Last Updated on September 9, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester
Being vulnerable around anyone can feel challenging. It’s scary to think that you might be laughed at or rejected just for showing your emotions.
But what happens when a narcissist sees you cry?
How do they respond or comfort you? How does it affect your relationship with the narcissist? And should you feel like it’s safe to cry in front of them- or should you avoid it altogether?
Let’s dive in.
What Happens When a Narcissist Sees You Cry?
If you’ve never cried in front of a narcissist before, you might not know what to expect.
First, it’s important to note that narcissists respond to people’s emotions differently. Likewise, no two narcissists are exactly the same.
So, even if you think you know how they might react, don’t tether yourself to that expectation.
Part of the narcissistic personality is inherently rooted in keeping you guessing.
In other words, they thrive on being inconsistent enough to make you feel uncertain and anxious.
That said, if you cry in front of them, here are some typical responses you can expect.
He Pretends He Doesn’t Notice It
Imagine this scene. You feel upset, and you’ve been holding back from crying, but you just reached your breaking point.
You can’t stop the tears. And so, you let go. You show yourself. And then, you look up at the narcissist.
And what happens? Sometimes, he just keeps talking and acting as if nothing has changed. He doesn’t acknowledge your obvious shift in emotion.
He doesn’t address the crying. He just keeps…doing his thing. It’s almost like you don’t even exist.
This happens because the narcissist is so concerned with his current needs and ego that he doesn’t want to pause to see what’s going on with you.
It’s not that he doesn’t notice (of course he does!). It’s that he doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.
Of course, this reaction places you at an extreme disadvantage. You’re stuck feeling entirely invalidated and alone.
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At the same time, you probably feel awkward and angry that you need to be the one to address what’s happening.
Make no mistake- Narcissists are miserable people and are well aware of this strategy. He wants you to continue feeling uncomfortable around him.
Then, he wants to gaslight you into thinking that he didn’t even realize you were so upset.
He Offers a Fake Apology
A genuine apology feels remorseful and sincere. You can trust the other person, even if he made a terrible mistake, holds himself accountable.
Even if you still feel hurt, you feel some relief knowing that he recognizes what he did was wrong.
A fake apology feels much different. A fake apology almost feels like you need to be the one apologizing for what happened.
There is no real remorse or accountability. Instead, you feel like you’re the victim of a strange manipulation.
It can sound like this:
- “I’m sorry you’re so upset.”
- “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
- “I was afraid you’d get all dramatic about this.”
- “You’re always so emotional. We can never just have a rational discussion.”
- “Here we go again. I never do anything right!”
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These apologies, at first, may sound like he’s trying to own up for what he did. But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one, you know that they only make you question your reality.
The narcissist makes you feel like you’re still the problem- even if the issue was entirely his fault.
He Laughs at You
This is one of the more triggering reactions that can occur when a narcissist sees you cry. Nobody likes to be laughed at, but this is exactly how some narcissists respond to emotion.
Him laughing simply means that he does not care about your emotions. If anything, he finds it amusing.
He doesn’t want to comfort you or consider your needs. He simply wants to laugh at something that feels obscene and comical to him.
He Criticizes You
Why are you crying over this?
Why are you being such a baby?
You’re so ridiculous!
You’re embarrassing me!
It’s no surprise that narcissists often feel uncomfortable around displays of emotion.
Instead of pausing to reflect on what their loved one might need, they instead go straight to anger. That feeling, in a sense, seems safer to them.
If he criticizes you for crying, it’s because he thinks your emotions are weak. He doesn’t understand why you’re responding in such a way.
He’s upset that you’re wasting his precious time with your emotional needs.
He Tells You ‘Not to Cry’
Some narcissists respond to crying by simply telling you to stop doing it. This is a reflection of their own discomfort.
He may, for example, feel temporarily guilty or anxious, and he wants to squash those feelings. But instead of turning inward, he just projects onto you.
Some men will even disguise their anger by trying to act compassionate or sentimental.
It’s not a big deal- I’m here for you. You don’t have to cry about this. It’s going to be okay.
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While these words may, at first, seem comforting, he will use them strategically to foster a false sense of trust.
He wants you to know he can comfort you, and that you don’t need to “feel” sad around him.
