as I had read he would, he contacted me three months later, apparently testing the water. I responded with a short note listing his behaviors and telling him that he is abusive. I don’t expect to hear from him again. I wonder, though, if I should contact three of his exes whom I know of. They have all been exposed to HPV, which long-term can cause cervical cancer. I know because I tested positive for it 12 weeks after I was first with him–right inside the incubation period–and I’d never tested positive for it before, so I know I got it from him. Thoughts?

Susan says September 10, 2015

I agree. I left my narcissistic manipulation a little over two months ago – zero contact. It has been difficult, but I vowed not to go back. I told everyone to hold me accountable, including my high-school aged children. I humbly shared with them my mistakes and some of the horrible ways he had manipulated me as a way to hold myself accountable to zero contact. I couldn’t go back with them knowing how terribly he had treated me. I was actually able to befriend one of the other women he had been seeing while he was with me. She had managed to leave a couple months before me. It was crazy how she predicted exactly the things he would say and do when I left, because he had done the exact same things with her. It made me realize that none of it was authentic. Everything about him was a hologram. It seemed to real, but when you reached out to touch it, it was all just lies that he kept in his arsenal to keep women under his control – even the little things that I thought were just ours. Two months out of no contact, I feel free and confident for the first time in a long time. I know there will still be hard times. I am also mentally prepared with an action plan for the time when he tries to reach out to me again, because I know from reading these articles and that he did it to my new friend as well, that he will. But I know it is not authentic. Just in two months, my life is exponentially better than it has been in years. I am doing things I love, making new friends and reuniting with old ones. You can do it. you have to go zero contact and have people to hold you accountable.

    Kim Saeed says September 10, 2015


    Thank you for sharing your successful Zero Contact story. I am glad to know you’re out and have starting living a more peaceful life.

    Wishing you all the very best in your continued recovery <3

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