October 21, 2018

6 Tricks Narcissists Use To Lure You Back | Sticking to No Contact

Tricks Narcissists Use To Get You Back

How To Maintain NO CONTACT

If you've dated a narcissist, you know these two things about them. First, they will do just about anything to get what they want. Second, what they want is to be in control of all things and situations, all the time. That's why it's so difficult to break away from a narcissist. What many people don't realize immediately is that the toxic cycle of abuse with a narcissist doesn't end when you break up. Not even if the narcissist is the one to break up with you. Narcissists still want your time and attention, even when a relationship is over, and will use various tactics to lure you back in. This doesn't necessarily mean luring you back into the relationship. When I say lure you back in, I mean back into contact with them. Back to engaging them. Back to giving them attention and validation. Back to participating in the abuse cycle.

No Contact is a great way to cut ties with a toxic relationship partner, by essentially enforcing a stringent time period in which no forms of communication will be allowed with that person. This is especially effective in relationships where there has been any form of abuse and/or intermittent reinforcement, as this 30-90 day time period allows your brain the biochemical detox it needs from the dangerous oxytocin, dopamine and cortisol combinations that keep you hooked on your abuser (or narcissistic ex, or emotionally unavailable asshole).

Narcissists have a very specific relationship cycle that plays out in the close relationships in their lives, be it with close friends, family, and often in the most extreme cases, their romantic relationships. This cycle is typically labeled by it's three distinct stages, idolization, devaluation, discard, and is actually more accurately described as a cycle of abuse. A similar cycle can also occur with people who are not necessarily full blown, DSM 5 narcissists, but who share abusive traits and tendencies.

For people who have been in relationships with narcissists or abusive partners, No Contact is the prescribed technique for recovery. It involves going at least 30 days with absolutely no communication with that individual. 30 days is the bare minimum. Ideally your No Contact Detox will last 90 days, the goal being to break your attachment to the narcissist and eventually go No Contact forever. If they are someone you cannot avoid interaction with, like a family member or co-worker, you can opt to go Low Contact instead. Low Contact is basically the same as No Contact with the exception of obligatory interaction. Those interactions are to remain as short, sweet and impersonal as humanly possible.

The first 30 days are the hardest part of the No Contact Detox. People who are subjected to intermittent reinforcement (which is what is happening when someone you're dating is being "hot and cold") end up forming powerful chemical associations with the hot and cold partner that are akin to addiction. But if detoxing weren't hard enough, there's another factor that makes the first 30 days of the No Contact Detox the hardest.

Narcissists don't want you to move on. Narcissists and people that operate in a similar style tend to gain amusement and a sense of importance from the final phase of the relationship cycle - the discard phase. However, this only works for the narcissist's ego if they are in control on this phase, and narcissists will only feel in control if it is clear that you are being actively affected by having been discarded by them. Sad break-up posts on Facebook? Good. Telling all your friends how hard it is to date again? Great. Feeling so lost after the end of the relationship that you're having trouble getting back into a healthy day-to-day routine? Oh, perfect. All of these things validate the narcissist.

When you practice No Contact, the narcissist no longer has a clear way of getting validation through you. You have cut off the tap that feeds them Narcissistic Supply in the form of your time, attention, care, etc. It is at this point that the narcissist will typically start flailing, trying any and everything to re-engage with you.

This has nothing to do with loving you or missing you. The narcissist will tell you that they love you and miss you, but these are lies. The narcissist is devoid of true depth and human emotions and cannot love you any more than a stapler can love a food processor. Similarly, emotionally unavailable people who aren't narcissists may in fact feel something when you initiate No Contact after a breakup, and may confuse those feelings with loving you or missing you. In fact, what they are experiencing is panic. People who use Hot and Cold techniques to keep you on the hook are emotional vampires who slowly drain your energy. They dine on your attention, affection, and yes, even your misery when you are strung out on heartbreak. When they sense that you might be moving on, they may pretend to be trying to secure their relationship with you, but really all they're interested in is securing their next meal. For narcissists in particular, the discard phase of the relationship is not really about you, but about the false-narrative they tell themselves about who they are and the role that being "better" than you plays in that narrative. If after separating from the narcissist your circumstances actually improve, this conflicts with that narrative and threatens to reveal all the hidden cracks and flaws in the narcissist's fa├žade. Narcissists have a vested interested, therefore, in interfering with your ability to move on.