He Comforts You- Then Uses It Against You
Have you ever been in this dynamic? He seems to do everything right when you cry. He listens and consoles you.
He doesn’t try to change your thoughts or feelings. He is present and attuned.
And then, once the dust settles, he throws a curveball at you. The curveball can sound like:
- I don’t think we should be together anymore- you’re just too sensitive.
- I’m tired of always having to deal with your emotions.
- I’d tell you what’s going on with me, but I don’t want you to freak out about it.
- Now that some time has passed, I want you to go to therapy. You obviously have problems you need to address.
This kind of reaction can feel as confusing as it does heartbreaking. In that moment of vulnerability, you felt like you could really trust him.
Unfortunately, he was thinking about how he could use this fragile experience to exploit you later.
He Makes Things Even More About Him
I can’t believe you’re the one crying when I’m going through so much.
You think you’re sad! Let me tell you what I had to deal with.
You crying in public was so embarrassing. So many people came up to me asking what was wrong with you!
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A narcissist rarely misses the opportunity to turn someone else’s spotlight onto themselves. They may do this overtly or insidiously, but it’s an inherent part of their personality.
You may notice this happening after the crying. It’s only when you realize that you spent more time comforting him than vice versa.
You may even feel like you owe him an apology for your crying (which is what he’s usually hoping for!).
Do Narcissists Understand Your Emotions?
At first, you might assume that narcissists don’t understand emotion at all.
But how would that explain how so many of them get into relationships, succeed at work, or otherwise blend in with the rest of the world? How would it explain why you’re with him in the first place?
So, does a narcissist empathize with how you’re feeling? Can he accurately discern one emotion from another?
And when he sees you down, how does he typically respond? Let’s unpack it more below.
Do Narcissists Understand Why People Cry?
Yes, narcissists understand why people cry.
Most narcissists are, in fact, quite intelligent. They have a cognitive awareness of human behavior, and they know what typically drives people to do certain things.
Moreover, many narcissists are acutely aware of how other people respond. They spend a great deal of time studying the world.
They pay close attention to various interactions and emotional expressions. At times, they learn how to read other people extremely well.
In a way, this knowledge is essential for their survival. They need to feel connected and validated by other people to feel loved.
With that, they learn how to read some social cues and interpret various behaviors.
So yes, they can logically understand why people cry. However, just because they understand the motives, it doesn’t mean they like, condone, or even cope well with your tears.
Do Narcissists Experience These Emotions Themselves?
It’s a misconception that narcissists don’t feel emotions. On the contrary, many of them feel emotions profoundly.
In fact, their emotions often feel so intense that they don’t know what to do with them.
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So, they manipulate, lash out, or act compulsively as a way to self-soothe.
Narcissists do feel sad. Often, this occurs when their narcissistic supply is threatened. They suddenly feel vulnerable and lonely, and that can trigger an emotional tornado.
However, unlike most people, narcissists express their emotions to leverage power and control.
They aren’t inherently interested in connecting. They want to feel validated and consoled for their experiences. They want your reassurance that you are there for them unconditionally.
And no matter what you give or what you say, you can guarantee it still won’t be good enough.
Why Do Narcissists Stare at You When You Cry?
The infamous staring can happen for a few reasons.
First, it could be because they genuinely feel shocked by your emotion. Because narcissists feel emotions differently from other people, they may have no real idea why you’re crying.
So, in a sense, he’s watching because it’s so strange to him. It’s almost like how a visitor might observe an animal at a zoo.
Some narcissists stare at people when they cry as a way to establish power. If this is the case, he wants to make you feel threatened and inferior.
He wants you to know that he’s calm and collected even though you’re falling apart. This type of reaction is typical in malignant narcissists. In that state, he presents as practically sociopathic.
Finally, some narcissists are just downright naive. They’re so wrapped up in themselves that they don’t necessarily realize how their actions affect others.
This doesn’t mean he’s innocent- if anything, it sheds light on how emotionally stunted he is as your partner.
Do Narcissists Like That You Cry?
It depends on the situation and your relationship. Let’s dive into some more specific examples.
