8 Red Flag Text Messages Narcissists Send You – Translated By An Expert

A Harvard researcher specializing in narcissism reveals the eight most common red flag text messages from narcissists and what they really mean.

I am super busy / I don’t have time for this.

When the narcissist first love-bombs you, they seem to have all the time in the world to communicate with you. They respond to your every message within minutes, seem anxious when you take a break from communicating with them, and answer your questions with lengthy, heartfelt replies. Not only do they appear to actively drop anything they’re doing to respond to you, they seem to carve out large amounts of time to cater to you and get to know you. After they’ve “hooked” you, however, their communication patterns shift abruptly in ways that give you emotional whiplash. They suddenly view your simple attempts to communicate with them as a hindrance, burden, and inconvenience. This is different from actually being busy, as even the busiest person in the world knows how to communicate their time restrictions with grace and respect. Even overscheduled doctors and presidents of countries find the time to text their partners, and if they’re empathic, they certainly don’t lash out at their partners for asking for an explanation after a prolonged absence. The narcissist, on the other hand, lashes out with a fury and frustration that shocks their victims with its cruelty during the devaluation phase of the relationship when they are asked why they are behaving so unusually. They will accuse you of being clingy and gaslight you into believing you are in the wrong for becoming accustomed to the level of responsiveness they set up for you to expect in the first place. They insult you for asking for basic respect. If anything, they were the ones who were “needy” when they were love bombing you and ardently pressuring you to reply to them. They trained and conditioned you to always expect a timely response and now punish and degrade you for reacting to their deliberate withdrawal and withholding of their time.

Good morning beautiful/handsome.

Although this phrase can certainly be used in normal, healthy and long-term relationships as well, in the context of manipulation, this is a common love bombing phrase narcissists use early on to groom you in the relationship.  They will send this or a variation of this text (perhaps with a personalized nickname or other compliment) every morning to train you into associating them with every morning greeting. This is an insidious way they infiltrate your life whether you want them to or not. Their hope is that you will start off every day with them on your mind – and they hope it is their presence that will affect you throughout the day. They will also be the last ones to wish you good night, ensuring that they are the last person you think of before heading to sleep. Early on, they will declare you are their “soulmate” and speak in awe about how they have so much in common with you. This slowly but surely creates a faux sense of intimacy with the narcissist that they know will feel like a “loss” once they devalue and discard you in the relationship. As they begin to withhold these “good morning” and “good night” texts over time, they know you’ll be tempted to overexert yourself and attempt to re-gain their approval and validation, even if you weren’t that invested in the relationship to begin with. That’s because narcissists know that if you are sensitive to any sense of “rejection,” you will wonder why the person who seemed so besotted with you one minute is suddenly treating you callously the next.

I am so sorry. I don’t deserve you.

The narcissist is only half-lying in this text message. It’s quite true they don’t deserve you – but they are hardly genuinely sorry for their horrific actions against you; if they were, they would have taken sustainable, long-term actions to repair the relationship and made amends. Narcissists drop a “I am sorry” apology text after abusive incidents and whenever they want to feign remorse to get you hooked back into the relationship. This is a low-effort text they send when they want to engage in hot-and-cold behavior and conveniently get back on your good side. They drop the “I don’t deserve you” text not because they actually feel that way (many actually feel entitled to empathic, attractive, loving, and kind partners such as yourself) but because they want you to feel sorry for them and prove them otherwise. They want you to heighten your love and compassion toward them and say, “Of course you deserve me! I love you and will do anything for you and this relationship!” They want your validation that they’re still a good person even when they’re acting like anything but.

They’re just a friend/co-worker. Nothing to worry about.

Although you were once the center of the narcissist’s universe and apple of his or her eye, someone that the narcissist once had to win over and perceived to be out of their league, the narcissist now enjoys having a sense of power and control over your emotions. One of the most common manipulation tactics they use to disorient you in a romantic relationship is called “jealousy induction” which research shows narcissists and psychopaths deliberately use to destabilize you. This is when they manufacture toxic love triangles to get you to compete over them. They may do this by mentioning past or potential love interests or shady “friends” and “co-workers” they seem to be spending more time with. They do this to provoke a reaction from you – when you do react, they feel smug and self-assured of their false sense of superiority and desirability. They gaslight you and reassure you that these are “just” friends or co-workers you have no reason to worry about, accusing you of being insecure and paranoid.  Sometimes there really is nothing going on because the narcissist doesn’t have as many options as they would like you to think they have, but they still want you to be concerned regardless because they enjoy toying with your emotions. They want you to fear losing them so that you’ll be more flexible with your standards and more compliant to their demands. After all, if you’re too busy competing over a narcissist, you’re also too busy to detach or leave them.

