This post may contain affiliate links and Rebel Love may be compensated for purchases visitors make through these links. We only promote products and services we really care about and that we think are useful. Read the full policy here.
Recently, there has been a noticeable surge in the popularity of the term “narcissism,” and it has gained considerable attention in the realm of pop psychology, where it’s often portrayed as the primary antagonist to healthy relationships.
In today’s world (especially in North America), mental health diagnoses are handed out like free samples at a grocery store, but here’s the real kicker:
Just because someone struts around like they invented the selfie stick doesn’t mean they have a full-blown case of narcissistic personality disorder. Which is why it’s crucial for us to differentiate between your run-of-the-mill selfie-stick “egotism” and someone who genuinely believes they’re the sun around which everyone must orbit.
And, because our specialty is love and relationships, I want to focus on how to identify a narcissist, and, if you’re already tangled up with one, how to distance yourself and avoid their
Before we dive in, I want to acknowledge that breakups suck, and under the best of circumstances they can be difficult. So, breaking up with a
narcissistic partner poses a whole other layer of challenges.
Because narcissists often employ manipulative tactics and engage in breakup games to maintain control and fuel their ego, the separation may feel particularly draining. By understanding their games and implementing effective strategies, you can navigate the breakup process with clarity, self-preservation, and maintain emotional well-being.
Recognizing a Narcissist
Before delving into breakup strategies, it’s crucial to identify narcissistic traits. In Julia L. Hall’s article,
, she explains: The Anatomy of a Narcissist
A narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness rooted in identity and self-esteem instability primarily resulting from insecure attachment with caregivers in infancy and childhood. There may be genetic predispositions to narcissistic defenses in a child that get activated by alienating experiences in the environment.
Narcissists lack the internal ego strength to sustain consistent feelings of self-esteem and require excessive support for their exaggerated sense of importance. This makes them highly dependent on other people and on status-enhancing externalities to process their emotions and feel good about themselves.
Recognizing whether you’re dating a narcissist can be difficult, particularly since they often exhibit charismatic qualities during the initial phases of a relationship. However, if your relationship feels consistently chaotic, unstable, or involves any form of power dynamic or abuse, consider:
💔 Distancing yourself from the relationship
💔 Seeking assistance from a mental health professional, counselor, or relevant authorities who can provide guidance and support.
Remember, your safety and emotional health should always be the top priority.
Here are some signs that may indicate you are or have been in a relationship with a narcissist:
Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance: A narcissist often exaggerates their achievements, talents, or abilities and expects constant admiration and validation from others.
Lack of Empathy: They struggle to empathize with others and show little concern for others’ emotions or needs. They may dismiss or belittle your emotions or experiences.
Need for Constant Attention and Admiration: Narcissists crave attention, admiration, and validation from others. They may demand excessive praise and become frustrated or angry if they don’t receive it.
Manipulative Behavior: They engage in tactics to control and manipulate others, such as gaslighting, guilt-tripping, or playing mind games.
Sense of Entitlement: Narcissists believe they are special and entitled to special treatment. They may expect you to cater to their needs without considering your own.
Lack of Accountability: They rarely take responsibility for their actions, instead shifting blame onto others. They may refuse to apologize or acknowledge their mistakes.
Boundary Violations: Narcissists often disregard boundaries and personal space. They may invade your privacy, ignore your boundaries, or pressure you into doing things you’re not comfortable with.
Intense Jealousy or Possessiveness: They may exhibit extreme jealousy, becoming overly possessive or controlling in the relationship. They may try to isolate you from friends and family or monitor your activities.
Lack of Reciprocity in Relationships: Narcissists tend to have one-sided relationships, where they prioritize their own needs and desires while disregarding yours. They may exploit others for personal gain.
Emotional Manipulation and Gaslighting: Narcissists use emotional manipulation techniques to undermine your confidence, make you doubt your perceptions, and question your sanity.
Understanding these characteristics will help you better comprehend the games a narcissistic individual might play during a breakup.