It Gives Him a Sense of Power and Control
When you’re crying, you’re at an obvious disadvantage. You’re consumed by emotion. You might not be thinking logically.
You might be afraid or sad- but you’re undoubtedly in a vulnerable and weakened state.
What does this mean for a narcissist? It means that he can choose carefully how he responds. He might decide to be the hero and comfort you.
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He might decide to be cool and disconnected because he knows that will make you feel even more anxious.
He may alternate- just to keep you on your toes.
If this hot-and-cold behavior confuses you, know that his motives are intentional by design. He wants to have the upper hand in your dynamic.
He wants you to feel like you need him when you’re in an emotionally heightened state.
It Annoys Him
Not all narcissists like crying. In fact, some of them find your emotions highly inconvenient. In their minds, you’re just distracting them from anything else they deem important.
If he feels annoyed, he’ll likely show it by making passive-aggressive comments, criticizing you directly, or pretending like hasn’t even noticed.
That’s because he doesn’t really want to make an effort to comfort you.
It Makes Him Feel Important
Some narcissists like when you cry if you don’t typically cry in front of people. When they know your tears are solely reserved for them, it makes them feel more important. This, in turn, can maintain some of their high egos.
You might know this is the case if he makes several comments about how honored he feels that you can be yourself around him.
At the same time, he may badmouth other safe people (like your family, friends, or even therapist) to turn you against them. In his world, he’s the only one who should ever comfort you.
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It Makes Him Question Himself
Some narcissists reflect introspectively when they see someone crying. Unfortunately, it’s a misconception that their self-reflection means they are actually dedicated to change.
Instead, they usually ask themselves two questions:
- How can I fix this as quickly as possible?
- How can I fix my own discomfort?
As you can see, he focuses entirely on his needs and feelings- and not yours. He wants to find a quick solution to manage the tension. And he wants relief from any unsettled emotions he has.
Does It Turn Them On?
Although it may sound sadistic, your crying can turn a narcissist on. Some narcissists gain their narcissistic supply by feeling needed.
In a primal sense, a person’s crying often signifies fear, uncertainty, or loneliness. And then, who gets to be the noteworthy hero?
The narcissist! Paradoxically, he feels like they can be the hero even when he was the villain causing you to cry in the first place.
And so, this feedback loop can undoubtedly turn him on. He feels like he has the power and control in the relationship.
He knows he has you in a weakened position. And that can make him feel even more sexually drawn to you.
Sexual narcissists, in particular, thrive on fulfilling their high sexual needs. They feel entitled to sex, and they may use flattery to coerce people into having sex.
Your partner may be a sexual narcissist if he frequently tries to comfort or compliment you when you’re crying.
Unfortunately, because this type of person has limited sexual empathy, you may be at a greater risk for sexual assault.
Do Narcissists Make You Cry on Purpose?
It may seem like an awful question to ask yourself, but if you’ve ever been a victim of gaslighting, it’s not surprising that you’d wonder.
Most narcissists don’t directly try to make people cry. In general, they desperately want to be liked. Approval, after all, is everything to them.
But their actions in relationships aren’t healthy. They prioritize their needs above everyone else’s. They reject any and all feedback or criticism.
They become unhinged when things don’t go their way. And so, their indirect actions often lead others to feel sad, frustrated, or afraid.
Some narcissists are more malicious. They may have no problem trying to “break you down.” They don’t care if you cry in their presence- or if you feel sad at all.
Their goal is to maintain a high sense of power, and they will exploit anyone to achieve that omnipotent goal.
How Do Narcissists Deal With Other People’s Emotions?
If you spend enough time around a narcissist, you’ll get an interesting read about how they respond to other people’s emotions. That said, they can still be wildly unpredictable.
That’s because their actions aren’t necessarily in response to others. They are in response to their own needs, desires, and impulses.
They Pretend to Care
Some narcissists are quite skilled in pretending to be empathic and supportive. At times, you may even feel like your partner actually turns his charm on and off.
In some ways, this is probably true. The hot-and-cold behavior may even come from good intentions. A part of him might desperately want to support you when you’re having a hard time.
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But a greater part of him struggles when he feels like he isn’t in the spotlight. And so, he’ll alternate between appearing to be there emotionally and only showing up for himself.
