Living Through and Recovering From a Relationship with a Narcissist

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How to Know If a Narcissist is Finished With You

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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 as if 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:  they draw you in close, then they do an about-face and begin to verbally abuse you and withdraw, 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.

I’m here to tell you the one way how to know if a narcissist is finished with you.

The relationship pattern I described above is the idealize-devalue-discard-hoover cycle that many of us found ourselves caught in for years.  It’s the reason why we are left in limbo. 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?


Why Do We Care So Much If the Narcissist is Finished With Us?

The narcissist manufactures emotions in us that serve their own interests and slowly teach us to ignore our own needs. There are many things that keep us bound to narcissists far longer than they should.

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 that is 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 of 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 is going to do can cause us to feel insecure about our own actions. Even if we were the ones to find the strength to leave, we can 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.

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.

He or she may even have tried to use manipulative techniques to try to keep us in the relationship, such as threatening to hurt themselves or to hurt us. Perhaps we simply had to cut off all communication without any conversation at all.

If the narcissist was the one to end it, he or she may 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 won’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.


Narcissists Never Break Up

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 true even after years or decades. It also holds 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 are interacting 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 they have ever interacted with 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.

There are many factors that 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.

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.


How to Know if a Narcissist is Finished with You

In short, 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, if they see something that reminds them of you, they may reach out to see how receptive you are. 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 mythical idea. It’s only a theory, as no one can predict the future. This thought helps me in my recovery.

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 make it so there’s no reason for him or her to ever contact you because there wouldn’t ever be anything to gain.

But 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.

That’s the one thing narcissists can never take from you again no matter what they do after that.


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Kristen Milstead

Kristen Milstead is a narcissistic abuse survivor who has become a strong advocate for finding your unique voice and using it to help others find theirs.


  1. Great article, Kristen. Your writings have helped me so much, and I am grateful

    These two paragraphs resonated with me:

    “There’s really only one way to know when a narcissist is finished with you: when you decide they are.”

    “The next best thing is to make it so there’s no reason for him or her to ever contact you because there wouldn’t ever be anything to gain.”

    I went no contact, although not right away. In a futile attempt to get closure, I engaged with my ex-narcissist. In hindsight, I realize it was a mistake. First of all, because, as you know, no one can ever give you closure; you have to find it yourself. Even in relationships with normal, mentally healthy individuals, that is the case. What is worse, however, when dealing with narcissists, is feeling the effect of their lack of empathy and cruelty.

    I also ensured there my ex-narcissist would ever contact me again when I removed his mask and caused a major narcissistic injury. I often wonder if I did it consciously. I tend to think it was an act of self-preservation. He was trying to destroy me, and I fought back. While I have engaged with him a few times on social media in the last year since that happened, he hasn’t made any serious attempt to get back together with me, although he’s alluded to being friends. I have no interest. know who and what he is, and he knows I know the truth about him. So, I’m fairly certain he’s done with me. And that’s a good thing.

    – Sara

    1. Married 20 plus years thought of his ongoing personality blips were due to his addiction s and chronic pain ( he had back surgery in his 30’s) I left many many times and finally had to have him removed from our home via the law.
      Yes ! It got that bad . We had been to many counselling sessions I alone went. No one mention Narissism. I just started reading an article one day about Narcissism and felt like I was reading my life. They never accept blame , they control your world ( or try), projection .
      I even ready an article where it asked the partner of a narcissist, Are you sleep deprived?
      He started so many arguments before bed and then would just roll over and sleep while I lay there in complete anxiety. I can’t believe this is my life ! I cannot believe I just am getting it now . They the narcissist do not change ! We need to change ….. I’m exhausted . Yet so ready to embrace a new lease on life .

  2. Talk about great timing – like having you visit to answer my questions and fears –
    Thank you – you are inspiring and reassuring

  3. Thank you. I so desperately needed this. You perfectly described my last ”relationship” of the past 4 years. I had been convinced that so many things I saw, felt, or perceived were ”in my head,” or, ”[me] digging for answers instead of leaving things alone.” Odd, isn’t it? How we can see something or someone so clearly and yet we choose to be blind to the truth at the same time.

  4. My ex has gone so far as to contact my son, who is a grown man, because I have gone no contact. He has been blocked on fb, my home phone, my cell phone and messenger. I have gone so far as to delete his name and all pictures from my iPad. I feel so much more calm and serene with him out of my life. Your articles give me the strength to keep going. I read them when I feel weak and vulnerable. Thank you.

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