Normal break-ups with empathic people can occur due to incompatibility and changing life circumstances, but narcissistic and psychopathic individuals break up for very different reasons and are never fully “done” with you, even after the break-up. In fact, research indicates that narcissistic and psychopathic individuals are likely to remain in contact with their exes for continued access to resources and sex. The break-up is often orchestrated and embedded into the continuing cycle of abuse. Here are three main reasons narcissists and psychopaths really break up with and discard a romantic partner.
They want to gaslight you into believing you were the problem all along and ensure they’re the ones who leave “first” as a power play.
It’s common for narcissists and psychopaths to use valid-sounding phrases to break up with their partners such as, “This isn’t going to work,” “I am done,” and “I just can’t do this anymore” to express their so-called dismay and disapproval of you during a break-up. However, unlike empathic partners who genuinely feel like they cannot be in a relationship anymore, narcissists misuse these phrases to gaslight you after a long period where they were the ones mistreating and manipulating you. They were likely love-bombing you intermittently throughout the relationship, giving you false hope that they would change back into the sweet, loving person they portrayed themselves to be at the beginning of the relationship to keep you hooked. They may have even faked remorse and begged you for your forgiveness many times to prevent you from leaving them – this was just a power play so they could leave you first.
After all, if you had been able to leave them first due to their abuse, this would identify them as the problem, and you would feel validated in your decision. You would essentially “win” the break-up – this is how a narcissist or psychopath views such an ending as they see relationships not as partnerships but rather as chess games. If they are able to bring you back into the abuse cycle with false promises, however, they have an opportunity to depict you as the main culprit and make you believe that you were the problem all along, painting you with unsavory qualities and traits you do not possess.
As they break up with you, it can feel abrupt, callous, cold, and emotionless. That is because unbeknownst to their partners, narcissists have been planning the discard for longer than you might expect. A relationship with a narcissist is “planned” strategically to gain ultimate power over the victim and demean them. There is no better opportunity for a narcissist to try to emotionally debilitate a partner than the break-up. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t return – as noted earlier, narcissists can return many times even after the ending of the relationship to ensure they still maintain power over you and possibly retain access to resources and sex.
They can no longer control you, so they need time to traumatize you and hunt for victims they can control.
It’s true that narcissists and psychopaths enjoy a challenge and can prey on very intelligent, successful, and assertive victims. They feel fulfilled and powerful knowing they can break down even the strongest of victims by identifying their vulnerabilities and using both their strengths and weaknesses against them. However, even narcissists and psychopaths have “limits.” If they feel they can no longer control you because you saw through their false mask, saw their true nature accurately, and are no longer under their spell, they know they will have to put in far more effort, time, energy, and investment to keep you around – something they’d rather avoid doing because they know an easier “shortcut” would be to terrorize you enough so you never forget them and inadvertently develop a traumatic bond with them instead.
When you are no longer willing to rationalize their abusive behavior, dismiss the red flags or minimize their transgressions, narcissists and psychopaths know that a break-up will traumatize you sufficiently to keep you trauma bonded to them whenever they choose to come back again, yet leave them free to hunt for other more vulnerable targets that are more susceptible to their manipulation. This is why you may receive an “I miss you” or “I’ve been thinking about you” text weeks or months after the break-up. Beware: They don’t miss you: they miss controlling you. They are likely looking for an opportunity to keep you thinking about them after the break-up and some may even try to pit you against another target to provoke jealousy in you post-breakup. Narcissists are notorious for trying to provoke jealousy long after the relationship has ended, especially through social media. If you do choose to re-engage with them, rest assured that they will begin the manipulation all over again, with an even fierce intensity than the first time around. They enjoy punishing targets who they lost control of and also enjoy putting down targets they look at as “gullible” enough to take them back. If you have fallen into this trap, it’s important not to blame yourself, as the trauma bond can be both addictive and difficult to extricate yourself from.
They want to maintain significance in your life.
Some targets of narcissists do not fall for the narcissist’s charms as easily as they’d like them to. You may have resisted the narcissist’s manipulation by refusing to open up to the narcissist, “failing” to disclose your vulnerabilities to them or even identifying their manipulation tactics. Yet they know that any victim will feel somewhat unsettled by a breakup, even if it’s with someone they’ve deemed manipulative. The breakup is usually implemented as a way to maintain their significance in your life, even if you were not interested in pursuing anything long-term with them.
A breakup symbolizes loss and narcissists associate that kind of “rejection” with need, longing, and desire. That’s because when narcissists are rejected, they incur a narcissistic injury and often chase after those who rejected them in an effort to punish them and regain validation. Narcissists thus expect that if they break up with someone, others will chase them in turn because that is what they would do in the same situation. That is why they expect you to pine for them after the breakup and orchestrate the breakup as a way to make themselves memorable to you. It momentarily positions them as “higher” than you on the totem pole as they break the news to you with an air of false superiority. This is a tactic they use frequently to demean those they perceive to be out of their league otherwise.
If you are experiencing a breakup with a narcissist or need tips on how to break up safely with a toxic person, it’s important to seek help and support. You may wish to process your traumas with a mental health professional. Healing from this type of manipulation can take time and detaching from the narcissist completely often takes multiple attempts before you achieve true freedom.