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Breaking Up with a Narcissist: They Never Let You Go

If you’re reading this, then like I once was, you’re likely caught in the seemingly cycle of trying to break up with a narcissist. 

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.

But we can’t break up with a narcissist until we go through five stages psychologically. Watch this video to hear more.


There’s a separate article about the five stages we must go through to break up with a narcissist internally that describes what it is that pushes us through to each new stage until we are free

But what does a narcissist have to say about it?


The Narcissist Breakup Cycle Explained

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. 

So as we are progressing through the five stages of leaving a narcissist psychologically, here is what is happening externally.

Tudor’s Three Stages of Breaking Up with a Narcissist

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 Breakup 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 fourth stage that we finally beat the narcissist. In this stage, 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:


Don’t forget to check out these resources on the website  while you’re here:


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. I’m in stage 3, been married 20 years. I almost lost everything around me , including “me” . I cannot lose this battle. I just can’t. I know first hand about their need to collect and control everyone they Hoover. In the beginning I watched him do it to all these poor girls and was even with him when he’d show up at their houses under the guise of “we stayed friends”. No wonder these poor girls were more startled and astounded than happy and pleasantly surprised by his unannounced visits! Holy crap. I was quietly confused & compliant. He’s still maintaining them & grooming newbies.
    Currently, he’s expected back to get his things and leave : he’s been going back and forth for the last 6 years , every 3-6 months , 2000 miles between me and his sex slave. I’ve been having nightmares about him walking around my house like nothing happened. Deep breath. Keep breathing. Over time I realised he was a manipulator but only over the last 2 years did I learn it had a name and diagnosis. Lovely. It’s evil.
    I have good strong support from family and friends but the strength needs to stay in me.
    Thanks for all this info. Good luck and Godspeed to all of us.

  2. Smarter/ Wiser

    Just when I thought I read most everything I could find which explained what I could expect from this type of relationship, I have found this article which gives me the exact information that I am seeking: what happens next? Tudor explains everything in great personal detail – step-by-step, and that completes my sphere of expectation. Thank you! I am experiencing Stage 2 – heart vs. head – although he has not circled back (yet)…it hasn’t been a month since I told him I couldn’t continue under the circumstances. My real concern is what to expect when he does as has been his pattern for quite some time. I just didn’t know what I was dealing with until now. This is indeed a battle of control and power, but it is my goal to win the war – (even if it means I lose a few battles) and even if that ultimately means I die first. Thank you for helping me understand and prepare.

  3. What if I got to the last stage and he still stalks me? I’d this my fault? I block him and then he comes to my street. I date someone and he follows me and emails them at work “did Cindy tell you about us? Maybe you should ask her. She is in love with me” I got to the second to last stage and actually married mine! Then very quickly got to the final stage. His last fiancé was part of his collection for many years. She moved. He followed her. She was 44 and was find dead in her sleep. No one knows why. Some said it was alcohol poisoning. I recall when we were dating only a week before her death him talking to her and they were apart (I hope) for 7 years. I’ve seen texts to his ex wife (ended in 2001..18 years after divorce ) how he wished she was in his arms. She has been remarried for 6 years and he still texts her. When she divorced him he beat her car with a baseball bat a year later when he discovered she was dating. 2 days ago I divorced him. My gut tells me nothing will get him to leave me alone except dying like his last woman. He’s in his 60s now. Replacements used to help distract him but he always stalked everyone. Like he has to have everyone in his control. He doesn’t discard one victim for another. He keeps them all hostage. He seems even worse with me bc he’ll never get younger women like us again at his age, 2nd marriage after being labeled psycho and homewrecker is a blow to his ego. I’m the cause. I will be his target of rage when he realizes he’s lost all control. I’ll never be hoovered in again.

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