I've mentioned before that if you don't walk away from a narcissist after the devalue/discard phase, the cycle of abuse will restart, the first step being the honeymoon phase where idolization and love bombing occur. However, after a relationship has officially ended the narcissist's efforts will look different. Remember, they don't actually want a mutually fulfilling, happy relationship. They aren't capable of that. What they're looking for are signs that you still care, and if they suspect you don't, they use the following techniques to try and make you care. To them, attention is attention, good or bad. 

6 Tricks the Narcissist Uses to Lure You Back


Hovering

Normal people respect that you might need time when a relationship ends before attempting to be friends, etc. Narcissists have no such respect. As such, they will typically do what I like to call hovering, to try and make sure that they are still on your mind.

Spot the Signs

If you go to school together, or work together, this might look like the narcissist suddenly sitting closer to you if they have the opportunity, probably in your eye line. You might observe the narcissist being particularly loud in their interactions with others (when you are nearby, of course). Finally, they may make surprise appearances at events that they usually steer clear of. If they've skipped the office holiday party three years in a row, they'll just have to attend this one despite the potential for awkward post-breakup energy. That energy - the kind that fills you with dread and anxiety - is exactly what the narcissist feeds off of. To the narcissist, all the world's a stage, and they'll be damned if you aren't paying attention to their elaborate one man show.

If you have mutual friends, they may start dropping your name casually around them. After a breakup, your mutual friends will typically understand that you need some time before hearing about your ex every five minutes, especially if the breakup was upsetting for you. But by mentioning you in a very casual way and giving the impression that things between you are good or have healed (not to mention putting your relationship on the mutual friend's mind) the narcissist sets themselves up to be mentioned to you by the mutual friend. They may even deliberately start spending more time with the people they know you're likely to interact with, just to increase the likelihood of being mentioned to you in conversation. (e.g.: Oh, I was just with so-and-so the other day...)

If you are on social media, the narcissist may start flooding their own page with more activity than usual. It is unlikely that they will actually post anything to your timeline directly or tag/mention you in anything. They aren't trying to validate you, after all, they're simply trying to get your attention. However, if over time the narcissist suspects you aren't looking at their activity, get ready for the narcissist to start arbitrarily liking and "loving" your posts. It is very unlikely that they will actually leave a comment or interact with you on social media in any substantial way, but by "liking" things, they keep their name popping up on your alerts or in your timeline, both which will trigger an emotional response if you haven't gotten over them yet. Especially if they decide to "love" something.

If the above methods fail, the narcissist's hovering tactics will become more obvious.

They may try to force you to engage with them for any of the following reasons:

- Pick up items they left at your home / Return items you left at their home
- Ask for your Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime password / Inform you they are removing you from their accounts
- Ask for money you owe them or (extremely unlikely) to repay money they owe you
- Discuss the handling of plans made pre-breakup (a booked vacation, concert/event tickets)
- STI or pregnancy scare*

* Not to say that people don't actually contract STIs or become pregnant. These are valid reasons to reach out to an ex partner. However, if an ex is telling you they "worry" they "might" have an STI, or they "think" they "might" be pregnant without any concrete evidence, it is most likely an attempt to establish and drag out continued communication.

If all else fails, the narcissist may just show up somewhere they know you are going to be. They might join your gym, join the trivia team at your favorite bar. If you work in a public place, like a retail store or a bar/restaurant, don't be surprised if the narcissist shows up there to shop, eat or drink.

Re-Idolization/Devaluation

The narcissist used idolization and devaluation as a way to facilitate your insecurity and dependence on them during your relationship. By covertly (or even overtly) criticizing your abilities, dreams, goals, accomplishments, etc. they made you question your worth, all the while peppering in random moments of idolization so that they became your only source of validation.

