When you are a stay at home mom, especially if you have small children or special needs children, it is easy to feel that you don’t have any options when it comes to your narcissistic spouse. You may feel that you’re only path in life is to endure this until the kids are older or something changes. You may even believe that you have nothing to fall back on, no way to support yourself, and you may lack confidence in your own abilities.
Honestly, it’s likely you’ve been slapped in the face with your inadequacies for years. Any confidence that you may have had is hiding behind a thick wall of I’m no very good at anything.
The narcissist knows best - you couldn’t possibly make your own decisions.
Why Did You Stay So Long?
In conversations with others there is generally one question that always comes up, why did you stay so long?
Lack of Confidence
That’s a tough question. When you are married to a narcissist you are constantly being told in various ways how unintelligent you are, how unimportant you are, and how little value you actually have. You could start the relationship with a doctorate in nuclear technology and in a few years you’d be lucky to have the confidence to balance your checkbook.
There is a constant eroding of your sense of self that you aren’t even aware of until it is too late.
You stay because you have come to believe that you are unable to care for yourself or your children if you go. This is especially true of stay at home moms. Since we have been out of the workforce for decade it’s often difficult to even contemplate going back in. So much has changed!
Maintain a Normal Life for the Kids
Then there is the desire to continue to stay home with our children. This was my biggest hurdle. You see, I had been homeschooling for twenty years when I was divorced. I fought putting the kids in school for two years afterwards, trying to limp along and do it all. There came a time when I just couldn’t spin all of the plates anymore and everything came crashing down around me. No matter how much I wanted to homeschool it was not an option for me. I had to give it up. It was something that tore my heart in half. I had decided that I could endure anything if my kids were secure.
Hope for Change
Another reason that we stay is because we think that things can change. There is something in us that refuses to give up the hope that somehow no matter how bad things are that they will get better if we only hang on a little longer. We become the little train that could – I think I can… I think I can…I think I can…
Finally, we stay because we have been told so many times that we are the problem, we are over-reacting, and we are imagining things that there is the fear of making a mistake. What if we really are the problem? What if we leave, lose everything, and then find out that we’re seventeen layers of crazy?
So we stay and we endure one more day, one more week, and one more year. We stay until something happens that puts us over the edge – that proverbial last straw.
My Last Straw
For me it was one more infidelity. It was reading pages of erotic emails and Facebook messages between my husband (now an ex) and his girlfriend from high school. It wasn’t just the things that they said but it was the jabs that he took at me in their conversations. It was the humiliation of finding out that when he was sitting next to me in church he was texting her.
I was done.
I was lucky. I’d realized at some point that my confidence level was way below what was “normal” for me and I’d been working on myself. I spent time reminding myself of all that I had accomplished before marriage, I’d begun to develop my own interests, and I had started a blog which turned into an income producing activity for me as well as opening the door to a published book and a career in freelance writing. When everything went down I was making a little money and had some in the bank - I was reasonably sure I could keep things going.
Use free time to brush up on employment skills or take a class.
Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons, User Thomas Leuthard
Stay at Home Moms Need an Exit Strategy
If you are a stay at home mom currently married to a narcissist then you need an exit strategy even if you don’t plan on leaving. You really don’t know what things are going to look like in the future. Living with a narcissist is nothing if not unpredictable.
Do one thing at a time. Take a class at the local community college, get a part time job, or develop your own small business model. Maybe you can open a little store on Etsy, start your own blog, or bake cakes from your kitchen. Put a little money away as you can and build credit in your own name.
If you never need to fall back on it you’ll have a nice little stash of mad money for something you want. If you do decide to leave you’ll have some security. It’s a win-win.
Finally, find a counselor that is well educated about narcissists. You’ll need someone outside the situation who can help you shake of deception and focus on what is true.
Waking Up to Reality
I spent years trying to create the perfect family so that my children would grow up with security. I believed that divorce would scar my children and open them up to problems in their adult lives. What I didn’t realize is that I was training them to be victimized by narcissists later on.
After the ex moved out my kids opened up to me about several things that I was unaware of. They visibly relaxed and our home life was much calmer and more drama free – even with three teenagers in the house!
I realized that while I had been protecting them they had been protecting me. When the narcissist was out of the picture we were all free to be ourselves, to interact in a healthier manner. Here we are, four years later and things are so much better for us financially, emotionally, and even spiritually. Nothing is perfect, of course, but the kids are doing well.
You Can Do This
If you’re a stay at home mom you’re more than likely reading thing and being hit with a barrage of reasons why you really are trapped. Everyone has challenges but yours can be overcome. You may not be able to walk out tomorrow or the next day but you can do one thing every day to make yourself a little more independent.
You may also want to read Ten Ways to Freedom from Narcissists on Narcissism Support.
You aren’t alone. Join First Wives’ World today to share your story and be encouraged by other women who have been where you are and emerged stronger and better than before.
Lead Image Courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons- User: Connor Tarter