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What a Narcissist Says About the Narcissist Break Up Cycle: They Never Let You Go

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If you’re reading this, then like I once was, you’re likely caught in the seemingly endless narcissist break up cycle. It feels like a madness that we can’t escape. They depart suddenly for reasons that seem either minor or made up completely. They may pretend as if you don’t exist. When they do decide to speak to you again, they act as if they are lowering themselves to interact with you.

Or perhaps you are the one to leave because you can’t take their actions anymore, but they won’t stay away. This time, they treat you as if you are the love of their lives.

This cycle of breaking up with a narcissist likely started off slowly but came out of nowhere. Yet it leaves you gasping for breath and unsure of what you want. You may not even feel as if you know who you are anymore.

A narcissist named H.G. Tudor has one of the best explanations I’ve ever read for what’s happening during this break-up cycle with a narcissist. Tudor is a narcissist who claims to be in treatment, and he is a prolific writer about how narcissists view relationships and their partners.

His work tries to fill in the gaps left by unanswered questions:

Why would the narcissist do that? 

What was the narcissist thinking? 

What was the narcissist’s goal? 

That didn’t seem to make any sense– what was the narcissist trying to accomplish?

What did the narcissist want?

Did the narcissist know he was hurting me?

Did the narcissist care about me?  

The writing is both scary and eye-opening.

He has written a series of three posts to try to explain the cycle of breaking up with a narcissist. These articles tie together what the narcissist is thinking, feeling, and attempting to accomplish at each stage with what the partner is experiencing.

He calls the stages “Post-Discard Battles.” The reference to “post-discard” is a reference to when the cycle begins. He calls them “battles” because during each stage, the victim struggles. Those struggles can be either external with the narcissist, internal in the victim’s mind, or both.

 

Tudor’s Three Stages of the Narcissist Break Up Cycle

 

Stage One: The Emotional Battle

The first stage begins in the aftermath of the initial discard. The victim is shell-shocked and overwhelmed. He or she and can only react according to the lovesickness, cognitive dissonance, mind games, and chemical bond that have been produced during the relationship.

There is no other basis for a victim to process the relationship.

There is no frame for understanding the relationship because this is the first glimpse that something is not right, and whatever that “something” is tells us that this relationship is somehow unlike a normal relationship. There is no other way the victim can respond to the narcissist other than emotionally. When emotions are involved, the partner doesn’t stand a chance.

If the narcissist returns, and he or she probably will, the victim will always go back during stage one.

Hear H.G. Tudor describe “The Emotional Battle”

 

Stage Two: The Head vs. Heart (HvH) Battle

At this stage, the victim has realized that there is a problem with the narcissist. The relationship is untenable. The victim may have been through enough discards or discovered horrible secrets, as is what happened to me.

He or she may have stumbled upon information about narcissism and figured out that the partner’s interactions with them fit the pattern of narcissistic abuse.

The victim may have had friends or a therapist tell them that their partner has a problem and they need to leave.

They may have discovered new betrayals.

Whatever it is, something or some combination of things has taken place and the victim is no longer processing the relationship in a purely emotional manner. It is at this point that the victim is beginning to have an internal battle between his or her emotional tie to the narcissist and the thoughts he or she has about the actions the narcissist has begun to take that contradict the earlier perception.

Tudor also refers to this as the Logic versus Emotional Battle.

Because all of the same dynamics from the emotional battle are still at play, a victim may struggle with this battle for a long time. It is not a sudden overnight switch from one way of viewing the narcissist to the other.  Nor is the process of change in perception linear, as the victim may swing back and forth and not know what to believe or how to reconcile the two views.

Is my partner really a narcissist, or am I wrong?  

Maybe he can change.  

He seems really sorry–maybe I should give him another chance. 

If only I hadn’t done [x], maybe [y] wouldn’t have happened so maybe we should try again.  

We have something so special if he would only stop doing [x] things would be perfect.

Maybe he realizes now how much I love him and he will treat it as if it’s valuable to him.

I just want him to explain why he did it.

I just want to see him one more time and have closure.


If the narcissist returns, and, again, he or she probably will, the victim will almost always be unable to resist going back during stage two.

