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What a Narcissist Does at the End of a Relationship

The relationship ends. Abruptly.

It doesn’t matter if you went no contact or whether the narcissist suddenly cut off contact as if you never existed. You’re on the emotional roller coaster. You can’t stop thinking about what the narcissist is doing at the end of the relationship even though you tell yourself you shouldn’t care. 

Why We Obsess about What the Narcissist Does When the Relationship is Over

From an outsider’s point of view, from those who haven’t experienced it, the way we endlessly talk about the things they’ve done or how it ended may seem excessive and unhealthy. 

What others fail to understand is the relationship was unnatural and requires a lot of processing. Normal relationships don’t give people PTSD.

Relationships with narcissists often leave their partners with questions for which there are no answers. 

Who is the narcissist really?

Why did he or she treat me like a queen (or king) and then do things to me that no one would wish on their worst enemy?

Did he or she really love me?

Did he or she understand that their behavior was hurting me?  Why didn’t they stop?

These are not questions that people normally have at the end of a relationship. The things that happened while we were in it were what led us to have those questions, and those things were horrible. Those things are psychologically abusive.

And when the relationship ends, there’s no closure because these questions linger.  

One of the main questions we may have is what is the narcissist doing now that the relationship is over because we are still trying to make sense of why the narcissist did the things that he or she did while they were in it. 

Ten Things Narcissists Do at the End of a Relationship

If you’ve come to the end of the relationship, you’ve already seen some of these things.

The good news is that this is the breakup pattern of a narcissist and you are not alone. That may be small comfort after the hell you’ve been through but sometimes receiving the validation that “it wasn’t you, it was them” can help move us forward in recovery after months or years of being told that we were the problem or if we changed something, we could have a dream relationship.

So at the end of a relationship, a narcissist may:

1. Ignore you and cut you off

The narcissist may abruptly ignore you as if you never meant anything to him or her, especially if he or she discarded you. Any attempts you make to get in contact may be met with complete silence.

The narcissist enjoys punishing you for whatever perceived transgressions you made, and, at those moments, you don’t exist and he or she wants to make sure you know.

2. Devalue you and blame you for why the relationship ended

The narcissist won’t take blame or even acknowledge wrongdoing in the relationship. It was all you, according to the narcissist. If you had only done “x” or “y” then the relationship would still be going strong.

If the narcissist hasn’t started one already, he or she may begin a smear campaign against you to try to make you look like the disordered one.

3. Use what happened to gain sympathy

As a part of that smear campaign, the narcissist may try to make himself or herself look like a victim.

This gives the narcissist additional attention. It also gives the narcissist a chance to exonerate himself or herself for any actions they took that might have otherwise looked questionable, such as leaving suddenly or finding someone else so soon.

4. Find a new partner immediately

Like, immediately.  The same day. The same hour even.

In fact, the truth is that the other person was probably already in the background. It could be an ex-partner or someone the narcissist has been involved with in some way just like he or she has been with you–coming and going in and out of that relationship too.

But at the end with you, however, someone, however, will step in as the new “chosen one.”

Why? The narcissist needs to feed the constant urge for what’s known as “narcissistic supply.”

5. Parade the new supply in front of you  

This goes beyond just finding the partner. That’s not unheard of for someone to do even when the relationship was a normal one. 

Only someone vindictive who knows they are trying to hurt you will parade that person in front of you when they know you are hurting.

There is a difference between a narcissist’s use of a “new supply” at the end of a relationship and the way non-disordered people may act when they get a new partner so soon.

Let’s examine two situations:

Relationship #1: Someone is dumped by their partner in a painful breakup and that person who was dumped finds a new partner and decides to send a message that they are okay without the relationship and isn’t shy about letting the “dumper” know about it. 

Relationship #2: Someone is abused by their partner in a relationship and is finally able to muster up the strength and resources to leave. Or the abusive partner discards the other in the most painful way possible. In either circumstance, the partner who was abused is suffering greatly over what happened during the course of the relationship and how it ended. The abusive partner finds a new partner and does everything possible to let the abused partner know about it, causing additional pain.

See the difference? 

6. Keep the new supply a secret

Wait– how is it that the narcissist parades a new supply in front of you but also keeps the supply a secret?  It’s not always the case that a narcissist will do both.  Sometimes, the narcissist will only choose one of these, depending on how the narcissist intends to manipulate both you and the other person. 

At other times in a confusing sequence of events, the narcissist may play a game of “now you see them, now you don’t” with the new supply.

