I Have Only One Regret In Life — And Damn, It’s A Doozy

I was easy prey for a narcissist.

woman alone on dark evening in winter Alliance Images / Shutterstock

I have a picture on my desk of my three boys when they were small, my youngest just a baby.

Along with their innocence, their smiles, and their brotherly love, I also see something else when I look at that picture.


Because it’s the moment I wish I would’ve left my husband.

I know, I know — regret is useless. And usually, I’m pretty solid on not engaging in it.


But when it comes to my kids, I can’t help but feel regret when I think of what came after I took that picture.

It wasn’t that there weren’t signs up until that point. In fact, from the first moment I met the man who would, at the end of our marriage, be diagnosed as a narcissist, there were enough red flags to supply a small communist country.

I couldn’t see any of that then, of course. At the time, I was in a vat of self-doubt and insecurity after growing up with a father whose abuse was normalized in our home.

RELATED: 9 Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse, Explained By A Therapist

I was easy prey for a narcissist.


As the years passed, I remained the frog in a pot of cool water set to Boil, oblivious to the increasing temperature since it was so subtle.

I lived in a perpetual state of confusion, anxiety, and a misguided kind of hope that I’d wake up the next day and everything would go back to how it used to be.

Back when he was charming and loving and fun.

Sometimes he showed up. But then out of nowhere, that other guy came home. The moody, angry, cruel imposter who blamed me for all of our troubles.

Every day was a question. Where’d the guy I married go?

Oh, there he is!

Oh, there he went.

And the years passed.

While I grew older and he grew meaner, I clung tightly to the belief that he would change. Loyal to the vow I’d made to love him through better or worse.


Sure, things were bad. But we were married. We had a life together. He was the father of my children.

I couldn’t just leave.

Plus, he promised to change. Just when I would be on my last f*** to give, that was the moment he swept in and charmed his way back into my endless supply of forgiveness.

And the years passed.

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But then my children started to suffer.

My middle son began acting out and melting down, unable to cope at such a young age with his feelings toward his father.

And his father’s abuse of his mother.

I didn’t know then what a narcissist does to their children. I didn’t know then that my middle son was his father’s scapegoat.


I didn’t know that my youngest was his golden child, which would have a devastating impact on him in the years to follow.

I didn’t know that my husband would soon abandon our oldest son because he called him out on what he was doing to our family. Plus, my son was on my side.

All I knew was that I loved my kids and wanted them to be okay, so I projected that onto my husband.

I thought he loved them and wanted them to be okay too.

So I continued to play the role of peacemaker between my children and their father. I stayed in the middle and tried to help my husband see how his behavior was hurting them.

All the while, oblivious to the truth that my husband knew exactly what he was doing.


He just didn’t care.

I didn’t know how a narcissist views their children — as tools, as weapons, as extensions of themselves, and as a way to further their own interests.

And I didn’t know a thing about narcissistic abuse.

Because of it, my children paid the price.

And the years passed.

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It wasn’t until I found myself in the office of a psychologist who was an expert on personality disorders that my loyalty to my husband was finally severed.

"Your husband is a narcissist," he told me after sessions with both of us and also with my middle son, whose behavior had gone from bad to worse.


"He doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t care about your children. He doesn’t even see you as a human being."

It hit me hard, especially because I’d begun feeling like a piece of furniture that my husband walked around and ignored.

It hit me harder when I thought of my kids and what I’d put them through by giving their father the space to hurt them.

"Narcissists don’t change. And even if your husband changed today, it would take him 200 years to make up for the pain he’s caused you and your children."

200 years.


No way. No more. I’d already stayed long enough. I’d already stayed too long.

It was that moment when the psychologist who I’d gone to for marital counseling, expecting to be told how everything was my fault as my husband had been saying for years, and who I assumed would tell me all the ways I needed to change in order to make my marriage work, surprised me and said…

"Save yourself. Save your kids. And leave."

So I did.

And yet today, every time I look at that picture on my desk of my three boys, the youngest when he was just a baby, I can’t help but wish I had left then. If only to spare them what came after.

But maybe I should cut myself a break. Maybe I should finally forgive myself.


After all, I may not have left soon enough.

But at least I didn’t wait 200 years.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or log onto thehotline.org.

RELATED: Your Answers To These 50 Questions Will Reveal If Your Guy Is A Narcissist


Suzanna Quintana is a writer, recovery coach, and founder of The Narcissist Relationship Recovery Program. She is a certified holistic health counselor.