It’s normal if you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist or a psychopath to try to read the signs and figure out how to know if a narcissist is finished with you. You may feel obsessed with the idea that by going back over every word and action that took place between you, you can see into the future.
Relationships with narcissists have a cycle to them that plays out again and again. The narcissist draws you in close, then does an about-face, and begins to withdraw and verbally abuse you. Finally, they discard you for some reason that usually seems inexplicable.
But it’s only temporary because they soon return to start the cycle all over again. With all of their comings and goings, it’s natural to wonder if this time, when they leave, it’s the final time. [Read: What is Hoovering? 23 Narcissist Hoovering Tactics to Watch Out For]
I’m here to tell you the one way how to know if a narcissist is finished with you.
This relationship pattern I described above is known as the idealize-devalue-discard-hoover cycle. Many of us found ourselves caught in it for years. It’s the reason why we are left in limbo. [Read: The Real Narcissistic Abuse Cycle: Why You Can’t Go No Contact]
We constantly re-work our definition of what a relationship really is as they drift in and out, all around us, ghost-like. Narcissists keep us tethered to them by something we can’t explain–until either they or we cut the cord for good.
Or is it for good?
Want to learn about the five stages of leaving a narcissist? See the end of this post for information about how to read a free preview of my book, which including the first chapter and the pathological love relationship checklist.
Why We Wonder If the Narcissist is Finished With Us
The narcissist manufactures emotions that serve our own interests and slowly teach us to ignore our own needs. Many things keep us bound to narcissists far longer than they should. [Read: 6 Things That Explain Narcissistic Abuse in Relationships]
First, it can be almost as if our lives are on hold, awaiting this conditioning we have been subjected to over the years. Make no mistake; they have conditioned us to expect it.
When the narcissist leaves and then returns, it dysregulates neurotransmitters in our brains. One such neurotransmitter is dopamine, a chemical responsible for making us feel pleasurable sensations throughout our bodies. It drives humans to seek rewards and motivates them to act and live their lives in productive ways.
The problem is that it can get synced up with the narcissistic abuse cycle so that the level of dopamine in the brain drops when we are not in contact with the narcissist. We can actually crave contact with them. This can happen until the passage of time breaks the chemical bond to them.
Second, psychologically, there is a constant tension inside us due to desiring someone who causes us such pain and yet periodically comes back to rescue us from it. The narcissist has returned so many times before that it feels natural to anticipate it again. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
There is also a fear of what comes next when they aren’t returning as expected because we don’t know who we are anymore without the narcissist in our lives. At least if the cycle continues, there is comfort in its familiarity.
Third, the lack of control over what the narcissist can do may cause us to feel insecure about our own actions. Even if we found the strength to leave, we could feel a lack of resolve because they have had so much control in the past, we don’t trust ourselves anymore.
Narcissists Will Never Give You Closure
Finally, a fourth reason that we care so much about if the narcissist is finished with us is that the narcissist did not give us closure. [Read: 7 Reasons Why Narcissists Won’t Give You Closure]
The end of our relationship with them was likely horrific in some way. Perhaps we were the ones to try to end it and attempted to explain why. Of course, the narcissist refused to accept our reasons or acknowledge what happened.
They may even have tried to use manipulative techniques to keep us in the relationship, such as threatening to hurt themselves or to hurt us. Perhaps we had to cut off all communication without any conversation at all.
If the narcissist was the one to end it, he or she might have cut us off, as if we never existed or mattered. Or maybe the narcissist humiliated or degraded us even further or rubbed new relationships in our face.
Regardless of how it happened, this exit is a destructive question that leaves a black hole in the foundation of our lives. It can be an opening for the narcissist to hoover. Perhaps the narcissist will come back down the road with an apology for bad behavior or promises to answer outstanding questions–the closure we never got.
In normal relationships, breakups are not always mutual. Yet, at least both parties generally have an agreed-upon narrative about what happened.
If narcissists don’t give us closure, then even their absence can cause us pain.
And if they can’t be guaranteed to stay away, we can stay on a roller coaster of emotion, wondering if and will they will return, and that gives them a considerable amount of control over us.
How Many Times Will a Narcissist Come Back?
I receive questions all the time from people who were in relationships with narcissists, and they are the same questions I used to have.
My narcissist didn’t ever hoover. Does that mean he wasn’t a narcissist?
It’s been six months. Will my narcissist hoover?
