A breakup usually signals the end of a relationship, but not when you break up with a narcissist. Even if you stop all contact, a narcissist will persistently seek new ways to get your attention.
Even if they dumped you, they wouldn’t let you move on because they can’t bear to have their narcissistic supply severed. They still crave your attention because you once fulfilled their insatiable need for attention and admiration.
As clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula explains, “The central motivator for narcissists is validation… “And an ex is often a really interesting place to get it.”
Like my fellow psychologist, I’ve met many narcissists in my line of work and seen the enduring impact narcissists can have on their exes.
In this article, I want to help you avoid that scenario by sharing 10 signs a narcissist wants your attention and how to respond to them.
- They lavish attention
- They keep turning up
- Exaggerated concern
- They sabotage you
- They seek information
- They play the victim
- They involve the law
- They flaunt their accomplishments
- They cross boundaries
- They flip the script
10 Signs a Narcissist Ex wants your Attention
#1 They Lavish Attention on You
If a narcissistic ex wants your attention, they’ll often turn to the tried-and-tested technique of love bombing.
This involves inundating you with compliments, gifts, admiration, and affection.
Love bombing is a great way to get someone’s attention, precisely what the narcissist wants (and needs) to compensate for their low self-esteem.
The narcissist seeks attention constantly and assumes other people want it too. Of course, their aim isn’t to make you feel good about yourself but to weaken your resistance so they can regain control over you.
#2 They Keep Turning Up
Narcissists use various attention-seeking behavior, including “accidentally” messaging you or bumping into you.
A friend of mine whose narcissistic girlfriend recently dumped him can’t seem to go anywhere without her turning up. It’s almost like she’s stalking him, even though she claims it’s only a coincidence.
She never drank coffee before, but now she’s turning up at the coffee shop close to his workplace every morning. She’s even started working out at the same gym as him.
She wants his attention, even though she keeps saying she wants to move on from the relationship.
This behavior is unsettling and typical of the narcissist that’s been rejected or discarded. They feel deeply wounded by the rejection and can’t accept that you no longer want them in your life.
In response, they turn to manipulative techniques like these to try and suck you back into the relationship.
This is known as hoovering and is something you can learn more about in my article on Why The Hoovering Narcissist Won’t Leave You Alone.
#3 They Show Exaggerated Concern
At the same time as dealing with his ex turning up at all his favorite hang-outs, my friend is also struggling with her fake concern.
When she sees him at the coffee shop, she looks worried and asks, “Are you ok? Are you having trouble sleeping again?”
She’s using her knowledge of his past problems to get his attention and present herself as a caring figure whose only concern is his well-being.
She even told mutual friends she was worried about him, asking them to check up on him and let her know how he was doing.
One evening, she phoned him, saying she understood that the break-up had hit him hard and offered to come round and console him.
This is a clear sign your narcissist ex wants your attention, but if you give in and accept their concern, they’ll soon use it against you, belittling you and pointing out how much you rely on them for emotional support.
#4 They Sabotage You
If showering you with compliments and trying to grab your attention with fake concern doesn’t work, a narcissist will try sabotage instead. This can be subtle or highly blatant, but it’s always damaging.
I knew a narcissist who thought nothing of attending his ex-girlfriend’s graduation, even though she’d begged him not to attend.
Needless to say, his presence spoiled the celebration for her, and she ended up sitting in a corner while he took all the credit for her achievements.
More covert narcissists will use stealthier techniques, such as posting revealing pictures of you on social media or telling your friends you need professional help for your mental health issues.
Just as some believe no publicity is bad publicity, the narcissist feels there’s no such thing as negative attention. Any attention is good as long as they’re at the center of it. That way, they’re still getting their essential narcissist supply.
The best thing to do if a narcissistic ex seeks attention through sabotage is to ignore them. If they turn up at a social event, engage in conversation with someone else. If they keep mentioning you on social media, block them.
The more you can disengage from your narcissistic ex and ignore their attempts to get your attention, the better.
#5 They Seek Information About You
The attention-seeking narcissist will do anything to maintain a connection with you, even if that means using others. If you’ve blocked your narcissistic ex, they will quickly contact mutual friends and family members to extract information about you.
Narcissists will use several techniques to get your attention, including manipulating conversations with mutual acquaintances to get information about you.
This may include dropping subtle hints, like, “I saw X the other day, and she looked exhausted,” hoping to find out more about your emotional state.
They will also manipulate your friends into disclosing intimate details about you, which they can use to get your attention and undermine you.
More covert narcissists may turn to social media to do their work for them, even if you’ve unfollowed or blocked them.
They may ask mutual friends to keep an eye on your online presence so they can gather information about your activities without directly engaging with you.
If that doesn’t get your attention, they’ll go one step further and start spreading lies and false narratives to manipulate other people’s opinions of you.
#6 They Play the Victim
A narcissistic ex-partner will pose as the injured party to get your attention. They may do this directly, saying things like, “I don’t understand why you’re being so cruel,” or “Why do you want to hurt me when you know I love you?”
If you refuse to respond to such statements, they’ll turn their attention to your friends and acquaintances. To them, they’ll act like the innocent victim and put all the blame on you.
They’ll exaggerate their emotions, acting devastated and heartbroken, hoping their behavior will trigger a response and enable them to draw you back into their sphere of influence.
