First of all, it’s great if you decided to break up with a narcissist! It can be a very long and painful road before recognizing and accepting that someone is a narcissist. Also, it can feel judgmental to have such a negative verdict about a person which can make it harder to accept the truth. Therefore, it takes a lot of strength and courage to break free.
The fact that you are here to read about this subject means this person is probably not good for you and that you are (almost) ready to choose for yourself again! It’s important to focus on the feeling this person gives you in general and know that you can trust your instinct. You can read more about the challenges of leaving a narcissist in my article about 11 reasons why it’s so hard to end a relationship with a narcissist.
In this article, I will go into what to expect when you decide to break up with a narcissist. It’s useful to learn about this as it can be very challenging to go no contact and keep it that way.
Charmers that will drain your energy
Narcissists can be very charming and they have the ability to make you feel great about yourself. They make quite an effort at the start of a relationship by showering you with gifts, compliments, and affection. Sadly, this idealization doesn’t last and things will go downhill because they essentially don’t really care about you as an individual or your feelings.
A narcissist is self-centered, in constant need of admiration and attention, and often they are masters of manipulation that seek thrill and drama. It’s thus impossible to have a healthy balanced relationship with a narcissist. A narcissist will drain your energy and try to control your head.
A narcissist wants you to be dependent on them and wants to be the center of your universe. Therefore it can be very difficult to leave them, as they have worked to become the main attraction in your life. This means it will take courage to leave a narcissist, but in the long term leaving is necessary for your emotional well-being.
Know you will recover and become stronger! A relationship should be balanced and about honest communication, kindness, love, and care for each other. With a narcissist, you frankly didn’t even have an honest attempt to have a normal relationship.
When you break up with a narcissist you can expect many different things. On the ‘positive’ side, they could try to love-bomb you and hoover you back into the relationship. On the ‘negative’ side, they might blame or smear you and use all kinds of other manipulation tactics on you.
So here’s what to possibly expect when breaking up with a narcissist!
1. Love bombing and blaming (idealization and devaluation)
These opposite responses of love bombing and blaming you can happen literally in the same few seconds. You will definitely know you are dealing with a narcissist if this happens. The narcissist will first tell you how amazing you are and that he or she needs you forever. You are like a king or queen and should be worshipped!
Then, if you don’t respond as they wish and call the narcissist out on their abuse the mood can switch in a second. The narcissist will start to devalue you. They could start blaming you for everything and make all kinds of accusations. As they don’t take any responsibility, they see themselves as the victim and thus will blame you for any problems.
It’s best to try to stay out of their manipulative game and ignore emotional attacks and love-bombing. Stay focused on the fact that the relationship doesn’t work for you anymore. You can read more about how this idealization and devaluation works in my article explaining the narcissistic abuse cycle.
2. Lies, lies and more lies
Be prepared for lies. They need your love and admiration and they will work for it. Narcissists will lie about anything even if they don’t have to. They could do so for no reason, but because they can. Sadly, there is no conscience or regret about anything. The narcissist is an actor playing a role (whether conscious or unconscious) and unfortunately, you are a part of it. Keep reminding yourself of this and focus on their shown behaviour instead of their words.
3. The narcissist threatens with suicide
I’ve seen this strategy used several times by my narcissistic father when my empath mother showed her doubts about their marriage. A bold way to respond to this would be to call his bluff showing no emotion. In general, it’s important to at least not respond in an emotional way. You could read about the grey rock method to learn more about not responding in an emotional way and thereby not feeding the narcissist with emotional supply.
A non-emotional response will probably shock the narcissist, which would tell them this specific manipulation strategy is not effective anymore. Threatening with suicide is a more extreme reaction from a narcissist and could occur when they feel cornered and when they feel they are losing control over you.
4. All other kinds of manipulation and smear campaigning
If you break up with a narcissist, they will attempt to negotiate or persuade you to change your thoughts. They don’t like the fact that they don’t have control. It’s hard to understand for them someone wants to break up with them. They might promise that they will change or ask for another chance.
They might say they don’t give up so easily on the relationship and think you both should work on it. If they choose to emphasize the positive side they will be cheerful about possible vacation plans or steer the conversation to something they are excited about in the future with you. If this doesn’t work they can switch to the negative side in an instant to things like ‘you will never find someone else’ or ‘you’ll be lost without me’.
A narcissist could start a smear campaign and brutally attack you with all kinds of (public) blaming, lies, half-truths, and false allegations. They will then play the victim or hero and create a fake persona of you based on these lies and false allegations. It’s a very painful and draining experience and that’s why I wrote an in-depth article about smear campaigning and how to deal with it.
