17 Troubling Things Narcissists Do When Relationships End

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Narcissists are manipulative and controlling people. Things they can do when a relationship ends can make it hard to say goodbye well.

Some of those things can be quite troubling, since they are very self-centered and lack empathy.

  • They can say/do many horrible things while breaking up, which can emotionally damage you forever.
  • They can refuse to accept the breakup, not give you closure, or use guilt or flattery to make you stay.
  • They react poorly to breakups, often becoming combative, passive-aggressive, and hostile.
  • They can resort to stalking or harassment to maintain control over their ex-partner.

You have to know what they can do, so you may protect your safety and sanity while breaking up with them.

With knowledge about their default behaviors, you can move forward from the toxic relationship and begin your healing process.

What A Narcissist Does At The End Of A Relationship
A narcissist becomes their worst version when you break up with them.

1. The Narcissist Will Blame You For Everything

According to the narcissist, it’s almost always the other person’s fault when a relationship with a narcissist comes to an end.

It almost murders their ego to accept any blame.

This behavior is a hallmark of narcissistic personality disorder.

They will go to great lengths to avoid taking any responsibility for the failure of the relationship. Worse, they will shift the blame to their partner for everything that went wrong.

Because of their inflated sense of self-importance and a deep need for admiration, they believe they are always right (and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong).

When something goes wrong in a relationship, they cannot even passingly acknowledge that they might have played a role in the failure. Their go-to response is to look for a scapegoat to accuse.

The narcissist’s need to blame their partner serves two purposes.

  • First, it protects their fragile self-esteem. If they can convince themselves and others that they are not to blame for the end of the relationship, then they can maintain their grandiose perception of themselves.
  • Second, it gives them leverage when they can convince others to feel empathy for them.

When a narcissist blames their partner for the end of a relationship, it is nearly never a reflection of reality. It is simply a way for them to protect their fragile ego and maintain their sense of superiority.

Of course, normal mortals like us realize that relationships are complex and multilayered, and it is never just one person’s fault if a relationship fails.

If you find yourself in a situation where a narcissist is blaming you for the end of a relationship, first stay calm.

Narcissists thrive on drama and conflict, so the more you can remain calm and collected, the less power they will have over you.

Do not hold yourself responsible for their behavior, and always use your power to walk away from the situation.

2. They Will Resort to Manipulative Tactics

When a narcissist is faced with the end of a relationship, they will often resort to manipulative tactics to maintain power and control over their partner.

This can involve a wide range of behaviors, from gaslighting to guilt-tripping, and can be incredibly damaging to the victim’s mental health.

  • One common tactic used by narcissists is to blame their partner for the failure of the relationship.
  • They may twist the facts and make it seem like everything is the victim’s fault, even when this is not the case. This can lead to feelings of guilt and self-doubt, making it harder for the victim to move on.
  • Another manipulative tactic used by narcissists is to make lofty promises to change their behavior.
  • They may claim that they will seek therapy, stop drinking, or stop cheating, but these promises are often empty. Once the victim is back under their control, the narcissist will revert to their old ways.
  • Narcissists may also badmouth their partner to everyone around them, trying to turn others against them and portray them as a villain. This can be incredibly isolating for the victim, who may feel like they have no one to turn to.

[Find out how narcissists treat their ex.]

Overall, victims of narcissistic abuse should recognize these manipulative tactics and seek help from a qualified therapist or counselor.

It can be incredibly difficult to break free from the control of a narcissist, but with the right support, it is possible to move on and heal.

Trauma-bonding and Hoovering in Narcissistic Abuse Cycle
Trauma-bonding and Hoovering in Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

3. Make Empty Promises To Change

Narcissistic people often struggle with self-doubt and a lack of empathy, which can make it difficult for them to maintain healthy relationships.

  • At the end of a relationship, a narcissist may make empty promises to change in an attempt to win back their partner.
  • These promises may seem sincere at first, but they are often just ploys to manipulate their partner into staying with them.
  • These people are skilled at using charm and persuasion to get what they want, and they may use these tactics to convince their partners that they are capable of change.
  • The truth is, narcissists rarely change their behavior. They may make temporary adjustments to their behavior to keep their partner around, but they are unlikely to make any lasting changes.

If a narcissist makes promises to change, recognize that this behavior for what it is: a manipulation tactic.

You may find it difficult to resist their charm and persuasion, since they know what attracted you to them in the first place.

Be cautious if a narcissist is making loads of flowery promises to change. Their promises are most likely hollow.