We left without saying goodbye. Is that the final discard?
She said never to contact her again. Will she change her mind and get in touch with me?
He started putting “likes” on my posts on Instagram. Does that mean he’s getting ready to hoover me?
I don’t know whether your ex-partner will ever hoover you again. Your ex-partner may not even know. Why?
The answer lies in how narcissists apparently view relationships. Narcissists never really break up with you in the traditional sense.
They apparently return to any relationship if they think there is something to gain from it. This seems to be true no matter what has happened before.
This seems to hold even after years or decades. It’s also true no matter how the relationship ended. Even if they treated you horrifically at the end or you told them never to contact you, there is a possibility they might return.
From the perspective of a narcissist, it makes sense.
When Narcissists Tell You They’re Finished With Someone Else
Did the narcissist ever tell you about exes in their past that they wanted nothing to do with? And then you later found out that they were, in fact, in contact?
Narcissists seem to change the rules on any given day based on how they interact with people–only they don’t give you all of the information.
For example, perhaps they really aren’t interacting with a particular ex at a particular time. Narcissists, however, in theory, keep everyone with whom they have ever interacted in a web of potential sources of narcissistic supply.
If they happen to run into or see an ex somewhere that they haven’t thought about in a while, they may do some reconnaissance. They’re looking to see how easy it is to reach out, how likely it is that person would respond if they did reach out, and the quality of narcissistic supply they would get based on the level of effort they’d have to put in.
Many factors might go into the decision, but those factors all play a role in whether they will try to hoover someone else or not. They may initiate contact again with that person, almost as if no time has passed. What they won’t do is tell you about it. [Read: 12 Ways Narcissists Narcissists Use Social Media]
If you get suspicious, they may cut off that contact again, at least temporarily. That person may reach out to the narcissist, puzzled, to find out what happened. The narcissist will tell you they don’t know why the person is contacting them. They’re leaving out half the story.
It’s a familiar trick, isn’t it?
Someday, it may be you on the other end of that hoover calculation they’re making. Meanwhile, they tell everyone around them that you’re the one who won’t leave them alone–they want nothing to do with you.
Is this the “Final Discard?”
In short, they never really let their exes go.
They merely put their partners in a figurative storage locker–on an indefinite silent treatment, if you will. They leave you spinning, wondering what happened, without a period to the end of that sentence.
While they have moved on to someone new, they may reach out to see how receptive you are if they see something that reminds them of you. They always have to keep that web in the background intact, and you’re a part of it now.
Because of this, I like to think of the “final discard” on the part of the narcissist as a myth, a hypothetical idea. It’s only a theory, as no one can predict the future. This thought helps me in my recovery because it gives me all the answers I need.
How to Know if a Narcissist is Finished with You
There’s really only one way to know when a narcissist is finished with you: when you decide they are.
You can’t control the narcissist or know what he or she is thinking. You can only control yourself.
Narcissists don’t engage the final discard. They want to think they have the option, even if only in their own minds, to come back someday.
We engage it.
It’s important to make yourself difficult to contact.
The next best thing is to create a scenario in which the narcissist would never want to contact you because they would have nothing to gain.
Yet because the narcissist will never know that for sure, the absolute best thing you can do is work on ceasing to care. Once you have stopped caring what the narcissist is doing or thinking or will do in the future, you’ve already won back control of your life.
At that point, that’s the one thing the narcissist can never take from you again–no matter what he or she decides to do after that.
Want to read more?
Why Can’t I Just Leave? takes you step-by-step through the five stages of leaving a narcissist and helps lead you straight to the exit.
This isn’t your typical survivor recovery book. When you read it, you’ll learn about:
- What over 600 survivors said about their experiences and how they left their relationships
- 75 signs that you’re in a pathological love relationship
- What makes narcissistic abuse unique
- The most damaging effect of narcissistic abuse
- Why we change while we’re in the relationship
- The five stages of breaking up with a pathological partner
- Pop culture and celebrity examples of narcissistic abuse
- My personal story
Years in the making, this book creates a bridge between the first-hand knowledge of narcissistic abuse by survivors with lived experience and the social psychological research on the interpersonal and group dynamics of high-control relationships.
The heart of the book is explaining why we do things in these relationships we don’t understand and how we can stop.
Available in ebook, paperback, and hardback!
If you’d like to read a free preview, which includes the first chapter and the pathological love relationship checklist, click on this link.
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