We received a great question from the community: “What should I expect after I leave the narcissist in my life?” I dove into the research. Here’s what I learned.

When you leave a narcissist, be prepared for hoovering attempts to reel you back into the relationship, smear campaigns designed to damage your reputation, the involvement of flying monkeys, emotional blackmail, cold withdrawal and indifference from the narcissist, and unexpected legal or financial entanglements. 

In this article, I will walk you through each of these possibilities to help you prepare for life after leaving a narcissist.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1.) Hoovering Attempts to Reel You Back In

After leaving, be prepared for the narcissist to attempt “hoovering,” a tactic named after the Hoover vacuum for how they try to “suck” you back into the relationship.

These attempts can range from sweet, seemingly sincere promises of change to sudden emergencies where only you can help.1 

For instance, a few weeks after the breakup, you might receive messages from the narcissist expressing profound realization and remorse, claiming they’ve started therapy and are making changes, saying:

“I’ve finally understood everything you were unhappy about, and I’m fixing myself for us. No one else can understand me like you do.” 

A narcissist trying to hoover someone back into the relationship.

Or they might contact you in a panic over a fabricated crisis, insisting you’re the only one who can help them through it.2 

Their goal here is to do or say whatever you need to see or hear to reconsider the decision to leave and let them back into your life.

Related: How to Deal With a Narcissist Who Is Hoovering

2.) Smear Campaigns

Another thing to expect is that the narcissist may attempt to tarnish your reputation with friends, family, or even publicly on social media.3 

They do this to regain control and portray themselves as the victim.4 

For instance, after you end the relationship, you might start hearing from mutual friends that the narcissist is spreading rumors about you, claiming you were the one who was abusive or unfaithful.

They might post vague, pity-inducing messages on social media, implying they’ve been wronged, without directly naming you, to get the support and sympathy of anyone who will give them the time of day. 

This behavior can be incredibly frustrating and hurtful, but understanding it as a reflection of their inability to deal with rejection and loss can help you maintain your resolve and focus on your well-being.

3.) Cold Withdrawal and Indifference

Some narcissists may react to a breakup with cold withdrawal, displaying a sudden and complete indifference towards you. 

For example, once the relationship is over, they might immediately cut off all communication, act like you never existed, or quickly move on to a new relationship, flaunting it on social media.5 

A narcissist moving on quickly.

This behavior serves multiple purposes:

  • It punishes you for leaving.
  • It protects their ego from rejection by appearing unaffected.
  • It gives them a new source of narcissistic supply.
  • It can also be a tactic to provoke a reaction from you. 

Whatever the purpose may be, you should know that witnessing this indifference after such an intense relationship can be deeply hurtful. 

But it’s important to recognize it as a reflection of their inability to form genuine emotional connections, not a measure of your worth.

Related: 4 Reasons Narcissists Can Move On Quickly

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

4.) Emotional Blackmail

If there are children involved or shared responsibilities, expect the narcissist to use these as leverage in emotional blackmail attempts. 

They know your children or shared commitments are important to you, and they might threaten to make those aspects difficult unless you reconsider the breakup/divorce. 

For example, they might say, “If you go through with this, I’ll make sure you never see the kids again,” or use the children as messengers, putting them in the middle of adult issues to manipulate your emotions. 

Or they might neglect shared responsibilities, like pet care or mortgage payments, to force you into contact. 

This form of emotional blackmail is designed to exploit your vulnerabilities, making it harder for you to fully separate from them and move on.

5.) Unexpected Legal or Financial Entanglements

In some cases, ending a relationship with a narcissist can lead to unexpected legal or financial battles. 

Narcissists might use these areas to try to maintain control over you for as long as possible, especially if they feel like you’ve wronged them.

For instance, if you were married or shared assets, the narcissist might contest the division of property irrationally or demand more than their fair share, not necessarily because they want those items but to maintain a sense of control over you and the situation. 

They might say something along the lines of, “I’m going to make sure I get everything I deserve, and you’ll regret ever thinking you could leave me.” 

This tactic is not only about winning or securing financial stability but is often aimed at punishing you for ending the relationship, dragging out the process to keep you entangled and emotionally drained.

Related: The 6 Types of Financial Abuse Abusers Use

6.) The Involvement of Flying Monkeys

After ending the relationship, be prepared for the narcissist to enlist the help of “flying monkeys” — a term borrowed from “The Wizard of Oz” that refers to people the narcissist manipulates into supporting their narrative. 

These individuals, whether mutual friends, family members, or even coworkers, might approach you with messages from the narcissist or urge you to reconsider the breakup. 

For instance, a family member might say, “They’re really not doing well without you. Are you sure you can’t give them another chance? They said they’re willing to change.” 

This tactic attacks your emotional connections with these individuals, making it harder for you to cut the narcissist out of your life.

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading, I hope you found this article helpful.

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below.

Engaging with readers is something I truly value and look forward to!

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Sanjana Gupta. (2023. December, 7). The Manipulative Tactics of Narcissists: Hoovering Explained. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/narcissistic-hoovering-8407338#toc-typical-behaviors-of-narcissist-hoovering ↩︎
  2. Nicole Arzt. (2023. September, 6). What a Narcissist Does at the End of a Relationship. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissist-end-of-relationship/ ↩︎
  3. Margalis Fjelstad. (2023. April, 10). 8 Things A Narcissist Does At The End Of A Relationship. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-to-expect-when-you-break-up-with-a-narcissist ↩︎
  4. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 28). What Is A Narcissistic Smear Campaign? Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/narcissistic-smear-campaign.html ↩︎
  5. Ramani Durvasula. (2018. November, 3). Surviving a Narcissistic Breakup: The Fear and the Reality. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/guide-better-relationships/201811/surviving-narcissistic-breakup-the-fear-and-the-reality ↩︎

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