Note: A diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder can only be made by a qualified mental health professional; if you suspect you’re in a relationship with a narcissist or experiencing emotional abuse, seek support from a therapist or counselor who can guide you through the process of healing and making informed decisions.
Examples of Narcissist Break Up Games
Narcissists are known to employ various manipulative tactics during breakups to maintain control and inflict emotional harm. Here are some examples of narcissistic breakup games:
After a breakup, a narcissist may attempt to “hoover” or reel you back into the relationship. They might use guilt, promises of change, give you just enough attention to keep you engaged, or even love bomb to regain control over you. This is a tactic to keep you emotionally invested and prevent you from moving on.
Narcissists often use the silent treatment as a way to punish and manipulate their partners. They may completely ignore you, refuse to respond to messages or calls, or give you the cold shoulder to assert power and make you feel desperate for their attention.
Gaslighting (or Crazy Making)
Gaslighting is a common tactic where the narcissist distorts your perception of reality. They may deny or twist events, make you question your memory or sanity, and make you feel like you’re overreacting or imagining things. This undermines your confidence and ability to trust your own judgment.
Playing the Victim
Narcissists are skilled at playing the victim to gain sympathy and manipulate your emotions. They may portray themselves as the one who has been wronged, shifting blame onto you and evoking feelings of guilt or obligation to keep you engaged in the relationship or prevent you from leaving.
In an effort to damage your reputation and control the narrative, narcissists may engage in smear campaigns. They might spread lies, rumors, or negative stories about you to mutual friends, family, or acquaintances. This serves to discredit you and isolate you from support networks.
Financial Manipulation or Restrict Resources
If the narcissist exerts financial control or influence over you, they may attempt to use it as leverage during a breakup. This could involve threats to withhold financial support, deplete joint accounts, or manipulate you through financial means. In some cases, they might even restrict your access to shared resources like your home or car, isolating you further.
Love bombing is an intense and excessive display of affection, attention, and praise from the narcissist, often used to lure you back into the relationship or keep you hooked emotionally. They may shower you with compliments, gifts, and promises of a better future to regain control over you.
Narcissists may introduce a third party, such as an ex-partner, new love interest, or friend, into the dynamics to create jealousy, insecurity, and competition. This tactic is designed to keep you emotionally invested and vying for their attention, maintaining their control over you.
False Promises of Change
A narcissistic partner may promise to change, seek therapy, or make efforts to improve the relationship after a breakup. They may use this as a manipulative tactic to prevent you from leaving or to keep you hooked emotionally, only to revert to their old behaviors once you’re back in the relationship.
Narcissists may resort to emotional blackmail during a breakup, using guilt, threats, or manipulation to make you feel responsible for their well-being or the consequences they claim to face. This tactic is aimed at keeping you engaged and preventing you from leaving.
A narcissist may make grandiose plans for the future together, such as marriage, starting a family, or building a life together, even if they have no intention of following through. This tactic creates false hope and keeps you emotionally invested in the relationship.
Narcissists may make false accusations against you during a breakup, such as cheating or wrongdoing, to deflect attention away from their own behavior and place blame on you. This serves to discredit you and maintain their self-perceived superiority.
Hoovering Techniques Through Mutual Connections
Narcissists may try to manipulate mutual friends, family members, or acquaintances to act as intermediaries or convey messages on their behalf. They may attempt to garner sympathy, create division, or gather information about your life to maintain a sense of control over you.
It’s important to remember that these tactics can vary in intensity and frequency, and not all narcissists may employ every breakup game listed. However, recognizing these patterns can help you protect yourself, establish boundaries, and help you break free from their influence. These examples are also not exhaustive, as narcissists can employ a range of tactics to maintain control and manipulate their ex-partners.
Document Incidents and Seek Legal Advice
If the narcissist break up games escalate to harassment, threats, stalking, or any form of abuse, it’s crucial to protect yourself legally.
