Why do some narcissists always seem to return to an ex?
A narcissist can swoop into your life, lifting you so high one minute to drop you so low the next. It’s a confusing and hideous experience to go through. Knowing why they do what they do helps give our minds the understanding and closure to let them go and begin working on our new, much happier life. So that you are not starting over from scratch, you are starting over from experience, becoming wiser and stronger day by day, so you can end the cycle, leave the past behind, live in the present and create a much happier future.
When you think back to the narcissist’s ex, you can probably remember all the narcissist told you about them. If the narcissist moved on to someone new, that’s what they are most likely saying about you. Everything they did to you, they are always telling others that you did it to them. They are always playing the victim or the hero. They are never the villain as in their own minds they rewrite history to escape accountability, to avoid any feelings of shame or remorse, their lack of ability to reflect on mistakes they have made, and their lack of empathy towards others, with their black and white, good or bad thinking means once they’ve made their stories up in their minds, these are then their truths.
Some might genuinely know what they are doing, yet as it serves them, they don’t care, they have a disorder it’s who they are, it has become their beliefs and their way of life, they see no reason to change as they believe anything wrong with their life is always someone else’s fault.
Yes, they can act differently around different people, this is because they love playing the games of being in control and gaining attention, they can recognise if they mistreated all others, it would look bad on them, even though they’ve still been blaming those around them. They can put on that attention-seeking face to gain supporters and an envious face to destroy people’s lives. Some are calculated, think things through before they act, others act on impulse, and most can cross over between the two.
It can be a few months or a lot of years, yet most narcissistic people seem at some point to return to an ex of theirs that apparently treated the narcissist oh so terribly.
They may have told you things like how lazy the ex was. How many times the ex had cheated on them, how the ex controlled them and took all their money. How the ex didn’t take care of the children properly, didn’t look after the home, didn’t work, too lazy, wouldn’t let them see the children and all the other negative lies they come out with, that in one way are true, so the narcissist twists it to their advantage and their truths, completely missing out the part they played, so if they said: “the ex took all their money.” The narcissist most likely spent all money on some form of addiction, then they financially abused the ex and took all the exes money, leaving the ex with none to give. The narcissist believes the ex stole from them, they think they’re entitled, they don’t see what the ex did do, just what they didn’t, and that ex stopped providing the money they feet entitled to. If they said, “the ex didn’t look after the home.” The narcissist most likely expected the ex to do everything around the home while the narcissist drained the ex emotionally, physically and financially, leaving the ex feeling empty, drained, with anxiety and depression, so they no longer had the ability to look after the home. The narcissist will not reflect to see how they caused this, only that the ex was no longer meeting their needs. If they said, “The ex will not allow them to see the children.” The ex most likely had stopped this due to all the counter parenting the narcissist throws, all the letdowns of not collecting the children, the children being full of anxiety and the ex trying to protect the children. The narcissist believes they should be in control, they believe that children are their property and that they should be allowed to pick and choose and do what they want, and when they lose the control of the exes mind, and the ex stands up for themselves, to the narcissist the ex is at fault for not allowing them to do exactly as they want when they want, once a narcissists Mind is made up that they are correct, they have made their minds up, they will not look for compromises with exes regarding children, they don’t look for a compromise with anyone, nor do they lookout for the best interests of all, only ever what’s in the best interest for them, it’s their way or what seems like never-ending games way. You can stop these games. We just have to learn to stop playing. Not easy yet possible, and it will become easier. As the narcissist truly believes the ex is at fault, they tell their lies so convincingly that others believe them, that with the facts of reality that the ex might have anxiety, the ex might not be allowing them to see the children, we have the words of the narcissist and the actions of the exes that match so we believe the narcissist and often end up becoming the narcissist’s enabler, most often our instincts do try to tell us things, yet as we have no evidence to back these up, we push them to one side until it feels like too late, sometimes ignoring our instincts keeps us in some situations we should have never stayed in. What we are missing is the background to the story. We don’t hear both sides to see what had indeed happened and led to the situations the narcissist is now using to play the victim so well to gain sympathy, gain attention and manipulate those around them. It’s never too late to learn what’s really going on and walk free. Not giving them any attention means they can no longer play their games with you. They might up these through court systems and whatever else they want to throw in, just take the action you need to take, and leave them to it, do not respond directly to them.
You may have met them while the narcissist was in a relationship with someone else, giving you all the pity plays of how it’s already over, they just need to leave, they no longer shared a bed, they were only together for the sake of the children, with all the charm you believe them and fall into a relationship with them, waiting for them to leave. Most often, they do, moving straight in with you as nobody falls in love faster than a narcissist that needs somewhere to live or use to look like they are normal and twist the knife in on the ex.
