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5 Keys to Divorce Follow-Through When You’ve Backed Out Before

keys to divorce follow-through when you've backed out before

Eliminate the fear that you’ll never go through with it…

“I’ve filed 3 times now, but he’s always convinced me to stay. How do I go through with it?”

As both a fellow narcissistic abuse survivor and someone who helps others with their recovery, this question haunts me every time I hear it – and believe me, I hear it a lot.

You see, from the question alone, I can tell so much about the person who has asked it.

This is someone who is strong and confident, who has clarity, who sees and is willing to take a stand for the truth, who is courageous enough to rock the boat, who has hope for a better future.

AND this is someone who sees the best in people, who recognizes their potential, who gives others the benefit of the doubt, who treats others with respect and compassion.

This is the story of the ideal narcissist target. Is this your story?

If you’ve answered “yes,” you are not alone. In fact, you were targeted for qualities that make you less likely to leave. There is a reason that many relationships with covert narcissists last decades.

Is it your destiny to remain stuck in this loop of sneaky divorce tactics forever? No. Not if you do these five things.

#1 Document what you know to be true

When you are with anyone, and especially with a narcissist or other toxic person, actions speak louder than words. You know this to be true, yet our tendency is to believe the words.

Your partner knows this, too. They have used false apologies and future faking tactics on you with great success. Why not continue? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as the saying goes.

  • They tell you they’re going to get a job and contribute financially. Great. Have they said that before? Has it happened?
  • They tell you they’re going to end their other relationships and devote their attention to you. Awesome. Have you heard that before? Have they cheated since?
  • They tell you they’re going to stop drinking. Fantastic. How many times have you heard that? Do they still drink?
  • They say they’re going to plan that honeymoon trip. Splendid. Have you heard that before? Have you taken the trip?

It’s natural and so easy to want to believe the words, but the words are just that – words. Without action, they are meaningless, yet they keep a lot of good people stuck.

#2 Envision your future

So often my clients focus on what they don’t want, yet when I ask what they want, they have no idea. This is kind of like putting “not here” into your GPS. It won’t actually take you anywhere.

If you don’t know what you want, it’s impossible to imagine the future. And when the going gets tough, it’s easier to stay stuck with what you know.

Imagine what your life will be like post-divorce. Put yourself in your future self’s shoes.

  • Where will you live?
  • Will you eat out or cook meals at home?
  • What will you do in the evenings?
  • Will you go to the gym?
  • How would you describe your relationships with your children, family and friends?
  • Will your work or career path change?
  • How about your health?
  • What does your bedtime routine look like?
  • Are you happy, inspired, at peace?

Now imagine what your life will look like if you stay.

  • Will your health continue to deteriorate?
  • Will you grow more and more miserable?
  • Will you be able to recognize yourself in the mirror?
  • Will you role-model for your kids staying in a toxic relationship?
  • What will life be like if you experience more of the same?

If you find yourself fantasizing about an ideal future with your current partner, go back to step #1. Have their actions matched their words? Have they changed as promised? If the answer is “yes,” you wouldn’t be filing again, would you?

#3 Make a plan

Without a plan, your desire to leave is a wish. A plan frees you to put the wheels in motion.

  • What important documents do you need to collect or copy?
  • Where will you live?
  • Do you need a temporary agreement for minor children?
  • Who will safely store your sentimental items?
  • Will you stay in contact or go no contact?
  • Who will you tell? Or not?
  • What support system do you need in place?
  • Who can you entrust to remind you of the truth when your resolve wavers?
  • What will you do when you feel lonely?
  • What can you do to move your healing journey forward (healing is the single best thing you can do for yourself, for your children, and even for your divorce settlement)?

Once you’ve created a plan, it’s far easier to stay the course. You are prepared for whatever is thrown your way. Now you’re simply executing the plan.

#4 Prepare for the hoover

The hoover is designed to derail your plans. It’s a trademark of narcissistic relationships.

A hoover is when your partner attempts to regain your attention and end the divorce proceedings. They do this for a few reasons:

  • They don’t want to lose the narcissistic supply you provide
  • They don’t want to damage their persona (ie, the pastor who got divorced)
  • They want to keep your resources (income, assets, connections)

In short, they want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to continue to behave as they have without consequences. And they’ve convinced you to believe this is a good thing.

Whether they use attention, romantic messages, gifts, nice dinners, memories of good times, promises of a better future, or another love bombing tactic, they will use the ones that worked on you before. That is predictable.

Preparing for the hoover is part of the planning process. It allows you to execute your plan.

#5 Let go of expectations

This one is hard.

Make a list of all the expectations you have – maybe have had for decades – that will not come true if you leave. Things like…

  • Celebrating your 50th anniversary
  • Growing old together in a cabin in the woods
  • Dancing together at your child’s/grandchild’s wedding
  • Retiring at age 60
  • Celebrating holidays with the family in your current home

It can be amazing how much weight an expectation you created years, even decades ago, carries. The pull of these expectations make it hard to leave, yet these are just remnants of old dreams.

  • When you dreamed of growing old together, you didn’t dream of growing old with someone who belittles and humiliates you.
  • When you pictured your 50th anniversary, you didn’t picture celebrating it with someone who has had 50 affairs.
  • When you imagined the holidays in your current home, you didn’t have
  • another home to consider – one filled with joy and peace.

Your expectations can be changed.


You haven’t failed. You are not weak. Your previous attempts to leave were not wasted effort.

They were an opportunity to learn, to shore up any weak spots, to make a better plan. They were part of your healing journey.


  1. Document what you know to be true
  2. Envision your future
  3. Make a plan
  4. Prepare for the hoover
  5. Let go of expectations

You have all the strength, smarts, and savvy that you need. You’ve got this. For further assistance, contact Vasquez de Lara Law Group. Our experienced divorce lawyers are here to help you follow through with your divorce in the best way possible.

Author: Melissa Kalt

Melissa Kalt

Dr Melissa Kalt, MD, is a trauma and narcissistic abuse recovery expert who frees survivors from the aftereffects of narcissistic abuse. Through coaching, consulting, and mentoring, she guides survivors to leverage their experience to reclaim their lives, achieving peace of mind, clarity, confidence, well-being, love, and abundance.  Her work has appeared in Katie Couric MediaHuffPostYour TangoThrive GlobalMedium, and Quora
Download her free guide Was Any of It Real? or if you want to be able to tell the difference between the covert narcissist and the covert narcissist victim, grab her new book here.