A common question that gets asked inside our healing community from people attempting to cut ties with the narcissist in their life once and for all is, “How will they react when they realize that I am moving on?”
When a narcissist realizes that you are moving on, they will use a variety of manipulation tactics to try to prevent you from doing so because they feel entitled to maintaining power and control over you for as long as they see fit.
In this article, I will guide you through the different manipulation tactics that a narcissist will likely use to help you better understand how narcissists react when the person they are abusing moves on.
1.) They Could Go Into a Narcissistic Rage
The first reaction a narcissist could potentially have when they realize that you are moving on is narcissistic rage.
Narcissistic rage is the intense anger or aggression that a narcissist or someone with high narcissistic traits displays when they experience a narcissistic injury.
Suggested Reading: What Causes Narcissistic Injuries?
This rage can take two forms: explosive or passive-aggressive.
The explosive form includes but is not limited to aggressive behavior such as yelling, throwing objects, punching walls, or physical violence.
The passive-aggressive form includes but is not limited to indirect expressions of rage, such as silent treatment, emotional withdrawal, or sulking.
Suggested Reading: What Happens During Narcissistic Rage?
This rage can be triggered by anything that makes the narcissist feel disrespected, unimportant, or inferior such as criticism, rejection, or you moving on without them.
2.) They Could Try to Hoover You Back Into the Relationship
The second reaction that a narcissist could potentially have when they realize that you are moving on is hoovering.
The term “hoovering” describes a tactic narcissists use to suck people back into a relationship with them after separation or conflict.
For example, imagine that after noticing that you’ve moved on, the narcissist in your life sends you a text message that says the following:
“Hey, I’ve been attending therapy sessions and working on becoming a better person. I know I’ve made promises before, but this time it’s different. I miss you and want to make things right between us. Can we meet and talk about it?”
This would be considered hoovering because the narcissist is trying to exploit your emotional vulnerability by pretending they’ve realized their mistakes and are genuinely committed to changing.
Suggested Reading: How to Deal With a Narcissist Who Is Hoovering
However, without consistent, long-term evidence of real change (which is rare in narcissists), this is typically just a manipulative tactic.
3.) They Could Target You with a Smear Campaign
The third reaction that a narcissist could have when they realize that you’ve moved on is that they target you with a smear campaign.
In this context, the term “smear campaign” refers to a narcissist discrediting another person by hijacking the narrative of a relationship after it has ended.
To do this, the narcissist will typically spread lies or create embellishments about the person they are abusing to destroy their reputation.
For example, let’s say you’ve moved on from the narcissist and started dating someone new. Because of this, the narcissist feels rejected and threatened.
Instead of leaving you be, they spread rumors among your mutual friends, family, and coworkers (example below).
“I’m really worried about [Your Name]. I’ve heard some crazy things about their new partner. And between us, [Your Name] wasn’t stable toward the end of our relationship. I hope they’re not rushing into something dangerous because they couldn’t handle being alone.”
In this situation, the narcissist is trying to paint themselves as the “concerned” ex and cast doubt on your judgment and the character of your new partner.
This is a classic example of a smear campaign; narcissists use this tactic to stop you from moving on.
Suggested Reading: Will a Narcissist Let You Move On?
4.) They Could Use Triangulation to Manipulate You
The fourth reaction that a narcissist could have when they realize that you’re moving on is that they could try to manipulate you through triangulation.
Triangulation occurs when someone turns a one-on-one situation into a two-on-one situation by involving a third party.
For example, imagine that the narcissist in your life is your parent.
You’ve been distancing yourself from them due to their toxic behavior, and they see that you’re moving on and building a healthier, independent life.
One day, they call your sibling and say:
“I’ve been trying to talk to [Your Name], but they’re just so distant lately. It hurts me to see them shutting out family like this. I’m worried about them. I feel so helpless. Could you please talk to [Your Name] and find out what’s happening?”
The moment your narcissistic parent involved your sibling, it became triangulation.
Because your parent isn’t coming for a place of genuine concern.
Your narcissistic parent is victimizing and painting you as the one creating the problem.
They are trying to make you feel guilty and pressure you to reconnect with them because they don’t want you to move on without them.
5.) They Could Try to Guilt-Trip You
The fifth reaction that a narcissist could have when they realize that you’re moving on is that they could try to guilt trip you.
This is a form of psychological manipulation where one person tries to make another feel guilty for causing harm, inconvenience, or discomfort.
Suggested Reading: 10 Tactics Narcissists Use to Make You Feel Guilty
Generally speaking, guilt-tripping aims to control or manipulate another person’s behavior.
For example, let’s imagine that you’ve been no contact with the narcissist in your life for the past three months, and you’re working on moving on from the relationship.
One day, they send you an email that says the following:
“I hope you’re happy now that you’ve completely abandoned me. I put so much into our relationship. I can’t believe you’ve moved on so quickly and left me to pick up the pieces alone. I’m really struggling without you, and it’s clear you don’t care at all.”
This is guilt-tripping.
The narcissist’s email is designed to make you feel guilty for moving on by claiming that your actions have caused them significant distress.
They paint themselves as the victim and blame you, hoping to manipulate you into feeling bad and potentially re-engaging with them.
6.) The Could Try to Bait You
The sixth response that a narcissist could have when they realize that you’re moving on is that they could try to bait you.
Baiting is a manipulation tactic that occurs when someone says or does something manipulative to get you to engage with them.
Suggested Reading: What Is Narcissistic Baiting? (A Complete Guide)
For example, after noticing that you’ve cut ties and are trying to heal and move on, the narcissist in your life sends you the following message:
“You think you’re better off without me, but you’re just lying to yourself. You’re still the same broken, lost person you were before we met. Go ahead, try to ‘heal’ yourself, but you and I both know you’ll just end up alone and miserable without me.”
In this scenario, the narcissist is using harsh and negative remarks to undermine your attempts at healing and independence.
They are doing this because they are trying to provoke a response out of you.
They want you to confront them because it allows them to weasel their way back into your life and prevent you from moving on.
7.) They Could Try to Gaslight You
The seventh response that a narcissist could have when they see you moving on is that they could try to gaslight you.
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that occurs when someone intentionally or unintentionally doubts or denies reality.
Suggested Reading: How to Stop a Narcissist from Gaslighting You (3 Steps)
For example, imagine that you are trying to heal and move and when the narcissist in your life randomly stops by your work and says the following:
“I can’t believe you’re making such a big deal out of nothing. I never abused you. You’ve always had a wild imagination and a knack for overreacting. You’re probably remembering things wrong, like always. You’re not thinking straight, you need help.”
This is gaslighting because they are trying to manipulate your perception of reality and make you doubt your memories, feelings, and judgments.
They want to undermine your confidence in yourself because they want you to rely on their version of events.
If this were to happen, they would have full control over you and the dynamics of your relationship, which puts them in a position to prevent you from moving on.
What Should You Take Away from This Article?
When a narcissist realizes that you are moving on, you should be prepared for them to use a variety of different manipulation tactics to try to stop you from doing so.
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This information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for clinical care. Please consult a healthcare provider for guidance specific to your case. This article discusses narcissism in general.