While talking about narcissism in his bestselling book The Art of Loving, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said, “The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism.” And he was right. Narcissism can, in many cases prevent a healthy relationship from blossoming, because nothing or nobody is more important to narcissists than their own selves. Control is the hallmark of a narcissist’s character. But how does a narcissist react when they can’t control you? And how does a narcissist feel when you don’t beg and plead to save the relationship?
You can be sure that a narcissist wouldn’t take indifference lying down. When you take control away from a narcissist, they wouldn’t even let go of you and would want to continue victimizing you initially. In this article, with the help of our expert relationship counselor Dhriti Bhavsar (Master’s degree in Psychology, with specialization in Clinical Psychology), whose expertise includes areas such as relationships, pre-marital counseling, LGBTQ+ issues, and breakups, we will delve deeper into what happens when a narcissist knows he is losing or discovers she is being left. So, read on to get answers to your burning question, “How does a narcissist act when they lose you?”, and save yourself from narcissistic abuse.
How Does A Narcissistic Person Control You?
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It’s common knowledge that narcissists thrive on attention. They are people with excessive self-love and a constant need to feel special. They also lack empathy or romantic feelings and aggressively dominate those around them or use them for their own benefit. Research has proved time and again that pathological narcissists show a number of marked character traits. So, people with grandiose narcissism (originating from an innate superiority complex) can show:
While people with vulnerable narcissism (stemming from a lack of self-esteem) show:
Related Reading: 21 Stages Of A Narcissistic Relationship With An Empath
But how does a narcissist act when they need to control you? Dhriti explains, “Narcissists mostly rely on tactics of emotional manipulation to control people. They have no concern for a person’s feelings.” And these tactics are tools for narcissists to overpower their loved ones and others around them. So, let’s take a look at some of these manipulative actions that narcissists employ:
Gaslighting is the act of making you doubt your sanity by negating your feelings, and narcissists are masters of this act of manipulation. Dhriti says, “For narcissists, it’s all about preventing the victim from bringing up any relationship doubt or issues by denying their truth or recollection of events. So, in such cases, narcissists may use statements such as: “You’re remembering things wrong” or “It wasn’t that bad,” to make the victim question themselves and second guess their own experiences and feelings.”
2. Love bombing and ghosting
Another tactic that narcissists use to gain control is a conscious mix of love bombing and ghosting. Love bombing is when they shower excessive love on someone while ghosting entails cutting all contact and communication without any explanation.
Dhriti adds, “Narcissists make sure it’s a constant cat-and-mouse chase. When they’re giving you attention, there’s so much that you don’t know what to do with it. They will shower you with gifts, time, and sweet words. They will make you feel on top of the world. Then, all of a sudden, they’ll back off completely and ghost you. There will be no contact and no reply to texts or calls. Even if they do eventually respond, they will be emotionally distant and cold. This might make the victim emotionally insecure and reliant on the narcissist to make them feel better.”
3. Playing the victim card
Narcissists are always the victims in their own eyes. They never own up to their faults, feel guilty for their wrongdoings, or take accountability for their actions. Dhriti says, “Even if the actual victim tries to bring something up that the narcissist did to hurt them, the narcissist will turn it on its head and take that chance to criticize everything the victim does.”
Projection is a defense mechanism that narcissists often use. It entails displacing one’s negative feelings onto someone else. Dhriti adds, “Narcissists believe they’re perfect. So, when they’re comforted with the truth about their flaws, it causes them distress. They then start accusing people around them of doing the same thing. For instance, if they’re jealous of someone, they might accuse the other person of being jealous of them and trying to sabotage them.”
Related Reading: A Rundown On What A Narcissist Does At The End Of A Relationship
Narcissists are master liars and often lie to make other people look like the ‘villains’ of their story, so as to make themselves look better in comparison. Dhriti explains, “Narcissists lie so convincingly that the person hearing their tales feels compelled to believe them and pity them.”
So, now that we know about the methods employed by narcissists to gain control over others, you might be wondering how these control freaks react when they lose grip on their partners or their victim decides to fight back. Well, let’s look at a few such cases.
11 Reactions You Can Expect When A Narcissist Realizes They Lost You
So, how does a narcissist react when they can’t control you? Well, when a narcissist loses control over their victim, it’s like a child losing his toy. You see, narcissists love drama and they act up markedly when they can’t manipulate their victims. So, when you take control away from a narcissist, they feel they may have lost someone who probably stroked their ego.