Post-relationship, the narcissist will use a similar technique. If they hear you are looking for a new job in a new field, they may criticize that ambition by suggesting that the job you're thinking about isn't really that great, that the field isn't very prestigious or that there isn't much money to be made there. If they hear you're thinking about moving to a new city, they may subtly suggest that the new place doesn't have any number of random "great" things like the city you live in now.

This is a mind game. The narcissist isn't truly concerned with your choices and they definitely don't have your best interests at heart. They are concerned that you might make a choice for yourself that will distance you from their influence. By devaluing all of your choices - even as they pretend to idolize you in the process by rejecting these choices on the basis that they aren't good enough for you - what the narcissist is trying to do is maintain the illusion that the life you had with them is as good as it gets; that there aren't better options for you. They are trying to prevent you from moving on to the bigger and better things that are out there, so that you'll continue to romanticize the honeymoon phase you experienced when they were love bombing you - the lie they used to hook you.

Triangulation

Narcissists use triangulation during relationships to create insecurity in their victims by evoking a sense of competition. Constantly mentioning ex-lovers, the boss that's always hitting on them, or the hot person on the line for the bathroom that made a pass at them while you were sitting at the bar - this is all textbook triangulation.

After the relationship ends the narcissist will inevitably seek to triangulate you with their new victim. And yes, there is always a new victim. The narcissist may simply flaunt the new relationship, posting photos, bragging to friends, doing whatever they can to make the relationship seem amazing. Simultaneously, if you start dating someone new, the narcissist will find all sorts of things wrong with the person you are dating and the relationship you are in.

This is meant to feed the self-doubt they created during your relationship. To support the illusion that they are a wonderful person who just couldn't love you because you aren't lovable, but now that they've found someone who is, they're in a happy relationship devoid of any of the problems your supposed unlovable-ness caused. The truth is that the narcissist is still the same shitty person you dated. They haven't magically transformed into a better person, and if they are in fact treating the person they are dating now better than they treated you, it is only temporary. What you are seeing is them playing out the idolization phase with a new victim. Eventually the narcissist will get bored and turn on them too, if they haven't already, and begin to slowly devalue them the same way they did you.

At this point, the narcissist may begin to devalue their new victim in your presence, alluding to being unhappy or dissatisfied in the relationship in some way. This is how many people who have dated narcissists end up going from the girlfriend/boyfriend to the other woman or other man. The narcissist may indeed be with someone else, but by subtly belittling that relationship they maintain the illusion that yours is the real love connection. They may even use terms like soul mates and behave as though some elaborate circumstance is keeping you apart, when really it's their own behavior.

This is all one big game of triangulation. The narcissist wants you to focus on competing with any number of people in their life so that you remain distracted from who they really are and stuck on them at the same time.

Dropping Breadcrumbs

If you dated a narcissist, you know what crumbs are. In fact, you were living on a diet of crumbs while you were dating them. Crumbs are the little bits of positive attention that the narcissist feeds you once the relationship has shifted to keep you invested even though you aren't happy anymore. This is intermittent reinforcement. The crumbs they feed you provide glimpses of the beginning of the relationship, offering the illusion that there is still a chance of things returning to the original fairytale it once was.

Post-relationship the narcissist will start dropping these breadcrumbs again in an attempt to lead you back to them. It might look like a random "I miss you" text. It may be occasionally telling you how beautiful you look. It may be "accidentally" calling you a pet name that you used when you were together, or talking about and romanticizing the past (the idolization phase of your relationship).

Again, this is not an indication of the narcissist's feelings for you. The narcissist does not have real, healthy feelings for you. Often, the narcissist will drop a breadcrumb like, "I just want you to know that I still love you," followed by radio silence! Even though this kind of attention may seem positive and validating - especially after a narcissist has discarded you! - it isn't positive or validating at all. These things are only meant to affirm and maintain your continued interest in them, so don't follow the breadcrumbs, and whatever you do, do not walk back into that gingerbread house!

Reset Button

Narcissists love to press the reset button. They love starting over. The narcissist, after a time, may claim that something major has changed. They found Jesus, or Buddha, or yoga. Whatever. And now they're a different person who is capable of giving you the relationship that you want.

