When you leave a narcissist, they involuntarily go through a cycle of loss and coping, which has the potential to be extremely destructive. Before you make a move away from the narcissist in your life, be sure you understand what to expect. Here is what happens when you cut off contact with a narcissist.
Initially, the narcissist will double down on means of control that have worked in the past to try to get you back. If that doesn’t work, they will work, making you look bad and casting themselves as the victim in the eyes of your friends and family. Lastly, they will turn things around and claim they left you.
So how do you handle each step of this process? I’ll cover each step of cutting off contact with a narcissist below.
Narcissists Try to Regain Control Over You
When you cut off contact with a narcissist, their first instinct is to reach for things that have worked in the past. The most common way they do this is reverting the relationship to the “happy days” you had early on.
This can take the form of —
- Love bombing
- Them being extremely apologetic
- Reminding you of the good times you had together
- Pulling out romantic gestures they haven’t used in a long time
- Playing the victim, “Why would you do this to me?”
For more information on ways, narcissistic abuse can manifest in early relationships, romantic and professional, check out the following articles.
- Narcissism in Relationships | What it Means to Love a Narcissist
- Narcissist Boss Love Bombing | How to Spot It and Combat A Narcissist
This tactic can be confusing to us victims of narcissists because it seems genuine and reminds us of why we liked the narcissist in the first place. But, if they convince us to come back, then things will go right back to the way they were. No change in a narcissist in response to you cutting them off is likely to be a permanent one once they resume getting what they want out of you.
How to Deal. The most important thing is to remember that everything they say or do is a means of control over you. To counter their manipulation tactics:
- Don’t talk to them, answer their calls/texts, or go places where the narcissist might be able to “ambush” you
- Write down your feelings any time you think you might want to go back or might be making the wrong choice. Do nothing to act on these feelings yet.
- Review what you wrote down when you are alone — or preferably with the help of a qualified coach or counselor, you trust — only making decisions when you are in a strong state of mind.
False Rumors, Reputation Destruction, and other Narcissistic Attacks
When the narcissist starts to fear you might not come back, they will start to ruin your reputation. This serves two purposes —
- To serve as a method of triangulation, to get you to come back
- To make you look bad so they can claim they left you
Triangulation is a method of narcissistic control where the abuser attempts to get third parties to participate in controlling you. When you cut off a narcissist in a personal relationship, they may tell other people —
- You are a cheater or liar
- You abused the narcissist
- You are hurtful or malicious
- You have committed a crime
The idea of spreading these rumors is that friends, family, or coworkers might participate in shaming you to go back to the narcissist. Be wary of the network of allies that the narcissist has probably built up against you. See the following articles for deeper information on narcissistic triangulation:
How to Deal. The best thing to do initially is to be as open as you can, with as many people as you can, about why you are cutting off contact with the narcissist. Be sure to avoid accusations or put-downs of the narcissist, even if they are true, because it makes the triangulation worse. Ideally, you would present cutting off the narcissist as a win-win.
When triangulation tools come your way, you may have to cut these people off too. Social pressure can be extremely persuasive. While you don’t have to necessarily cut these people forever, allowing them access at a critical time is not advisable.
The Narcissist Throws You Away
Eventually, the narcissist will cut their losses and try to make it look like they left you. The shame of being dumped or cut off isn’t something that a narcissist can live with, as they will flip the story on you.
Usually, they will:
- Tell people how bad on evil you are to justify why they “cut you off.”
- Build up a victim & oppressor framework around their memory of your relationship, probably inventing fake memories to justify their story
- Reframe events around when you cut them off to make it seem like they initiated it
How to deal. At this point, you are home free in terms of moving on past the narcissist. You will have to accept some form of damage due to the narcissist’s accusations.
The best thing you can do is to call out BS when you hear it. Don’t get caught up in justifying yourself or trying to root out the narcissist’s made up stories. Just tell people the truth, and then refuse to say more.
Attempting to discredit, refute, or apologize for what happens is ultimately It looks much worse than just saying your truth and then keeping quiet.
What happens to a narcissist when you cut them off?
Initially, the narcissist will revert to their old cycle of abuse and attempt to win you back with sweet talk or other forms of manipulation that have worked in the past. Then they will feel fear that they are not in control and try to ruin your reputation and control the narrative, so they look like the good guy.
Why no contact with a narcissist is important?
Narcissists are experts at manipulating their victims’ emotions and have developed an arsenal of buttons they can push to reel you back in. The only way for a vulnerable person to make a serious life change is to be completely out of the narcissist’s control for a period of time, necessitating “no contact.”
How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you?
When a narcissist fears they can’t control you, they will cycle through various forms of manipulation to see if they can find something that works. If nothing does, they will try to ruin your reputation or make accusations that put your down. Eventually, they will cut off contact themselves.