What It Means When A Narcissist Says They Need Space

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If you’re involved with a narcissist, you’ve probably had plenty of occasions to utter the phrase, “I need some space to clear my head,” but you might not have heard that very frequently from the narcissist. Because of the specifics of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), it’s reasonable to wonder just what it might mean if a narcissist actually claims they need space. 

It’s reasonable to think that if a narcissist says they need space, they are interested in considering the nature of your relationship or some point you’ve made. What’s more likely, however, is that you hit too close to home, and fearing exposure, they want space to avoid being humiliated. 

It’s important to learn more about how a narcissist thinks to fully understand why they do anything they do. Their motives are not straightforward nor are they usually altruistic or the result of love and concern for you. Read on to learn vital information about what’s really behind their behaviors and what they say. 

Narcissism and Insecure Attachment

Narcissism forms when a child is unable to fully develop a sense of self. They come to believe their true self is flawed and they bury it deep inside. In its place, they form a false self and impose numerous grandiose beliefs about themselves onto this false self. 

The false self, however, is not able to internally support the narcissist’s self-esteem. For that, the narcissist must have adoring and admiring input from other people. They need other people to almost constantly compliment them and adore them. 

They desperately need other people for this adoration which is known as narcissistic supply, and yet the narcissist fears intimacy. They fear that if they get too close to another person, they will be able to see the truth about them and they will expose them as the fraud they believe themselves to be. 

The narcissist learned early on that being too close to people was something to be feared, and they developed an insecure attachment style that they carry forward into their adult life. It’s a kind of push-me, pull-me kind of situation where they need you to be close enough to be loving and admiring of them, but they don’t want you to get too close so that you see the truth about them. 

Do Narcissists Like or Need to Spend Time Alone?

The thought of having to spend time alone with themselves is usually terrifying for the narcissist. It means they will have to spend time contemplating their dysfunctional inner life. The last thing they want is to be introspective because they believe they already know the shameful truth about themselves and they can’t stand the thought of having to face that. 

That’s why they like to be around people all the time. Other people see them as extroverts who love being around people, but the reason for their extraversion isn’t a genuine love of people, it’s a desperate need for attention. 

So, What Does it Mean if a Narcissist Says They Need Space?

If a narcissist does say that they need space from you, it is their way of shutting down a conversation or a situation in which they feel vulnerable or exposed so they can avoid appearing to retreat or be defeated. 

If you said the same thing to the narcissist, your request for space would not be respected. They would likely become more intrusive and they would attempt to manipulate or control your actions and words. They use all kinds of manipulation tactics to gain control of the situation. 

If you ask for space, the narcissist feels as though you are trying to strip away a part of their identity. Narcissists see other people as extensions of themselves, and any attempt to distance yourself from them feels like a loss of a part of themselves. 

It’s your devotion to the narcissist that they use to measure their self-worth. If you’re threatening to leave them, they know they will lose that narcissistic supply of adoration that they so desperately need. 

Will a Narcissist Leave You?

Will a Narcissist Leave You

If a narcissist fears you might leave them, they will usually turn their famous charm back on high. They will once again become that loving, supportive, and complimentary soulmate you fell in love with, but this won’t last. 

When a narcissist has gotten everything from you that they want or they have grown tired of being you, they will usually line up your replacement before leaving. They can’t be without their narcissistic supply, so they need to have someone waiting in the wings. 

This may be another reason why the narcissist begins distancing themselves from you. As narcissistic abuse victim advocate, Jeffrey Holland says, “They may just need time to pursue selfish endeavors. They don’t have as much invested in the relationship as you do and may need time away to control or punish you. Some alone time. Alone time with somebody else.” 

They’re grooming your replacement to step in as soon as they finally leave you behind. When it comes time to actually leave, the narcissist will turn cold very quickly and often leave with little explanation. 

Even if they do leave you, however, most of the time, they will be back. This is particularly true if you were taken by surprise and tried to convince the narcissist not to leave. That only feeds into their egoic needs in most cases, but it also lets them know that the door may not be closed forever. 

It’s not at all uncommon for a narcissist to come back into life weeks, months, or even years after either you leave them or they leave you. 

Can a Narcissist Ever Truly Love You?

While it is possible that a narcissist feels genuine love for you, it makes them feel too vulnerable to act in a loving way. That’s why most narcissists, regardless of how they feel, will act in a way that keeps you at a distance and uncertain of what their true feelings really are. 

Can a Narcissist Ever Truly Love You

They will manipulate you by making you feel crazy and uncertain of your own perceptions, something called gaslighting. They will also lie regularly, and when they are trying to get back in your good graces, they will use love-bombing to reel you back in. 

They are also not above pitting you against other loved ones so they can manipulate the family dynamic. They will pit their partner against the children and the children against one another. They will choose a favorite child and then treat the other children in an emotionally abusive way. Their goal is to have all them trying to please the narcissist. 

It’s all about keeping the attention on the narcissist and keeping the adoration flowing. It’s an understatement to say they don’t know how to express any true feelings of love they might feel for someone. 

Final Thoughts

When a narcissist says they need space, there are a few possible reasons for it. The first is that they are trying to defuse a situation in which they feel vulnerable to exposure. They are trying to shut it down and avoid any humiliation since that might show everyone the truth about themselves. 

Another reason a narcissist might say they need space is that they are preparing to end the relationship and they are actively seeking a replacement for the loss of a source of narcissistic supply. In either case, they will manipulate, lie, and use other emotionally abusive tactics to control the situation so they can feel good about themselves. 

It’s critical to learn more about what a narcissist hates and fears to understand why they might be treating you the way they do. This article has valuable insights into how a narcissist thinks and how that affects their behavior.


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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