Do not be fooled, no matter how self-aware the narcissist may appear to be. The same goes for exes who are not necessarily narcissists, but who have narcissistic tendencies that make them equally interpersonally exploitative and emotionally unavailable.

People like this are aware of their behavior and the impact it has on others. You aren't the first person they've built up only to be abruptly cut down, and you won't be the last. You weren't the first to complain about their backhanded compliments, their covert put-downs, or any other number of insensitive and disrespectful behaviors they may have subjected you to. It isn't a question of whether they know about these things, so much as a question of whether or not they care. Further, no difficult circumstance or life event excuses disrespect or abuse, so it doesn't really matter what factors may have supposedly changed in the narcissist's life. It wasn't the external circumstances in the narcissist's life that hurt you. It was the narcissist that hurt you. And if they're trying to get you to take them back after having treated you badly, that alone is a sign of disrespect and evidence that despite their claims, they haven't changed a bit.

Do not allow an ex to come back into your life and try to start over with you if there was disrespect of any kind in the past. Disrespect cannot just be cancelled, wiped clean and forgotten about. Also, while you may ultimately choose to forgive an abuser for your own closure and peace of mind, forgiveness does not equal accepting that person back into your life in any way, shape or form. Forgiveness is about moving on. Not going back.

Smear Campaign

This is a narcissist's last resort in trying to get you to give them the attention and supply that they need to survive. When all else has failed, when it has become abundantly clear that you do not care about them and will not be manipulated into caring, they will seek to attack your reputation, the one thing they are absolutely sure that you will care about.

To understand this technique, you have to understand what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. People who suffer from NPD have no real sense of self. They are an amalgam of the opinions of others, which is why they surround themselves with an affirming harem and need a constant stream of attention and affection coming from as many people as possible. It is why they lash out so violently at anything they even perceive to be a criticism. Their inflated self-image is false, thus making it fragile, which is why they obsessively and tirelessly seek to protect it by any means.

While narcissists learn to imitate other people, they can never really understand them. The only perspective they truly understand is their own. That is why the narcissist attacks the victim's reputation as a last resort. The narcissist's reputation is the most important thing they have, because quite frankly, it's the only thing they have. It is integral to the survival of that false self-image. Losing an esteemed reputation, the good opinion of others; having the word see their true face behind the beautiful mask is literally a narcissist's worse nightmare. If that were to happen, they would be destroyed. Therefore, when seeking to destroy you, they set out to destroy your reputation. They assume that, like them, it is the thing you value most.

Unlike the narcissist, however, your reputation is not the only thing you have. More importantly, your reputation is not made up of shallow social interactions and artificial charm. It is vital that you keep this in mind when your narcissist launches his or her smear campaign.

When the narcissist can no longer feed on your love and affection, they will try to feed on your pain and shame. This is the purpose of a smear campaign. Ironically, there probably are painful things that the narcissist knows about you. Maybe even things you are ashamed of. But those things are likely related to the narcissist themselves. It may be painful, for example, to think about the time that the narcissist cheated on you with someone you work with. You may feel ashamed, for example, to have stayed in the relationship with them after you found out. The reason I say this is ironic is that these details are likely not to be a part of the narcissist's smear campaign. The narcissist cannot effectively shame you in public with these details, because the narcissist's own ugly behavior would be revealed through that disclosure. Instead, what you'll find is that the narcissist's smear campaign is more often made up of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies.

Part of this is the result of the narcissist trying to maintain their own image, but another part of it is the hope that you will rush to defend your honor and tell the truth. Maybe you confront your narcissist and ask them why they're spreading lies about you. Maybe you seek out everyone your narcissist has contacted to tell your side of the story. Maybe you post on your Facebook page, telling all seven hundred of your closest friends, family, and professional network that he or she is a crazy ole liar. But stop. Think about it. If you do any of these things, you're giving the narcissist exactly what they want. They are still feeding off of you. More importantly, you are losing things. Your time. Your energy. Your passion. Your livelihood. You are losing all of those things by wasting them on the drama the narcissist has manufactured.

So I'll say it again. Keep this in the very front of your mind. Write it down on a fucking post-it note and repeat it as a mantra when you light your meditation candle if you have to.

Your reputation is not made up of shallow social interactions and artificial charm.