This is where the narcissist breakup cycle can stall out for a long period of time while the pattern repeats itself. The victim will likely go back many times because the head has not yet won out over the heart. The victim has only begun to become aware of what has happened and the details need time to sink in.

The narcissist knows this and will use it to their advantage. The victim’s emotions and thoughts, such as those above, as well as his or her inborn strengths and weaknesses,  can be psychologically manipulated. The narcissist will use them to cast doubts and confusion, weaken judgment, and isolate the victim from external support.

All of these factors can keep a victim stuck in this stage for a long time.

Hear H.G. Tudor describe “The HvH Battle”

Stage Three: The Final Battle

In this stage, the victim’s head finally wins out over the heart. Each time another discard in the narcissist breakup cycle occurs again during stage two, the victim gets a little closer to the third and final stage. Once victims finally reach it, they start to gain control of their emotions. They no longer feel as if they under the influence of the narcissist.

During this stage, the victim develops some sort of protection to keep the narcissist out. He or she guards against anything the narcissist might say or do to try to return or to cause harm.

The risk that the narcissist will show up again, however, never goes away. The narcissist may catch the victim off-guard and that is what the victim wants to protect against.

If the narcissist returns during stage three, the victim has more control over whether they go back. 

Yet Tudor believes that the battle never ends because the victim can never really be certain if or when the narcissist will return. He writes, “This final battle takes place in a land where the battlefield, for the first time, is more of your choosing than ours. You have better equipped to fight this battle and whilst there remains a risk of defeat and you are being ensnared once again, it is far less than in the previous two battles… How long will this final battle last? It will continue until one of us no longer lives.”

Hear H.G. Tudor describe “The Final Battle”

 
 

Does the Narcissist Break Up Cycle Ever Really End?

When you get into a relationship with a narcissist, you permanently become part of their collection. They can try to take you down and play with you whenever they get bored. They may break up with you temporarily or you may break up with them, but they never really break up with you. “That is why we did what we did; so we always had a way back in,” Tudor writes.

In theory, this appears to give the narcissist a measure of control.

This, however, is only because his three stages assume that being on-guard is our final stance against them. The narcissist would always have control if we were forever the passive actors they manufactured us to be. If nothing ever changed.

It is the narcissists who stay frozen in time, locked forever in fantasies of the past. Without self-reflection, they are destined to repeat the same patterns in every new relationship. If they try to return to you, they will try to loop you back into that same tired pattern.

Yet we can change. We, as the partners or former partners of narcissists, can grow, learn, thrive and move on.

Thus, Tudor’s analysis of the stages of the narcissist break up cycle ends prematurely. Perhaps there’s something poetic about the fact that a narcissist perceives that there is nothing beyond stage three, where we are always protecting ourselves against him, where he is always appealing to us.

There is actually a fourth stage. It is in this stage that we finally beat the narcissist. It is during this fourth stage that we are no longer affected by anything the narcissist does.

Yes, it is true that it will always be up to the survivor to ensure that the relationship with the narcissist is over.

Yet in time, as we become healthier, stronger people, we will integrate the experience into who we are and heal the wounds from it. We will no longer have to protect ourselves from anything.

The narcissist will no longer hold a key to this new person we have become.

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More About H.G. Tudor

Learning to think like a narcissist has been instrumental in my own healing. It answered some of my outstanding questions. It also filled in many gaps in my understanding of why my ex-boyfriend behaved as he did.

You may be  intrigued, shocked, or frightened by this idea that there is no such thing as a “final discard.” If so and you want to arm yourself with information, I recommend reading more about what Tudor says about the cycle of breaking up with a narcissist. He has written several books on many related topics, such as preparing to go no-contact and understanding hoovering.

His books walk you through things you probably wouldn’t consider. He is very blunt about what narcissists think and feel. 

Go slowly and take a break if any of it becomes too overwhelming emotionally or difficult to read. Some of the ideas, though enlightening, are extremely painful to comprehend at first. They become easier to absorb with time and distance from the relationship and I believe the wisdom gained is invaluable. 