Occasionally, they may genuinely want to change, but are unlikely to be successful without professional help.

But they must first recognize and accept their bad behavior before they can get help, which is hard to do.

4. Try To Control The Breakup Narrative

When a narcissist senses a relationship is about to end, they will often try to control the narrative of the breakup.

This is because they want to maintain their image as the perfect partner and avoid any blame for the relationship’s failure.

One way a narcissist may try to control the narrative is by refusing to accept responsibility for their own actions.

  • They will do everything in their power to ensure that the breakup is seen as the other person’s fault, not theirs.
  • They may blame their partner for the relationship’s problems and refuse to acknowledge any role that they played in the breakup.
  • This allows them to maintain their “clean and innocent” image as the perfect partner who cannot be held to criticism or blame.
  • The narcissist may also try to spread rumors or lies about their partner. They may tell mutual friends or family members that their partner was unfaithful or abusive, even if those allegations are completely false.
  • They intend to discredit their partner and make themselves look like the victim by doing so.

In the narcissistic abuse pattern, as soon as the narcissist has trapped you with love-bombing, they often feel entitled to control their partner and their partner’s actions. This can extend to the breakup as well.

The narcissist may try to dictate how and when the breakup should happen, and what the terms of the breakup should be.

They may even try to force their partner to stay in the relationship by threatening them or manipulating them emotionally.

Ultimately, the narcissist’s desire to control the breakup narrative is rooted in their need for validation and admiration. They want to be seen by the world as the perfect, blameless, and docile partner.

5. Use Jealousy As A Tool

At the end of a relationship, a narcissist may use jealousy and revenge to manipulate their partner.

A jealous partner is an insecure and afraid person, and knowing this makes the narcissist feel more powerful and more in control of the relationship.

The jealousy is also to keep their partner from leaving them or to make them feel guilty for wanting to end the relationship.

  • They may try to arouse jealousy in their partner by flirting with other people or talking about their new love interest.
  • They can mention imaginary people who are interested in them, and make their partner feel like they are not as good as that person.

The use of jealousy and envy by a narcissist can be a form of emotional and psychological abuse. It can have a lasting impact on the victim and lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

If you or someone you know is experiencing narcissistic abuse, don’t hesitate to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

What Is Narcissist Envy/WHY ARE NARCISSISTS SO JEALOUS/Why Are Narcissists Envious /Criteria For NPD

6. Demand Persistent Attention From You

Narcissists crave constant attention and validation.

The narcissist’s ego is fragile, and they need constant validation to feel good about themselves.

When you tell them you’re breaking up, they’re suddenly afraid of losing you as the person who gave them attention.

They will try to keep you hooked by showering you with compliments, gifts, and affection. They may also use guilt-tripping, gaslighting, and manipulation to get you to stay.

The narcissist’s demands for attention are not about you — they are rather about their own insecurities and the need for validation.

When they are sure about a relationship’s end, they try desperate ways. They may create drama or cause emotional distress to draw the last few dregs of attention from you.

If you try to distance yourself from the narcissist, they may become angry and lash out. They may try to make you feel guilty for abandoning them or threaten to harm themselves.

Two things you can do to handle this:

  • Remember, you are not responsible for their physical or emotional well-being, so never feel the need to sacrifice your own mental health to save them from unhappiness.
  • Expect their wrath on your declaring breakup, set strict boundaries with them, and make plans to completely cut them off from your life as soon as possible.

7. Try To Pull You Back In With Hoovering

Narcissists may resort to hook or crook to get you back when they sense they are losing control over you.

This is called narcissistic hoovering their last-ditch attempt to “hoover” (draw in) their uninterested or alienated partner back into the relationship.

  • Hoovering can include emailing, texting, calling, or showing up unannounced at the victim’s home or workplace.
  • They may use flattery, promises of change, and guilt-tripping to manipulate the victim into considering going back to them.
  • They may try to convince their partner that they have changed and are ready to start anew. They may also try to make the victim feel guilty for leaving by emphasizing how much they are suffering without them.
  • One common hoovering technique is the “I miss you” or “I want to be friends” approach.
  • Another hoovering technique is the “pity play,” in which the narcissist portrays themselves as a victim in need of the victim’s help.

They may claim to be sick, broke, or in some other kind of crisis, and ask for the victim’s assistance. This approach is designed to make the victim feel needed and important, and to create a sense of obligation to the narcissist.

Narcissistic hoovering, however, is never a genuine attempt to reconcile or make amends. It is just a manipulative tactic to get you back to them so that they can control you again.

