Sanity Roadmap- The Eight Stages to Getting Free and Healing from Covert Abuse

Although everyone’s situation and journey is different, there are similar stages that we all go through when we are coming out of covert abuse.

Your world has been spinning around in confusion- this roadmap can help give you some solid ground to walk on.


This isn’t an easy journey. It requires an intentional commitment to work on yourself and the willingness to face incredibly painful realities.

Life is messy, feelings are messy, abuse recovery is messy, and you’re messy. That’s ok.

You can do this. You will find strength inside you that you never knew you had.

No one goes through these stages in a linear way – you’ll jump between them, go forward and then go back again. This is perfectly normal.

Many of these stages overlap and often you’ll be in several stages at the same time.

You can find a way out of Christian covert narcissistic abuse and find reality, truth, education, healing, boundaries, freedom, recovery and yourself.

Overall, these are the stages you’ll move through:

Stage One: Finding Reality
Stage Two: Finding Truth Through Learning
Stage Three: Finding Yourself
Stage Four: Finding Healing
Stage Five: Finding Boundaries
Stage Six: Finding Freedom
Stage Seven: Finding Restoration
Stage Eight: Finding Your New Life

what is reality- I am so confused by abuse

Stage One: Finding Reality

When you start this stage, you’ve been feeling crazy and questioning reality for a long time. This stage begins when all your wondering, “What is going on?” “Is it me or him?” turns into a search for answers.

This is the stage where you exchange the confusion for the relief of realizing it’s not you, but right alongside that relief is the life-shattering realization that you’re living in a nightmare. You start to see the damage that’s been done to you. You look inside yourself and realize that you have no idea who you are anymore.

The goal of this stage is to realize you are being covertly abused and see your need for knowledge about what you’re living with.


what does covert psychological and emotional abuse look like?

Stage Two: Finding Truth Through Learning

In this stage, you are still spinning from the merry-go-round of being covertly abused, but you begin to realize there’s solid ground for you to walk on. Now that you know you are being covertly abused, you’re faced with more questions “Can he change?” “Does he know what he is doing?”

The goal of this stage is to learn to think clearly. You understand what’s happening in your life and you start to see the tactics

A common struggle in this stage is reality shifting, which is where you fluctuate from knowing you are being abused back to believing the promises and narrative of your abuser again. You cycle in and out of falling back into self-doubt and blame, but each time you get yourself out of it more quickly.

During this stage, you learn about character disturbance and personality disorders, you face the painful possibility that he won’t change, and you face the shocking betrayal of wondering if he’s abusing you intentionally. You also see that you were never at fault or responsible for the abuse. You realize that something has to change in your life.

Often, in this stage, you look for support among your family and friends and find that they aren’t very helpful because they are uninformed. This is when you read books, watch videos and find support online from other women who understand what you’re going through. You find the relief that comes with knowing that you’re not alone.

If you’re a woman of faith this can be a challenging time as you realize that most churches are not a safe place to find help and very few have any understanding of covert abuse.

The truth you’re learning in this stage causes overwhelming pain but it leads to the freedom of finding yourself again.


who am I? I feel lost from abuse. The narcissist destroyed me.

Stage Three: Finding Yourself

This is the beautiful stage when you start to discover and trust yourself again. This “stage” will continue for the rest of your life! You catch glimpses of your strength, kindness and value. The spinning slows, the abuser’s voice in your head starts to fade, and you start to feel glimmers of feeling alive again.

The goal of this stage is to learn how to trust, respect, and take care of yourself. This is when you take all the care, kindness, empathy, and compassion that your abuser exploited and turn it toward yourself.

This stage can involve lots of journaling, dismantling wrong beliefs, and facing childhood issues. It also involves seeing how the abuse has changed your perspective on yourself and on life in general, and undoing the brainwashing that has happened through the abuse.

It’s essential to learn how trauma effects your brain and how to heal the physiological effects of trauma. As you learn these things, you begin to realize that your responses to the abuse, and the struggles you face, are not character problems in you or sin, but normal reponses to abuse you’ve gone through.

You know you are being victorious in this stage when you start to feel angry that anyone would ever treat you the way your abuser did, when you are doubting your reality less and less, and when you recognize that you hold no responsibility for the abuse.

If you are a woman of faith, in this stage you will begin to internalize how God sees you and how beloved you are as His daughter.

As you become stronger in yourself, you naturally move into the healing stage and start believing that you matter enough to take care of yourself by setting boundaries.

setting boundaries iwth a narcissist abuser

Stage Four: Finding Boundaries

As you find yourself again, you begin to set boundaries with your husband and other unhealthy people in your life. The struggle shifts from being mostly internal to also being external as these people push back. You start learning skills to deal with the abuse.

The goal of this stage is often to test whether your husband will change, to see who the safe people are in your life, and to get stronger in yourself. This stage often leads to a crossroads where you have to make a decision.

In this stage, you see your husband more clearly because his abuse becomes more obvious to you. You discover who your husband has recruited against you. You face smear campaigns and the hopelessness of being unable to defend yourself against his lies.