I recommend these books by Tudor for more information on the real point of view from a narcissist:

These books are available on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, so as a subscriber, you pay nothing extra to download them from Amazon. You can keep them to read as long as you wish.  Try it out Kindle Unlimited free for 30 days here:

Don’t forget to check out these resources:

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.

33 Comments

  1. Awesome article! I am the proud survivor of an 8 year relationship with a narcissist. This article detailing the stages of the battle to break free is so spot on its crazy. Reading it was like traveling back in time. Stage 2 was the longest and the worse for me because I knew I did not deserve the mistreatment yet I felt powerless to stop the cycle. I would leave and just wish he would simply move on and forget about me. He always gave me time to get over whatever it was that made me leave then come right back. During the last break up I met a guy who I really connected with. The connection was so strong it made me realize what I was giving up and only to be misused. I have been in stage 3 for about 9 months and my resolve is strong. He can call, beg, or do handstands, I am good! It took someone treating me with love and respect to get me though stage 2. Best advice to give either a woman or man is to be aware these people exist. Run and do not engage them at all.

    1. I give H.G. Tudor the credit for identifying the three stages. I spent a lot of time explaining them so I could keep referring back to them in other things I wanted to write, because I agree with you about how accurate they are. Thanks for your comment. Congratulations on making it to stage three!

    2. This information is scary and helpful I realize I’m in stage two but I am definitely pulling out and moving on. Time to get off the roller coaster.

      1. Kristen Milstead

        Hi Mike: I’m glad to hear you’re making a decision to do something about your situation. Thank you for reading! Take care, Kristen

    3. …Long 10year very traumatizing relationship, 1 beautiful little daughter together. Many many spins on the narcissits merry go round.
      It feels like he killed me! I’d never wish this horrible cruel shit on anyone… And trying so hard to stay strong. Lots of therapy, great family and friend support and very gently taking one day at a time.
      I’ve read so much the past few years and watched many videos etc. So greatful for this community of very impowering beautiful individuals. Thanks xx

  2. Thank you so much for that article. I don’t even know where I’m at right now. It’s been 7 years of this slow-progressing madness and now I’m so angry with him, I send him hateful texts and he completely ignores me as of lately. We have a young son together, we live in different states and he makes no effort to see his son, it’s always been up to me, yet he guilts me horribly if I tell him I’m going to cut off all contact. There is no court order, so I’m ready to completely block him from our lives. I know my son will be better off with out his father who is inconsistent at best and with a little time, he will slowly start to forget about his father, he doesn’t even ask to talk to him, so I think he will be alright (he’s 5). I just need to be brave, take that step and close the door. I don’t like him anymore, I finally see what a monster he is, I just can’t move past the guilt society lobs at mother’s who don’t want bad fathers in the picture. What to do? What to do?

    1. I’m so sorry for what you are going through. My heart goes out to you. It must be so hard to share a son with him and have to worry about your son at the same time you are recovering yourself. It’s so overwhelming, I can’t even imagine doing both, so you must be a very strong woman. I wish I had some words of advice for you, but all I can say is to try to stay strong, don’t be hard on yourself– you are not to blame, and if you can, try to find a therapist who can help you work through anything you may be feeling on a regular basis so that will always be your time for yourself to work on healing. Thank you for much for taking the time to visit my page and read by blog.

    2. you are so close to freedom, please go ahead and finish with this. Please stop texting him or telling him anything regarding your plans or your life. Please protect your son! He’s already been exposed to this evil in his most formative, tender years. Focus now on getting recovery and clarity for both of you. I wish you well.. Since leaving a narcissist, I can now spot them pretty well and avoid getting into relationships with them. They are so toxic. There’s no point in trying to communicate with them, they will never change. There is no closure.

      1. Hi Kelley-

        Thank you for your reply. Everything you said is so spot on. It sounds like you are well into your recovery and are all the wiser for it. They are horribly toxic and it’s taken me 7 years to realize that there is no point in talking to him, he uses things I tell him as weapons to hurt me. I think I am waiting for someone, anyone to tell me it’s ok to cut off all contact, even for my son. There is no way having this person in his life could ever be a good thing. I keep telling myself that if he wants to have a relationship with his father one day, he can find him, but for now, he doesn’t need to experience the disappointment, lies and letdowns that are sure to come his way. He’s only 5, he’s so sweet with a big heart. Thanks for reading this ????

