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O/T - Question about toxic relationships

Simpleton21's picture

Okay, over time I have finally come to realize that I myself am in a toxic relationship with my DH.  This is hard to admit because I love him and I wanted things to work but I'm starting to realize that I don't think it will.  I actually have a few questions:

1) Can people really change if they have some narc traits?  Are they capable of changing?

2) How can you leave someone that doesn't want to leave?  I mean I know you just do it but are there any tips on how to make it less dramatic and painful?

3) Does counseling even work for marriages?  Is it worth it?  If I'm the one that is ready to call it quits should I even bother with counseling first?

Any advise/experience is appreciated.  The good the bad the ugly.  I'll take it...and I know that I am not perfect either but I am tired of living this way. It is exhausting.


Kes's picture

1) very, very rarely.  It is hard enough for a non-personality disordered individual to effect lasting change, let alone a narcissist, who normally think they are perfect and don't need to change.  

2) can't answer this - it's very individual.

3) I was a relationship counsellor for 8 yrs and it did help some, yes.  But people usually come too late, when one of them has already mentally left the relationship.   You might want to give it a try, if only to satisfy yourself that you did everything you could.  

Simpleton21's picture

Thanks Kes.  I've been reading articles and researching it.  I don't know that my DH is a full blown narc but he def has some deep seeded insecurities that he uses as excuses for the way he handles our relationship and I'm just over it.  Constantly feeling like I'm being interogated, constantly getting the silent treatment as punsishment when he is upset and just the tense environment it creates.

For #2 I was kind of hoping PA is still around with some tips that helped her.  I know she left a bad situation and is doing better Smile

Also thanks for answering #3 too, I have a feeling it is to late for me, after expressing my feelings many times and having them dismissed or turned around and used against me I pretty much mentally checked out and quit trying.  I'm feeling like I'm at the point I was in other relationships when it was time to just end it. 

advice.only2's picture

1.) If a person doesn't see their certain behaviors as a problem then no they will never understand the need to work on them.
2.) Leaving will hurt regardless of how its done.
3.) I think it can if both parties are invested and really want to work for their relationship. I know for me when I check out no amount of therapy is going to get me to reinvest in something I have already deemed over and done.

Simpleton21's picture

advice.only2 - that was pretty much my thoughts on all 3 as well but thought maybe someone might know something I don't.  The fact that every time I try to express my feelings and he turns it back around on me and plays victim pretty much tells me he has no desire to change because he doesn't want to take any accountability.  I am not saying I am perfect and have done no wrong.  I just know after many months of trying it seems to be pointless Sad

I'm like you on 3.  After I have checked out I'm done.  At least that has been how it was in my past serious relationships.  Despite loving him I no longer feel in love...if that makes any sense.  I just feel a lot of hurt and resentment.

advice.only2's picture

I understand completely. I felt this way with DH right before Spawn moved out for good. I was done with him,I was tired of him dismissing my feelings, and I refused to go to therapy with him.
When Spawn moved out I think that's what really had the bottom drop out for my DH. I was on the verge of leaving and taking our children, and now his Spawn (the one he felt was on his side) had moved out and left him. DH's whole world was about to crumble in on him and it scared the sh*t out of him.
It didn't get better right away, but DH started making changes, he stopped dismissing me and allowed me to vent out all the anger and frustration of years and he took accountability for it. He went to therapy and took it seriously.
It took me a couple of years to get back to feeling like I was in love with DH again, but I got there. I had to learn to let go of a lot of my resentments and that took time as well.
Today DH and I are solid, we support each other and we stand united with our children in raising them. He respects my boundaries about Spawn and I respect that is his daughter and he will always have a relationship with her.
I know that not all relationships can or should be saved, but in this instance I am glad DH and I stuck it out.

Simpleton21's picture

Thank you for this comment.  I'm feeling torn.  You described how I am feeling.  I feel like DH and I were a great team in the beginning and then along the way he started becoming more dismissive of me in favor of SD and MIL and even his ex b/c it was the easier path for him.

