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The Five Relationship Outcomes If You’re With a Narcissist: Which One Will You Choose?

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Can I get real with you for a few minutes? Can we have a talk?


Are you still breaking up and then getting back together with the narcissist? Does he or she come back around every so often? Do you stay in touch with him or her, or keep the lines of communication open in the hopes that he or she will reach out?

Forget about the past for a minute, and how he or she used to treat you at the beginning of the relationship. Let’s ignore in this article the messy business of trying to figure out whether they are a good person who has bad days or an evil person wearing a mask to get you to fall in line.

None of that matters right now.

All I want to talk about right now is you.

If you are in that grey area where you are still interacting the narcissist, whether you would call it a relationship or not, then you have five options. The truth of the matter is, they have always been your options, but you did not know it.

You see, as soon as a relationship with a narcissist begins, it is already ending. You cannot remain in denial about this.

You must choose one of these options, or eventually, it will choose you.

The Five Options

(1) You Can Continue This Same Pattern Indefinitely. I know you don’t want to be locked in this pattern. It hurts! It feels like you are slowly being tortured. Let’s look at why it keeps happening. Something you do causes a narcissistic injury to your partner, probably something you couldn’t even foresee or likely it is something you had every right to expect. Whatever it is, suddenly you’re on the outs again. Yet a few days later, he or she can’t live without you again, or perhaps you are desperate to find out what it is you did. All you want is to be treated with dignity and respect.

Why persist in this pattern? Why try to talk to an adult about what honesty and respect mean? Why keep playing detective and trying to unravel mysteries? Why does nothing ever make sense? Why let them pretend to be the victim at the very same time they victimize?

You absorb their poison and accept their blame. Yet you try to show them that all we want to do is be in a loving relationship and wonder why that isn’t enough– but you aren’t crazy for expecting that it should be. It’s a game that can never be won. They will keep eroding you until there is nothing left if you let them. You keep playing hoping that someday it will stop. You can play out this pattern for months or years. Unless they discard you, they’ll let you keep going as long as you have it in you.

(2) You Can Fight Back. When they demand too much, when their abuse is too obvious or they hurt you too much, you might feel like rising up. No, maybe this time you won’t accept the blame. No, maybe you won’t let them tell you that asking for basic respect is starting an argument or being disrespectful, or maybe you will demand that they stop violating your privacy. Maybe you have a right to be angry at how they are treating you! Maybe they deserve to feel some of your anger for a change. And this keeps you from becoming dead inside. But it usually ultimately leads back to Option #1. On top of it, you’ve given them a special treat. One of a narcissist’s favorite games is a ploy for sympathy and now you have given them some ammo they can take to their fan club to show them how horrible it is to be in a relationship with you because you’re so angry and argumentative.

(3) You Can Go Dead Inside. This happens to many people who stay in abusive relationships. They lose themselves completely, and I promise you that at some point if you keep choosing Option #1 over a long enough period of time, you have a strong chance of ending up here even if you don’t give up and succumb to it on your own early just to keep the peace. If the narcissist doesn’t discard you before you end up here, they usually do once their partners get to this point because there is no supply left. Their partners no longer react to anything they do, because all of the life is gone out of them.

(4) You Can Play Their Game. No, not really. You can’t. Maybe you want to try to keep them in your life but you’re finding their rules too hard to play by. But if you try to pretend like you’re buying every word they say and just tell them what they want to hear and go out and do your own thing anyway, you’ll never get on their level. Do you know why? Because narcissists do not have a conscience or emotional empathy and you do.

Narcissists can dish it out, but they can’t take it. They don’t want “open” relationships, and they sure don’t want to be with people who are doing the same type of double-dealing that they are. It would be humiliating for them to be lied to and “cheated” on. They expect total loyalty and fidelity but feel entitled to do whatever they want to do in relationships because they find a way to rationalize it. Why do you think they monitor and control their partners so much? They don’t view you as an individual with your own separate needs and desires. They expect you to be obedient and what do you think will happen if you get caught? Shame and remorse do not limit their behavior.

Besides, what exactly would be the point of this? This is not even a real relationship. It’s just two people pretending to be in one… instead of just one.

(5) You Can Walk Away and Take Your Life Back. You can go no-contact. At any time, you can end your suffering and start your life again. Some part of you already knows you will have to do this. Some part of you doesn’t want to. Some part of you can’t see a new future for yourself yet. Some part of you can’t continue the present as it is. You’ll have to step forward blindly, not yet knowing what the future holds but trusting it will be better than any of the other four, because the other four lead only to your demise.

If the Narcissist Discarded You

What if the narcissist has left you? Isn’t that the same thing as leaving, as Option #5?

No, because you did not actually make a conscious choice to leave. If you have not done the mental work of blocking that door in your mind, the narcissist can always come and go as he or she pleases. You have not gone no-contact. Narcissists do not ever really break up with you because they perceive you as their possession that they can come around to interact with when they feel like doing so.

Because of this, it must be you who breaks up. It must be you who institutes no-contact. You must decide to break up and “consciously intend it with full implications and an awareness of all that that entails in the present and future. It is a deliberate act that contains a solemn vow that one can never go back. “Intending it” means any unpredictable and unknown action the narcissist takes now or later is irrelevant.”

When I say that it must be you who breaks up, I don’t mean that you need to call the narcissist on the phone and make a declaration, I mean that you need to make a choice in your own mind about what you want and what you intend going forward. You need to empower yourself and take control back.

If you have not actually left the narcissist in your heart and mind, even if you are not currently interacting with him or her, if you are still waiting for him or her to come back, then you have actually chosen Option #1.

* * * * *

Look at the options again. Really look at them.

Which one will you choose today?

Which one will you choose tomorrow?

And the day after?

Each new day is a choice. Please choose wisely.

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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.


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  3. Thank you Kristine i liked this i have done the first 4 back an forth for many years even decades. No 5 is coming. One thing once your dead inside it makes just functioning in normal life dutes an preparing to leave so much harder ( no energy) an very lityle will . please don’t wait this long .

    1. Hi Bob: You are so welcome. I’m glad this article resonated with you. I completely agree that the more of yourself you lost, the harder it is to leave. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment and add your voice! Wishing you strength on your final journey toward #5 and onward through your recovery. -Kristen

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