This situation arises when the narcissist sees that at some moments, letting you know that the person is there is the best way to manipulate you and gain supply from you. At other times, the narcissist may pretend that the new supply is no longer in the picture or was a “mistake” because it’s the better way at that moment to extract what he or she wants.

Cruel, isn’t it? 

7. Claim you were “the one” but for some reason, you can’t be together

Instead of a smear campaign (or even at different points in the breakup process), the narcissist may begin to idealize you again from afar. This may be one of the most confusing of all the things that can happen, because it looks like a healthy thing someone might say when a relationship ends.

The problem is when you read between the lines, however, and examine the breakup itself, it doesn’t mesh with reality.

You’ll notice that this type of statement will not be compatible with the end of the relationship because relationships with narcissists almost always end badly in some way. How he or she treated you when you left (if you were the one who did) won’t jive with the statement. How he or she left (if that’s what happened) doesn’t make sense when compared with calling someone “the one.”  

Elinor Greenberg (2017), a psychologist who treats narcissists, claims that there are romantic narcissists who get caught up in the trappings of love and become extreme in their views of romantic love, however, they grow bored or find flaws and drop partners without much explanation. They may continue to romanticize the relationship once you are gone and the rose-colored glasses return.

This is not love.

8. Get revenge

Narcissists don’t like to lose control. If you were the one to leave, well, they’ve lost control of you. Even though you were perfectly justified in leaving, even though it was incredibly painful, the narcissist doesn’t care because he or she doesn’t take responsibility for how he or she behaved in the relationship.

Sometimes the revenge is replacing you and letting you know.

Other times, it’s more destructive and this is why partners must take precautions when they leave to ensure that they are safe.

9. Hoover

Yep. They often come back. Again and again and again. They’ll do this if they believe there is something to gain by doing so, or just to sniff around to see if you can still be manipulated in some way.

10. Keep tabs on you

The inquiring narcissist mind wants to know: 

Are you over them? Are you happy? Is there anything to gain by coming back around?

The only way they can find that out is to find ways to keep up with you. Narcissists don’t really ever “break up” with anyone, as claimed from out of the mouth of a narcissist himself. They will always keep exes on the back burner and they may return months or years down the road.

The internet is a playground for narcissists, where they use social media for narcissistic supply, smear campaigns, hoovering, triangulating you and more.

The Irrationality of How Narcissists Behave on Display

Do you notice how many of these things contradict one another?

The narcissist juggles stories with different people in his or her life to ensure he or she can maintain the correct persona with all the right people. To the new person, you may be the devil. By telling him or her how awful you are, the narcissist can get double points.

The new supply will not only bestow sympathy but try extra hard to show the narcissist he or she is nothing like you until the behavior the narcissist is getting away with is, by anyone’s standards, inexcusable. 

With friends, the narcissist may also play the game of claiming how horrible you are. You’re crazy or jealous, for instance. They leave out all of their abusive behavior, of course, and the fact that they immediately jumped into someone else’s arms (or bed) isn’t strange at all in light of how awful you are. 

Or they may say that you are their true love, but something is keeping you apart. If they know they have played this card with their friends in the past or their friends know how awful they have been, they may use this line (which maintaining a different story with the new person) to avoid a mismatch in their words and actions.

These narcissists may especially be more prone to hide their new partners. But all narcissists, even romantic narcissists, will have new partners. And most will return to hoover at some point. 

Narcissists like to keep their partners in the queue for when supply runs low. They often don’t ever “break up” with their partners in the traditional sense because they don’t think of us as having our own desires and free will. To them, we are always someone they can return to when they feel bored or low in attention–if they believe there is something to be gained.

So if these are the things the narcissist is doing at the end of a relationship, how can we know that a relationship is finished?

When we choose to cut off contact once and for all and never engage.

This means we must cease caring what they are doing when the relationship has come to an end–something which can be difficult to do, however, we must begin taking the steps in order to heal once and for all.

 

Assistance with Recovering from a Breakup with a Narcissist

I’m always on the lookout for new and high-quality resources for survivors. Are you struggling with how to leave your narcissist partner?  This course on the five steps you can take to exit can help. Are you having trouble recovering from the relationship even after it’s over? Try enrolling in this Webinar on getting started with your recovery so you can start to get off the emotional roller coaster or this one on using EFT Tapping to break the addiction to the narcissist. Lovefraud webinars on relationship abuse are presented by experts but also from the perspective of experience. Almost every instructor learned about the behavior of sociopaths in relationships the hard way. They’re affordable and offer practical information you can start using immediately. If you decide to try one, send me an email and let me know how it went!