In general, they will always look for doubt or uncertainties in your attitude or words and test different responses if needed. Know that they thus will try all sorts of manipulation tactics and that they will probably find some triggers in you. This means it’s hard to leave them for good, as they try to create doubt and uncertainty concerning your decision.
Therefore it’s important to be certain about breaking up with them, so you will have the courage to stick with it. Know that it will be a great decision long term!
5. When a narcissist breaks up with you
If the narcissist is breaking up with you it can be very sudden and painful. They won’t consider your feelings and will leave you hanging out to dry. It can be completely the opposite of earlier behaviour such as their love bombing. Don’t blame yourself or start wondering what you possibly did wrong. There is no point in that.
The narcissist is done using you and possibly moves on to their next victim. Don’t expect any remorse, emotion, or apology from them. You will recognize if the above has happened by the brutality of their break-up, which tells you they have played/manipulated you. Realize who you have been dealing with and know you are better off without the narcissist.
6. Hoovering: Stay out of touch and remember why you ended it
To go no contact will require strength, but it’s essential to recover and grief in a good way. Shut them off completely, as they will only consume your energy and trigger old negative thought patterns. You decided to not let them control you or your energy anymore and you want to stick with that! They can’t control or try to manipulate you if they have no ways to contact you. The risk of having contact would be that you fall into old patterns before you even know it.
A narcissist can try to suck you back into an abusive relationship. This is called hoovering and if you want to learn more about this read my in-depth article about hoovering.
Therefore, remember why you ended the relationship and why the relationship wasn’t balanced or loving. Don’t question your decision by thinking only about the positive times and compliments, but remember how the relationship made you feel in general. Did the narcissist stimulate you to become a better person or develop positively? I don’t think so! Receiving compliments that aren’t sincere is empty and not equal to real affection.
A tip is to write down the reasons you broke up as a reminder! Remember that the narcissist won’t change and decide you want a more loving relationship. You deserve that!
7. They will move on quickly
Be prepared for the possibility that there won’t be much hesitation for a narcissist to quickly move on. They will look for a replacement and don’t feel much about earlier relationships. A narcissist plays a part as long as they can get something from you. When there is no more use for you or they definitively lost control over you, you are out of their minds.
It’s possible you quickly will see happy pictures and hear nice stories about finding new love. They are after all mostly skilled in seducing or love bombing someone else who lets their guard down or is vulnerable at that time. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that someone else will get a better version of the narcissist. It sadly will be a new victim getting the same treatment, not yet aware of what is going on.
8. Feeling sad and grief (and that’s okay!)
Your relationship just ended, which can always be difficult and painful. You tried to make the relationship work and had an emotional connection with your narcissistic ex. You possibly had a vision or dream about the future and you thought your partner was a certain way. Your feelings and love were real and in a way, it’s not important that your partner did not feel the same. You will feel sad and grief, which is okay. It’s perfectly normal because you have to let those feelings and possible future go and that’s painful.
A relationship with a narcissist can be very energy consuming, so it can take some time to recover. Breaking up is a process and you will eventually move on! You can trust your reasons why you have ended the relationship and be proud that you freed yourself from a toxic environment!
9. They are still in your thoughts
It’s normal that you still think about the narcissist after the breakup. They meant something for you, so naturally, you will think about it. They probably had some great aspects that you might look up to. You might question your own judgment because they seem to be so nice and caring. Sometimes they even have work at which they help a lot of people. How can someone like that be a narcissist?
You could experience discomfort and anxiety created by cognitive dissonance. This is a state of mind where the truth can become blurry because of the narcissistic abuse. A narcissist can act normal while showing abnormal/disturbing behaviour and respond abnormally when you show normal behaviour (such as setting a boundary). This ongoing discrepancy creates anxiety and confusion. You can read more about cognitive dissonance in this article.
If the narcissist is still in your mind a lot, think about the relationship as a whole again and how they made you feel about yourself. Think about how they made you doubt yourself and analyze what happened. You will know the relationship was not healthy and you will know that there is emptiness beneath the surface and it’s all an act.
10. Gather support around you
As mentioned before, narcissists don’t tend to easily accept a break up not initiated by them. In dealing with a divorce they might not want to negotiate at all and they will drag out the process of breaking up if they can. It can be helpful to get support from someone with experience in how narcissists work. This could be a psychologist or a lawyer with such experience.
