Have you ever wondered how narcissists treat their exes after the relationship ends?

If so, you’re not the only one. 

A couple of members of Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse asked about this, too.

So, I did a bit of research, and here’s what I learned.

When a narcissist goes through a breakup, they often try to:

  1. Ruin their ex’s reputation.
  2. Gaslight them.
  3. Make their ex jealous.
  4. Stop them from moving on.
  5. Financially abuse their ex.
  6. Act passive-aggressively toward them.
  7. Ignore their exes’ boundaries.
  8. Turn their children against them.

In this post, I will explain each of these to help you understand the different ways narcissists treat their exes.

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

1) They Might Try to Ruin Their Reputation

Narcissists often try to ruin the reputation of their exes.1 

It’s like when someone spreads rumors about another person at school because they’re upset with them. 

After a breakup, a narcissist might talk to friends, family, or even co-workers about their ex in a negative way. 

A narcissist talking about their ex in a negative way to others.

They could make up stories or exaggerate things that happened to make the ex look bad, and themselves look better. 

This behavior is a way for the narcissist to try to control the situation and how others see the end of the relationship. 

They want to be seen as the victim or the one who was right, so they try to damage the ex’s reputation to get more people on their side.

2) They May Gaslight Them

Narcissists also might gaslight their exes after a breakup.2 

Gaslighting is when someone tries to make another person doubt their own memories or feelings. 

It’s like if someone told you that something you remember happening never actually happened. 

A narcissist might deny things they said or did during the relationship or claim that the ex is remembering it all wrong. 

They do this to keep control and make the ex question themselves. 

This can make it really hard for the ex to move on because they’re left feeling confused and unsure about what was real and what wasn’t. 

3) They Might Try to Make Them Jealous

Narcissists often try to make their exes jealous after a breakup.3 

It’s like when someone wants to show off a new toy just to make someone else wish they had it, too. 

They might start posting pictures on social media with new friends or potential romantic interests or talk about how great their life is now that the relationship is over. 

A narcissist posting to Instagram how great their life is now that the relationship with their ex is over.

They do this to get a reaction from their ex, wanting them to feel like they’re missing out or made a mistake by letting the relationship end. 

This behavior is a way for the narcissist to feel like they’re still important and desired by their ex, feeding into their need for attention and validation.

4) They May Try to Stop Them from Moving On

Narcissists might also try to stop their exes from moving on after the breakup.4

It’s similar to someone saying, “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” 

They might do this by contacting their ex with messages or calls, reminiscing about the good times, or suggesting they can still be friends, even if their intentions aren’t genuine. 

They could also spread false information to potential new partners or create situations that make it difficult for their exes to start new relationships. 

This tactic is used to maintain control and ensure that the ex is still emotionally tied to them, allowing the narcissist to keep a sense of power and influence over their ex’s life, even when they’re no longer together.

Suggested Reading: Will a Narcissist Let You Move On?

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

5) They Might be Financially Abusive

After a breakup, narcissists might be financially abusive to their exes. 

This means they try to control or harm their ex’s financial situation.5 

Narcissists might refuse to pay back the money they owe, or if they share financial responsibilities like a mortgage or car payment, they might stop contributing, leaving their ex to cover everything. 

They could also use shared accounts or knowledge of their ex’s finances to cause problems, like running up large bills or making unauthorized purchases. 

This financial abuse is another way for narcissists to maintain control and cause stress for their exes, making it harder for them to move on and feel independent.

Suggested Reading: 16 Signs of Financial Abuse

6) They May Act Passive-Aggressively

Narcissists often treat their exes with passive-aggressiveness after a breakup. 

This means they express their negativity indirectly, like giving backhanded compliments or leaving mean notes.6 

They might not confront their ex directly but will find ways to make their disapproval or anger known through subtle digs or undermining actions. 

For example, they might “accidentally” forget to pass on important messages or deliberately be uncooperative over simple matters. 

A narcissist being deliberately uncooperative over simple matters on the phone.

This passive-aggressive behavior can be confusing and hurtful, as it’s not always clear what the narcissist is upset about.

It’s a way for the narcissist to express their displeasure while avoiding direct confrontation, keeping their ex off-balance and unsure.

7) They Might Ignore the Exes’ Boundaries

Narcissists might completely disregard their exes’ boundaries after a breakup.7 

This is like someone telling you they need space, but you keep showing up at their house uninvited. 

Even if their ex has made it clear they want no contact or has set specific boundaries around communication, a narcissist might ignore these requests, calling, texting, or even visiting in person without permission. 

They may also intrude on their ex’s new life, contacting their ex’s friends or new partner under the guise of concern or seeking closure but really aiming to maintain presence and control. 

This blatant disrespect for boundaries is a way for narcissists to assert their dominance and signal that their ex’s wishes are secondary to their own desires, continuing the cycle of control and manipulation even after the relationship has ended.

Free Course: How to Set Boundaries with a Narcissist

8) They May Try to Turn Their Children Against Them

When children are involved, narcissists might use them as pawns in their post-breakup tactics with their exes.8 

This means they manipulate situations involving the children to hurt or control their ex.

For example, they might make plans directly with the children, bypassing their ex’s consent, or speak negatively about their ex in front of the kids to turn them against the other parent. 

A narcissist speaking negatively about the ex in front of their kid.

They might also use custody arrangements or child support as bargaining tools, not out of genuine concern for the children’s well-being, but as a way to exert financial or emotional pressure on their ex. 

This exploitation of the parent-child relationship serves to extend the narcissist’s influence and control, leveraging the children’s needs and emotions to manipulate their ex and maintain a connection, regardless of the negative impact it may have on the children involved.

Suggested Reading: 7 Ways Narcissists Turn Children Into Flying Monkeys

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.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you witnessed or experienced any of these behaviors from a narcissist toward their exes in your personal or professional life?

What strategies have you found effective in dealing with or supporting someone going through this kind of situation?

Or perhaps you have questions about how to protect yourself or a loved one from such narcissistic behaviors after a breakup.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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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. 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/ ↩︎
  2. Rachael Pace. (2024. January, 20). What Are Narcissist Breakup Games & How to Protect Yourself? Marriage.com. https://www.marriage.com/advice/mental-health/narcissist-break-up-games/ ↩︎
  3. Gwendolyn Seidman. (2021. October, 23). How Do Narcissists React to Breakups? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/close-encounters/202110/how-do-narcissists-react-breakups ↩︎
  4. Asa Don Brown, Glenn Carreau. (2023. November, 3). How Do Narcissists Treat Their Exes? (What They Do & How to Handle It). wikiHow. https://www.wikihow.com/How-Narcissists-Treat-Their-Exes ↩︎
  5. Alex Bachert. (2024. March, 11). Narcissistic Financial Abuse Signs You Should Know (and Ways to Cope). Charlie Health. https://www.charliehealth.com/post/narcissistic-financial-abuse ↩︎
  6. Jaime R. Herndon. (2024. January, 17). Identifying and Coping With a Passive-Aggressive Narcissist. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/passive-aggressive-narcissists-5443086 ↩︎
  7. Dianne Grande. (2023. June, 7). 15 Tips for Setting Boundaries With a Narcissist. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/setting-boundaries-with-a-narcissist/ ↩︎
  8. One Mom’s Battle. Parenting with a Narcissist After Divorce: Set Your Boundaries, Empower Your Children. One Mom’s Battle. https://www.onemomsbattle.com/blog/parenting-with-a-narcissist-after-divorce-set-your-boundaries-empower-your-children ↩︎

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