What Makes a Narcissist Tick After a Breakup?

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A narcissist may come across as self-confident and successful, but nearly everything they do is a defensive tactic designed to keep their feelings of inadequacy at bay. 

After a breakup, these behaviors become even more pronounced as the narcissist tries to escape feelings of loss and failure and boost their self-esteem. 

To understand what makes a narcissist tick after a breakup, you first need to understand what attracted them to the relationship in the first place. 

Narcissists target people who have qualities they envy or admire. They expect these people to save them from inner turmoil and liberate them from insecurities. 

Of course, these expectations are unrealistic, but when the relationship fails, the narcissist will blame you, seeking vengeance for the feelings of abandonment and emptiness the breakup evokes. 

In this article, we’ll explore how a narcissist’s mind works after a breakup, identifying post-breakup behaviors that narcissists commonly engage in and the motivation behind them.

20 Things that Make a Narcissist Tick After the Breakup

#1 Rejection

Narcissists hate rejection because it triggers their deep-seated fear that, under their grandiose facade, is an inferior being undeserving of love and affection. 

A narcissist finds any rejection destabilizing and will resort to manipulative tactics and lies to cover up the narcissistic injury. 

The rejected narcissistic spouse may resort to guilt-tripping you into rekindling the relationship, so they can avoid the rejection altogether or start a smear campaign against you, twisting the narrative to make you solely responsible for the breakup.

Consider reading: 5 Things to never do after breaking up with a Narcissist

#2 Loss of Control

Loss of control

When you break up with a narcissist, you remove yourself from their sphere of influence and re-establish yourself as an independent being. 

The needs of a self-centered narcissist no longer dictate your thoughts, actions, moods, and feelings.

For the narcissist, this is hell. They see other people as mere reflections of themselves, so when they lose control over you, it’s like losing control of an arm or a leg. The narcissist is subsequently unbalanced and liable to lash out. 

#3 Attention Seeking

Seeking Attention

Narcissists don’t just crave attention – they rely on it. Without it, their inner insecurities take hold and start to chip away at the grandiose facade. 

When you break up with someone, you withdraw your love and attention. For the narcissist, this is both painful and destructive. 

They will respond by using manipulative tactics to regain that attention. 

They might, for example, spread rumors about you, claiming you cheated on them, or take to social media, posting cryptic updates and emotional quotes about betrayal and heartbreak to gain attention and sympathy. 

By creating drama, the narcissist shifts the focus back to themselves. They don’t care if they hurt you or damage your reputation as long as they remain firmly in the spotlight. 

For the narcissist, attention, even negativity, is better than being ignored.

#4 Validation 

Narcissists seek continuous validation because, without it, their grandiose facade starts to collapse, forcing them to face up to their imperfections. 

After a breakup, their fragile ego is already bruised, amplifying their need for validation. They will look to anyone to validate their emotions, reaffirm their self-worth, and use any number of manipulative tactics to achieve their goals.   

For example, a narcissist might play the victim, seeking sympathy and attention from friends and family over the breakup, or try to provoke an emotional reaction from their ex by posting passive-aggressive comments or provocative photos on social media.

In some instances, the narcissist may even try to guilt-trip and love-bomb you back into the relationship to regain control and use you as a source of validation. 

#5 Revenge

revenge

When a narcissist feels injured or rejected, it triggers a cascade of painful thoughts, emotions, and feelings. To protect their emotional stability, they seek revenge, through which they can project all their distress onto you.

A narcissistic ex might seek revenge by threatening to reveal intimate secrets or photographs. This is a type of revenge porn, which, researchers believe, “fulfills a narcissistic individual’s notion of entitlement, grandiosity, and need for ego reinforcement.” 

Alternatively, they may lie about you or launch a smear campaign to devalue you and ruin your reputation.

These vindictive acts serve the narcissist’s need to feel in control and superior and to retaliate against perceived threats to their ego.

Egocentricity 

Narcissists are so convinced of their supremacy that they may refuse to believe you want to break up with them.

As far as they’re concerned, they’re the most desirable partner you could wish for, and they may struggle to understand why you’re no longer fascinated with them. 

A narcissist displaying egocentricity may tell you, “I can’t believe you would even consider leaving me.

I mean, look at me! I’m successful, attractive, and charming. You’re just going through a phase; you’ll soon realize you’ll never find anyone as good as me.”

In their minds, the idea of you rejecting their “perfection” is inconceivable, so they may dismiss your decision to break up as a temporary misunderstanding or emotional turmoil. 

#7 Coping Mechanisms

 Coping mechanisms

The narcissist relies on strange coping mechanisms, all of which involve discharging their negative feelings onto someone else. 

Instead of self-reflection and emotional regulation, they use projection, (unintentional) gaslighting, and blame-shifting to protect their fragile self-esteem and maintain their superiority. 

This behavior not only avoids accountability but also undermines your feelings and experiences.

#8 New Supply

Narcissists don’t have genuine feelings for anyone because they view others as mere extensions of themselves rather than as independent individuals with their own needs and emotions. 

For a narcissist, relationships are primarily about fulfilling their needs for admiration, validation, and control, so once one relationship stops fulfilling that need, they’ll quickly move on to another. 

You might have only broken up on Thursday, but by Sunday, your narcissistic ex will be posting photos of themselves sunbathing next to their new supply!

Consider reading how do narcissists treat old supply.

#9 Lack of Empathy

Lack of Empathy

It’s partly because of a lack of empathy that narcissists can move on so quickly.

They don’t feel any remorse, guilt, or concern for you – they’re completely fixated on protecting their image and maintaining their narcissistic supply. 

