4 Red Flags A Narcissist Is Gaslighting and “Emotionally Stalking” You (While Claiming You’re Obsessed With Them)

Is a narcissist “emotionally stalking” and gaslighting you? Here are the four red flags to watch out for, according to an expert.

Stalking comes in many forms. One of the subtle ways narcissistic and psychopathic people can “emotionally” stalk you is by following everything you do closely at the beginning and ending of the relationship, taking a careful inventory of your fears, vulnerabilities, and any perceived weaknesses and strengths they can later exploit both during the relationship and after its ending. A common but not often spoken about form of stalking narcissists engage in is tracking your every move after the end of the relationship (especially if you ended contact with them first) and to deliberately try to use the information they learned during the relationship to provoke you into reacting even when you two are in no contact. This can be done in multiple ways, including an intense love-bombing period followed by cruel devaluation to try to keep you fixated on them, or post-break up “Hoovers” designed to keep you sucked back into the traumatic vortex of the abuse cycle. Here are four red flags a narcissist is emotionally stalking and gaslighting you – while pretending you’re the obsessed one.

Pretending that they didn’t love-bomb you 24/7 before abruptly withholding attention and attention and devaluing you — even when they were the ones ardently pursuing you first, only to depict you as obsessed to others when you react. They may even be stalking you and provoking you far after the ending of the relationship, only to use your reactions against you.

Love bombing a victim takes effort and energy. That is why narcissists make sure to overwhelm their victims early on by showering them with intense and persistent attention, affection, and constant contact for months and even years (even when that same level of affection isn’t returned) so that their targets experience the euphoric dopamine rush of idealization, before they suddenly pull away and depict you as clingy, needy and someone who is obsessed with them. In reality, they were the ones who had to pursue you ardently first to even get your attention. From the outside, the narcissist will attempt to share sob stories of how “crazy” their victims are, how these victims just won’t “leave them alone,” or pretend there was no kind of investment they put into the relationship despite their victims not bothering them at all. For example, let’s say Todd love bombed Tara with constant gifts, phone calls, and romantic dates, later resulting in marriage. Tara wasn’t initially interested in Todd but he was persistent and won her over with promises of long-lasting love and a happy life together. Later in the relationship, Todd abruptly became callous and cruel toward Tara and failed to fulfill any of the promises he made. Tara divorced Todd after discovering he was emotionally abusive, and Todd would periodically love bomb her into thinking they were on good terms for the sake of the children, only to suddenly withhold communication when it was necessary. Tara may be forced to reach out to him about an important co-parenting matter through text, while Todd may then spin this very minimal level of contact as Tara being “obsessed” with him and “stalking” him when in reality Tara just wanted to know when the kids will be picked up for visitation.

Or, he may try to provoke Tara into reaching out by posting slanderous lies about her on social media to mutual friends, again forcing her hand into confront him and using her reaction as ammunition that she just “won’t let go,” even though he is the one who continues to try to provoke her and has clearly not moved forward with his life. Never trust anyone who tries to prematurely depict their ex-partner, friend, acquaintance as “crazy” and “obsessed” without considering the possibility that it’s the narcissist who didn’t leave them alone (and in some cases still won’t), emotionally stalking and tormenting them during the idealization phase and post break-up.

They try to place barriers in your life from a distance and engage in a covert smear campaign in an attempt to evade exposure or take accountability.

A narcissistic ex-partner, friend, family member or acquaintance may subject you to the silent treatment after the relationship has ended but still attempt to play puppeteer in your life by emotionally stalking you in other ways. For example, they may spread false rumors about you in a targeted smear campaign to create a wedge between you and your support networks so you feel isolated after the break-up. They might try to provoke you on special days like birthdays by posting “dog-whistles” on social media, covertly aggressive statements directed at you that only you can identify. They may even call up your friends or associates and “innocently” share personal information about you which they’ve twisted and distorted to suit their own agendas to sabotage you, placing you in harm’s way. This is emotional stalking that is more difficult to call out because it all happens from a distance, and because the narcissist isn’t engaging in direct contact, they can pretend you’re the problematic one if you call them out.

Provoking you post-breakup to try to participate in their sick and twisted love triangles.

A narcissistic ex is the type who will flaunt their new partner on social media in hopes that you will see it and beg for them to come back (as laughable as that sounds). They may visit the same restaurants or establishments they know you frequent or send you “accidental” texts and phone calls pretending they meant to send these to another love interest in an attempt to rouse your jealousy, or take their dates to the same places you two went together to make you feel less special. This is all a ploy to get under your skin and get you refocused on them, especially if they sense you are moving forward. If they can get a reaction out of you, they feel they’ve “won.” It’s a form of emotional stalking designed to deliberately taunt you and get some of the power and control they feel they’ve lost now that you’ve left them.

Establishing and coercing you into a pattern of constant contact with you and overriding your boundaries to meet a specific agenda in the beginning, only to claim you are the one actively pursuing them when they fail to keep up with their future-faking false promises.

In another example, let’s say a narcissistic family member pushes you into maintaining constant contact with them. They leave you continual missed calls, voicemails, and often berate you when you’re not giving them your full attention (this can happen with a narcissistic romantic partner as well). Perhaps they initiate this constant contact for a specific purpose and agenda. With the narcissistic family member, they may be trying to sweet-talk you into giving them a loan, whereas with a narcissistic dating partner, they might be trying to sleep with you early on. They disguise these motives as just wanting to connect with you or even trying to give you something you want, making false promises and future faking to lure you in (i.e making grand promises of a healthy loving relationship, or a stronger familial bond). However, once they either meet their agenda or realize you will not be giving them what they actually want, they will suddenly drop out of contacting you altogether and pretend you are disturbing them if you ever follow up on any of the promises they made (such as returning a loan or going forward into a relationship), while depicting you as selfish and egotistical to others for daring to have a normal human reaction to being belittled, gaslit, and invalidated. They paint you as the villain, someone “stuck” on them while depicting themselves as “mature” and “compassionate” for “tolerating” your attempts to gain justice in the situation — when in reality they may very well be the self-absorbed, egotistical ones whose lack of empathy and cruelty would  expose them if anyone ever found out the true story.

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.