Unlike the narcissist, you do have a sense of self. You are someone independent of your current circumstances, including where you live, where you work, your current job title, or who you are dating. Take all those things away and you still are someone. Change all those things and you're still you.

Your reputation is not as fragile as the narcissist thinks, because unlike a narcissist's reputation, your reputation has been built over time by the deep experiences and relationships you have had as you have moved through your life. Unlike the narcissist, you don't exhaust work place relationships and friendships every six months to two years, so the people in your life who are close to you have a true understanding of who you are. Don't worry. Your reputation can withstand even a narcissist's elaborate lies. It is less important that you rush to tell anyone who will listen that the narcissist is a liar, and more important that you just continue living your best life as though you don't hear them yammering in the first place. Granted, if it comes up, it comes up. If you have no choice because you've been approached by a boss, a close friend, etc. then sure, set the record straight on a personal level. But there is simply no need to launch an Integrity Campaign to combat the narcissist's Smear Campaign. Just continue being and living as a person with integrity. Your very existence is your campaign.

That being said, I understand that when you have been involved with a narcissist, especially long-term, your self-esteem is probably shaky at best. That's the whole point of going No Contact in the first place. To take the time you need to heal and rebuild. So if you're having trouble believing that the narcissist's Smear Campaign won't work because you're just too awesome (and you are), I get it.

In that case, here is something to consider:

The narcissist is not as powerful as you believe they are. It goes without saying that they're not as powerful as they believe they are - that's why they're a narcissist! But as powerful as you think the narcissist is, as much of an impact you believe they can have on your life, your future, the truth is only a minuscule fraction of that.

Consider that you have been conditioned for weeks, months, maybe even years, to overvalue the importance and opinion of this person. Consider that during every instance of verbal, emotional or physical abuse, your brain was forming biochemical trauma bonds with this person.

Right now, if you even think about this person, you will feel your heart race, your palms sweat. You may even get very still or notice that your vision almost tunnels. That isn't love. That's fight or flight! Consistent abuse has made it such that just the thought of this person makes your brain go into survival mode. That's why everything surrounding them feels like life or death to you. That's the feeling of your traumatic memories being triggered. But even though the narcissist might feel like they are at the center of your life, the reality is that they are not. The power that the narcissist seems to have over you right now is not a fact. It is a perception. One your addiction to them over the course of the abusive relationship facilitated (and even if it isn't physical or romantic, every relationship with any narcissist is abusive) .

If you feel absolutely compelled to respond to a smear campaign, or are just feeling incredibly anxious about one, my best advice is to wait until after the detox to address it. Wait the 90 days and then see how you feel. If nothing else, you will be operating with a clear head, not from a reactive place of anxiety or fear.

What you'll find, though, is that once you stop perceiving the narcissist as they would have you see them, with an inflated sense of importance, you'll be able to see them and the threat of their lies more clearly. They are not an all powerful master of fate, able to destroy your precious reputation with a single text. They're just a bored, miserable person talking shit.

How To Maintain No Contact (or Low Contact)


- Do your best to ignore the narcissist at school or at work, even as they try their best to put themselves in your way. Stay focused on your work and limit your social interactions in those spaces to limit their opportunities to put on their show. Alternatively, employ a buddy system. Stick close to friends that know you don't wish to interact with the narcissist and enlist their help to create a buffer between you if necessary. Narcissists thrive on isolating their victims. You are much less vulnerable to their various tactics when you are not alone.

- Ask your mutual friends not to mention the narcissist to you, and vise versa. You don't have to come out and say that you suspect your ex is a narcissist, nor do you need to disclose the abuse or any other dirty details of the relationship. You can disclose these things if you want to, but that should happen when you decide you're ready to talk about it - not as a reaction to a narcissist who is hovering in your  life. Simply say that you don't want to hear about your ex and your friends (if they truly are friends) will understand.

* Be weary of people who are not respectful of this. It is common for narcissists to have harems, people they surround themselves with who validate their false self image. These people may be, at best, ex-lovers, people the narcissist is grooming for future use (someone they're currently flirting with to prime them), or at worst, other narcissists. If a so-called friend repeatedly mentions the narcissist to you, or you to the narcissist, after you have asked them not to, it may be a good idea to cut contact with them as well for the duration of your detox.

