Ending your relationship with an intimate partner is rarely easy. But, If your partner is abusive or controlling, leaving him could be dangerous and, in some cases, even deadly. When planning to leave an abusive relationship, safety needs to be your #1 priority. Especially if children are involved.
A history of physical abuse in your relationship can be a strong indicator of an abuser’s likelihood of using violence when you try to leave the relationship. But, often enough, the perpetrator of assault and/or murder will have had no previous record of domestic violence. Sadly, it is that very lack of previous incidents that can lull a woman into developing a false sense of security. She may (mistakenly) believe that because he hasn’t ever hit her before, that means he never will. That simply isn’t true.
The narcissist is sure to try his tired old tactics (i.e. love-bombing, hoovering, etc.) But, when those tactics fail… and the narcissist realizes that his woman has really has left him- for good- his punishment will be immediate, and without mercy. If you’re planning to leave a narcissist, or any abusive relationship, you should absolutely, positively have completed a Safety Plan for yourself (and each child, if you have kids).
Listed below, are 10 other general safety tips to keep in mind, when you’re planning to leave a narcissist, or other abusive relationship. Remember, these tips will apply whether your partner has ever been physically violent, or not. And, regardless of whether you believe he may, or may not, become violent.
1. Keep it quiet
I know this may sound super-obvious. I promise, I’m not trying to insult your intelligence. I just know how things can sort of pop out, when tempers are high, and the narcissist is triggering the fuck out of you. Though, that isn’t really my main concern.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. Narcissists are con-artists extraordinaire. You might be manipulated into thinking that, perhaps, the narcissist could be reasonable. That, maybe, you could discuss an amicable way for the two of you to split.
Narcissists have a way of sensing when you’re at your limit (kind of like a shark can smell a drop of blood in something like 16 billion parts of water). That’s when they flip the switch and, Mr. Wonderful takes the stage.
You just might, for example, still believe that he cares deeply for his children and, therefore, would set aside is narcissism to put an end to your relationship civilly. I felt compelled to make this tip #1 only because…… I confess……….I fell for that one. (I’m still baffled as to how it happened)
I also mention this as a suggestion to keep your plans a secret from all but the few people whom you might enlisted to help you, in one way or another, should you need it. It’s just simple probability. The more people who know about your plan, the more chances there are of it somehow getting back to the narcissist.
To a narcissist, the loss of a major supply source (that’s you), can qualify as a catastrophic life event. In some cases, it can even be life-threatening. Narcissists are capable of heinous behavior without being threatened by a serious loss. And, that means, believe it or not- you have no idea what your partner may be capable of once he’s feeling extremely threatened, or desperate.
Even if you think you know. Even if you believe that “he would never_____”. Now is certainly not the time to bet on the narcissist. At the very least, you can expect major harassment, punishments, and sabotage, should he get wind of your plans to leave. So, keep them guarded.
2. Build/Strengthen your network
The one thing that can ensure a successful, and permanent, escape- more than anything else (in my opinion)- is having people to support you throughout your escape and, in the aftermath. Having a strong support system is vital, and can be your saving grace once the narcissist begins making threats, employing abusive tactics and/or using legal maneuvers, in the hopes of retaining/regaining his control over you.
Having people who support you can also mean having people around to witness any abuse or harassment you’re being subjected to. And, having witnesses to back up your claims of abuse, makes all the difference, in a courtroom setting. Especially, in custody battles, or disputes regarding visitation rights.
Having a strong support network, can even (sometimes- not always) deter the narcissist from extreme types of behavior. He knows, very well, that it’s much more difficult to abuse you when your surrounded by people who care about you, support you, and believe you.
It’s the reason why most narcissists move their targets away from family and friends. It isolates them from the people most likely to help stop the abuse. If you’re currently in a place where you have little-to-no support, I suggest you start taking steps now to build your support system.
Start making friends. Go to church, if you belong to a certain religion. Get involved with your city. Volunteer. Attend city council meetings, and be seen. If you have children, join the PTA, or volunteer as chaperone for field trips. You could also look up local mom’s groups, in your area, if your children are the appropriate age. Really, the options and opportunities are endless, if you look for them.
4. Get to know the DV Advocate at your local police/sheriff’s department.
Make it a priority to meet/get to know the domestic violence advocate at your local police, or sheriff’s station. They can give you invaluable information and resources. Be friendly towards the officers/deputies. Volunteering for events sponsored by local law enforcement is never a bad idea.
In addition, when attempting to battle with a narcissist in court (esp. in custody disputes), many judges consider what actions you took, if any, to resist the abuse. Having a ongoing relationsihp with your DV Advocate and law enforcement officers, adds even more credibility to you and your case.
5. Keep an emergency bag packed & hidden.
Pack a change of clothes, necessary medications, some money, spare keys, important numbers, etc., in an overnight bag. If you have kids, pack one for them too. Make sure to include any ‘huggies’, or special blankets, etc. they keep for comfort. It wouldn’t hurt to put in a ‘huggie’ for yourself, too.
Keep the bag hidden somewhere safe (Iike at a friend’s house, or at your work).
6. Have a list of emergency numbers with you at all times.
In stressful situations, it’s very hard to remember things. Information you’ve known for years, can suddenly slip your mind. You don’t want to find yourself in an emergency situation, needing to call for help, and not being able to remember a number.
