What Happens When Narcissists Don’t Get Their Way?

Narcissists aren’t too fond of being told “no.” If you’ve spent any time interacting with a narcissist, you’re probably aware of this. You know that their ego can’t tolerate not getting exactly what it wants. 

The first time you witness a narcissist not getting their way, you might be shocked or confused by their reaction. Perhaps you think you did something wrong or don’t understand how this person who was previously head-over-heels in love is now enraged with you. 

It’s expected to be confused by narcissistic behavior, especially when they react to not getting their way. It’s only natural to want to know if the reaction you’re observing is typical of narcissists.

Below, we’ll talk about what usually happens when narcissists don’t get their way. Hopefully, you’ll understand that you’re not at fault for their reaction.

#1 Fits of Rage

Narcissists believe that they are superior to others, and as such, they also expect automatic compliance with their demands. When people give them exactly what they want, narcissists feel in control, and it reinforces their belief that others are beneath them.

Narcissists must maintain this superiority because underneath their arrogant facade, they are quite unsure of themselves. Deep down, they feel inadequate and rely on external validation to maintain their sense of self. 

When you don’t give a narcissist their way, they may react with rage. The threat to their ego is too much to handle, so they lash out in anger. They may yell, curse, destroy objects, or even act out in violence against you.

#2 The Silent Treatment

A narcissist is deeply wounded when you don’t give them their way, and they’ll be angry with you for failing to comply with their request. To punish you, they may hit you with the silent treatment.

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This can involve disappearing for several days, or refusing to answer your calls or texts. The narcissist hopes that you’ll be so upset by the silent treatment that you’ll do whatever you can to avoid earning it again.

In essence, the narcissist is training you to give them whatever they want, so you don’t have to endure the pain of them ghosting you. Once again, the narcissist maintains control over your behavior. 

#3 Toddler-Like Tantrums

We expect toddlers to have meltdowns when they don’t get what they want, but eventually, they grow out of that behavior. Unfortunately, the narcissist, who is quite emotionally stunted, never grew out of this childlike behavior.

If it seems like the narcissist is throwing a tantrum, they probably are. It can be shocking to witness this behavior from an adult, but it’s par for the course for a narcissist who didn’t get their way.

When you don’t give the narcissist their way, they are likely to whine, complain, and carry on until you give in. They may accuse you of being selfish, gripe about how unfair the world is, or throw insults your way to make themselves feel better.

The narcissist probably doesn’t realize how immature their behavior looks during a tantrum, and they don’t care. They will rant and rave, showing a complete loss of emotional control. 

This behavior is typically so shocking to everyone around the narcissist that they will shift their behavior to avoid setting the narcissist off again. Over time, you’ll notice that you’re constantly walking on eggshells to avoid another tantrum. 

#4 Seeking Revenge

A narcissist who didn’t get what they wanted may go so far as to seek revenge. If you fail to comply with their demands, the narcissist will perceive that you’re being intentionally malicious, seeking to sabotage their plans.

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The narcissist cannot conceive of a world in which they don’t always get what they want. They think they’re deserving of automatic compliance with all of their requests.  When you fail to comply, the narcissist believes that you have wronged them and are deserving of punishment. 

As an attempt at revenge, the narcissist may try to sabotage your goals. This can look like spreading rumors to ruin your reputation, interfering with a project or goal you’re working toward, or even trying to get you in trouble at work. 

#5 Emotional Manipulation

The narcissist needs to maintain power and control over you, and when you don’t give them their way, they panic because they think they are losing control. To regain control, they will bring out all their most manipulative tactics to convince you you’re in the wrong.

They might triangulate you by pulling a third party, such as a friend or family member, into the conflict. They’ll tell you that this third person thinks you’re being unfair and selfish.

Alternatively, they might gaslight you, telling you you’re crazy for not giving them their way. If all other tactics fail, they’ll likely resort to degrading you until you’re so broken down that you give them whatever they’re asking for. 

#6 Seeking Alternative Sources of Narcissistic Supply 

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, your job is to be a source of narcissistic supply. This means you feed the narcissist’s ego by showering them with love and attention and meeting all of their demands.

If you don’t give the narcissist their way, you aren’t fulfilling your duties as a source of supply. A narcissist is likely to seek out alternative sources of supply to fuel their wounded ego.

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They may cheat on you behind your back with a new target who is still too blind to see through their games. Or, they might outwardly tell you that they’ll get it elsewhere if you don’t give them what they want. 

Other Considerations

We’ve spent a great deal of time talking about how the narcissist acts when their significant other doesn’t give them their way. It’s also important to keep in mind that narcissistic reactions like the ones discussed above will likely occur in any scenario in which the narcissist doesn’t get what they want. 

If a friend or family member doesn’t give them their way, they’ll probably show some of the behaviors above. Narcissistic rage and tantrums can also occur if they don’t get their way at work or if they don’t get special treatment while out in public.

For instance, the narcissist may expect special treatment from retail workers or restaurant staff. When they don’t get what they want, they are likely to become angered and have no qualms about screaming and yelling at staff. 

If you’re the narcissist’s partner, you may also pay the price for others angering the narcissist. When you try to reason with them, you’ll also be on the receiving end of their rage. 

Or, they might take some of their frustration out on you. Ultimately, they expect you to side with them and feed their ego so they can feel superior again.

Regardless of who is failing to give the narcissist exactly what they want, they’re likely to react with rage, tantrums, or vindictive behavior. Not getting their way makes the narcissist feel inferior and triggers their greatest fear: being seen as anything other than special. 

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