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Why Can’t I Just Leave?

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We stood in a crowded bar, but that didn’t stop Amir from waving to the bartender impatiently for a fresh rum and Coke. I watched him flirt with the young woman on the other side of him, a woman he’d met at the hotel pool earlier. He had invited her to meet us after dinner, as if we hadn’t spent the past eighteen months in a passionate relationship together with him whispering to me daily I was the love of his life.

Unsure of what to do, I looked around the spacious lobby of the resort, which was tucked garishly among several others along the powdery sand of the Jamaican shoreline. The bar was centered between tall white marble columns. Plush blue couches and a black grand piano hovered at the perimeters of the room, where beautiful, tanned people draped themselves over the furniture, talking to one another about their beautiful lives. I sat in shock, unable to fathom the stake that had been driven through mine.

Amir had finished at least twice as many drinks at the bar as I’d had on top of several rum and Cokes at dinner, and when he stood up, he fell. The crowd in the room gasped and went silent as he ambled to his feet, the knees of his suit pants dusty. Two staff members rushed over, but Amir waved them away and held his arms out to show everyone he was okay. He turned to me, glaring as if I’d had something to do with his fall. After saying something to the woman next to him, he growled in my ear that he was going back to our room.

“Are you coming?” he said.

I froze, contemplating the trap before me. If I followed Amir back to the room, his drunken contempt for me would take over. We would be alone with nothing to stop him from unleashing it on me. Yet if I stayed without him at the bar too long, he’d accuse me of going back to another man’s room.

Maybe he would pass out.

I looked down and shook my head, and I could see him staring out of the corner of his eye before he tore off into the night. Then, it was as if I had willed it to happen.

A man appeared beside me. He was in his early thirties with dark blonde hair, dressed in a brown, checked sport coat and a button-down shirt.

“I can’t talk to you,” I said before he had said a word.

“What?” His eyebrows creased in confusion.

“I mean, I have a boyfriend.”

“Oh,” he said, relaxing. “Well, he’s a very lucky man.”

“Uh—thanks,” I said, my eyes darting around the room. The lobby had several entrances, and my eyes flicked back and forth between all of them. Each time my eyes fell upon the one Amir had walked through, his shape materialized for an instant, then disintegrated. I felt faint.

“Did he come here with you?”

“Yes, he did. And if he sees me talking to you, he’s going to be really upset.” I blurted it before I could even stop myself. My heart hammered in my chest now.

The man’s eyes creased again with concern. As soon as I saw it, I lost my composure, and I started to cry. “I’m sorry. I have to go.”

“Wait. Wait, are you okay?” He touched the underside of my arm, where I had a bruise in the shape of a thumbprint.

No. I’m not okay. The enormity of it all crushed me, pushing me away from myself. It was a dream, yet it wasn’t. I wasn’t sure exactly how I had ended up there. Yet every excruciating detail had been its own slicing blade, and dozens of tiny cuts were draining me out.

About a week before Amir and I had left for Jamaica, his secrets had been eating me alive, and I finally decided I had to know the truth.


More than 60 million people have been in a pathological love relationship with someone who has an impaired conscience. Are you one of them?

Do you feel fiercely loyal toward your partner although your partner has put you through unspeakable acts of cruelty and betrayal?

Has your partner lied so much that sometimes you aren’t sure you know what’s real or who your partner really is?

Have you tried to break off the relationship yet feel powerless to stop your partner from walking in and out of your life?

Do you alternate between believing that your partner is the love of your life and questioning your sanity or even feeling your life may be in danger?

Using the stories of survivors and social psychological research on compliance, cognitive dissonance, and thought control, Why Can’t I Just Leave explains how relationships with pathological partners can create impossible dilemmas that trap you in a distorted dream-state and hijack your thoughts and emotions.

Learn what those who are conscience-impaired don’t want you to know and find out how to wake up and walk out of your partner’s invisible prison forever.

Dear Survivor, this is not your typical recovery book.

I understand the confusion, devastation, and heartbreak you’re going through because I was in a relationship like yours. When it was over, I wanted to learn why I hadn’t been able to leaveWhatwere the barriers to leaving, as expressed by survivors themselves?

I didn’t want to hear anymore about what’s wrong with survivors that they got into these relationships in the first place. I knew that wasn’t the whole story.

Who am I? 

My name is Kristen Milstead and I have a doctorate in Sociology, which I received from a university that has some of the most well-known names in criminology across the country. My academic background took me to the core of some of the most heinous acts humans inflict on one another, including serial murder and sexual assault. I interviewed juveniles held in detention centers and taught criminology courses to undergraduates. My research also led me to become a passionate critic of the criminal justice system and the biases in every day life that silence some voices and elevate others.

Years later, I never expected to become the victim myself. 

My background gave me an opportunity to search for answers in a way that has never been done before. I conducted a survey of over 600 survivors, and found that the manipulative tactics narcissists use are the same tactics used in other familiar high-control social settings, a fact often left out of most of the articles and books we read about healing, which often focus only on the characteristics of the abuser or on the characteristics we came into the relationship with. 

The problem is much bigger than us, and there are things to learn from these situations about how to successfully walk away.

This book connects the stories of hundreds of survivors with sociological research on the group dynamics of high-control environments. To balance out the more heavy academic stuff, I used pieces of my story to highlight that it is possible to come out of the other side and thrive, as well as pieces of the stories of other brave survivors who shared their stories with me. 

In the book you’ll find:

  • A checklist of 75 signs you’re in a relationship with a narcissist
  • Excerpts of survey responses from over 600 survivors
  • What the survey shows about the five stages of breaking up with a pathological partner
  • The key to understanding what makes narcissists’ tactics so dangerous
  • The sociological factors that make people vulnerable to narcissistic manipulation
  • ​​​​​​​How to use the stages of the narcissistic cycle against your pathological partner
  • Seven ways that survivors leave their narcissistic partners and which ones are the most effective​​​​​​​
  • A comprehensive glossary that includes definitions of relevant sociological terms and how they apply to relationships with narcissists

With a foreword written by by Sandra L. Brown, Author of Women Who Love Psychopaths, the book has now been listed in the in the Top 10 of Choosing Therapy’s  25 Best Books on Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder and named as one of the 9 Best Books On Narcissism You Cannot Afford To Miss by The Minds Journal. 


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. I need your help ASAP. I am a victim of Amir in your book.

    1. I don’t think you mean that literally you’ve been victim of the same man, but someone like him? I’m so sorry… my heart goes out to you. I hope you are beginning to heal.

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