Document any incidents, preserve evidence, and consult with a lawyer who specializes in domestic abuse or family law. They can guide you through the legal process and help secure your safety and well-being. If you are afraid or believe you are in imminent danger, call the police.
Strategies for a Healthy Separation
Establishing a healthy separation is essential when dealing with a narcissistic ex. Clearly communicating your limits and expectations, and sticking to them is paramount. This might involve minimizing or cutting off contact, especially if keeping any form of connection risks emotional or psychological distress. The priority is protecting your emotional well-being and preventing the narcissist from exploiting you further.
Maintain No Contact
no contact is typically the most effective approach when dealing with a narcissistic ex. It involves completely cutting off communication and minimizing interactions as much as possible. Narcissists feed off attention and control, so denying them the opportunity to play manipulative games is vital for your own healing and personal growth.
I understand that going completely contactless isn’t always feasible, especially for those who share children or other shared responsibilities with a narcissistic individual. In such situations…
Set Clear Boundaries
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you establish clear and effective boundaries when dealing with a narcissist ex – be sure you pay attention to whether setting boundaries with your ex makes things worse.
Reflect on Your Needs and Identify Boundaries
Take time to reflect on your personal needs, values, and what you are comfortable with moving forward. Consider areas such as emotional space, physical boundaries, communication preferences (if any), and respect for your values.
After self-reflection, take the time to identify and define the specific boundaries you wish to set. Clearly establish what is acceptable and unacceptable to you in your relationships, keeping your safety as the utmost priority. If you find that your judgment has been clouded by your current relationship, it is essential to prioritize your well-being. Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or expert who can provide guidance and support in determining your boundaries while ensuring your
safety remains paramount.
Communicate Directly and Assertively (if it’s safe to do so)
When establishing boundaries, it is vital to communicate them directly and assertively,
taking into consideration your safety. Remember, you are not obligated to provide an explanation to an abusive partner when cutting ties. Prioritize your well-being and make choices that align with what is best for you. When it comes to setting boundaries, it’s important to choose a suitable time and place to have an open and honest conversation with the person involved. However, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being. If meeting in person poses a risk or makes you more susceptible to manipulation, it’s perfectly acceptable to choose alternative methods of communication.
During the conversation, use “I” statements to clearly express your boundaries. For instance, say things like “I need…” or “I am not comfortable with…” This approach helps avoid accusatory language and instead focuses on your own needs. If the person attempts to manipulate you, you can confidently fall back on your “I” statements, reinforcing your boundaries and protecting your emotional well-being.
Remember, trust your instincts and never feel obligated to meet someone in person if it compromises your safety. Prioritize your well-being and utilize communication methods that ensure your boundaries are effectively conveyed without putting yourself at risk.
Be Firm and Consistent and Reinforce Consequences
Maintain firmness and consistency in upholding your boundaries. Narcissistic individuals may try to test or push against your boundaries, so it’s crucial to stand your ground. Avoid wavering or giving in to their manipulative tactics. Remind yourself of your worth and the importance of honoring your own boundaries.
Establish consequences for crossing your boundaries and communicate them clearly. Let the person know what actions you will take if they disregard your boundaries. This might include limiting contact, ending the conversation, or distancing yourself from the relationship. Follow through with the consequences if necessary to demonstrate the seriousness of your boundaries.
Having a support system is invaluable when setting and maintaining boundaries, especially with a narcissistic person. Reach out to trusted friends, family, or support groups who can offer guidance, validation, and encouragement. They can provide perspective, help you stay accountable, and reinforce your confidence in maintaining healthy boundaries.
Setting boundaries can be tough, especially when dealing with a narcissistic individual who can impact your self-worth. That’s why self-care is crucial throughout this process. Engage in activities that uplift your well-being, like exercising, meditating, pursuing hobbies, or surrounding yourself with supportive people. Prioritizing self-care will bolster your ability to establish boundaries firmly and rebuild your confidence.