You realize that people who you thought were friends aren’t actually safe. You may find yourself rejected by your church. And you face your anger at the total injustice and evil of it all.

You no longer spin in self-doubt, but it can feel like your world is falling apart around you. You need all the support you can get from others who’ve been there.

As devastated as you are, you find that you have a growing inner strength. You find yourself longing to be free from all this drama and your focus shifts more towards the future.


how do I heal from covert narcissistic emotional abuse?

Stage FIVE: Finding Healing and Recovery

This stage begins as you find yourself, and continues until you are settled in a new way of living. This is where you do the hard work that changes you into the person you always wanted to be.

In the beginning of this stage, you often wonder how you will survive all this pain and change. You live one hour at a time. You are suspended between what you know you must get away from and not knowing where you are heading. You may realize that you have PTSD. You feel like a mess a lot of the time.

The goal of this stage is to do the hard work of healing and develop the patience to let it take as long as it takes. You learn to give yourself all the time you need to process what you are learning, to face your feelings, and to go through the long and deep grief.

Many women need to talk a lot about what has happened to them to process all the trauma. This is healthy. Because you were covertly abused, it may take some time to understand everything you went through and all the ways that he abused you.

At times, you will want to read and read about abuse, and other times you find yourself needing a rest. You are learning to listen to your needs and take care of yourself.

If you are a woman of faith, this is the stage where you face many questions about your faith and start to seek Jesus Himself without the doctrines of man that formed much of your beliefs. You also seek safe believers to talk about the abuse with.

This stage opens the way to gaining the strength to find your freedom.


getting free from an emotional and psychological abuser

Stage Six: Finding Freedom

In this stage, you are accepting your life as it is, still processing the pain of betrayal, yet also looking forward to starting fresh. You might be separated or you might see it coming. You may be facing the likelihood of divorce, the complexities of co-parenting, and how to help your children.

You’re figuring out how you’ll live on your own and the financial complications of supporting yourself. You’re also continuing your own internal healing journey and facing the deep grief of losing your life as you knew it.

This is a practical stage and the goal is to make a plan for living your own life and getting free. Once you’re ready for freedom, you see the end goal and it can’t come fast enough.

If you stay with your husband, your relationship has changed and you are living an independent life.

When this stage ends it’s often bittersweet- there’s the relief of the daily abuse and the battle for your freedom being over, but there’s also the pain of your former dreams being truly over.

Looking forward to the possibilities of your new life carries you through.

pale green banner 3k.jpgrestoring your life after narcissistic covert emotional abuse

Stage Seven: Finding Restoration

This is the stage of truly finding who you are now that you can choose your own life. You are learning how to be a single parent and how to be the mom your kids need. You continue self-care and build healthy beliefs systems and world views that are formed by all you have learned. You are becoming a deeper person with reservoirs of compassion for other’s pain that you didn’t have before.

You are still processing painful feelings while you grow into who you are and explore how to live your new life. The heaviness and hopelessness is getting better. You are adjusting to the loneliness.

You are learning that the pain won’t last forever. Some days you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and you know you can survive the journey.

You are building relationships with people who are genuine and safe. You are in the long process of rebuilding your life.

As a woman of faith, you seek Jesus as your best friend and come to know His Life inside of you. You know that God did not want you to suffer and you are trusting Him again.

There are moments when you are astounded by the strength you’ve found in yourself to survive what you have been through. You are losing interest in what your abuser is doing in his life. You realize you want to be fully healed before considering another relationship because you are your first priority.

You experience times of calm and peace that you thought you had lost forever.

You have become your own hero.


creating your new life after narcissistic covert emotional and psychological abuse

Stage Eight: Finding New Life

This is where you live now. You trust yourself and know that you’re capable and strong. You can hardly believe you survived the pain of all the stages you’ve gone through.

Your hope has returned and you can feel excitement again. Life has possibilities. You are happy to be alive. You have gotten to where you never thought you’d get to!

You see what you went through in the context of the bigger picture – as a product of a culture that enables abuse and male power over women. You help others in whatever way you can.

You surprise yourself when you realize that although you wish you had never had to go through all this, you are grateful for who you have become and for this journey that brought you here.

You know who you are and you love her.


Where are you in this journey?

Are you still in confusion? Are you learning? Are you finding yourself again and trying to make decisions? Are you free from the abuse and now healing?

No matter where you are, you will get to freedom and a joyous new life if you keep going. And that new life will make all the pain of this journey worth it.


Come join our private Facebook community for women faith and let us know where you are on this journey, or comment below.

I am so confused by my Christina marriage. Is it me or is it him?

If you are in Stage One or Two, be sure to download “Is This Abuse? The 6 Step Guide to Uncovering Hidden/Covert Abuse.”

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Other helpful resources

why is my Christian marriage so painful?
coaching for emotional and psychological covet narcissitic abuse

If you’re a woman of faith, this page is for you.


If you’re in need of individual help, I’m available for coaching.