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How to Get Away from a Narcissist

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“You used to wrap yourself in fairy tales like a blanket, but it was the cold that you loved. Sharp shivers as you uncovered the corpses of Bluebeard’s wives. Sweeter goosebumps as Prince Charming slid one glass slipper over your little toes. A perfect fit.

“But by the schoolyard, real princesses floated by you on fall winds. You saw the gulf between you and rich girls, and vowed to stop believing in fairy tales. But the stories were in you, deep as poison.

“If Prince Charming was real, if he could save you, you needed to be saved from the unfairness of everything. When would he come? The answer was a cruel shrug in a hundred fleeting moments. The sneer on Stevie Smith’s face when he called you a fat cow. Uncle Jeff’s hand squeezing your ass in the Thanksgiving kitchen and the accusation in your father’s eyes when you told him what happened.

“From every boy masquerading as a man that you let into your body, your heart, you learned you didn’t have whatever magic turns a beast into a prince. You surrounded yourself with the girls you’d always resented, hoping to share your power and you hated yourself. And that diminished you even more.

“And then… right when you thought you might just disappear, he saw you. And you knew somewhere deep it was too good to be true. Because he was the first strong enough to lift you. Now in his castle, you understand Prince Charming and Bluebeard are the same man and you don’t get a happy end unless you love both of him.

“Didn’t you want this? To be loved? Didn’t you want him to crown you? Didn’t you ask for it? Didn’t you ask for it?

“Didn’t you ask for it?”

YOU, Episode 10: “Bluebeard’s Castle”

If you want to know how to get away from a narcissist, you have to go deep inside your own head.

At least, that’s how it was for me.

For so long, I needed to understand why.

Why do narcissists hurt you if they love you so much?

Do narcissists know they are hurting you?

Do narcissists know they are narcissists?

Do narcissists even love you?

None of it made any sense. I could pull a thread and unravel one lie, only to uncover a new one. If I kept going, there would be nothing left, as if he himself had been made out of thread and by pulling at it, I was undoing the very fabric of a person, erasing his existence.

There was madness underlying that.

I looked for any stepping stone. If x were true, then y had to be true. Yes, that seems solid. Triangulate with evidence.

But there was no “there” there. Only a shapeshifter that appeared vaguely similar in place to place.

So I stopped looking to him for the answers and began to corroborate the experience in the stories of others. I had to fill in what didn’t make sense with the data that existed for my experience itself. The fact that his words didn’t add up itself now a checkmark, a rock I could grab onto to say, “Yes,” that was real. All of that unreality was real.

That data overwhelmed me with understanding and I became full with it.

At some point in the recovery process, the windows into the other began to dissolve into mirrors. Not the funhouse mirrors that he had crafted around me, warped and faded.

As the picture finally filled in, it was so rational and logical it gleamed with the precision of a beam of light finally illuminating darkness. The emotional attachment that had bonded me so close with him that it blinded me with all of its darkness suddenly disappeared and poured forth all of its truths.

He began to reflect a version of me back to myself that I’d never seen before.

I hadn’t wanted to see what was there, because then I would have to dismantle things I’d been taught not to peer into too deeply. But I needed to tear down those things the most.

If the healing is to continue, I have to find out what shape I made that he was able to fill with poison so that I was unaware when he then re-shaped me into whatever it is that I am now.

YOU is a ten-episode series told mostly from the point of view of a psychopath.  He begins to stalk a woman, Beck, who walks into his bookstore, in order to eventually mold himself into her perfect partner.

His voiceovers put the viewer directly inside his mind, as he idealizes her. He calculates exactly how to meet and talk to her, but not with what he believes are evil intentions.

In fact, he views himself as a “good guy,” although he violates many boundaries and laws and adheres only to his own moral code. All the while she has no idea. In the final episode, she comes to understand what he is.

More importantly, she comes to understand who she is: the girl who needs someone stronger than herself to rescue her but didn’t dare admit it.

The girl who needed to be seen.

“You understand Prince Charming and Bluebeard are the same man, and you don’t get a happy end unless you love both of him.”


We cannot destroy monsters by changing them into something else.

We can only destroy who we are, this version of ourselves who wants to change them into the better versions of themselves.

We can stop seeing it as beautiful when a man alternates between poisoning us and then saving us from the brink of death, just because he is the only one who ever cared enough to save us from anything.

Do you think I want to write this?  Do you think I want to talk about this?

I don’t. I hate it.

But dragging it out into the light means it cannot survive. Keeping it in the darkness where it can fester, where my own blind eye will not see it is like turning a beacon on for those who want to jam their turnkeyed smiles into my brokenness and turn a rusty spigot until I weep infatuation and fill their empty time.

Some people will look into you. They will see you and not see you at the same time.

Some people.

It took me a long time to understand this.

I don’t blame myself for this. I didn’t know I wanted someone to save me. He did though.

Then while I was in it, I couldn’t comprehend any of this because I was already half-drowned and constantly going under.

And yet… still, I managed to crawl away, mourning the loss of something I am only now beginning to understand.

I thought it was him I was mourning, but it wasn’t. He was already gone. He was never there.

I was mourning who I’d been while I was with him.

But she was never who I needed either.

That girl almost had it right– but not quite. That girl had learned how to trust.

I’m trying to learn to write my own damn fairy tales from now on.  That’s how to get away from a narcissist.

Spoiler alert:  I save myself.


NOTE:  I write about my experience as a heterosexual woman who was in a relationship with a man. If this is not your experience, I invite you to substitute gender pronouns where appropriate. Although some of my articles are more appropriate for “he/she” or “they” usage, some, such as this one, are not and I thank you for understanding that I will always write from my authentic experience. 


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Kristen Milstead

Kristen Milstead is a narcissistic abuse survivor who has become a strong advocate for finding your unique voice and using it to help others find theirs.


  1. Wow. Just wow. I wish I had you talking in my ear all the time. I relate so closely . I truly appreciate your writing. It has helped me more than anything over the past 11 months. Trying to break away from my narcissistic husband is truly the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced in my 42 years. Thank you. Thank you. Please keep writing

    1. Kristen Milstead

      I’m humbled to know my writing has been so meaningful to you. Thank *you* for taking the time to leave a comment. It means so much to me. I wish you well in your continued recovery this year. -Kristen

  2. Just at the point where I was starting to get sucked back in and feel sorry and like I had lost a guy who perhaps i had wrongly suspected to be a narciscist, an email from you arrived and on reading your own experience, confirmed to me that this man is not someone I should let back into my life

    1. Kristen Milstead

      Hi Tammy: I’m glad to know that this article was so helpful to you. Thank you for your comment. Please stay strong! -Kristen

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