The victim of narcissism should seek support from friends, family, or a therapist to avoid falling back into the hoovering trap.

8. Making it Difficult For You To Move On

A narcissist at the end of a relationship can make it incredibly difficult for you to move on. The main reason is the trauma-bonding addiction they establish with you.

You will feel their layers of influence and control over you at many points during the breakup. Even many years later, it would often be difficult to feel fully moved on.

  • They may keep contacting their ex-partner via text, call, or even show up at their ex-partner’s home or workplace unannounced. All to make it difficult for the trauma-bonded partner to forget them and heal.
  • Also, their circulation of lies about you can make you an undesirable choice for potential partners. They try to make their ex-partner look bad to others in an attempt to damage their reputation. This can hurt their professional and personal lives, and make it challenging to rebuild their lives.
  • In some cases, narcissists may even try to sabotage their ex-partner’s new relationships.
  • They may try to turn their ex-partner’s friends and family against them, or they may try to sabotage their ex-partner’s new romantic relationships by spreading rumors or lies.

Narcissists will inevitably try to make their ex-partner feel guilty for ending the relationship.

They may use emotional manipulation to try to get their ex-partner to come back to them, or they may try to make them feel like they are responsible for the end of the relationship.

All of these tactics can make it incredibly difficult for someone to move on from a narcissistic relationship.

9. Flaunting or Hiding Their New Relationship

When a narcissist ends a relationship, they often move on quickly and start a new one.

In some cases, they may flaunt their new relationship in front of their ex-partner as a way to hurt them and make them jealous.

This behavior is particularly common if the narcissist feels that their ex-partner has moved on or is doing well without them.

  • Flaunting a new relationship can take many forms, such as posting pictures on social media, introducing the new partner to mutual friends, or even showing up in public places with their new partner.
  • They may also make comments that belittle their ex-partner or suggest that their new partner is better in some way.
  • On the flip side, some narcissists may hide their new relationship from their ex-partner. This behavior is more common if the narcissist feels that their ex-partner still has feelings for them or if they are trying to keep their options open.
  • The narcissist may go to great lengths to keep their new relationship a secret, such as avoiding public places or using a fake name on social media.

Hiding a new relationship can also be a way for the narcissist to maintain control over their ex-partner. This, keeping their ex-partner in the dark, is a way to continue to manipulate and emotionally abuse them.

The narcissist may use their ex-partner’s jealousy or insecurity to their advantage, making them believe that they still have a chance to get back together.

In either case, the ex-partner needs to recognize that the narcissist’s behavior is not a reflection of their worth or value as a person.

A narcissist’s actions are driven by their need for control, based on their deep-seated insecurities.

The best way to handle their games is to focus on your self-healing and moving on, unbothered about what happens to them after you.

what narcissists do when a relationship ends

10. Fighting and Getting Back At You

They get angry and aggressive (narcissistic rage) when they sense a relationship’s end. Most of their anger comer comes from the fear of losing you—their narcissistic supply.

They may become argumentative and confrontational, picking fights over small issues to gain direct control and power over their partner.

Other than fighting, a narcissist may also try to get back at their partner in various ways (shadow fighting).

They may spread lies and rumors about them, try to ruin their reputation, or even engage in revenge affairs. These actions are all part of their need to feel superior and to maintain their image as flawless and faultless.

This behavior is a form of narcissistic abuse, which can be incredibly damaging to the victim.

The narcissist’s anger and aggression can cause the victim to feel afraid, anxious, and unsafe.

The lies and rumors can damage their reputation and relationships with others. And their revenge affairs can cause immense emotional pain and trauma.

Victims of narcissistic abuse must seek support and help from a therapist or support group. They need to learn how to set boundaries and protect themselves from the narcissist’s manipulations and abuse.

Remember, the narcissist’s rage and insulting behavior is not your fault and you 100% deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

11. Guilt-Trip You Into Staying

A narcissist might try to keep their partner from leaving by guilt-tripping.

They heap guilt on their partner — that the partner is completely responsible for the relationship’s failure and the narcissist’s poor mental state, and therefore they are the only ones who can fix it.

  • The narcissist might use phrases like “you’re giving up on us” or “you’re abandoning me” to make their partner feel guilty for even considering leaving.
  • They might also bring up past events and twist them to make their partner feel like they owe them something.
  • In some cases, the narcissist might even threaten to harm themselves if their partner leaves. This is a form of emotional manipulation that can be incredibly difficult to deal with.

Realize that guilt-tripping is not as harmless as feeling pity for a sorry-looking fake beggar at a tourist spot. It’s a tactic meant to lure into a control trap.