It’s always better to be safe, than sorry. Keeping a list of numbers handy, can ensure you have the information you need at your fingertips. The contact info for local law enforcement, your DV Advocate, and the nearest hotel or women’s shelter, are few examples of numbers that should be on your list.
7. Complete a Personal Safety Plan for yourself and your kids (if you have them)
Your Personal Safety Plan is your plan for increasing your safety and preparing a course of action, in advance, for the possibility of violence. It’s hard to predict when a narcissist might next lose his cool. While it’s true that you can almost always sense when something is coming, that ‘sense’ rarely gives you plenty of time to plan for it.
Your Personal Safety Plan is your way of choosing to take matters into your own hands. It’s your way of planning ahead for how best to get yourself to safety, if/when a situation becomes violent. It includes a plan for things like; where you will go, who can offer a ride to safety (if needed), safety during a violent episode, safety at your work, safety when preparing to leave the relationship for good, and more.
If you have children, you should complete a Safety Plan for each individual child, as well.
Leave a copy of your safety plan, and each of your children’s plans, with a friend you trust, and with each child’s school, daycare, or other caregiver. If you have a protection order, injunction, trespass order or, a temporary/permanent custody order, you should also leave a copy of those documents, along with your Safety Plan.
You can find an excellent printable Personalized Safety Plan here, at WomensSafe.net
They also have a Child Safety Plan you can print.
8. Choose a code word, and rehearse a quick escape plan.
Devise a quick escape plan in the event you need to get out of your home quickly. Decide which doors, windows, stairs, hallways, etc., you will use to get out quick. Think of a few different scenarios and how you’ll get out in each one. Rehearse each escape route with your kids.
*Note: Keep your car filled with gas, and a spare set of keys hidden where you can quickly grab them, in the event you need to leave quickly.
Come up with a code word for yourself and your children to use in case of emergency. Tell trusted friends, neighbors, etc. the code word, and let them know that they should call for help if you, or your children, use it.
9. Leave a false trail, if you’re planning to relocate (without children).
Call, and get calls back from, places 6-8 hours in the opposite direction of where you’re actually panning to relocate. Browse location websites for the same “dummy” location. Make very little attempt to cover your tracks.
10. Never use your own personal computer, phone, or other device, to talk about the narcissist, or discuss your decision/plan to leave the relationship.
When making safety plans, discussing your plan for escape, or even communicating with your DV Advocate, always use a device unconnected to you, or a public computer (such as at the local library). It’s common for narcissists (and other types of controlling partners) to install programs that can trace your movements, tap your phone calls, and even make malicious use of your GPS. All without your knowledge or consent. Often, it’s the women who least expect it, who are being cyber-stalked in this way. Best not to take any chances.
The decision to leave your narcissist is an agonizing one to come to. Believe me, I know. Once you’ve made the decision, though, take advantage of every possible resource for planning your escape and maintaining no-contact (or modified, if you have kids with the narc), once you’re safely away. Keep these tips, and any others, in mind. And always make Safety your first priority.
Note: The decision to leave your abuser must be yours, and your alone. No one can force you into it. If they do, it’s likely you’ll be back within a few weeks, if that. And, going back comes with a 99% guarantee that the abuse you experienced before you left, will quickly escalate to more severe levels. Also, the period of time between abusive episodes will continue to shorten.
Staying in an abusive relationship is dangerous. No one deserves abuse. But, leaving an abusive partner potentially increases the risk of danger. Worst off all, though, is making a half-hearted- or hasty/unplanned- attempt to escape, only to go running right back and have to endure the narcissist’s harsh punishments, and quickly escalating levels of abuse.
You, alone, will know when the right time to leave is. You are the only one who can most honestly, and accurately, assess when your safest opportunity to escape would be. Tune out any people who might try to push you to leave, when it doesn’t feel right to you. Trust your gut.
And if know someone who is suffering in an abusive relationship, please know that the worst, most damaging thing you could do, is try guilt, shame, manipulate, or in any other way coerce her to leave her abuser before she feels she is ready (and it’s safest) to do so.
I know that it’s hard to watch someone you care for suffer. The urge to help- to rescue- is strong. But, understand that trying to coerce her into leaving before she’s ready and has come to that decision on her own, of her own free will, is more likely to cause far more harm than good.
It’s no exaggeration to say that there is even a possibility that a botched escape attempt could cost her her life. If you want to help a friend’s in an abusive situation, the best thing you can do is be there for her. Let her talk about what she experiencing without judging her. Trust me, she already feels stupid, and unbelievably ashamed. She leant need you to tel her what she “should do”, or “needs to do”. She needs you to listen to her, and believe her.
She needs you to tell her that she’s strong and competent, and that you will be there to support her, whether she chooses to leave the relationship or, remain in it for the time being. Let her know that you understand that leaving the relationship is just as hard (and just as dangerous), as staying.
Most of all, just let her know that you love her and care about her. And that, for as long as she chooses to remain in the relationship, you’ll be there to listen, support, and even offer a shoulder should she need one. Furthermore, let her know that when the day comes that she feels safe enough, and so decides to leave her abuser, you’ll not only be there to support her but, you’ll drive the getaway car 😉
Do you have any helpful safety tips or advice, or a personal experience, you’d like to share? Then, don’t be bashful, comment below. What you know just might help someone get away for good. It could even potentially save a life.