Narcissists are often very charming, and they are able to attract many successful, healthy people because of that. But it doesn’t usually take very long before the narcissist’s grandiose sense of entitlement and inflated sense of self leads to intolerable bad behavior.
While it can take a while for you to adjust to the shocking change, most people will eventually decide to end such abusive relationships.
Narcissists learn early on that people tire of their abusive behavior and leave them, which engenders an almost uncanny ability to know when you’re over them. But that doesn’t mean that they’re done with you. In fact, that’s often when they engage in other abuse tactics to get revenge.
All of this is part of the narcissistic abuse cycle that involves idealization, devaluation, and discard. If you don’t leave your narcissistic partner, they will often initiate the discard themselves.
They will do that as a defense mechanism before you can hurt them by leaving. But no matter how the relationship ends, they will often come back, and you need to be prepared.
What do Narcissists Do When They Know You’re Done?
If you’re in a narcissistic relationship, you’ve probably experienced many of the following appalling behaviors.
- Sudden, explosive outbursts of narcissistic rage
- The silent treatment as a punishment
- Haughty behaviors in public and toward you
- Manipulation and control tactics
- A pervasive pattern of grandiosity
- Negative remarks meant to destroy your self-confidence
- Attention-getting behaviors
- Antagonistic patterns of antisocial behavior
People with mental disorders like narcissism have an underdeveloped sense of self. They need other people to provide them with adulation so they can prop up their grandiose sense of power. This makes it extremely difficult to have a healthy relationship because it results in manipulative behaviors.
These narcissistic traits develop at an early age, and the young narcissist learns quickly how to manipulate people to get their needs met. The lack of empathy, however, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for them to understand your needs.
That results in unacceptable behavior that most people reject despite their surprise at the seemingly sudden change in their temperament. While narcissists are not bad people – they’re damaged people – that doesn’t give them the right to treat other people the way they do.
What Are Common Narcissistic Reactions?
Their history of failed relationships, however, gives them an almost sixth sense of when someone is fed up. When that happens, they do several different things, including the following common narcissistic reactions:
- Turn the charm back on to win you back
- Gaslight you to distort reality
- Initiate a smear campaign against you to damage your credibility
- Use projection to make you into the bad guy
- Triangulate with friends and family members to isolate you
When either one of you finally ends the relationship, they will often come back, sometimes after years apart. In this way, the pathological narcissist cycles through people to ensure they will always have a source of narcissistic supply.
Why Do Narcissists Behave the Way They Do?
A healthy person has developed a strong sense of identity, and they are able to soothe themselves using internal identity mechanisms. A narcissistic person, on the other hand, has a stunted sense of identity.
This is the result of childhood trauma that caused them to believe their true nature is hopelessly flawed. The damaged child buried that ugly truth deep inside themselves and constructed an exaggerated sense of self to replace their flawed true self.
But the narcissistic child lacks the egoic structure to support their own grandiose self-image. They need other people to do that for them, and they need that egoic supply almost constantly to maintain their false self-image.
This is why they learn to manipulate people. It’s important to remember that a narcissist is not a stupid person. In fact, they are often very insightful in more devious ways. They just don’t have any self-awareness or insight into their own problem.
In fact, they can sometimes even fool a mental health professional with what appears to be a high level of emotional intelligence. The therapist will figure it out if they continue working with the narcissist, but initially, they can seem very healthy.
This desperate need for adoration combined with a history of failed relationships makes them very aware when someone is getting near the limits of what they will tolerate. If they can’t prevent a discard, however, they will bide their time and come back into their ex’s life at some point.
What is a Trauma Bond, and How Does the Narcissist Use It?
Narcissists will often use a trauma bond to keep someone from leaving them. A trauma bond is very common in narcissistic relationships. Here’s how it works:
- The narcissist is charming, and you fall for them.
- Then they turn very cold very suddenly.
- You’re stunned, but you desperately want that wonderful soulmate back.
- You work hard to get them back by catering to their needs.
- They give you small rewards that are reminiscent of that soulmate you thought you knew, and you think you’re making progress.
- This creates a dependency on the narcissist for your own validation in the form of those small rewards, and it creates a strong attachment to them.
- They alternate between hot and cold to keep the cycle going and strengthen your dependency.
The victim of this type of manipulation often loses their sense of self as this cycle continues. They become completely subsumed by the narcissist’s personality, and they are consumed with fulfilling the narcissist’s needs.
Narcissists don’t necessarily know they’re creating a trauma bond or that it’s what keeps you tied to them. But they do know that their strategy works. They’ve used it in the past, and it has served them well.
A malignant narcissist even gets pleasure from the pain you feel when they’re mistreating you. They like seeing you struggle when they’re behaving badly. The following video explains more signs of malignant narcissism.
Most narcissists use the behavior they know has worked in the past as quickly as they can in a new relationship, but they definitely will seek to strengthen a trauma bond when they know you’re fed up with them.
Most people who experience this kind of treatment don’t even realize it’s happening. They may not have ever experienced anything like it in the past. That’s why therapy is often a necessary part of narcissistic abuse recovery.
Narcissists are desperate for egoic support from their friends, colleagues, and family members. They engage in various manipulative and abusive behaviors to get that support.
They also develop keen insight into behavioral changes that indicate you’re over them. That’s when they will initiate a charm offensive to get you back.
If that fails, they’ll turn to negative tactics to smear you and damage your credibility. You’ll likely feel blindsided by this behavior, and it can create substantial damage to your own self-esteem.
Recovery is possible, however, once you recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse. The first step is to know that you have a problem, and from there, a new, happier life is possible when you start prioritizing your needs and self-care.
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