real life

'I was married to a narcissist for 26 years. Here's how I rebuilt my life after it ended.'

Every day women across the world experience controlling relationships, feeling as paralysed as I did. “Why didn't you just leave?” is the most common question we are asked. My story reveals why it’s never that simple, but following the steps I finally took, we can find purpose and happiness waiting for us on the other side.

I didn’t realise he was narcissistic for most of my marriage. I didn’t even realise I was being abused. My husband didn’t yell at me or hit me. But I was restricted financially and socially. 

My friend and family thought my husband was wonderful. He was successful in his career. In the beginning, I got roses every week. He gave me a credit card and bank account and soon proposed.

While you're here, watch Signs You’re Dating A Narcissist. Story continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

I thought I’d found my Richard Gere. He was six years my senior and had his life together. I was Julia Roberts. I was not a sex worker, but I was vulnerable like Vivian in Pretty Woman. A single mum with a three-year-old, making my way in the world all on my own.

As soon as we bought a house together, it then began. Emotional connection, affection, and freedom to access my money were all gone. If I did try to be affectionate or I needed a hug after a hard day, he would accuse me of being crazy. He convinced me that I was the problem. I spent years having recurring nightmares where he would leave me out of the blue. I’d be crushed, and he would be callous and cold. I went through years of therapy and antidepressants to cope with my downward spiralling life.


I tried to change myself in every way possible to get his approval. But no matter what I did, I was ignored and ridiculed. He would walk past me like I was a stranger. I was engulfed by shame. What was so wrong with me that my own husband was repelled by me?

It’s common for abusive or narcissistic people to be actors in the outside world. His persona was a loving, friendly man who would give his attention to others yet provoke reactions from me and control my environment. He dangled the carrot I could never reach. Promises of money, change and things getting better.

As my spirit died slowly, I asked for a divorce. He stared me in the eyes and threatened to bury our money to ensure I got nothing. He blocked me from accessing our bank accounts, and without a job, I felt I had no choice but to stay.

I was a stay at home mum who wasn’t allowed to work. The most I could take on was two days a week. I was terrified that he would take full custody of our children if I left since he was earning a much higher income. I couldn’t risk it.

Eventually, he was the one that asked for a divorce once my youngest was 19 years old. He told me he couldn’t be my husband anymore. This is how I rebuilt my life.


Dealing with the emotional hangover.

When he left me, my emotions were incredibly turbulent. I was grieving the 26 years of my life I had wasted. I was constantly anxious and highly reactive. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was suicidal, depressed and my nervous system was shot. My nightmare was playing out exactly as I dreamt it.

Part of me was incredibly relieved when he left. Another part was furious. I felt like a fool that had been played this whole time. I was trauma bonded after all these years of financial and emotional abuse. I longed to leave the entire time we were together, but I mentally couldn’t do it. He made me believe that I needed him.

Listen to Fill My Cup. On this episode, we asked listeners for there favourite songs to cry too. Plus, Allira shares her top five and we offer up some ideas for when you next need a good cry. Post continues below.

Rebuilding confidence and learning to trust my intuition.

Rebuilding myself was a slow challenge. He left me the day before I relaunched my business. He cut off my access to all our accounts. He was a director of my company. Not only was I dealing with my marriage ending but also possibly my dream business. The thought that he had beaten me and taken everything away left me suicidal. I felt absolutely helpless. I was in the emergency room when I was forced to decide: Do I fight or fold? Thinking of my children, I knew I needed to fight.

I needed to strengthen my mind. I reflected on what I’d achieved during the marriage despite the constant adversity. I needed guidance in the biggest battle for freedom I would ever have to fight. I hired a divorce coach, a relationship coach, a business coach and a lawyer. I scoured the web for support groups and recommendations. With my internal fire beginning to light up again and the guidance from my professional team, I began to empower myself and re-access my intuition.


Reaching out for help.

He left me with no money, but I couldn’t even get Centrelink because I had assets in my name. I had to accept a loan from my son. My support system of friends, family and professionals saved me.

This is not a journey I could have travelled alone. With help, I started regaining my strength to keep my head above water. Many women in my situation, fighting against someone with large financial resources, are forced to give up and walk away with nothing, including their children in some cases.

My kids. Image: Supplied


What I wish someone had told me.

I wish someone had told me about the resources available for women experiencing abuse. There are organisations and support groups to help. 

I also wish someone had told me that there is a life on the other side waiting for me. One where I am free to be myself and make my own decisions, with the financial freedom to pursue a better life for myself and my family.

You have more strength than them. Work changing your generational instilled mindset about being a vulnerable, stuck woman and surround yourself with the right resources and support.

My company’s goal is to disrupt this societal norm that severely compromises women by providing information and connections to resources. It's our time to shine. It’s our time to be our best selves.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

Want to get the most out of your day? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!