This results in a loss of self-importance and can lead to very strong reactions from the narcissist. A simple answer to “How does a narcissist feel when you don’t beg and plead?” is that they can’t accept the harsh reality. And their behavior can be unpredictable. Being the center of their own universe, narcissists tend to project themselves as victims when their partners break free from their abuse.
When you make a narcissist miserable by beating them at their own game, they might initially try and win you back, but eventually, they may display narcissistic rage and cut you off completely. Let’s look at 11 reactions that one can expect when a narcissist realizes they lost you:
Related Reading: 8 Signs Of Covert Narcissist Hoovering And How You Should Respond
The first answer to “How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you?,” is that they will try their best to get a reaction out of you or get you to talk. Dhriti explains, “Most commonly, what works is anger. Narcissists will deliberately say or do things that make you mad. For instance, they can reach out to and bother your friends, in an effort to get to you, or say things to you that might trigger you.”
Baiting can also involve making a person feel scared, guilt-tripping, or falsely accusing them of something. A Reddit user, while talking about her narcissistic boyfriend whom she left, said, “He has tried to guilt me into talking to him by saying relatives have passed away or are sick.”
2. Back to love bombing
When baiting doesn’t work, narcissists might start showering you with love, the same way they did in the initial days, but for all the wrong reasons. Dhriti explains, “This sudden love bombing may make you question your judgment of moving away from them because they’ll seem like this amazing person and make you feel great about yourself. In such cases, they might try to remind you of quality times you spent together in the past.” You might feel tempted to mend ways and make the relationship work. But remember, going back to a narcissist in such situations can be a huge mistake.
3. False hopes of closure
When you are too strong for a narcissist, sometimes, in a desperate attempt to get back control, they might pretend to offer you closure or a resolution. Dhriti explains, “They might ask to meet you somewhere or talk on call for closure, and then when the time comes, they might stand you up. When you call them back, they’ll deny ever making such plans and call you crazy. This is a form of narcissist gaslighting. A narcissist enjoys giving their partner false hope and loves to make them feel sad.”
4. Isolating you
A prominent answer to “How does the narcissist react when he realizes you no longer care or when she discovers you’ve figured out her game?”, is that he might try and isolate you. When a narcissist’s fragile ego is wounded, they will try every manipulation tactic in a relationship, even to the extent of separating you from friends and family.
Dhriti adds, “A narcissist may call up your mutual friends and go around talking badly about you. They might start a whole smear campaign against you to try and turn your friends against you. They wish to create a situation wherein you have no one else but your narcissistic partner to turn to for emotional support.” So, what to do when a narcissist tries to control you this way? Well, don’t fall into the trap. Stay in touch with loved ones.
Related Reading: How Not To Fall For A Narcissist And Suffer In Silence
5. Intermittent reinforcement
When you beat a narcissist at their own game, they might exploit that faint hope you may have somewhere in one corner of your mind. This is one tactic that makes leaving an abusive relationship extremely difficult for the victim. A term coined by psychologist B. F. Skinner, ‘intermittent reinforcement’ defines a situation wherein a person feels they have more to gain because they have been rewarded inconsistently. It’s like losing all your money at the casino because the one time you won made you squander away your savings later, as you hoped to win again.
Dhriti says, “Intermittent reinforcement is essentially delivering a ‘reward’ at irregular times, so the person never knows when to anticipate a reward and continues the behavior. In such cases, a narcissist might suddenly acknowledge something you’ve been complaining about for a very long time and make promises to change.” This stage is where you should know how to take control away from a narcissist, by not giving in.
6. Narcissistic injury
Also known as narcissistic wound, narcissistic injury refers to the excessive sense of humiliation that a narcissist feels when they lose control over their victims or they feel they have been insulted. Dhriti adds, “It’s when their self-perception of being perfect is hurt because they realize that someone could leave them so easily. If you are dating a narcissist you would know this often makes them lash out and act in a vengeful manner.”
Related Reading: Your Guide On How To Deal With An Angry Person In A Relationship
7. Narcissistic rage
Close on the heels of narcissistic injury is narcissistic rage. When a narcissist doesn’t get their way, they start throwing tantrums. At times, they may even react violently and try to get back at their victims for ignoring them or leaving them. Dhriti adds, “Their thought process is, “How dare you hurt me? I will hurt you more.” It can also manifest in the form of physical, mental, and emotional abuse.”