Also, I would advise letting some of your friends or family know about your situation. You will need support and it’s good to involve others. This is mainly so that you have less opportunity to blame yourself or get doubts.
It’s possible the narcissist tried to create a dependency on them, which could have resulted in you having less quality contact with family and friends. They sometimes try to push you away from your support system. If this happened, you might feel ashamed or be scared to make contact again. Try to trust the intention of your friends or family and ask for help. Good friends or family will want to help you!
11. Negative thoughts and shame
It’s easy to get negative thoughts and feel shame when you start to see things more clearly. You probably become more aware of the narcissist’s behavioural patterns. You could feel a sense of shame when you realize what happened and see how you have been manipulated. Other thoughts could be that you were too naïve and you might feel regret or anger. You may wonder why you wasted so much time on them and how you could be so stupid to be fooled. Recognize these thoughts and please understand these thoughts aren’t fair!
Try to be kind and compassionate to yourself! Remember that a narcissist is a master of manipulation and that you didn’t stand a chance. Especially if you weren’t familiar with the extent to which such manipulation can occur. In hindsight, you might see the signals or the warning signals from family and friends but it’s not fair to blame yourself. You can’t know someone will do this. It happens to a lot of people.
Yes, you can learn from it and recognize why you were vulnerable to this manipulation. Next time you will know your boundaries better, but at this point just be proud and glad that you managed to stop it from happening and that you ended it! Not everyone is able to do this!
Focus on now and think about yourself again
It’s tough but it’s time to focus on what is happening now and not dwell in the past. You could learn about conscious breathing (mindfulness) by reading this article. Focus on positive thoughts and try to be proud of taking over the control of your life again.
Get to know your loving self again. Do the things you love and appreciate yourself and your own company. Try to forgive yourself and be kind to yourself. Working on self-love is a process, so all small steps are great. Smalls steps forward, that’s all you should try to do!
You probably treat people that are important to you with love and respect. Allow yourself the same love, patience, and forgiveness you give to your loved ones. Try to take care of your body, mind, and needs. Do things that make you happy and reconnect with people you enjoy being with!
Important! Forgive yourself!
Don’t blame yourself for still being with a narcissist. It can be hard for other people to understand why you stay with them, but the manipulative game can go very slowly. They violate boundaries step by step and continue to be able to pull off more extreme or abusive behaviour.
It can be very addictive to be in a relationship with a narcissist as they can be full of compliments and make you feel great about yourself. They can steer you into self-blame and make you desperate to win back their affection and their rewarding behaviour. When realizing the truth you will see the damage that was done. You will realize it’s not your fault!
You will also realize relationships shouldn’t be like that and I hope you know that you deserve to be treated with respect and that you are worthy of real love! From now on you’ll better understand your boundaries and who knows when someone new will enter your life!
I wish you strength and love!
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2 thoughts on “What to expect when you break up with a narcissist?”
Thank you. I have read all your articles referring to being in a relationship with a Narcissist and it is like reading the last 4 years of my life. I’ve experienced it all, including the hoover after being ghosted and discarded, and the confession he had met someone else.. it’s text book to what you have written. A month ago i woke up one morning, got my things together while he slept after an evening of him devaluing me yet again and me crying begging him to stop critising me, etc. I thought to myself, ‘i’m deciding to let go!’ I didn’t say anything to him, i simply kissed him good-bye, went home and awaited the texts of abuse which came flooding. It was the same old victim, i’m a Cunt who never does anything for him etc etc and i cut off emotionally.. something in me just had enough of looking for the man (i thought) i’d met and was sick of feeling a slave to his life and needs.. the pattern of this toxic relationship had to end (i had never been that brave, it was always him who discarded me and i went begging for him back). 2 weeks ago i started to feel weak, the cognitive disonnance kicked in and i text him.. in which he ignored. My anxiety made me do it several times.. all ignored. And then i read these articles and got my strength back. You have helped me see the relationship for what it was and i AM decided to love myself again. I really can’t thank you enough x
Thank you, this article is spot on! I have been in a 25 yr marriage with a narcissist. We have 3 daughters together. I always knew he wasn’t right but made excuses due to his bad childhood. When my middle daughter turned 18 she told me one day she had always prayed i would divorce him.
7 months ago he was hospitalized with pancreatitis after binge drinking, I googled the word narcissist. Wow! A light came on and I knew I needed to leave.
This is day 2 of no contact. I know I have a long road ahead but when my guilt starts creeping in reading articles like this one really helps. I know i can do this Thank you
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