If you try to talk to your ex about how you feel after the breakup, they’re likely to be dismissive rather than supportive, saying, “Can we stop talking about this already? I have better things to do.”

Your feelings are inconsequential, so unless you’re prepared to give your ex the attention he craves, you’re better off going with no contact.

#10 Resistance to Change

Narcissists expect other people to change to accommodate their needs, but they’re not willing to accept change instigated by someone else. 

If you break up with someone, you change their lives and force them out of their comfort zone. This is especially true of the narcissist who relies on you for attention and validation. 

Suddenly, their narcissistic supply is no longer available, forcing them to find other sources. 

This position is precarious for a narcissist whose entire sense of self depends on external validation. 

#11 Re-Establishing Power

Re-Establishing Power

Narcissists want to control you even when the relationship’s over; that way, they can continue to use you as a narcissistic supply. 

After a breakup, a narcissist may try to undermine you or provoke feelings of insecurity or jealousy to maintain their power and continue to control your emotions. 

Some narcissists will post photos on social media showing themselves enjoying the company of new prospective partners.

They’ll add captions that mention new romantic prospects and exciting adventures, hoping to trigger jealousy and make you feel like you’re missing out.

#12 Projection 

Narcissists can’t reflect on their failings because they refuse to acknowledge they’re any less than perfect. If flaws are brought to their attention, they’ll quickly project them onto someone else, so they can avoid the shame and anxiety associated with those flaws. 

After a breakup, a narcissist may project their faults onto you, blaming you for the relationship’s breakdown, accusing you of cheating, or claiming you were controlling or abusive towards them. 

#13 Hoovering 

Hoovering

Hoovering is a manipulative tactic many narcissists employ to seduce an ex back into their orbit so they can continue their toxic cycle of abuse. 

They will flatter you with promises of change and declarations of love, apologize for their past mistakes, and appear committed to making the relationship work. 

As soon as they suck you in, however, they’ll revert to their old behavior patterns, blaming you when conflicts arise and gaslighting you into thinking you’re responsible for all the problems in the relationship. 

#14 Inability to Self-Reflect 

Part of the reason narcissists project is because they can’t self-reflect. They can’t process their negative emotions or learn from past mistakes because that would mean confronting their inadequacies. 

Instead, narcissists blame their partners for a breakup and dismiss any criticism as unfounded. 

Once one relationship fails, they’ll quickly move on to the next without considering what went wrong and why. 

As a result, the narcissist is stuck in the same cycle of idealization, devaluation, and discard.

#15 Denial 

denial

A narcissist may refuse to accept that the relationship is over and continue behaving as if you’re still love’s young dream. 

When experiencing denial, the narcissist might downplay the seriousness of the situation, accusing you of overreacting to a minor disagreement.

They will continue to reach out with affectionate messages and may even show up uninvited, trying to woo you back with gifts and promises of change.

#16 Dismissal of Emotions

Narcissists don’t develop deep feelings for anyone, even if they’ve been in a relationship with them for years.

They see other people as mere conveniences. The moment you stop fulfilling their narcissistic supply, you lose all status in the eyes of the narcissist, becoming worthless and, therefore, easy to discard. 

In this scenario, the narcissist may dismiss your feelings, saying, “You’re being irrational.

I can’t take you seriously when you act like this.” They show no interest in discussing the reasons behind the breakup or acknowledging any pain or hurt they might have caused.

#17 Obsession with Image 

Obsession with Image

Some narcissists, particularly somatic narcissists, are obsessed with image and status and will go to great lengths to make themselves look good, even after a breakup. 

They may play the victim, blaming you for the relationship’s failure and using emotional social media posts to garner sympathy and support from their followers. 

They’ll also lie, exaggerate the truth to make themselves look good, and turn you into the evil villain who sabotages the relationship.   

#18 Feeling Threatened 

If you discard the narcissist first, you reject them, casting doubt on their perceived superiority and perfection.

Narcissists need to be the center of attention to maintain their inflated self-esteem and sense of self-worth, so when you break up with them, you deliver a significant blow to their fragile ego. 

For the narcissist, this is a painful narcissistic injury that shatters their carefully crafted illusion of superiority and invincibility. 

The rejection and loss trigger a profound sense of humiliation and vulnerability, which they cannot tolerate. 

To protect their fragile ego, they may resort to extreme measures to avoid facing the reality of the breakup.

#19 Seeking Sympathy 

seeking sympathy

Sympathy is a form of narcissistic supply, and after a breakup, narcissists pursue it passionately.

They may try to get you to pity them because they’re so lost without you, or they’ll try to evoke sympathy from others by making you out to be unstable, unfaithful, or abusive. 

Narcissists either need to be the hero or the victim, and as there are no heroes in a breakup, they’ll play the victim instead. 

Some narcissists will even create sob stories to gain your sympathy, telling you they might lose their job or face bankruptcy, hoping you’ll feel sorry for them and rescue them. 

This tactic is a manipulative way for the narcissist to regain control and keep you emotionally connected, even after the breakup. 

#20 Lack of Closure

At the end of a relationship with a narcissist, you’re liable to feel confused and overwhelmed by unanswered questions. Getting some closure would help you to move on, which is precisely why the narcissist will never provide it. 

By withholding closure, the narcissist keeps you emotionally entangled and vulnerable. 

Closure would mean acknowledging the end of the relationship and accepting responsibility for their actions, which goes against the narcissist’s need to see themselves as faultless and superior.

Denying closure also keeps you doubting yourself and questioning the validity of your decision to end the relationship, further reinforcing the narcissist’s power and influence over you.

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