If they make you feel guilty by their actions and words, remind yourself that you are not responsible for their mood, state, or behavior.

If you are considering leaving a relationship with a narcissist, have a support system. This might include friends, family, or a therapist who can help you navigate the difficult emotions of leaving an abusive relationship.

You deserve to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Don’t let a narcissist guilt-trip you into staying in a toxic situation.

When Narcissistic Mothers Use GUILT To Control & How This Affects Relationships in Adulthood

12. Seeking Revenge After the Breakup

When a narcissist experiences a breakup, they may be filled with a sense of anger and a desire for revenge.

This is because they feel like they have been wronged and that their ex-partner is to blame for the end of the relationship.

The narcissist may also feel a sense of humiliation and shame, which can intensify their desire for revenge.

Their use of revenge is a tool to punish their partner for leaving or rejecting them.

  • They may start their vengeful acts as soon as they suspect their partner is considering leaving or rejecting them. They may engage in a smear campaign against their ex-partner.
  • They may spread rumors about their partner, destroy their property or belongings, damage their reputation and make them look bad, or even physically harm them. This can be particularly damaging if the narcissist has a large social network or is well-respected in their community.
  • Another way that a narcissist may seek revenge is by ignoring their ex-partner completely. They may refuse to answer their calls or respond to their messages, leaving their ex feeling hurt and confused. This can be particularly effective if the narcissist knows that their ex still has feelings for them and is hoping for a reconciliation.
  • In some cases, a narcissist may even resort to physical violence or stalking in an attempt to seek revenge. This is particularly dangerous and should be taken very seriously. If you feel that you are in danger, seek help immediately.

Revenge is never a healthy way to deal with a breakup. The case is worse for a narcissist because they feel justified in their actions as they believe their partner has wronged them and therefore deserved it.

Even when the narcissist is retaliating, you take time to heal and move on from the relationship.

Take support from friends and family, engage in self-care activities, and seek professional help if you feel so.

13. Controlling How the Relationship Ends

When a narcissist decides to end a relationship, they often try to maintain control over the situation.

They may try to control how the breakup happens, where it happens, and what is said during the breakup. This control is an attempt to maintain their power and avoid feeling vulnerable.

  • A narcissist may try to control the aftermath of the breakup by blaming their partner, and inciting guilt and shame, for the relationship’s failure. This lets them avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
  • This blame-shifting and demeaning of their partner also helps the narcissist maintain a grandiose perception of themselves.
  • Another way a narcissist may try to control the breakup is by manipulating their partner into staying in the relationship.
  • They may promise to change their behavior, offer gifts or other incentives, or use emotional manipulation to convince their partner to stay. This manipulation is an attempt to maintain their power and control over the relationship.
  • In some cases, a narcissist may try to control the breakup by threatening their partner. They may threaten to harm themselves or their partner if the relationship ends. This threat is an attempt to maintain their power and control over the relationship and to avoid feeling vulnerable.

Overall, a narcissist’s desire for control can make ending a relationship with them incredibly difficult.

Recognize the narcissist’s behavior early on and take steps to protect yourself during the breakup process.

14. They Will Try To Keep You Tied Down

At the end of a relationship, a narcissist will often try to keep their partner tied down.

They may use tactics like emotional manipulation, establishing a situationship, and even giving threats.

One way they do this is by making promises to change their behavior. They may promise to seek therapy or to work on their issues, but these promises are often empty.

Narcissists are notorious for their inability to change, and it is unlikely that they will suddenly become a different person after a breakup.

Another way that they may try to keep their partner tied down is by badmouthing them to others.

They may spread lies and rumors about their former partner in an attempt to damage their reputation. This can be especially damaging if the narcissist has a large social circle or is well-respected in the community.

Narcissists may also try to keep their partner tied down by refusing to accept the breakup.

They may beg and plead for their partner to come back, or they may try to guilt-trip them into staying in the relationship.

They may use emotional manipulation to make their partner feel like they are the only one who can save them from themselves.

In some cases, a narcissist may even resort to threats. They may also threaten to ruin their partner’s life in some way and harm them or other people related to them if their partner leaves them.

15. Use Threats of Self-Harm To Manipulate You

Narcissists can play you by threatening self-harm.

The threat of self-injury or suicide can be a powerful tool for the narcissist to make their partner feel responsible for their well-being and accountable for any mishaps.

They can use this as a last resort tactic when they fail to retain their partner in the relationship.