- Go on a social media diet for the duration of your No Contact Detox. Yes - the entire 30-90 days. If you're on a social media diet, you won't see any of the various cries for attention the narcissist may employ on various networks. Additionally, since you won't be posting anything new, it will be harder for the narcissist to know what you are up to, and thus more difficult for them to use other hovering techniques to lurk around in your life

- Cut any financial ties you have to the narcissist ASAP and get it in writing. If you shared a home, bills, a business, etc. - separate your finances as soon as you can. If you have a lawyer, allow the lawyer to handle these communications so that you aren't personally interacting with the narcissist. Anything they left at your home can be mailed - there is no need to meet in person. Anything you left at their home can be mailed to you. If they refuse to mail your things, have a proxy pick them up. If they try to withhold your things unless you agree to meet them, assess whether these are things you really need. Toiletries can be replaced. Ask yourself whether your favorite college sweatshirt is worth the trouble of continuing to engage with the narcissist. Usually it is better to just let these things go and start anew. The same is true for any big plans like vacations or concert tickets. If you paid for it, take someone else. If they paid, forget about it - they can figure out how they want to proceed without involving you. If you split the costs, refund the narcissist ASAP and move on. Change all passwords they may have had access to. If you shared a Netflix, Hulu or a similar account that they are in charge of, there is no discussion required here. Just stop using it and get your own - it is up to them to change their passwords or not. Take charge of your sexual health. Get tested on your own. It is recommended to get tested every 3-6 months depending on how active you are anyway. If you know your status there is nothing the narcissist can pop up and surprise you with later. Lastly, make sure any claims of pregnancy are substantiated, as well as your paternity, before you engage. Do not get sucked into weeks of "what if" scenarios, getting into long conversations about abortions or co-parenting before you're sure there is an actual pregnancy. There are 24 hr pharmacies that sell pregnancy tests that deliver results within minutes. There is no excuse for a scare that lasts more than a day.

- Change your routine if you notice that the narcissist has started to frequent your typical haunts. If they make excuses to shop where you work, or dine at your restaurant, consider transferring to another location and do not disclose your new place of work. It may be tempting to take legal action and get a restraining order, but remember that this kind of attention and drama is what the narcissist feeds on and it may only cause them to escalate, so only resort to this if you have no other options or if the situation has become dangerous.

- Ignore the narcissist's attempts to malign your reputation. Do not respond with a public attack of the narcissist's smear campaign. This is just another ploy to get you to engage. Attention is attention, good or bad.

- Block the narcissist's phone number so that they literally cannot contact you. Once you return to social media, block them there too. There is no shame in doing this. It doesn't make you weak, petty, immature or any of the other devaluing words the narcissist may assign to your attempts to keep them out of your life. Most of the tactics the narcissist will use to try to lure you back in can be avoided altogether by blocking them on all forms of communication.

Often people are reluctant to do these things because they think they will appear weak, or they are afraid of letting the narcissist win. Stubbornly clinging to an arbitrary routine of places and people is not worth it if the price is your peace of mind.

Remember these tactics narcissists use to lure you back in, as well as these preventative tips.

Lastly, for your own happiness and sanity, I would advise that you resist the urge to keep tabs on the narcissist in any way. Most people will find that this isn't even an impulse after the No Contact Detox. For some, however, this isn't the case. Some people have suffered very serious offenses and violations at the hands of their narcissists, which can make it particularly difficult to achieve a sense of closure. It is tempting to keep one eye in the rear view mirror to see whether the universe has righted itself yet and what went around has finally come back around. But the truth is (and this is about to sound corny AF), if you have one eye on your past you aren't fully focused on your future. And you deserve to move on.

Prioritize yourself and move on with your life. Don't get preoccupied with self-defeating ruminations. Don't get sucked into revenge plots. Don't worry about letting the narcissist win.

Forget all about the narcissist. That is how you win.

Also? Nothing pisses them off more. ;)

Helpful Sources for Self Care and Recovery After Being Involved With a Narcissist

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