Adjust Boundaries as Needed
As you grow and evolve, your boundaries may need adjustment. Regularly assess and reassess your boundaries to ensure they align with your changing needs and values. Be open to modifying or expanding boundaries as you gain further clarity and self-awareness.
Remember, setting boundaries is about respecting yourself, keeping yourself safe, and prioritizing healthy relationships. It may take time and practice, but by following these steps and prioritizing your well-being, you can establish boundaries that foster your emotional and mental health.
*In case direct communication with the person isn’t an option or is not safe in your situation, there are alternative steps you can take to set boundaries:
💔 Limit or Cut off Contact: If communicating with the person directly is not possible or is not safe, you can limit or cut off contact with them. This might involve blocking their phone number, unfollowing or blocking them on social media, and minimizing opportunities for them to reach out to you. Creating distance can help protect your emotional well-being.
💔 Establish Boundaries through Indirect Communication: If direct communication is not possible, consider expressing your boundaries through indirect means. This could involve writing a letter or email that clearly outlines your boundaries. While you may not receive a response, it can provide you with a sense of closure and empowerment.
💔 Focus on Self-Care and Protection: In situations where communication is not an option, prioritize your self-care and protection. Take steps to ensure your physical and emotional safety. This might involve seeking legal advice, consulting with professionals who specialize in dealing with difficult relationships or abuse, and engaging in activities that promote your well-being.
💔 Maintain Internal Boundaries: Even if you cannot establish external boundaries with the person, it’s important to maintain internal boundaries within yourself. This means mentally and emotionally separating yourself from their influence and detaching from their actions or behaviors. Focus on your own healing, growth, and self-empowerment.
Examples of Self-Care After Dating a Narcissist
After ending a relationship with a narcissist, practicing self-care becomes crucial for healing and regaining a sense of well-being. Here are some examples of self-care activities that can aid in the recovery process and help rebuild your life:
Show yourself kindness, understanding, and self-compassion. Recognize that you are not to blame for the narcissist’s actions or behavior. Be patient with yourself as you heal and work through the aftermath of the relationship. Treat yourself with love and care.
Engage in Therapy or Counseling
Consider seeking professional help from therapists or counselors who specialize in narcissistic abuse or trauma. They can provide guidance, support, and specific techniques to help you heal, rebuild self-esteem, and develop healthier relationship patterns.
Prioritize Emotional Healing
Allow yourself to grieve and process the emotions associated with the relationship. Give yourself permission to feel and express your emotions in a healthy way, whether through journaling, creative outlets, or talking with a trusted confidant. Emphasize self-reflection and inner healing.
Rediscover your own identity, interests, and passions. Engage in activities that bring you joy, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose. Explore new hobbies, learn new skills, or reconnect with old ones. Focus on building a fulfilling life that is centered around your own needs and desires.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
Pay attention to your physical well-being by adopting a healthy lifestyle. This includes getting regular exercise, eating nutritious foods, and prioritizing adequate sleep. Physical self-care supports your emotional and mental well-being.
Set Realistic Goals
Set achievable goals for yourself and celebrate your progress along the way. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on your personal growth and accomplishments can boost your self-confidence and sense of empowerment.
Engage in Relaxation Techniques
Incorporate relaxation techniques into your routine to reduce stress and promote inner peace. This could include activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or mindfulness practices. Find what works best for you to cultivate a sense of calm and relaxation.
Validate your own experiences and emotions. Trust yourself and your instincts. Recognize your own worth and the strength it took to leave the narcissistic relationship. Affirm yourself with positive self-talk and remind yourself that you deserve love, respect, and healthy relationships.
In The End
Breaking free from a narcissistic partner and avoiding their manipulation tactics and breakup games requires strength, resilience, and self-awareness. By recognizing the signs of narcissistic traits, establishing boundaries, maintaining no contact, prioritizing self-care, and seeking support, you can regain control of your life and move towards a healthier, happier future.
Remember, you deserve love, respect, and genuine connections, and breaking free from a narcissistic relationship is the first step toward embracing those qualities once again.
Until next time,
Take care, friends!