It can feel awful to be discarded by a narcissist. They will be sure to publicly degrade and humiliate you, they’ll try to make you feel inadequate, isolated, and alone, and to make matters even worse, they will feel entitled to remaining in power and control of your life even though they discard you. It is a very confusing period in a narcissistic relationship that leaves many victims wondering if the narcissist will return after the discard.

Narcissists will return after the discard because they still feel entitled to having power and control over you. They believe that your thoughts, feelings, and emotions should be reserved for them to use however they see fit at all times. To a narcissist, you are not a human being, you are a tool at their disposal.

This article is going to guide you through three of the most common reasons that a narcissist will return after discarding you and we’ve also created a short video that summarizes our article What Do Narcissists Feel After the Discard so that you can have a unique, yet helpful, perspective on the reason why a narcissist will return after the discard. 

A Short Video About The Feelings and Emotions That Narcissists Have After the Discard

Narcissists Will Return After the Discard If They See That You’re Moving On With Your Life

It is very common for a narcissist to return after the discard if they see that you are moving on with your life and there’s a very important reason for this. At a quick glance, narcissists’ tendency to return after the discard because the victim is moving on with their life appears to be a manifestation of their insecure need for power and control, but it is actually much more complex than that. 

One of the fundamental requirements of a narcissist’s emotional stability is being in control of their victim’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. We put together a ton of information about this in our article How Are Narcissists Made but the reason that this is so important for a narcissist is because it allows them to project all of their negative emotions onto their victim because they’re too emotionally inadequate to use healthy forms of emotional regulation. 

This is believed to be because they had an upbringing with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers who were unable or unwilling to mirror their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. Mirroring is really important because it gives the child the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self. This is a very common reason that narcissists return after the discard so make sure you read the following very carefully!

When a child doesn’t get the fundamental requirements for a realistic sense of self from the relationship that they have with their primary caregivers, they are forced to search their external environment for the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to construct a sense of self instead. 

A simple example of this would be a child of unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers constructing a sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get for being a social media influencer because of the neglect that they experienced at home and in their internal world. 

a social media influencer who is narcissistic

This is dangerous because over time the child will develop a belief that their true sense of self isn’t good enough to be acknowledged, accepted, or loved by others. This creates a lot of powerful negative emotions like self-hate and a sense of inadequacy within the child but because of their inadequate approach to developing a sense of self they don’t have the emotional skills to manage them.

To avoid having an emotional breakdown and imploding on themselves, narcissists are dependent on the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from their external environment to suppress all of their negative emotions within their psyche until they’re deep enough that they can pretend they aren’t there. 

The only problem is that their sense of self is so weak that it can’t manage the intensity of their negative emotions so they are constantly slipping out of the psychological box that the narcissist locked them in and compromising their emotional stability. 

It is for this reason that they use projection as an emotional safety net. Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when we take aspects of our identity that we find unacceptable and place them onto others. 

A simple example of this in a narcissistic relationship would be a narcissist who cheats on his wife and experiences a tremendous amount of shame and guilt because it contradicts his false sense of self. But instead of owning up to his unfaithfulness, he accuses his wife of cheating instead. 

The reason that this has something to do with a narcissist returning after the discard is because narcissists use their victims as repositories for their suppressed negative emotions. By projecting their emotional instability onto them by invalidating, devaluing, minimizing, and degrading the victim’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs on a daily basis, narcissists are able to further suppress their negative emotions by essentially pointing their finger at their victim and thinking, “They are the inadequate, weak, terrified, and lonely one, not me.”

So, when they see the person that they discarded moving on with their life and becoming the best version of themselves, they no longer have a scapegoat for all of their negative emotions. To avoid compromising their emotional stability, they will try to return after the discard to regain power and control of the victim’s perception of themselves.

Narcissists Will Return After Discard When They Don’t Have Enough Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists return to their victim that they discarded because they don’t have enough narcissistic supply all of the time. Just as a reminder, narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, and reassurance that narcissists get from others. One of the biggest and most fulfilling sources of supply that a narcissist can get is a new source of supply. 

Three Sources of Supply That Narcissists Get With a New Supply

  1. Having a new source of supply allows the narcissist to publicly invalidate and devalue their old supply. This soothes their insecure need for superiority and reassures their sense of specialness and uniqueness.
  2. When a narcissist gets a new supply they are able to show off their new supply to others. This allows them to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance of others. It makes them feel good about themselves, like they’ve won or leveled up in life.
  3. When a narcissist gets a new source of supply, they will put the supply through the love bombing phase. This allows them to chase their fantasy of the ideal love. The feeling that they get when they seduce/manipulate their new supply makes them feel complete. 
a group of narcissists talking about discarding their victim and finding new sources of supply

In our article Why Do Narcissists Show Off Their New Supply we walk you through the different sources of supply that a new supply offers but the point is that in the beginning stages of the relationship with a new supply, narcissists get a ton of validation, admiration, and reassurance. 

Unfortunately, this abundance of supply doesn’t last long. In fact, in our article How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last we conducted a survey among 220 survivors of narcissistic abuse and found that the average duration of the love bombing phase with narcissistic men is five-and-a-half months and with narcissistic women it is three-and-a-half months. 

Once this phase ends, so does all of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that comes with it. The narcissist will begin their abusive pursuit of power, control, validation, admiration, and reassurance which will slowly erode the emotional stability of their new supply until they’re emotionally and physically worn out and unable to give the narcissist a sufficient amount of supply. 

Once this happens, it is very common for the narcissist to try to return after the discard. They are out of narcissistic supply and if you were once a viable source of supply for them, they will feel entitled to having power and control over the validation, admiration, and reassurance that you can provide them.

A Narcissist Will Return After the Discard Because the Discard Was a Bluff

It is very common to see a narcissist return after the discard because the discard was a bluff. Where this is most commonly seen is when the victim sets and maintains a firm boundary, like the grey rock method or going no contact with the narcissist that limits the amount of narcissistic supply that they can get. 

In our article Why Do Narcissists Discard You we give a more throughout explanation of this but one of the reasons that narcissists will discard you is to punish you for setting a boundary because they need to reassure their fragile sense of self by proving that they’re still in power and control of the relationship. 

The reason for this is because narcissists need to remain in power and control of their environment and the people in it at all times because it allows them to create a narrative that supports their falsified identity. 

They need to convince themselves and others that they are as special, unique, celebrity-like, brilliant, intelligent, desirable, valuable, and wanted as their falsified identity portrays them as to keep all of their negative emotions suppressed. When someone contradicts their falsified identity, like setting a boundary with them, they panic because their inability to manage their own emotions is causing their emotional stability to rapidly deteriorate. 

an anxious narcissist

Once they regain control of their emotional stability, they will need narcissistic supply to support it so it is very common for them to return after the discard because the discard was a bluff. If you want to learn how to make a narcissist discard you by setting and maintaining firm boundaries, our article How to Use the Grey Rock Method on a Narcissist and our No Contact Content Hub will give you all of the information that you need! 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

A narcissist feels entitled to remaining in power and control over you, even if they’ve discarded you. You should always expect a narcissist to return after the discard because they believe that your thoughts, emotions, and feelings should be under their power and control at all times and align with their false sense of self.

It is for this reason that setting and maintaining firm boundaries is such an important skill to develop and our article What Are Some Boundaries That You Can Set With a Narcissist is a fantastic place to start.


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.

References:

Nelson, Cheryl. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Not Even a Diagnosis in 2013!.” The Journal of Psychohistory 40.4 (2013): 293.

 Dr. Sam Vaknin: Narcissists, Narcissistic Supply and Sources of Supply