Their self-violence threats may make their partner stay by holding them responsible for the narcissist’s well-being through proxy.

These threats are often empty, and the narcissist may not actually intend to carry them out.

However, take such a threat seriously.

  • If your narcissist is alluding to self-harm, quickly inform others, set boundaries, and seek support.
  • Make sure that people who are related to you and them know, so you don’t get blamed if they hurt themselves.
  • Don’t let the narcissist make you feel responsible for their well-being, and don’t give in to their demands out of guilt.

Remember, it’s not your responsibility to fix the narcissist or make them happy once you are out of their life. They can seek help from a therapist to fix themselves.

  • [Sometimes, a narcissist you are still in a relationship with may use self-harm threats to make you give in to their unreasonable demands. Ask them to stop and consider ending the relationship if they don’t change their behavior.]

16. Refuse to Take Responsibility For Their Actions

Narcissists often refuse to take responsibility for their past and present actions when a relationship ends.

They don’t admit their mistakes and will blame the other person for the relationship’s faults and failures.

Even if you give them all the proof that they had a significant part in the relationship’s downfall, they’re going to deny it.

This is an attempt to maintain their grandiose, “holier-than-thou” self-perception, to avoid carrying feelings of guilt or shame.

They may rewrite your relationship history. They may spin the narrative to make you feel responsible for wasting the narcissist’s time, money, and emotional investment.

Since narcissists often gaslight people they are related to, you may need therapy to get rid of the false idea that you caused the relationship’s breakdown.

Meanwhile, blaming you for it gives them the power to convince others of their innocence.

17. Cutting You Off to Maintain Control

When a narcissist decides to end a relationship, they often simply cut off all communication with their partner (“ghosting”).

By cutting off communication, they are essentially saying that they have the power in the relationship and that you are not worthy of their attention.

  • They may block your phone number, email address, and social media accounts.
  • They may also tell mutual friends and family members not to speak to you or to pass along your messages.
  • In extreme cases, the narcissist may even move away to a new address or change their phone number.

This behavior is all about power and control. The narcissist wants to make sure that they are the ones who get to decide when the relationship is over, and that you have no choice but to accept it.

For the person on the receiving end, it can be incredibly difficult to deal with. They may feel hurt, powerless, confused, and angry at being cut off so abruptly.

FAQs

  1. How do narcissists typically behave at the end of a relationship?

    Narcissists, at the end of a relationship, typically behave in a way that tries to retain the breaking-up person, so that their narcissistic supply is maintained. They may try to blame their partner for the relationship’s failure to guilt-trip them, and even give self-harm threats to prevent the breakup. They may also use emotional blackmail, character assassination, or aggression to avenge the breakup.

  2. What are some common signs that a narcissist is done with you?

    When the narcissist is done with you, they may not want to spend time with you, they may not talk to you as much, and they may not give you emotional support. They may also become more distant or dismissive of your feelings and needs.

  3. What are some games that narcissists might play during a breakup?

    Narcissists might play games such as gaslighting, where they try to make their partner doubt their own sanity or memory. They may also try to make their partner jealous or use other manipulative tactics like shaming to regain control of the relationship.

  4. Can a narcissist leave you for someone else?

    Yes, a narcissist can leave their partner for someone else to fulfill their preferential needs for attention and validation, to make their partner jealous, try to win them back, or simply have two narcissistic supplies.

  5. How can you tell a narcissist goodbye effectively?

    To say goodbye to a narcissist effectively, set clear boundaries and enforce them. This could mean cutting off all contact or limiting communication to only essential matters. All the same, re-focus on your own needs, prioritize your well-being, and seek support from friends, family, or a therapist if needed.

  6. What are the stages of a narcissistic relationship?

    The stages of a narcissistic relationship typically include idealization, devaluation, discard, and hoovering. During the idealization stage, the narcissist puts their partner on a pedestal and showers them with attention and affection. In devaluation, they begin to criticize and belittle their partner, often in subtle ways. During the discard stage, the narcissist may abruptly end the relationship or withdraw emotionally. Finally, they try to “hoover” you back into the relationship if you intend to break up with them.

Final Words

At the end of a relationship with a narcissist, it is common for them to have the last word. This is because they need to feel in control and maintain their sense of power over their former partner.

Takeaway messages:

  • The narcissist feels afraid to lose their “narcissistic supply” at the end of a relationship.
  • They can use excessive flattery and fake promises to “hoover” you back with them.
  • They can use blame-shifting, guilt-tripping, rumor-mongering, and violence.
  • You may need to seek a restraining order or involve law enforcement.

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