They Start a Fight
Some narcissists are so incapable of dealing with other people’s emotions that they essentially introduce conflict. This is an attention-seeking habit.
He feels agitated or burdened by your emotions. He doesn’t like the impact they might have on your relationship.
And so, he suddenly makes the entire scene about him.
They Began Crying Themselves
Narcissists don’t like to feel like they’re losing control in a situation. Subsequently, your displays of emotion might trigger him to react tearfully himself.
Have you ever noticed this happening? One moment, you’re the one needing comfort and love. But the next, it’s you giving him those things because he’s now an emotional mess.
This behavior isn’t random. It’s a calculated move for him to get what he wants- your unwavering attention and approval.
They Change The Subject
Let’s just get dinner and forget all about it!
I forgot to tell you about my meeting at work today!
By the way, did I tell you that my mom is coming over later?
Some narcissists feel so uncomfortable with other emotions that they just sidestep them altogether. Usually, they do this by changing the subject and talking about an entirely unrelated issue.
At first, you might just dismiss this behavior as him being naive. You may even give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s trying to get your mind off things and make you feel better.
But chronically changing the subject only means that he doesn’t like sitting with other emotions.
It also probably means that he doesn’t find value in supporting other people when they’re having a challenging time.
They Tell You to Not Feel That Way
Don’t overreact. This isn’t a big deal.
Don’t get angry at me!
You don’t need to be sad- you have so much to be grateful for.
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Notice a common thread in all of these cliched responses? They all downplay and even downright your unique emotions.
Narcissists aren’t the only ones who condemn others for having feelings. Many people simply feel uncomfortable with emotional expression.
But narcissists tend to be persistent in telling you how you should and shouldn’t feel. They think they are the experts, after all! If they don’t think a particular situation is scary, you shouldn’t, either.
If they wouldn’t get mad at a certain issue, you have no right to get mad yourself. In their minds, everyone should act just like them.
And so, if you deviate from that line of thinking, if you express emotion that they normally wouldn’t express, their instant reaction might be to argue with it.
Over time, this pattern can represent covert emotional abuse. You no longer feel safe to be who you are or feel what you feel.
You may believe you need to completely contort yourself just to keep the narcissist happy.
They Make Dangerous Threats
I’ll give you something to cry about!
I’m leaving- this is obnoxious!
I’m gonna shut you up once and for all.
If any of the above phrases sound familiar, you’re likely dealing with a malignant narcissist. Or, at the very least, you’re with someone who genuinely doesn’t care about your well-being.
Be careful. This man can become dangerous very quickly. You should consider leaving the relationship and finding a safe support system as soon as possible.
Do Narcissists Cry Themselves?
It’s a misconception that narcissists don’t feel scared, lonely, or insecure. In fact, they tend to feel these emotions fiercely.
But instead of coping with them appropriately, they project their angst onto other people.
They feed off someone else’s energy to restore their narcissistic supply. They need constant validation to feel like they matter in this world.
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Many narcissists cry. Some of them are downright obnoxious with it. Have you ever felt like the narcissist manipulated you with their grandiose displays of emotion?
Have you ever felt like they took away attention from your emotions because they started crying- and then you needed to comfort them?
This kind of odd gaslighting and passive-aggression can happen with both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists.
Other narcissists are more stoic and even sociopathic in nature. These narcissists never cry- even in appropriate situations like funerals.
Instead, they often come across as highly judgmental, looking down on everyone around them.
Crying in front of a narcissist comes with undeniable consequences. You may not know the true cost of these consequences until you actually cry- or until several months later!
It all depends on the narcissist, his motives, and your current relationship. Likewise, they can “switch” how they react based on what’s going on in their lives.
It’s frustrating, but it isn’t a reflection on you. Because narcissists cannot cope well with their own emotions, they have a limited capacity to tolerate the emotions of others.
Instead, they often become unraveled and even unhinged. So even if they appear to handle your emotions well, there’s no guarantee they will take care of you.
You can’t always help if you cry in front of a narcissist. But if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist (and you don’t plan on leaving), you may benefit from seeking alternative sources of emotional support.
You deserve to feel safe with your emotions- no matter how extreme or challenging they might feel.