When it comes to the narcissist and attention seeking, there are no limits, and a narcissistic ex will even use social media to get your attention and provoke a response.
They may post emotional messages like, “Feeling so alone and betrayed right now. Can’t believe someone I trusted could hurt me this way,” or post song lyrics or poetry that elude to their broken heart and desire for reconciliation.
A narcissist only uses these techniques to can claw their way back into your life. Give into this victimhood, and you’ll be quickly hoovered back into the relationship, so you must maintain your boundaries and trust your narrative.
#7 They Involve the Law
The friend I mentioned earlier was shocked and frightened when he discovered his narcissistic ex was seeking a restraining order against him. He couldn’t think why she’d do such a thing except to get revenge – and his attention!
This may seem counterintuitive, but it often works. Not only does filing a revenge restraining order put the narcissist back in the spotlight, but it also forces you to engage with them.
You probably feel shocked and anxious when faced with legal action, which makes you more likely to reach out and try to find a more peaceful resolution.
A narcissist also knows that the legal proceedings will require interactions between you, keeping your attention fixed on them just as they like it.
#8 They Flaunt their Accomplishments
If you discarded the narcissist first, they’ll be eager to prove that you made a mistake, and what better way of doing that than by making sure you know what you’re missing?
To do this, the narcissist will flaunt their successes, telling your mutual friends about the new car they bought or how much fun they had at a recent work event. They’ll emphasize their importance to regain your attention and admiration.
They may use social media to publicize a recent promotion or ask people’s opinions about a new haircut or expensive outfit.
Not only is this attention-seeking behavior designed to make them look good, but it’s also intended to make you jealous.
Some narcissists may publicly celebrate a new relationship, saying how relieved they are to have found someone they can trust.
Don’t fall for this type of attention-seeking manipulation. Remember, underneath the newfound success or stylish outfit is the same narcissistic person who undermined you and made your life miserable.
#9 They Purposefully Overstep Your Boundaries
You’ve tried to distance yourself from your attention-seeking ex, but they won’t take no for an answer. They keep messaging you, even though you’ve asked them not to, and regularly post nostalgic photos and memories of you on social media.
This is typical of the attention-seeking narcissist. Some will even use a different cellphone number or email address to bypass any blocks or restrictions you’ve put in place to stop them.
In extreme cases, they might even employ guilt-inducing tactics to pressure you into engaging with them. For instance, they might fabricate a crisis to elicit sympathy and make you feel obliged to help them resolve it.
Whatever tactics they employ, stick your guns and protect your boundaries.
The no-contact rule is the only way to get out of a narcissistic relationship with any semblance of self-esteem still intact.
As I explain in another article, “No Contact is pure rejection and the utmost revenge. It is empowering. It is your last word [and] one of the most painful narcissistic injuries you could inflict.”
#10 They Flip the Script
The attention-seeking narcissist doesn’t care if they hurt you. They want you to start filling their narcissistic supply again, and have to flip the script to do that, they will.
Picture this scenario: you and your ex broke up several months ago, but you see him at the gym almost daily. You’ve tried switching up your routine to avoid him, but nothing seems to work.
When you confront him, he shrugs and says, “I had no idea you were bothered by our gym timing. I’m just focused on my workouts and pursuing my goals. If it bothers you, that’s your issue.”
Do you see how he’s now made this your problem?
Another way he might flip the script is by shifting focus with a comment like, “Why are you so fixated on something so trivial? Shouldn’t you be focusing on your personal growth right now?”
They may even try gaslighting you into thinking you’re stalking him: “Why are you so obsessed with me? You keep turning up everywhere I go. I can’t get away from you!”
This type of attention-seeking is tough to ignore, as you’ll feel compelled to justify your behavior and defend yourself. Resist that temptation, and do whatever it takes to hold onto your own narrative and fortify your boundaries.
If you’re struggling, drop me an email, and I’ll see what more I can do to help you.
Why Does the Narcissist Want Your Attention?
The narcissist craves attention because they can only love themselves when reflected in the eyes of another. Their inner self-loathing takes over if no one else is looking or giving them attention.
After a breakup, it’s even more vital for a narcissist to get their ex’s attention because it keeps that narcissistic supply open.
If you end the relationship, the narcissist will also be eager to get your attention so they can prove that you can’t live without them. They can’t face rejection, so they seek attention to undermine it.
What Happens When You Don’t Give a Narcissist Attention Back?
Even if you block an attention-seeking narcissist and employ the no-contact rule, they’ll keep trying to lure you back into their sphere of influence.
Some people who’ve blocked their narcissistic exes have endured years of hoovering and only survived by sticking to their guns and refusing to react or engage.
Eventually, they might finally realize that you have nothing more to offer them and move on to the next victim, but for many, the ex remains a “gravy train of validation” that they simply can’t bear to part with.
How Do You Know When a Narcissist is Interested in You?
If a narcissist is interested in you, they’ll respect your boundaries, treat you respectfully, and take responsibility for their actions.
Sadly, narcissists are so good at manipulation that it can be difficult to distinguish between their manipulative tactics and true feelings.
Just because a narcissist love bombs you doesn’t mean they’re interested in anything other than themselves.
Only if a narcissist completely changes how they act toward you does it mean they’re interested in you.
If they use any of the attention-seeking behaviors listed above, they’re simply trying to manipulate you and aren’t interested.