I think I will try therapy first and see if that helps.  If it does great and if it doesn't at least I can say I tried.


queensway's picture

1. No

2. It is very hard to leave a true narc. And when they don't want you to leave they will try to destroy you. They will lie about you and tear you down.

3. Counselling might help. YOU.

Make a plan to leave without anyone's knowledge. You deserve to live a life that works for you.

Simpleton21's picture

Yeah, I've tried telling him I wanted a divorce but he says he doesn't and won't do it and clings on even harder. 

I wish that I could just make a plan and leave without anyone's knowledge.  In this case he needs to be the one that leaves.  The house we live in belongs to my dad but honestly I'm at the point that I would still leave the house if it meant peace of mind for me and then my dad would have to evict him.  I just don't want to upset my dad and put that on him.

queensway's picture

If he is a true narc he might cling to you now. It is all about him trying to control you. But once he get's it in his head that you want to leave him he will turn into a monster. A true narc will never forgive you for not wanting him and he will try to destroy you. Your husband might not be a true narc. But if he is take aim.




Simpleton21's picture

Yeah, I mean I'm not therapist or psychologist so I don't know if he is a true narc.  I do know that when we have fought in the past and I told him I wanted out did turn nasty quick.  I remember thinking how hateful he was and how could he even think that way if he truly loved me and wanted what was best for any of us. 

However, if he tries to destroy me it won't work.  I've already had exes try to do that and it only made me stronger!

JRI's picture

Once he realized I was sick of his selfish, druggie life and I was on the way out with our 2 kids, my ex suddenly wanted to go for marriage counseling.  If he had suggested this a year earlier, it might have bern effective.  But he wouldn't have done it then, too much trouble and he was happy with how things were going.  We went once but even the counselor knew I was halfway out the door and could probably tell that my ex didn't really want to change anything other than my mind.  So, I agree with Kes, maybe go once and you can tell yourself you made the effort.  Perhaps when your DH sees how serious you are, he might make some changes but I wouldnt hold my breath.  Sorry, Simpleton.

Simpleton21's picture

Yep, sounds familar minus the druggie part.  He isn't a druggie but he is very selfish.  He said he would go to counseling but by that he means that if I take the time to find the counselor and set up the apt and pay for it.  I feel like if he really thought it would help and he really wanted to save our marriage he would take the initiative to at least find a counselor and make an apt.

JRI's picture

When DH and i were up against the wall over the SK issues, I suggested marriage counseling but he refused to go so I went myself.  It was the best money I ever spent.  I remember saying tearfully while making the appointment, " There are 5 kids involved".  Two of my takeaways were assertiveness and more one-on-one time with DH but the assertiveness was the biggest thing.  Contrary to what we often see on ST, I needed to engage more, not less.  It was more about claiming my place.  Whatever it was, it changed my life.  Months later, as DH and I spoke about it, I remember telling him. "Its bigger thsn just you and me", ie, it was my personal growth.

So, yes, you are definitely, positively a wonderful candidate.  For it to be effective, 1) you need to be able to recognize mistakes and 2) be willing to change.  You are there on both counts.  Why not call today?

Simpleton21's picture

Thank you for your comment! :)  That is part of why I am torn.  I have 3 kids involved and my ODS while not my DH's does actual have a closer bond with him than his BD. 

I am definitely okay with working on myself as well.  I will have to call my ins to see what local counselors are available and go from there.  I think I can look online also.  I think I have been avoiding counseling myself because I always feel like I can just be strong and change doesn't really work like that though!

lieutenant_dad's picture

1.) The question isn't can they change, it's can they change enough to be the person you need them to be. I do think people can change because I have forced myself to change, and have seen others change, too. But, someone getting better doesn't mean it's good enough. You don't owe anyone lowered standards just because they couldn't meet your (reasonable) expectations.

2.) If you decide to leave, then leave. Have as best a plan as you can beforehand. Draw up divorce papers and have them ready to sign. Be equitable in what you want. Keep communication through an attorney. Inform close family and friends that is happened, but let them know how much you want or don't want to talk about it. Don't talk to your STBXH after you leave, but do provide him with closure before you do (this can be done in a letter; you don't have to verbally spell it out). Block him once your gone.