    3. Tessa So sorry to hear this. My kids are teens and they have no contact anymore with their father (4 kids,15 yrs married). I’m finally at stage 3 after 3 yrs. Looking forward to getting divorced and never plan for me and my kids to go back. Do get your child support though. They made them so they need to take care of them. Have had great counseling through women’s shelters. Very compassionate and helpful. Take care

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  9. justwantadvice

    I left my abusive narcissist 3 years ago. Immediately after I left he moved a way younger girl in. They together got on drugs. He eventually got locked up. For the two years he was locked up she left him, and started dating someone else. I had always been there for him not matter what through court I stood up, I wrote him, I took my children to see him, sent him money etc… One day he comes to me saying hes always loved me and being locked up made him realize what he had done wrong. He apologized, and acted the way I always dreamed he would. During this time of him trying to come back my mom was diagnosed with Cancer within 3 months she had passed away. I told him I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I had just lost my mom I was lost hurt scared confused. By that time he was coming home every weekend on a pass. Within 3 days of me telling him this I caught him with her. The same day he was in a bad atv accident. I was there the whole time he was in the hospital feeding him, wiping his tale, and everything he needed all while he was texting her he loves her in the hospital. I decided I was done, and eventually he came back, and now every time I have peace with it he comes back. Things will be great and then bam im forgotten about. Its all my fault bc I didn’t know what I wanted. Im mad bc I dont know how I let him back in my life dont know how I let him have this control over me again. I find myself questioning is he really a narcassist or am I crazy. Why is it so hard to let go when it took a long time last time, but I finally did it, I feel like it would be a lot easier this go round.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      It’s not your fault. A normal person would not have kept in contact with the other woman if he loved you as much as he claimed. He also would have been respectful and understanding after the death of your monther. It sounds like he can’t be alone so he is keeping the two of you on the hook. See if you can muster up some disgust for the idea that he can’t make you a priority. You deserve better. -Kristen

      1. Justwantadvice

        I’m definitely working on that. It’s crazy how even tho I believe I figured out what I’m dealing with it’s still so very hard to give up what I know it could be if only he were normal. Thank you for the advice

      2. Kristen Milstead

        I empathize with how painful it is to give up. There’s this feeling that if you could just explain to them, and, after all, they’re telling you how much they love you and you don’t understand then why they won’t commit to you when *you* can see how good it would be. To save ourselves I believe we have to see how they won’t ever do that because they are *not* normal. You’re very welcome. Thank you for sharing your story. There are a lot of us here who are where you are or can relate! Stay strong.

  10. justwantadvice

    I left my abusive narcissist 3 years ago. Immediately after I left he moved a way younger girl in. They together got on drugs. He eventually got locked up. For the two years he was locked up she left him, and started dating someone else. I had always been there for him not matter what through court I stood up, I wrote him, I took my children to see him, sent him money etc… One day he comes to me saying hes always loved me and being locked up made him realize what he had done wrong. He apologized, and acted the way I always dreamed he would. During this time of him trying to come back my mom was diagnosed with Cancer within 3 months she had passed away. I told him I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I had just lost my mom I was lost hurt scared confused. By that time he was coming home every weekend on a pass. Within 3 days of me telling him this I caught him with her. The same day he was in a bad atv accident. I was there the whole time he was in the hospital feeding him, wiping his tale, and everything he needed all while he was texting her he loves her in the hospital. I decided I was done, and eventually he came back, and now every time I have peace with it he comes back. Things will be great and then bam im forgotten about. Its all my fault bc I didn’t know what I wanted. Im mad bc I dont know how I let him back in my life dont know how I let him have this control over me again. I find myself questioning is he really a narcassist or am I crazy. Why is it so hard to let go when it took a long time last time, but I finally did it, I feel like it would be a lot easier this go round.

