This is going to be a complete discussion on if a narcissistic ex will think about you after a breakup.
In short, the answer is yes, though the reasons might not be what you’d anticipate. Narcissists have a preference for relationships they can control. Of course, once you’ve broken up, their control over you typically diminishes.
But the truth is that this is a hugely complicated topic that can’t be summed up in a quick snippet.
So, as always, I figured I’d take it to the extreme and explore a lot of different areas related to narcissism. In this article we’re going to going to talk about the following:
- Defining What A Narcissist Is
- How Your Ex Likely Became Narcissistic
- Narcissism And Conditional Love
- The Five Different Circumstances In Which Are Narcissist Ex Is Likely To Think About You
- Answering If You Should Take Them Back
Alright, let’s go through this step by step.
Defining Exactly What A Narcissist Is
Before we begin let’s talk about what a narcissist is. If you haven’t already read the really great article we wrote back in 2021 I highly recommend you check it out.
But in it we argue that people with diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder are evaluated using the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,) from a qualified professional, usually a psychologist.
In general there are nine narcissistic traits.
- Grandiose sense of self-importance: A person with NPD typically exaggerates their achievements and talents, and they believe they are superior to others.
- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, or beauty: They have an excessive focus on their own success, attractiveness, and brilliance, often daydreaming about achieving great things.
- Need for excessive admiration: Individuals with NPD crave constant attention, praise, and admiration from others to support their fragile self-esteem.
- Sense of entitlement: They have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment and believe they deserve special privileges or recognition without commensurate achievements.
- Interpersonal exploitative behavior: Narcissists often exploit others to achieve their own goals and may lack empathy or concern for the feelings and needs of others.
- Lack of empathy: They struggle to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others, often being dismissive or indifferent towards them.
- Envious of others or believes others are envious of them: Narcissists may become envious of others’ successes or believe that others are envious of their accomplishments.
- Arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes: They display a pervasive pattern of condescending, disdainful, or arrogant behavior towards others.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by or should associate with, other special or high-status people.
What you are looking for is someone who exhibits 5 (or more) of those traits.
And that’s the thing that people typically get wrong. They think that if their ex just exhibits one of these traits that they are automatically narcissistic. That’s simply not true.
Don’t believe me?
Then you’ll have to take it up with the world renowned narcissistic expert, Dr. Ramini,
Narcissism can be a personality style so people can display these characteristics without being diagnosed with the disorder. (Dr. Ramini)
So, 5 out of 9, you got that?
Let’s move on and talk about the far more interesting thing, how narcissists are formed.
This Is How Your Narcissist Ex Became Narcissistic
Very much like attachment styles, we start with your exes childhood.
Specifically through three forms of abuse:
There’s this really great lecture making the rounds on YouTube by Sam Vaknin,
The reason I’m highlighting him is that not only is he a professor but he’s actually a diagnosed narcissist which makes for this fascinating dynamic where you have a narcissist, aware he’s a narcissist, talking about the experience of a narcissist.
Very inception like…
Dream within a dream within a dream but I digress.
Vaknin basically argues that the child creates a “False Self” to cope with the abuse.
“The child creates the false self, so if the child is feeling small the false self is big, if the child is helpless the false self is all powerful.”
The first thing that came to mind when I heard about this was this idea brought forth by Carl Jung of the shadow and the facade.
There’s this really great lecture on that here if you’re interested,
But in a nutshell Jung believed there are two important components that everyone has,
- The Shadow: According to Jung, the Shadow is the unconscious aspect of the personality, which the conscious ego does not identify with. In other words, it’s the part of ourselves that we deny or ignore, containing traits, feelings, and impulses that we might find socially unacceptable or choose to repress because they make us uncomfortable. These could be negative aspects, such as anger and selfishness, but also positive aspects that, for one reason or another, we have come to perceive as unwanted or inappropriate.
- The Persona (Façade): The Persona, on the other hand, is the outward face we present to the world. It’s a kind of mask designed to make a particular impression on others while simultaneously hiding our true self. This mask is not necessarily false; it can simply be a selective presentation of ourselves. We often use our Persona to meet societal expectations and norms.
So, this “persona” is similar to this idea of a narcissist child creating a false self.
And it brings up another interesting thing we learned in our research.
The Childs Experience With Conditional Love
Since we’ve kind of gone all in on this idea of understanding how narcissism forms you can’t discount the idea that as a child it’s highly likely that a narcissist received a lot of conditional love.
For example, If a child gets chosen as the first string football player the parents praise him and put up pictures on Facebook, and tell everyone about it.
However, if they don’t make it the parents might ignore or even punish the child.
This creates the internal dialogue that:
“Mom and Dad don’t love me if I can’t live up to their expectations.”
Competition especially among siblings can also create this feeling.
Children may internalize the message that love and acceptance are dependent on their success or superiority over others.
This conditional love, planned ignoring, and neglect contribute to the child’s creation of a false self.
The child’s internal thoughts become,
‘I am unlovable and bad,’ so they create a god-like persona.
This persona is perfect.
Anything that challenges the false self must be eliminated by the narcissist, and that’s when the breakup occurs.
But digging deeper I also stumbled across some really intriguing research relating to separation from mothers that impact narcissism.
Never Being Able To Separate From Their Mother
One other contributing factor to your exes narcissism might be the simple fact that they weren’t able to separate from their mother.
At around 18 months old toddlers realize they are separate beings from their mothers but if the mother doesn’t let them separate, the toddlers believe there must be something wrong with them.
As they become adults they subconsciously want to find a new mother (typically their romantic partner) and separate from them.
That’s where the discard stage comes from in the graphic below.
This is when a breakup happens.
