image illustrating people staying around a narcissistic individual.

7+ Reasons People Stay & Keep Contact with Narcissists & Toxic People (Explained)

Many people maintain contact with narcissistic or toxic individuals due to a belief in the underlying benefits of the relationship, coupled with a hope that the person might change.

The anxiety associated with ending such relationships and the guilt felt over ‘abandoning’ the individual are significant factors.

Additionally, societal and cultural pressures, such as the idealization of familial bonds and fear of judgment from others, play a role.

The threat of retaliation or being smeared by the narcissist to their own friends and family further complicates the decision to cut ties.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Perceived Benefits in the Relationship

Despite the toxicity, some individuals believe there are benefits to maintaining the relationship.

This could be emotional, financial, or social.

Hope for Change

Many hold onto the hope that the narcissistic individual will change, although this is rare.

Anxiety Over Ending the Relationship

Ending any relationship can be anxiety-inducing, especially with a narcissist who might have created a complex, dependent dynamic.

Guilt Over ‘Abandoning’ the Narcissist

Feelings of guilt for leaving someone, even if they are toxic, can be powerful, particularly if there’s a long history or deep emotional ties.

Fear of Retaliation & to Keep the Peace

Narcissists often have a mean streak.

The fear of being smeared, badmouthed, or attacked, especially to friends and family, can be a strong deterrent to cutting ties.

Narcissists will always play this card.

Cultural and Social Pressures

Societal norms often emphasize the importance of familial bonds.

This “motherhood/parental/family worship” can lead to judgment and pressure to maintain even harmful relationships.

Judgment from Others

People can be judgmental towards those who choose to cut off their family members.

This external pressure can influence individuals to maintain connections despite the toxicity.

Q&A – Why Do People Stay or Keep Contact with Narcissists & Toxic People

What are the common reasons people continue relationships with narcissists?

Common reasons include emotional attachments, financial dependencies, shared responsibilities like children, and a deep-seated hope for improvement in the narcissist’s behavior.

Some individuals might also fear loneliness or have low self-esteem, making them more susceptible to staying in such relationships.

Additionally, the manipulation tactics used by narcissists, such as gaslighting and intermittent reinforcement of affection, can create a confusing and compelling dynamic that makes it difficult for people to leave.

How does hope for change influence someone’s decision to stay in a toxic relationship?

Hope for change is a powerful motivator in toxic relationships.

Individuals often cling to the good moments or the potential they see in the narcissist, hoping that their love and support will eventually lead to positive changes.

This hope can be reinforced by the narcissist’s occasional displays of affection or promises to change, creating a cycle where the victim repeatedly forgives and stays, driven by the belief that the relationship can improve.

What role does fear of societal judgment play in maintaining contact with a toxic family member?

The fear of societal judgment can be a significant factor in maintaining contact with a toxic family member.

Society often idealizes family relationships, and there can be a strong stigma attached to cutting off family members, regardless of their behavior.

This pressure can be particularly intense in cultures where family loyalty is highly valued.

Individuals may fear being judged as unfilial, selfish, or heartless, which can lead them to tolerate toxic behavior and maintain appearances for the sake of societal acceptance.

How does the fear of retaliation from a narcissist affect the decision to keep contact?

Fear of retaliation from a narcissist can greatly influence the decision to maintain contact.

Narcissists may use threats, blackmail, or smear campaigns as tools to keep their victims in line.

The fear of being publicly humiliated, having secrets exposed, or being alienated from mutual friends and family members can be a powerful deterrent to leaving the relationship.

In some cases, there may also be a fear of physical harm, either to the individual or to loved ones.

Are there any psychological effects on individuals who choose to stay in relationships with toxic people?

Staying in relationships with toxic people can have severe psychological effects.

Individuals may develop symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Their self-esteem and self-worth can be eroded, leading to a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

They might also experience chronic stress, which can have physical health implications.

Over time, the constant manipulation and abuse can lead to a phenomenon known as “learned helplessness,” where the person feels unable to change their situation and becomes resigned to the abuse.

How do societal norms about family and motherhood impact decisions to stay in toxic relationships?

Societal norms that idealize family bonds and motherhood can exert a strong influence on decisions to stay in toxic relationships.

The expectation that family relationships must be preserved at all costs can pressure individuals into tolerating unacceptable behavior.

Similarly, the glorification of motherhood can lead to a reluctance to acknowledge or address toxic behavior from mothers, with individuals feeling obligated to maintain the relationship despite the harm it causes.

These norms can also silence victims, making them less likely to seek help or support.

What strategies can people use to cope with the guilt of leaving a narcissistic individual?

Coping with the guilt of leaving a narcissistic individual involves several strategies.

Firstly, seeking therapy or counseling can provide emotional support and validation.

Understanding the dynamics of narcissistic relationships through education can also help in rationalizing the decision to leave.

Building a support system of friends and family who understand and support the decision is crucial.

Engaging in self-care practices and positive affirmations can help rebuild self-esteem and diminish guilt.

It’s also important to remind oneself that leaving is an act of self-preservation and not a selfish decision.

How does the perceived benefit of a relationship with a narcissist differ from reality?

The perceived benefits of a relationship with a narcissist often include love, companionship, and the fulfillment of certain social or financial needs.

However, in reality, these benefits are usually overshadowed by the manipulative and harmful behavior of the narcissist.

The love and affection provided are often conditional, inconsistent, and used as tools for manipulation.

Any financial or social gains are usually at the cost of emotional and psychological well-being.

The reality is that the relationship is often one-sided, with the narcissist’s needs taking precedence over the well-being of the other person.

What are the long-term consequences of maintaining contact with a toxic person?

Maintaining long-term contact with a toxic person can lead to chronic emotional and psychological damage.

It can result in long-standing issues with self-esteem, trust, and the ability to form healthy relationships.

Victims may struggle with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

The constant stress and tension can also have physical health repercussions, such as heart disease, hypertension, and a weakened immune system.

Additionally, staying in such relationships can lead to a cycle of abuse being normalized, potentially affecting future relationships and even impacting children who are exposed to these dynamics.

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