 

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Sources

Greenberg, Elinor. 2017. Narcissistic Love Patterns: The Romantic. Psychology Today. Accessed August 11, 2018 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-narcissism/201705/narcissistic-love-patterns-the-romantic

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.

13 Comments

  1. Life sometimes leads us down strange journeys! 12 years of a toxic relationship led to a painful discard. Of course there was someone else waiting in the wings. He is a master of half truths and manipulation. I survived and have gone no contact almost 2 years ago. Recently a friend mentioned his story that it was him that went no contact. I have to be thankful for the opportunity for a better life with a mentally healthy partner!

  2. Kristen:

    It’s been 8 years since my husband of 29 years ghosted me out of the blue with no precursors that anything was wrong. It was textbook ghosting.

    That said, one thing that I still find intriguing is that my ex left me for a PhD psychologist—of all things! She was his old GF from HS. She dumped him back in the day when she witnessed his fits of rage. At least this is the story his entire family told for decades.

    A number of years into our marriage (when we were applying for a VA mortgage), I happened across his DD-214 from the military. He was ‘asked to exit’ his enlistment (quote) ‘for the good of The Corps after he was given a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder with AntiSocial manifestations. When I asked him about it, he laughed it off as simply being a barracks prank that he pulled (roughing up another recruit) to get out of the military with full benefits after receiving his vocational training.

    What I can’t figure out is why a 9supposedly intelligent and educated) woman with an active license as a psychologist—and who witnessed his raging behavior and therefore broke her engagement with him—would now run off with/subsequently marry such a man.

    After a few moments of scratching my head every now and then over what appears to be something so counterintuitive, I usually end up shrugging my shoulders and chuckling at the possibility that it may actually her who is playing HIM in that relationship. But then, I have to admit that his love-bombing was Oscar-worthy. Maybe she’s just an amply-degreed fool as well. LOL

    Life sure can be interesting.

    1. Degrees and education do not protect you from being manipulated. I had the bias too of believing that too once.

  3. It is uncanny how accurate these descriptions were. That is exactly what happened to me after 15 years of marriage. He discarded me 3 1/2 months ago and this has been the worst experience of my life. For the first month, I thought I would die!

  4. Thank you, Kristen, so much for including mention of the ‘now you see them, now you don’t’ regarding their other ‘supply’. In my case, they had a ‘made up’ person! The ‘abuser’ I encountered went out of their way to boast (to a point of giddiness!) about a fictitious person/friendship. This ‘made up’ thing liked and was good at anything/everything that was difficult for me AND disliked anything/everything that was dear/important to me. It is hard to explain but, they went out of their way to boast but whenever it would have been normal to actually meet, it ‘magically disappeared’! They will attempt to ‘triangulate’ with anything!

  5. It’s uncanny how a group of people resort to type in this way but it’s all true I can see from a distance how when he took photos of us in the beginning to send to his “ex” it was all part of the cycle as I received photos of women he was talking to online after we had parted. It shows me how shallow these people are who can’t be alone in their own skin but need props to boost their frail egos , when my boyfriend sent me pictures of other women he was talking to is when the penny dropped, normal people don’t do that .

    1. Thank you Jennie, I have been trying to describe it. Your words, ‘props to boost frail ego’ AND ‘can’t be alone in their own skin’ resonate with me, thank you and hugs.

  6. So finally my relationship of eleven years with a narcissist is over. And all you survivors are chuckling thinking yeah right. I truly believe it now. He has done pretty much all of the things in this article at one time or another in this very sick and toxic relationship. And I am to blame for believing him, forgiving him and thinking things would be different. This should be taught in high school. I pretty much gravitated to narcissists. There was one that wasn’t and he was a decent human being and loving and honest but I thought in my brain something was wrong because he wasn’t making me feel like something was wrong with me. He was honest and I didn’t trust anyone. He had integrity, honor and character. Surely something was wrong with him. So I ruined that relationship before his true self came out. But it never did because he was truly good. That’s the sickness in abuse survivors.

    1. I agree this should be taught in high school! Nevermind ‘sex ed’, it should be ‘sociopath ed’! Hugs.

  7. Reading this post helps me to see all of the same behaviors of my ex-husband. What happens when you have kids and can’t go no-contact?

    1. In the same boat on that one. Hopefully we can both find some peace for the children’s sake and heal our hearts/minds in the process. Praying for you.

    2. It takes longer.

    3. Hi Jennifer. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. There is a concept called “gray rock” that people use when they can’t cut off contact. Read about it here: https://fairytaleshadows.com/what-is-grey-rock-how-to-go-no-contact-with-a-narcissist-if-you-have-children/ Stay strong and take care. -Kristen

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