A read receipt followed by silence.

This text message is all about the text narcissists don’t send you. In the context of manipulation tactics like stonewalling and the silent treatment, many narcissistic and otherwise toxic people will activate their read receipts for a purpose. Unlike empathic people who want to let you know when they have received a message, narcissists want you to know when they are deliberately being non-responsive. They want to weaponize evidence of their newfound neglect and indifference to torment you. That’s why they will either always have read receipts on from the beginning (at first to signal their constant availability and swift responsiveness during love-bombing) or turn them on suddenly during the devaluation stage. It’s not enough that narcissists are ignoring you or giving you the silent treatment: they want you to know you are being ignored. During this time, they will add salt to the wound by purposely posting on social media (including publishing shady stories and posts that seem to covertly reference your relationship or following suspicious people), or communicating with other people and ensuring you are aware of that (for example, you may notice them active on a dating app or forum during this time, or hear from a mutual friend that they called them).

I am so tired of this / done with this.

It’s true that victims of narcissists can also occasionally use this phrase to express their disappointment with the narcissist and the fact that they’re fed up, but narcissists use this classic stonewalling phrase through text to specifically to shut down healthy conversations and to avoid accountability. You will be sent this text message when you have done nothing but tried to communicate with the narcissist in healthy and fair ways about problems in the relationship. For example, you may politely bring up the fact that they never seem to be there for you when you need them even though they promised they always would. Or you may gently share that you felt uncomfortable with one of their legitimately shady “friendships” that they are clearly using to provoke jealousy in you. In response, a healthy and empathic partner would address your concerns. The narcissist, on the other hand, will gaslight you into thinking you’re defective for daring to have any emotions at all. They will lash out in rage and end the conversation before it’s even begun, disappearing for hours or even days and weeks – this is a cruel punishment they subject you to just for voicing these concerns, holding them accountable, or questioning them. Over time, these stonewalling texts teach you to second-guess yourself and stay silent about your wants, needs, and rights just to “keep” the relationship.

Look, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and this just isn’t working out.

When the narcissist chooses to break up with you over text rather than in person, they will do so in a cowardly way that allows them to pretend to be a good person even after subjecting you to chronic psychological and emotional abuse. Most narcissists have a “script” when discarding their victims. They may say something like, “Look, I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” and proceed to tell you (even after their numerous attempts at begging for forgiveness after abusive incidents, or proclaiming you’re their soulmate) that they do not believe you are a match or compatible and should end things. They will list how you “can’t take a joke,” are too sensitive, or “always think the worst of them” as reasons for the break-up to gaslight you when in reality their major reason for the break-up is to establish dominance and control. This is a way to disguise the long-standing pattern of their abuse as mere “incompatibility” when in reality, they lack the empathy and the emotional equipment to be in a relationship with anyone. It’s definitely true that you are not compatible with a narcissist – no lies there – but it bears repeating that the narcissist isn’t compatible with anyone due to their lack of empathy. Unbeknownst to the victim, even the break-up is a “test” – a way to see whether you will chase after them and beg for their attention. A “text” break-up is often orchestrated to traumatize you into settling for less and narcissists expect you to try to make up with them afterward and will rarely leave you alone without trying to provoke you post-breakup.

How are you? I’ve been thinking about you. I miss you and I don’t want to lose you.

Narcissists usually return for a second or third “round” of abusive tactics even after they’ve supposedly broken up with you. Research indicates they often stay connected to their exes for access to sex and resources. They don’t want you moving forward and want ultimate power over your life in the aftermath of the break-up and recovery process. That’s why throughout the relationship they’ll text you saying they don’t want to lose you or the relationship, only to discard you callously; they want to train you to be dependent on their validation and keep you off-kilter. They continue the cycle by reaching out even after you’ve exited the relationship and especially if they fear you’re becoming happy without them or pursuing a new partner. They send these mixed signals to keep you forever “hooked” and trauma bonded to them. If you receive a “check-in” and “miss you” text from a narcissist who has repeatedly mistreated you, make no mistake: they are trying to see if they can ensnare you into the cycle once more, only to punish you even more harshly for giving them another chance.  Make sure you don’t text back or look back. You deserve better.

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.