My biggest regret with divorcing my XH was not cutting the cord and filing ASAP after I left. I WANTED him to get "better". I WANTED to go back to him. I ended up with 6 months of texts, phone calls, and visits that ranged from him showering me with love and gifts to calling me every nasty name in the book. And this would happen at all hours of the day and night. It finally stopped when he got a GF.

Also, don't agree to not tell people that you're getting divorced. I agreed to not say anything to mutual acquaintances and his family, and they found out we divorced when his new GF posted that they were in a relationship on Facebook. I had people crawling out of the woodwork asking what was going on, and I felt that I needed to apologize and have closure with his family. It was a mistake keeping it a secret, though you're under no obligation to shout it from the rooftops, either. 

3.) Yes, go to personal counseling. Whether or not it works is dependent on the kind of person you are. I felt a lot of guilt around leaving, and I was damaged in a lot of ways that I didn't realize from that marriage. I have worked through a lot of it on my own, but it would have been better and faster had I actually talked to someone. Worst case scenario, you find out therapy isn't your thing and you waste a few hours of your life trying to better your life. There are far worse ways to waste a few hours.

Simpleton21's picture

That is true about #1.  I guess I have hope that he can change and be good enough.  At least I used to but I'm feeling might that have just been false hope.

Thanks for the advice.  I think my best first step is to start personal counseling and then possibly marriage counseling if he is still up for it and I think he would be. 

The guilt thing for me is a strong force in holding me back.  I think counseling will help me with that. 

ProbablyAlreadyInsane's picture

I'm still here :)  I try and stop in daily to keep up and see how everyone is doing Smile

1)  Even with my situation I fully believe people are capable of change IF and only if they WANT to change and actually STRIVE for it.  THey can't just say they'll do it.  They have to actively work towards it if they want to change. Sadly I don't think most people do, and if the threat of losing the person they supposedly love isn't enough for a reason, then nothing ever will be.  If someone wants to change they very simply will. 

2) It's always going to hurt, I won't sugar coat it.  You don't mourn what you have even, you're mourning the potential of what could have been.  Best advice is to take the time to get your ducks in a row.  Mine werne't super in a row, but prior to filing, I DID make sure anything I truly cared abour (stuff from my great grandparents) were out of the house.  Also be sure you have somewhere to go.  You can try counseling if you'd like as well just to be sure it's what you want.  BUt the second you make the decision you really know that's what you want and need.  It's like a switch flips a bit and everything you knew but wouldn't admit starts to hit you.  Best advice is just making sure it's what you want Smile

3) I think counseling can work.  IN my situation it would have if he had actually taken the advice of the counselor.  Unfortunatley (or fortunately? I am happier.) my ex didn't want to change, didn't want to put in the effort, and instead took every crticism as the counselor and I being out to get him.  Same as with changing, counselor requires the participation of both parties.  He'll have to want to change and put in the effort to do so.  And you'll have to be in it as well.  If you're only half there then neither party is ever going to make enough changes.

Simpleton21's picture

PA, good to hear from you!  I'm glad you are still around and I'm glad to hear you are happier.  I always knew you deserved much better!

Thank you for all your input and advice.  It helps :)  I think you're right, I have to really make sure this is what I really want.  I'm still torn and I still feel like if I at least try counseling, whether it helps my marriage or not, at least I won't feel so guilty about not trying first.

Harry's picture

He has to go to a professional person.  If he really wants to change,   Not Joe down the street in that Bar and grill 

If he wants to change first he has to understand he needs help then do something about it 

Simpleton21's picture

Harry, I agree, I think a professional would be very beneficial to him and even myself.  He has a lot of insecurities and that is not something I can fix for him and he can only fix it if he admits and wants help. I think I will revisit the counseling conversation with him tonight.  I also think going to a counselor myself will help me determine what I really want to do as well.

SteppedOut's picture

OP, I am both happy and sad to hear this. Happy because you decided for YOU that you need happiness, not just..."well, it's ok" for yourself. Sad because you are with someone like this to begin with. 