This separation individuation happens all throughout adolescence. A really great example of this is the new autobiography by Jenette McCurdy “I’m Glad My Mom Died”
The mother wanted to become an actress but failed so she ended up pushing the child into becoming an actress.
Which… well, resulted in the book you see above.
But we have gotten WAAAYYY off topic here.
Let’s go back to the basics.
The Five Circumstances Where A Narcissist Ex Is Likely To Think About You
In our opinion there are five circumstances in which a narcissist ex is likely to think about you.
- They think about you when they need “supply”
- When their current supply isn’t measuring up
- They want sex
- When they feel they’ve lost you
- They paint you as the phantom ex
And like I said during the introduction of this article. I told you they wouldn’t be reasons you would like.
Circumstance #1: When They Need “Supply”
What the heck is this supply?
Well, narcissistic supply essentially refers to the attention, admiration, and validation that individuals with narcissistic personality disorder constantly crave from others.
It’s akin to their lifeblood.
It’s needed to maintain their inflated self-image and bolster their fragile self-esteem.
If you examine the narcissistic abuse cycle,
The hoovering stage is particularly important in terms of supply.
After they discard someone, narcissists usually feel satisfied — why else would they discard the person?
However, over time, their supply may dwindle and they recognize the need to replenish it.
That’s when the hoovering stage kicks in.
They begin to act in ways that draw you back in, leading you to believe things can return to how they were at the start. They’ll do whatever it takes to gain that attention and admiration, even if it involves manipulation or exploitation.
It’s as if they’re addicted to this external validation because they lack an inherent sense of self-worth.
Remember, they’ve essentially fabricated a false identity to cope with potential childhood trauma. So that’s the first circumstance.
Circumstance #2: Their Current Supply Isn’t Measuring Up
I’ll be referencing the narcissistic abuse cycle frequently:
- the idealization stage
- the devaluation stage
- the discard stage
- the hoovering stage.
This cycle repeats over and over again.
They apply this not only to on-again, off-again relationships, but also to new relationships and partners.
Usually, after they’ve moved into a new relationship with someone else, they’ll go through the idealization stage with that person, the devaluation stage, and then they’ll discard that person.
They discard them because the current supply they’re receiving from that individual isn’t meeting their needs.
Perhaps they’re not being adored enough, especially compared to the adoration they received from you.
This can often lead them right back to you.
It’s basically the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome, but in reverse.
Circumstance #3: When They Want Sex
Their needs take precedence over everything else, and they seek easy access to sex, with you often being their first choice.
We’ve observed this in our coaching practice with individuals caught in on-again, off-again relationships, and those still living with their ex.
It’s not necessarily about convenience, but more about the fact that you’re present, a constant reminder.
Especially if their current supply isn’t fulfilling their needs or when they need ‘supply,’ they come to you.
They realize that they need to exert minimal effort to manipulate you because they’ve already done all the groundwork.
It’s much simpler than starting anew with someone else, potentially.
Circumstance #4: When They Feel They’ve Lost You
I’ve been researching how attachment styles are connected to narcissism.
I was curious to see if, based on everything I’ve read and learned about narcissism, a narcissist would predominantly have an avoidant attachment style.
It’s actually quite challenging to disentangle narcissism and attachment style theory when examining them.
The most reliable information I’ve found, which I feel confident enough to recommend, is from the Attachment Project.
They basically argued that a narcissist is likely to exhibit one of the insecure attachment styles.
I personally suspect they tend towards avoidant, but of course, a licensed professional should assist you in identifying these nuances.
Nevertheless, this is particularly relevant because when narcissists feel they’ve lost you, it mirrors a trait we’ve noticed about avoidants.
Avoidant individuals often don’t start missing their exes until they become unavailable, either because they’re;
- In a new relationship
- Have moved on
- Have done something to indicate that reconciliation is off the table.
That’s when avoidants often allow themselves to miss their ex.
Narcissists behave similarly.
When they feel they’ve lost you, it strikes a blow to their ego, and their ego can’t tolerate that.
They might think, ‘I was the best relationship he or she has ever had. No one else can compare.’
However, when you start moving on, it unsettles them, and they begin to re-enter your life.
Once again, this is where the narcissistic abuse cycle comes into play. Your reaction to being discarded prompts them to initiate the hoovering stage, attempting to draw you back in like a vacuum.
Circumstance #5: The Phantom Ex
Now that we know it’s highly probable that a narcissist will have an insecure attachment style.
Frequently, one aspect associated with the avoidant insecure attachment style is the concept of a ‘phantom ex.’
Much of our discussion today ties into this idea.
Essentially, the ‘phantom ex’ is an idealized person an individual creates in their mind, a standard against which every other person they date is compared. This standard is so impossibly high that no new partner can measure up.
This concept closely mirrors a narcissist’s creation of a false self as a coping mechanism for abuse, an invulnerable facade.
I see the ‘phantom ex’ as a similar strategy employed by a narcissist with their relationships — a means to ensure they never get too close or risk personal hurt.
They construct this ‘phantom ex,’ and if you’re unfortunate enough, you might be the person they depict as their ‘phantom ex.’ They selectively remember the good times from their perspective, not yours.
It’s crucial to remember that narcissists are not incapable of empathy. To assert otherwise is incorrect. They are capable of empathy, but they’re unlikely to express empathy for anyone beyond themselves. Their self-centeredness is absolute.
Should You Take A Narcissist Back?
Here at Ex Boyfriend Recovery we do not encourage getting back with anyone that is emotionally, physically or sexually abusive.
This would fall under the category of narcissistic abuse (a term coined by Professor Sam Vaknin)
And if you don’t believe me then take it from members in our private community that have gone through this cycle they also highly recommend indefinite no contact.
What is that old saying?
A picture is worth a thousand words?