In this post, you’ll learn how narcissists treat their exes and how to spot a narcissist so you can avoid finding yourself with one in the future.
Who Is The Narcissist?
According to the DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, narcissistic personality disorder is “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.”
However, many people would display narcissistic traits without meeting diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
Related: Narcissist Red Flags: Top 10 Signs You’re In A Narcissistic Relationship (And What Can You Do About It)
How Do Narcissists Treat Their Exes?
Ending a relationship with a narcissist can be one of the most emotionally draining challenges you can face.
Narcissists are usually never willing to just let bygones be bygones.
Their fragile self-esteem would push them to do whatever it takes to put you down so they could feel better about themselves.
Having the emotional maturity of a toddler, a narcissist is bound to treat their ex in an evil way.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Protect Yourself From a Narcissist
The following are some examples of how narcissists treat their exes:
1. They Keep Ghosting Them And Coming Back
Narcissists use silent treatment as a punishment when they don’t get what they want.
They might also use it to maintain control, choosing when to communicate.
At other times, they may love bomb their exes with messages and phone calls telling them how much they miss them.
2. They Manipulate and Control
Narcissists use different manipulation techniques, such as love bombing, gaslighting, guilt-tripping, etc.
They need lower their victim’s self-esteem to maintain their control and feel superior.
Related: The Narcissist’s Prayer Explained
3. They Spread Lies About Them
A narcissist may do anything to get revenge, including spreading lies about their exes.
With their lack of empathy, the narcissist is never concerned about hurting someone just so they could preserve their reputation.
4. They Blackmail and Threaten
Narcissists will use whatever material they may have or find against their exes.
This is especially true if they need something.
Related: How To Get Revenge On A Narcissist? (In Relationships & At Work)
5. They Cross Their exes’ Boundaries
No matter how many times they’re told to stop reaching out, a narcissist will keep pushing their exes’ boundaries.
They may text, call, show up at their workplace, anything to keep them within reach and stay in control.
Related: How To Set Boundaries In A Toxic Relationship? Top 25 Effective Ways to Enforce Boundaries In Relationships
6. They Try To Convince Them That They’re A Changed Person
They may claim that they’re going to see a therapist, that they regret their actions, and that they’ve changed. Anything to win their exes back and remain in their lives.
Truth is, a narcissist will never admit that they’re wrong, even to themselves. They’ll always project the blame onto other people.
Without taking responsibility for their own actions, change will never happen.
Related: Can Abusers Change? Top 17 Myths About Abusive Men That Make Women Stay With Abusers
Toxic Partner Worksheets
How To Spot A Narcissist & Avoid A Relationship With One?
It isn’t always easy to recognize a narcissist.
Extroverted narcissists can be so adept at charming people that they can easily win us over—at first.
Even covert narcissists can be great company when they’re feeling good about themselves.
However, the narcissist’s charm eventually wears thin – sometimes within weeks – and entitlement and manipulation begin.
This is why it’s important to pay attention to early warning signs that you’re dealing with a narcissist.
Related: Top 10 Journal Prompts For Narcissistic Abuse (+FREE Worksheets)
1. Avoiding Emotions
Narcissists are, deep down, extraordinarily insecure people.
They use grandiosity as a coping mechanism to hide their insecurities, even from themselves.
When hurt, they may lash out in anger and even hurt you to maintain their feelings of superiority.
Some narcissists may not even admit to their anger in the midst of their tirade, claiming, “I’m not yelling,” as a way to avoid acknowledging any emotion.
But narcissists don’t just avoid their own emotions, they also avoid other people’s.
Their lack of empathy makes it difficult for them to even care about other people’s feelings.
As a result, they can make you feel invalidated and abuse you emotionally.
Related: Are You A Victim of Narcissistic Abuse Quiz
2. Projecting Their Own Feelings Onto Others
Projection is when one denies their own feelings by claiming they belong to someone else.
This is another way of getting rid of emotions.
For example, a narcissist may be upset that their friend is not returning her calls, but instead of recognizing her upset, she may accuse her friend of harboring a grudge.
But the narcissist doesn’t just project their feelings, they’ll try to coerce the other person into experiencing the emotion.
For instance, in the example above, by the time the narcissist is through accusing, her friend will feel upset, even if she didn’t at the start.
In this sense, the narcissist doesn’t just try to get rid of their feelings, they also whip it up in you.
Related: Narcissistic Relationship Pattern (+ 14 Tips On How To Deal With Narcissistic Relationship Patterns)
3. Exerting Control
A narcissist has a constant need to remain in charge.
This is mainly because the narcissist feels uncomfortable asking for their need to be met in direct, assertive ways.
Instead, they’ll arrange events to get what they want without making a single request.
For instance, instead of asking you to join them to a party, they may show up, unannounced, and convince you to drop everything and join them.
Over time, you find yourself doing and engaging in whatever they want until you forget what you might have wanted.
Related: Am I Being Gaslighted Quiz (& How To Recover From Gaslighting In 10 Steps)
4. Placing People On Pedestals
A narcissistic partner might claim that you meet their every requirement for the perfect lover, while also cheating on you.
By placing people on pedestals, the narcissist feels special by proxy. The logic goes like this: If someone this special wants to be with me, then I must be special, too.
While there’s nothing wrong with looking up to someone, the narcissist doesn’t just see your positive qualities, they also try to eliminate any imperfections.
This ruins intimacy and makes people feel not seen or accepted for who they are.
The other problem with pedestals is that the only way off them is down. Eventually, the narcissist will devalue you.
Related: 5 Weird Things Covert Narcissists Do To Manipulate Their Victims
Deep down narcissists have fragile self-esteem they’re trying to mask by hurting others and putting them down.
You might be aware of this and thinking about remaining friends with your narcissist ex to help them with their mental health issues.
But if you want to stay friends with a narcissist you need first to consider all the things they’re capable of doing and see if you’re willing to exhaust all your energy on this task.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Rethinking Narcissism, © 2017 by Craig Malkin. All rights reserved.
- Narcissism Driven by Insecurity, Not Grandiose Sense of Self, New Psychology Research Shows (nyu.edu)
- What New Research Is Telling Us About Narcissism | Psychology Today
- You Probably Think this Paper’s About You: Narcissists’ Perceptions of their Personality and Reputation – PMC (nih.gov)