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The 10 Things a Narcissist Always Does at the End of a Relationship, According to Psychologists

The 10 Things a Narcissist Always Does at the End of a Relationship, According to Psychologists

Have you ever walked away from a relationship feeling confused, belittled, and questioning your own reality? If so, you might have been involved with a narcissist.

Narcissists are individuals with an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. These traits can be especially harmful in romantic relationships, and the ending of such a bond can be an emotionally brutal experience.

Psychologists have identified several common behaviors narcissists exhibit when a relationship reaches its breaking point. Here, we delve into 10 tactics narcissists often use at the end of a relationship:

1. Refusal to Accept Blame: Shifting the Narrative to Become the Victim

Accountability? Not in a narcissist’s world. When a breakup becomes inevitable, they’ll likely rewrite history, painting themselves as the innocent victim and casting all blame on their partner.

Expect phrases like, “You never appreciated me” or “The relationship failed because of your insecurities.” This deflection tactic aims to confuse the partner and make them question their own memories and actions.

For instance, imagine Sarah and Michael, a couple on the verge of breaking up. Sarah voices her concerns about Michael’s constant need for compliments and his lack of emotional support.

Instead of acknowledging his shortcomings, Michael might launch into a tirade about how Sarah is “too critical” and “doesn’t understand him.” He rewrites the narrative, making Sarah the villain and himself the misunderstood victim.

2. Weaponizing Emotions: The Guilt Trip Tango

Narcissists are masters of manipulation, and emotional manipulation is a favorite weapon. They’ll guilt-trip their partner by highlighting perceived sacrifices made in the relationship or playing the “woe is me” card.

Tears, threats, and emotional outbursts are not uncommon in their arsenal, all designed to pressure the partner back into the relationship.

Let’s revisit Sarah and Michael. As Sarah attempts to end the relationship, Michael might resort to emotional manipulation. He could cry dramatically, claiming his life will be meaningless without her or threaten to isolate himself, hoping to guilt Sarah into staying.

3. The Gaslighting Gambit: Twisting Reality to Control Your Perception

Gaslighting is a particularly insidious tactic used by narcissists. They’ll deny saying things they clearly said, twist events to fit their narrative, and make their partner question their own sanity. This creates a state of confusion and self-doubt, making it easier for the narcissist to maintain control.

For example, Michael might deny ever making promises he broke or gaslight Sarah about arguments they had. He could say, “You’re imagining things, I never said I’d help you with that project,” even though Sarah has clear evidence of the contrary.

This constant denial and distortion of reality disorient Sarah, making her question her own memory and judgment.

4. The Hoover Maneuver: Sucking You Back In, Just to Let Go Again

The “Hoover maneuver” refers to a narcissist’s attempt to rekindle a relationship after a breakup. This can be triggered by a perceived slight to their ego or simply a renewed need for attention.

They might reach out with seemingly heartfelt messages or promises of change, only to repeat the same destructive patterns once back in the relationship.

Imagine Sarah has finally ended things with Michael and is starting to move on. Weeks later, Michael sends her a text filled with apologies and declarations of love. He promises to change and become the man she deserves.

Sarah, yearning for closure and perhaps hope for a better future, might be tempted to give him another chance. However, if she falls for the Hoover Maneuver, it’s likely the same cycle of manipulation and abuse will resume.

5. Revenge at All Costs: The Bitter End Game

Narcissists rarely accept rejection gracefully. If their attempts to manipulate or guilt-trip their partner fail, they may resort to revenge tactics.

This could involve public humiliation, spreading malicious rumors, or even sabotaging the partner’s career or social life. Their goal is to inflict pain and make their ex suffer for daring to leave them.

For instance, a scorned Michael, enraged by Sarah’s decision to end the relationship, might try to damage her reputation.

He could spread rumors about her to their friends or even try to sabotage her chances of getting a promotion at work. This vindictive behavior stems from his deep-seated need for control and his inability to handle rejection.

6. The Smear Campaign: Poisoning the Well

Narcissists often try to damage their ex’s reputation after a breakup. They might spread lies about their partner to mutual friends, family, or even colleagues. This smear campaign aims to isolate the ex, garner sympathy for the narcissist, and maintain a sense of control over the narrative.

Imagine Sarah confides in her friends about Michael’s manipulative behavior. Michael, upon discovering this, might preemptively reach out to their friends himself.

He could paint Sarah as the unstable and dramatic one, downplaying his own actions and twisting events to make himself appear like the victim. This tactic aims to isolate Sarah from her support system and make her look bad to those who might otherwise believe her side of the story.

7. The Disappearing Act: Vanishing Without a Trace

Some narcissists simply vanish after a breakup. This “ghosting” tactic leaves their exes confused, hurt, and yearning for closure. It’s a way for the narcissist to avoid any accountability for their actions and move on without facing the emotional consequences of the relationship’s demise.

Sarah, finally free from Michael’s manipulation, might expect some form of communication after ending things. However, Michael might choose to completely disappear. No goodbye message, no explanation, just silence. This leaves Sarah with unanswered questions and a lingering sense of confusion.

8. Monkey Branching: Securing the Next Supply Before Letting Go

Narcissists have a constant need for attention and admiration. They rarely enter a relationship breakup alone. Often, they’ll have already lined up a new romantic interest, sometimes referred to as a “supply,” before ending the current relationship.

This ensures they have a steady stream of validation and prevents them from facing the vulnerability of being alone.

For example, while Sarah might be under the impression she’s in a committed relationship with Michael, he might be cultivating a connection with someone new. Once he feels secure in this new dynamic, he might abruptly end things with Sarah.

This “monkey branching” behavior allows him to seamlessly transition from one relationship to another, with minimal emotional investment or downtime.

9. The “I Never Cared Anyway” Facade: Protecting Their Inflated Ego

To protect their fragile ego, some narcissists might adopt a facade of indifference after a breakup. They might downplay the significance of the relationship or claim they were never truly invested. This is a defense mechanism to avoid admitting any emotional attachment or responsibility for the relationship’s failure.

Imagine Sarah runs into Michael after the breakup. He might act completely nonchalant, pretending the relationship never mattered.

He could say something like, “Oh hey Sarah, didn’t even realize it was you. The relationship wasn’t that serious anyway.” This false bravado protects his ego from the sting of rejection and allows him to maintain an illusion of being unfazed by the breakup.

10. The Relentless Pursuit: Never Truly Letting Go

Even after a definitive breakup, a narcissist might continue to try to exert control over their ex. They might show up uninvited at places their ex frequents, send unwanted messages, or try to sabotage any new relationships their ex might form.

This obsessive behavior stems from their need for control and their inability to accept the relationship’s over.

Despite Sarah’s clear boundaries and attempts to move on, Michael might continue to contact her. He could send her late-night texts or show up at her doorstep unannounced.

This relentless pursuit is a narcissist’s way of clinging to a shred of control and preventing their ex from finding happiness without them.


Understanding these behaviors is crucial for anyone who has been involved with a narcissist. Recognizing the tactics used and the underlying motivations empowers you to detach from the manipulation and begin the healing process.

Remember, you are not responsible for their actions, and a supportive network and professional help can guide you towards a healthier future.

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