8. Leaving before you leave them
Another answer to “How does the narcissist react when he realizes you no longer care or she finds out you’re trying to leave them?,” is that they might leave you before you leave them. A narcissist will try and win you back as long as you feed their ego or respond to their efforts to get you back into the abusive relationship. The moment a narcissist gets the hint that you might leave them for good, they will be the first ones to break up. This satiates their ego. But what to do when a narcissist tries to control you is entirely up to you. Decide whether you wish to wait and watch or leave them right away.
9. Ugly revelations
While a narcissist is breaking up with you, they will try and give you a final blow. In the breakup conversation, they will try and cause you more pain in an effort to destroy your emotional well-being and self-esteem. That’s why it becomes important to know how to take control away from a narcissist by not reacting.
Dhriti says, “If the narcissist did something nasty during the relationship which they hid from you, they’ll reveal that to you now. For instance, someone I know was breaking up with her boyfriend and he chose that exact moment, in the middle of her sentence, to tell her he had cheated on her. He wanted the power to hurt her more than she was hurting him.”
Related Reading: 9 Expert Tips On How To Deal With A Narcissist Spouse
When the narcissist realizes you are done, the final breakup conversation with them may also end up in them falsely accusing you of things you may not have done. Dhriti adds, “They may double down on their partner and start pointing out their flaws and attacking their self-esteem.” In this way, they can:
- Divert attention from their own flaws
- Put the victim in a defensive mode
- Make excuses to hide their own wrongdoings
11. No closure
When a narcissist is finished with you and realizes they can’t extract any emotion out of you, they will end all contact abruptly. Such people don’t have any concern for their partner’s feelings. Remember, a narcissist will never stay friends after the breakup or give you a chance to get closure. Dhriti explains, “Once they realize they’re not going to get any admiration, validation, or emotional reaction from you, they’ll simply get rid of you.”
Does Taking Power Away From A Narcissist Make Them Discard You?
Now that you have the answer to: “How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you?,” let’s find out if a narcissist leaves you for good when they realize they have lost control over the relationship. Dhriti says, “A narcissist only wants to be around those who can emotionally validate them and not contest their self-perception of being perfect. If they don’t have the power over you, they can very well discard you, because they don’t see you as a person. They see you as a supply or some puppet who is only there to fulfill their needs.”
Related Reading: The Narcissist Silent Treatment: What It Is And How To Respond
But in case you’re wondering how to know if you’re about to be discarded by a narcissist, remember, there are always those subtle hints that come before the final stage of the narcissistic discard. Here are some signs to watch out for if you’re wondering if you’re about to be discarded by a narcissist:
- No jealousy anymore
- They flirt around or get into a new relationship
- No love bombing
- No hoovering or an attempt to get you back
- Indifference in the relationship
Narcissism is a toxic personality disorder that gnaws at a relationship bit by bit and destroys its very core. We hope we’ve been able to help you with a clear picture of what narcissistic control in a relationship looks like. We also hope you’re no longer wondering, “How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you?” You see when a narcissist knows he is losing or she is being outsmarted, the relationship will be at the receiving end of all their frustration and rage.
- Narcissists are self-absorbed people with no empathy or concern for other people’s feelings and love controlling their partners
- A Narcissist can employ several tactics to control you, such as gaslighting, playing the victim card, love bombing, and lying
- Some of the glaring reactions of a narcissist when they start losing control over you are baiting, false hopes of closure, narcissistic rage, ugly revelations, and accusations
- Taking power away from a narcissist will eventually lead them to discard you and cut off all ties. So, staying friends with a narcissistic partner isn’t an option
Remember, even when you are too strong for a narcissist, breaking away from them may not always be easy. Moreover, emotions may be involved, especially if you’re in a long-term romantic relationship. So, you will feel hurt. But when the narcissist realizes you are done, you can be victimized furthermore, till they suck every ounce of energy out of you.
So, what’s more important is to realize your worth and make a clean break with a narcissist before their abuse damages you irreparably. It’s important to note that there’s no ‘we’ without ‘I’, and if the narcissistic control is getting too much for you, there’s no alternative to go separate ways to safeguard your mental health. There’s no point in dragging things that may never work. This is the golden rule of a relationship. So, let self-love take over and focus on your healing process. Believe in yourself and take the plunge.