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How a narcissist ends a relationship

Narcissism has been likened to "the secondhand smoke of our time." If you interact with humans, you're likely to encounter it. Our society rewards narcissists; they secure top jobs, attract the most desirable partners, and amass a greater number of social media followers. We are now living in a more "me"-focused society than ever before.

In any case, a relationship with a narcissist is challenging and unpredictable. By the time you fully comprehend who or what you're dealing with, you're often emotionally ensnared. A narcissist often concludes a relationship on a high note, ensuring they maintain the upper hand.

The way a narcissist ends a relationship can vary depending on their specific traits and the dynamics of the relationship. However, some common patterns and methods include:

1. Discard: Many narcissists end relationships through what is known as the "discard" phase. They may abruptly and callously end the relationship without warning, explanation, or consideration for the other person's feelings. This can leave the other person feeling confused and hurt.

2. Devaluation: Prior to the discard, a narcissist may engage in devaluation. This involves diminishing the value of the partner, criticizing, and treating them poorly. The devaluation phase can be emotionally distressing for the other person.

3. Ghosting: Some narcissists may abruptly cease all communication without providing an explanation. They stop responding to calls, messages, and emails, essentially 'ghosting' their partner. If a narcissist ghosts you and you don't share financial or child-related connections with them, it can be a blessing in disguise. Although it may be painful initially, in the long run, it could be the best parting gift a narcissist can give you. It means you won't have to endure further toxic behavior from them.

4. Gaslighting: In some cases, narcissists may engage in gaslighting during the breakup. They might try to make the other person doubt their perception, memory, or reality, causing confusion and self-doubt.

5. Smear Campaign: After the breakup, a narcissist might attempt to tarnish the reputation of their former partner by spreading false information, rumors, or engaging in character assassination.

6. Hoovering: This is when a narcissist tries to re-engage with a former partner after the discard. They may return with false promises, love bombing, or attempts to elicit sympathy to regain control.

7. Triangulation: Some narcissists may involve a third party, real or imaginary, to create jealousy and confusion in the relationship or to make the breakup more hurtful.

8. Silent Treatment: During or after the breakup, a narcissist may employ the silent treatment, ignoring their former partner as a form of control or punishment.

9. Closure Manipulation: A narcissist may withhold closure or engage in intermittent contact to keep the other person emotionally entangled.

Narcissists often have little regard for the emotions and well-being of their partners during a breakup. Their primary focus is on maintaining control, seeking narcissistic supply, and preserving their self-image. If you are dealing with the aftermath of a relationship with a narcissist, seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional can be crucial for your emotional healing and recovery.

By Dr Purity Carr

GP and Menopause Specialists

Harvey, WA

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Oct 30, 2023

Thank you for this Dr Purity. I work with many people (mainly women) where the light has all but been extinguished due to living with someone who displays many of the traits of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

Once mentally and physically safe to connect with the experiences and memories, it’s often only then that a survivor can start to see patterns of abuse in different ways and the effects of long-term impact.

I work with many intelligent people, and all express some form of shame or self-negativity about not knowing sooner. If this is you, and if you take nothing else from this, please know that you’re not alone, that this is an extremely common experience. It does NOT mean…

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