When a victim of narcissistic abuse goes no contact with a narcissist they take away three essential elements that dictate a narcissist’s perceived well-being: power, control, and narcissistic supply. From a narcissistic perspective the no contact rule is the equivalent to withholding an inhaler from someone having an asthma attack, leaving many victims of narcissistic abuse wondering if going no contact is cruel. 

Going no contact with a narcissist is not cruel. It is a form of self-protection that protects a victim of narcissistic abuse from their abuser. The emotional and physical damage that narcissists subject others to is very dangerous, making the no contact rule a necessity for the victim’s well-being.

It takes a lot of courage to go no contact with a narcissist. The reason being that months, years or even decades of narcissistic abuse often plagues those who experience the abuse with a crippling level of self-doubt and self-blame. Without the guidance of a medical professional this self-doubt and self-blame would make just about anyone hesitant when going no contact with a narcissist. So, let’s grasp a comprehensive understanding of the concept of going no contact to understand why some wonder if it is cruel. 

A Deeper Look Into the Complexity of Going No Contact With a Narcissist

The realization that one needs to go no contact with the narcissist in their life is often acquired through one or more of the following points. First, the moment a victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is abuse. Second, the victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse having the boundaries they’ve set with the narcissist in their life repeatedly broken. Third, the victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse realizing that they’re actually rewarding the narcissist in their life by allowing the abuse to continue. 

Acknowledging the Abuse For What It Is

The complexity of narcissism is the downfall of many victims of narcissistic abuse. You see, narcissistic abuse is something you have to experience and begin to heal from to truly understand the danger of attempting to maintain a relationship with a narcissist. 

Why?

If we’re being honest, narcissistic abuse is unbelievable. The level of manipulation, exploitation and deceitfulness victims of narcissistic abuse experience is unfathomable to those who haven’t been able to grasp a comprehensive understanding of the hidden aspects of narcissistic abuse that one could only learn from experience. 

What does this mean? 

To heal from narcissistic abuse, you have to educate yourself about narcissistic abuse. So, the reason many victims of narcissistic abuse wonder whether or not going no contact with a narcissist is cruel is because they haven’t been able to acquire the knowledge required to acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is abuse. 

What ends up happening is that because the victim doesn’t truly understand what they’re experiencing but are able to acknowledge that on some level it is wrong, they question the morality of going no contact with a narcissist because they approach the situation as they would a healthy relationship. 

Why is this important to know? 

Well, healthy relationships are characterized by mutuality, respect, honesty, communication, and empathy. If one were to be pushed to their limits because of the narcissistic abuse they’re enduring but continued to approach the relationship as they would a healthy relationship, going no contact with their abuser could feel very cruel because they’d feel as if they’re violating the core characteristics of a healthy relationship.

Having Boundaries Repeatedly Broken

One’s unfamiliarity with the concept of setting healthy boundaries in the relationships they form is one of the most common enablers of trauma bonds but it is also a reason that one may question if going no contact with the narcissist in their life is cruel. 

Even though the no contact rule is so effective when it comes to protecting oneself from a narcissist, it is rarely achievable without months, if not years, of one practicing setting and maintaining boundaries with the narcissist in their life. 

In fact, we conducted a study among 100 survivors of narcissistic abuse who’ve successfully used the no contact rule to escape the narcissistic abuse cycle to magnify the challenges of going no contact with a narcissist and determine the average time it took from them learning that the person in their life was narcissistic to successfully going and maintaining the no contact rule and found 15.5 months to be the answer. 

What does this have to do with people being hesitant using the no contact rule? 

Going no contact with a narcissist for someone who is comfortable setting boundaries in their relationships is hard enough as it is. If someone were to be unaccustomed to setting small boundaries, going no contact with a narcissist would be incredibly difficult for them because it’s arguably the biggest boundary you can set with a narcissist.

When this internal conflict those who are unaccustomed to setting boundaries often have is combined with a narcissist’s ability to portray the victim in a negative light whenever they set a boundary, going no contact with a narcissist could feel very cruel from the victim’s perspective. 

Refusing to Reward Narcissistic Behavior

One reason that escaping the narcissistic abuse cycle is so difficult is because it isn’t blatantly abusive all of the time. There are many narcissistic behavior patterns that are designed to manipulate the victim’s desire for a healthy and happy relationship. 

Some of the most common behavior patterns designed to do this are love bombing, intermittent reinformcent and hoovering. 

Love bombing is used to describe the beginning stages of a relationship where a narcissist will use mirroring, a manipulative technique designed to emulate the victim’s identity, to essentially fill the void in the victim’s life. 

Depending on which type of narcissistic personality one is dealing with, it can manifest in a variety of different ways. You can learn more about that in our article How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last (Case Study) but the traditional concept of love bombing can be characterized by an overwhelming amount of communication, intimacy, spontaneous moments, grandiose outings and “too good to be true” moments. 

Unfortunately, the love bombing phase doesn’t last forever. Once the narcissist senses that they’ve been able to get the victim hooked on them, they’ll begin the devaluation phase. The devaluation phase is where a majority of the narcissistic behavior patterns like projection, scapegoating and more obvious forms of gaslighting and narcissistic rage exist.

It’s during this phase that intermittent reinforcement comes into play. You see, during the love bombing phase the narcissist is able to learn the ins and outs of the victims identity very well. Meaning that throughout the devaluation phase the narcissist knows exactly how to keep the victim hooked in the relationship despite the extreme levels of emotional and/or physical abuse. 

Intermittent reinforcement is the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals and because abusive relationships are so emotionally starved, narcissists are able to use the information they gathered about the victim while mirroring them to create small “rewards” to keep them hooked in the relationship. 

Then comes the discard phase, which is when either the narcissist or the victim will discard the other. Surprisingly, even if the narcissist were the one to discard the victim, they would still desire to have a significant amount of power and control over them. 

So, they use a manipulative tactic called hoovering to manipulate the victim’s desire for a healthy relationship. Hoovering is essentially like a second wave of love bombing, only this time the narcissist will know everything about the victim’s identity, making it much easier to manipulate them back into the narcissistic abuse cycle. 

How does love bombing, intermittent reinforcment and hoovering relate to victims of narcissistic abuse wondering if the no contact rule is cruel? 

Well, at one point or another the victim of narcissistic abuse truly wants the narcissist in their life to be the loving partner, best friend, friendly co-worker or beloved family member that the narcissist’s manipulative behavior caused the victim to envision. 

So, if they were to learn about how destabilizing the no contact rule is, they could very well feel concerned about whether or not the no contact rule is justified. If you want a comprehensive grasp as to why this is true, check out our article Does Going No Contact With a Narcissist Work? where we break down how the no contact rule dismantles the narcissist’s identity.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

The emotional and/or physical abuse that narcissists subject their victims to is so dangerous. If the trauma of a narcissistic relationship were to be left neglected, the victim could find themselves either trapped in the same abusive relationship for the foreseeable future or jumping from one abusive relationship to another simply because they’ve developed a corrupt perception of the dynamics of a healthy relationship. 

It is impossible to break the narcissistic abuse cycle by suffering/maintaining these toxic relationships. The no contact rule is not cruel, it is a form of self-protection that protects a victim of narcissistic abuse from their abuser.


All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.