He is someone like this. You know, I have never waffled back and forth thinking someone may be a narcissist and it turned out they were not. I have gone back and forth about someone being a narcissist when they were a narcissist - it's part of what narcissists do to your thinking...they make you question your thoughts on everything,  including if they are a narcissist.

I am worried that you have told him you want a divorce and for him to leave and he refuses. Ultimately, he thinks it is his decision and when you push it, there will be no mistake on his narcissism. It will come out in full force. Mentally prepare for that - he will likely try to destroy you - ripping you to shreads, your character, how "you wronged him" (and probably his kid). I can't remember if you have a shared child... I think so, but damn I hope not. He will be very jealous YOU get to stay in the house (thankfully you haven't bought it from your dad yet!). You may want to consider cameras.  

My ex-husband is a narcissist (and abusive, abusive as marriage went on and got worse when divorce). It was HARD leaving him (had to kick him out of MY house). It took 5 years to get divorced. He did many cruel and harassing things. Truth be told, he still does. Actually today something happened - something that if I tried to report, it would be blown off, excuses made, attempts to make ME look crazy.

I fear since he will not be getting a reaction, he will ramp up his behavior until he gets one - because he is angry that I know his truths (I discovered A LOT of stuff while preparing for and during divorce - deep dark secrets). He "wants revenge". He sees that he was wronged and acknowledges nothing of what he did wrong to me. Because in his mind the story has been rewritten, and he actually tells the story so many times that he believes it. He is more than "just a narcissist" - he is a malignant narcissist. 

Try your best to get him 100% out of your life as fast as possible. I truely hope he doesn't hang on to vengeful feelings as my ex has, and will, until he has someone else to turn his hate to (when he divorces again... I was his FOURTH wife, unknowingly, he lied about how many times he was married previously).

Simpleton21's picture

Thanks SteppedOut, don't be sad for me though, it is another life lesson.  I always seem to learn them the hard way.

I feel like I can usually tell a true narc when I encounter one and maybe I just ignored to many red flags when I first met my DH.  Maybe he just had a really good charming representative and masked himself for a while.  I also feel though that it could also just be that he is very insecure.

Yeah, the him not leaving when I've told him that I wanted a divorce has definitely shown me some of his true character as well.  He is definitely jealous about the home and often says how wrong it would be for me to divorce him b/c he has put so much work into the home (not really that much IMO but whatever).  Also, he is just already a very jealous insecure person.  Which confuses me somewhat because in the begin he was not jealous and insecure and clingy.  The past few years though he is always basically "worried" that I'll cheat and so he uses that as an excuse to be controlling (which I call him out on).  I feel like I am always being interoggated.  He is jealous of co-workers/etc.  It sometimes makes me wonder if he himself is guilty of something and projecting it onto me.  I don't feel I have given him any reason to be jealous or insecure. 

I would be his 2nd ex wife.  I also know his ex wife obviously b/c of SD and she is most def a narc....but I'm sure he had a lot to do with their marital woes as well. 

Thank you for sharing your experience and I will def be careful and cautious no matter what. 

thinkthrice's picture

Was when Chef realized his own mortality after the doctor said he is about to stroke out or having a heart attack before he is age 55.

Up to that point he childishly viewed himself as immortal and could do anything he wanted without repercussions.

In other words they have to take the initiative on making a change otherwise all the pleading and cajoling in the world will do nothing.

Simpleton21's picture

You are right, he has to want change and believe he needs it, I don't think my DH has accepted that.  Also, my DH has the mindset of pills and surgeries fix everything and diet and healthy choices are never the option he goes with.  Another nice little trait he got from MIL dearest Bad She is very unhealthy and her solutions are never ones that require effort/work on her part.  She's very frail and thin from a gastric bypass surgery and not eating right after the surgery.  She falls frequently.  This last time she broke her hip.  Her dr told her to eat more healthy fats and foods rich in calcium b/c if she falls again she could end up paralyzed.  Her solution though is to continue drinking diet coke and hope that her insurance (medicaid/medicare) will cover these really expensive shots you administer to yourself at home that supposedly help strengthen the bones. 

I do feel my DH has a very childish, stubborn mindset....also the victim mindset and I can't stand that! Sad