    1. Kristen Milstead

      It’s not your fault. A normal person would not have kept in contact with the other woman if he loved you as much as he claimed. He also would have been respectful and understanding after the death of your monther. It sounds like he can’t be alone so he is keeping the two of you on the hook. See if you can muster up some disgust for the idea that he can’t make you a priority. You deserve better. -Kristen

      1. Justwantadvice

        I’m definitely working on that. It’s crazy how even tho I believe I figured out what I’m dealing with it’s still so very hard to give up what I know it could be if only he were normal. Thank you for the advice

      2. Kristen Milstead

        I empathize with how painful it is to give up. There’s this feeling that if you could just explain to them, and, after all, they’re telling you how much they love you and you don’t understand then why they won’t commit to you when *you* can see how good it would be. To save ourselves I believe we have to see how they won’t ever do that because they are *not* normal. You’re very welcome. Thank you for sharing your story. There are a lot of us here who are where you are or can relate! Stay strong.

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  12. “ARE NARCISSIST MONSTERS in guide of human beings? How can they be so cruel ?

  13. Kristen Milstead

    Hi Sunil: It is just that they have less emotional empathy so they don’t automatically connect to the emotions of others when they make their decisions. If something they do hurts someone else or would hurt them if they knew about it, it doesn’t cause them to feel guilt or to feel similar emotions at just the thought that others will be hurt. So other people don’t factor into their decision-making. It allows them to do things that are very cruel and seem inhuman. -Kristen

  14. One of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with has been the alienation of a friend of over 22 years, who became our joint friend. Since the breakup she has not spoken to me. Sent a very unkind email not meant for my eyes, obviously.
    I realized that she had been told ‘things’ about me and she actually believes them! ‘My’ narcissist is a qualified Psychologist. She is a master of manipulation and appropriating friendships….I’ve witnessed this with others.
    After a painful few months when
    I realized what was probably happening and eventually not dwelling on what she could possibly have said to MY friend that could possibly be bad enough to completely discard me, I started my long road to recovery. It has been a long and difficult road paved with deep sadness and incredulity.
    That was the final straw….that such evil could be perpetuated and believed! Of course, no true friend would behave in such a manner. It was soul destroying and I still am saddened until my common sense returns.
    Thank you for your articles. I’m very appreciative.

  15. I revel in the knowledge that we move forward with the THE knowledge and then we become, ” a new person that the narcacist does NOT have the key to any longer” – you no longer live a life of looking over your shoulder. You are now free. Awesome! And very true.

  16. Such an empowering article. Feeling much better equipped from reading it. Been on the merry go round of Battle Two for longer than I care to admit Sat here in the discard stage feeling the usual shame of not being able to go outside the door in fear of the thought of being asked about my partner is and breaking down in an emotional heap not knowing how to respond. What make things worst is that i am feeling powerless at the loss of contact with the step-children whom i have grown to love and bond with who are innocent by-standers in this shameful game.

    At first i thought my partner was suffering from Othello Syndrome constantly accusing me of infidelity in the most impossible circumstances. I soon learned that this was a trick to lie, be deceitful and be dominant and controlling. The more she would devalue the more i would try and prove myself to the point where I have been questioning my sanity for a very long time. Seems that over the last few months a change had occurred in me where I was no longer getting as emotional when discarded. But that was followed by a longer than normal period of idealisation where i thought things were actually getting. What a fool was only to be discarded again and back to being an emotional wreck. Time to change my destiny!

  17. I hear this narcissist as a kind of braggart looking for attention! “Wow! Look at me! Aren’t I the center of the discussion?! Aren’t I the smartest person of all?!” A narcissist has the emotional range and facilities of a 5-year-old child; he may have learned vocabulary word, however, his comprehension will never be at the level of a normally functioning adults. A narcissist misses the meaning of things – he is hearing and interpreting through a damaged and torn screen. He cannot heal. He may be able to act as if he is healed. For a while.

    To trust a narcissist who makes the claim to be “in recover,” or out to “advise” victims is to fall straight into the narcissist’s net.

    Leave narcissists alone. Move away. There is nothing to see here. They may be pitiable, but theirs is a calamity that has nothing to do with you. MOVE AWAY. DO NOT LOOK BACK, THERE IS NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

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