8 things a narcissist will do when they see you’re distancing yourself from them

Narcissists have a unique way of responding when they sense you’re pulling away.

I’m Tina Fey, founder of the Love Connection blog and a relationship expert. I’ve spent countless hours studying and understanding the intricate behaviors of narcissists.

In this process, I’ve discovered that a narcissist will do specific things when they realize you’re distancing yourself from them. It’s like watching a playbook unfold, as predictable as the sun setting in the west.

Let’s take a closer look at these behaviors, shall we? Buckle up, because understanding this can be a game-changer in your relationships.

1) They turn on the charm

Narcissists are masters of manipulation, and one of their favorite tools is charm.

You see, when a narcissist senses you’re pulling away, they’ll suddenly become the most attentive, loving person you’ve ever met. It’s like flipping a switch.

This sudden change might confuse you, make you question your decision to distance yourself. That’s precisely what the narcissist wants.

This manipulation tactic is known as “love bombing”. It’s a way to reel you back in, to regain control and power in the relationship.

Recognizing this pattern is crucial. It helps you see through this facade, understand that it’s not genuine affection but a calculated move to keep you close.

2) They play the victim

Ah, the classic “woe is me” act. I’ve seen it more times than I can count.

When a narcissist sees you drifting away, they’ll often resort to playing the victim. They’ll tell tales of how they were hurt in the past, how they’ve been misunderstood or mistreated.

The aim here is to provoke your sympathy, to draw you back in through guilt. It’s a clever play, because who wouldn’t want to comfort someone who seems so genuinely distressed?

As Maya Angelou once wisely said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” If they’ve shown themselves to be manipulative and self-centered before, chances are this is just another act.

Stand firm in your decision to distance yourself. It’s not your job to heal or fix them. Your first responsibility is always towards your own mental and emotional well-being.

3) They start a smear campaign

This is one of the tactics that narcissists resort to that I find truly heartbreaking. It’s not enough for them that you’re distancing yourself; sometimes, they feel the need to tarnish your reputation in the process.

When you start to pull away, they might begin to spread false rumors or exaggerated stories about you to mutual friends, colleagues, or family members. Their aim is to isolate you and make themselves appear as the “better” person.

In my book, Breaking The Attachment: How To Overcome Codependency in Your Relationship, I talk extensively about how to handle this kind of situation. I share personal experiences and practical advice on how to maintain your integrity and self-esteem during such a distressful time.

Keep in mind, what others say about you is more reflective of them than it is of you. Maintain your dignity, and know that truth always has a way of surfacing eventually.

4) They might actually give you space

Now, here’s a twist that you might not see coming. Sometimes, when you begin to distance yourself, a narcissist might actually let you.

Wait, what? Isn’t a narcissist supposed to be all about control and power?

Well, yes. But narcissists are also experts at playing mind games.

By giving you space, they’re betting on the fact that absence makes the heart grow fonder. They hope that by creating a vacuum, you’ll start to miss them, question your decision, and ultimately return to them.

5) They bring up old memories

When I first started studying narcissistic behaviors, this was one of the tactics that fascinated me the most. Narcissists have a knack for knowing just what to say to pull at your heartstrings.

If they sense you’re distancing yourself, they might start bringing up old, happy memories. It could be that funny incident on your third date, or the time you both stayed up all night talking about your dreams and aspirations.

Their aim is to make you nostalgic, to remind you of the “good times” and make you reconsider your decision. They want to create doubt in your mind, make you wonder if things were really as bad as you thought.

It’s essential to remember why you chose to distance yourself in the first place. Don’t let these manipulative tactics cloud your judgment; stand firm in your decisions for your own well-being.

6) They resort to begging and pleading

I won’t sugarcoat it. This can be one of the hardest things to witness.

When a narcissist feels they’re losing control, they may resort to begging and pleading for you to stay. They’ll promise to change, swear that things will be different this time.

It can be incredibly hard to stay strong when you see someone you once cared deeply for in such a state. But a leopard doesn’t change its spots overnight. It’s just another manipulation tactic.

7) They shower you with compliments

Oh, the flattery! It’s like a secret weapon in the narcissist’s arsenal.

The moment they sense you slipping away, they might start to shower you with compliments. “You’re too good for me,” “I don’t deserve you,” “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

It’s all part of their game to make you feel special, wanted, and reconsider your decision to distance yourself.

But remember what Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” That’s exactly what the narcissist is hoping for – that their words will sustain your connection to them.

Don’t fall for it. A compliment with ulterior motives is not worth your peace of mind. 

8) They threaten self-harm

This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult and painful tactics a narcissist can resort to.

When they see you distancing yourself, they may threaten self-harm or suicide. They use your empathy and love against you, hoping to guilt you into staying.

It’s a desperate, controlling tactic, and it can leave you feeling trapped and terrified.

Remember, you are not responsible for another person’s actions. If they threaten self-harm, reach out to their family, friends, or professionals who can provide the help they need.

Your mental health is equally important. It’s okay to distance yourself from people who manipulate your deepest fears and emotions. 

Final thoughts

Navigating a relationship with a narcissist can be tricky, but recognizing their patterns and tactics is the first step towards breaking free.

You are not alone in this journey. Many have walked this path before you and have emerged stronger on the other side.

If you’re looking for more guidance on this topic, I invite you to check out my book Breaking The Attachment: How To Overcome Codependency in Your Relationship. It’s a comprehensive guide filled with personal insights and practical advice to help you navigate these challenging situations.

Remember, it’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to walk away from toxic relationships. You are worthy of respect and love that doesn’t come with strings attached. Stay strong, dear reader.

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