During one of our live therapist-led Q&A sessions, a member from our healing community asked, “How long do narcissistic relationships last?” 

We surveyed 1000 people who have experienced narcissistic abuse from a romantic partner. The participants in our survey were between the ages of 25 and 65, and we found that, on average, a relationship with a narcissist lasts nine-and-a-half years.

In this article, I will guide you through the most common reasons for staying and leaving that the participants in our survey reported.

9 Reasons Our Survey Participants Stayed In the Relationship

Note that the percentages add up to more than 100% because many participants could identify with multiple reasons for staying in a narcissistic relationship.

1.) Lack of Awareness: This means the participant stayed because they didn’t realize they were in a narcissistic relationship. (65%, 650 participants)

“All the signs were there. I just didn’t see them. I didn’t know I was experiencing abuse. I thought it was just a rough patch in our relationship.” – Participant 173

2.) Love: The participant stayed because they loved the narcissist and believed they could help or change them. (40%, 400 participants)

“I truly loved them. Even though they hurt me, I believed in them. I thought love could cure everything, even their abusive actions.” – Participant 298

A narcissist telling a crying woman that she is ruining his mood.

3.) Manipulation: The participant stayed because the narcissist manipulated them. (60%, 600 participants)

Suggested Reading: How Do Narcissists Manipulate You?

“They had a way of twisting everything around. It was always my fault, I was always the one to blame. It’s scary how powerful their manipulation was.” – Participant 424

4.) Fear: The participant stayed because they feared the narcissist’s potential reactions if they tried to leave. (50%, 500 participants)

“I was terrified of them. I didn’t want to even mention leaving. Their rage was like a thunderstorm, unpredictable and devastating.” – Participant 571

5.) Isolation: The participant stayed because the narcissist isolated them from friends and family. They felt they had nowhere to go and no one to ask for help. (45%, 450 participants)

“I was completely alone; they made sure of that. They isolated me from everyone. I felt I had no one but them.” – Participant 460

6.) Financial Dependence: The participant stayed because they relied on the narcissist for money. (30%, 300 participants)

“I had nowhere to go and no money of my own. They controlled the finances completely; I felt trapped and helpless.” – Participant 313

7.) Children: The participant stayed because they had children with the narcissist. (25%, 250 participants)

“Our children were the reason I stayed. I didn’t want to turn their world upside down by dragging them through a divorce.” – Participant 242

A woman feeling confused about her narcissistic relationship.

8.) Low Self-Esteem: The participant stayed because they believed they deserved the treatment they received. (55%, 550 participants)

“I didn’t believe I deserved better. They had worn down my self-esteem to the point where I thought their abuse was all I was worth.” – Participant 587

9.) Trauma Bonding: The participant stayed because they were trauma bonded. (90%, 900 participants)

Suggested Reading: How to Break a Trauma Bond with a Narcissist in 11 Steps

“The highs were as intense as the lows. It was a cycle of pain and reconciliation. I knew it was toxic, but I felt addicted to the chaos.” – Participant 512

9 Reasons Our Survey Participants Left In the Relationship

Note that the percentages add up to more than 100% because many participants could identify with multiple reasons for leaving the narcissistic relationship.

1.) Awareness and Education: The participant left the relationship because they became aware they were in a narcissistic relationship. (40%, 400 participants)

“Reading that article on narcissistic behavior was like a light bulb moment for me. Suddenly, everything fell into place. I realized I wasn’t crazy or imagining things.” – Participant 402

2.) Increasing Severity of Abuse: The participant left because the abusive behavior worsened; they couldn’t ignore or justify it any longer. (55%, 550 participants)

Suggested Reading: How to Know if a Narcissist Will Kill You (16 Signs to Keep You Safe)

“The abuse escalated to a point I couldn’t ignore anymore. It was no longer just verbal, it had become physical and I feared for my life.” – Participant 545

3.) Impact on Mental Health: The participant left because the relationship harmed their mental health. (60%, 600 participants)

“My mental health was deteriorating rapidly. I was anxious, depressed, and I knew I couldn’t go on living like this. Leaving was a matter of survival.” – Participant 619

A woman talking about her experiences with narcissistic abuse.

4.) Intervention from Others: The participant left because someone outside the relationship intervened such as a friend, family member, or professional. (30%, 300 participants)

“It was my best friend who got through to me. She helped me see the reality of my situation. Without her intervention, I might still be there.” – Participant 307

5.) Impact on Children: The participant left the relationship because they were concerned about their children. (25%, 250 participants)

Suggested Reading: How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children?

“I looked at my children and realized they were witnessing a terrible example of a relationship. I couldn’t let them grow up thinking this was normal.” – Participant 258

6.) Change in Circumstances: The participant left because there was a major change in their life that made leaving easier, such as getting a new job out of state. (20%, 200 participants)

“Getting that new job out of state was a lifeline. It gave me the means and the distance I needed to finally leave.” – Participant 213

7.) Reaching a Breaking Point: The participant left because they reached their limit of tolerable abuse or disrespect. (50%, 500 participants)

“I hit rock bottom. I remember looking in the mirror one day and not recognizing myself. I knew then that something had to change.” – Participant 507

8.) Advice from Therapists or Counselors: The participant left because they received helpful advice from mental health professionals. (55%, 550 participants)

“My therapist gave me the tools and the courage to leave. They validated my feelings and helped me realize that I was not the problem.” – Participant 368

Someone talking about going to therapy.

9.) Physical Health Concerns: The participant left because the stress and physical abuse in the relationship was damaging their health. (40%, 400 participants)

“My body started breaking down. The stress was literally making me sick. I realized then that I had to leave if I wanted to survive.” – Participant 412

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

Please keep in mind that this was just a survey we conducted among our audience. 

Yes, our survey revealed that nine-and-a-half years is the average duration of a narcissistic relationship, but that is just because of the audience we have.

Depending on the circumstances, narcissistic relationships can last for months, years, or even decades.

I hope you enjoyed this article, have a great rest of your day!

About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

If you’re ready to heal, visit The Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse to get started.
Share this post to help others trust their experiences.

References:

About This Article

We used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create parts of this article to enhance its accuracy and readability. It underwent a strict human editorial process before being published. See additional information.

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