The idealisation stage often continues. When they first move in, you’ve met your soul mate, and life couldn’t be better. One day things slowly start to change, as they begin to devalue you, and you’re left feeling drained and confused and don’t know what is going on, then poof, they are gone, not only are they gone, you hear they are back with that crazy ex, it can be weeks, months or even years later.
That crazy ex might have even been around at the start of your relationship to warn you off. Yet, the narcissist had already informed you they would do this, that their ex is obsessed with them and just can not let go, that the ex stalks them. With some of the exes that come searching for answers, messaging to see what’s happening, messaging to warn you, this often backs up within our own minds, the stories the narcissist is telling us, again we have the narcissist’s words and the exes actions. Yet, we don’t have the knowledge as to why the ex is acting how they are. Due to no closure and never-ending smear campaigns, they just want to be heard.
When they go back to an ex, If you ask them why and you are unlucky enough to get an answer, you’ll get answers like. “You made me realise how much I truly loved them.” Or “They’ve promised to change. The children deserve an opportunity to see if we can make it work.” The ex themselves just hasn’t managed to see clearly or break the trauma bond and are in the middle of being re-idealised by the narcissist and all the lies the narcissist is telling them now.
You might have even tried to get them to come back to you, and you will probably at some point have been that crazy ex to another person that the narcissist went back to.
When narcissists say things like. “ I realised I loved my ex.” What they mean is they remember the ex giving them more attention than you are at present. However, the narcissist is really enjoying the attention they are getting. The narcissist will triangulate you both while you both allow this, with both of you wanting the narcissist and trying to win them back. The narcissist is enjoying filling their human needs and having you both available. Neither of you is winning, the only one winning the game is the narcissist, and in reality, the one that loses is the one that ends up with the narcissist. Even if you don’t see it at the time, the only way to win is to walk away and save yourself, learning that you definitely do not deserve to be treated this way. You are worth so much more, which isn’t an easy thing to learn as the narcissist has most likely manipulated you and destroyed your self-esteem, gaslighted you into a mind full of self-doubt. You can, and you will recover from this.
Some narcissists want to try and let you down gently and kindly. They will not just disappear. That’s because they want to have the both of you, to triangulate you, so you both work harder to please them, so they are getting so much attention.
When they tell you the crazy ex has promised to change. It actually meant they had promised to change for the ex when they went for the hoover, and it worked.
You might have been the ex that they tried coming back to, or even take them back. You are far from alone. With all the self-blame and self-doubt they place within our minds due to the manipulation, it takes an average of seven attempts to get out and stay out of an abusive relationship. There comes the point when we make a choice and say no more. That point is different for everyone. At some point, we hit a realisation that as much as it hurts, it’s time to move on and walk away from the con- artist as all they do is sell us dreams to deliver us nightmares, and it’s time to create our own dreams and leave them be.
They may say things like. “We’ve been together so long I really need to give it another go for the family.” All they mean is every time the narcissist goes back for the hoover. The ex falls for it. And the narcissist knows they can keep doing it.
The narcissist will go back to you if you give them a chance. They will go back to anyone who can meet a need that they require at that time, that will have them back.
After a few months, you could actually hoover the narcissist, as they’ll be bored with the person they go back to. For your own mental health and sanity, I wouldn’t recommend this course of action. But some have done so.
The reality is the ex was never horrible; they were never abusive or crazy, just like you wasn’t. In the Narcissists’ reality, they were as they didn’t conform to the narcissist’s needs or supply the narcissist with things even the narcissist didn’t know they wanted for themselves. So the narcissist met those needs elsewhere, and when you failed to conform, they went back to the ex.
While ever you and any of the exes allow them to do so, the narcissist will continue.
It’s hard sometimes, especially when ego and pride get in the way. Also, the trauma bond and the narcissist negatively fills all your human needs. But sometimes you have to think, enough is enough, rise above, let the ex have them, and go and live a dame good life for yourself and your children. Start no contact or grey rock to break the trauma bond. Then fill your human needs up in positive ways.
Contribution, Focus on you and your children if you have them, join support groups and help others.
Certainty, create new routines and set boundaries for you and your children.
Uncertainty, try new hobbies, meeting new people.
Growth, learning new things, joining groups, reading, changing jobs, starting new courses, reading, listening, try new activities.
Love and connection, learn to create and love who you are, connecting and loving yourself, those who are good people you are close to, support groups with those who’ve been through similar, helping them through, connecting and helping each other, this also helps with significance. You feel happier helping others and others helping you.
As we have empathetic traits, most of us do fall for the lies, charm and pity plays, often more than once, wanting to help them.
The narcissist personality disorder is on a spectrum, so not all narcissists go back to their exes, and some exes who’ve worked out what they are, or are on the road to being themselves again, will not take the narcissist back, so although we can generalise what the majority of narcissists do if someone hasn’t triangulated ex’s, that doesn’t mean they are not a narcissist, same as if someone has gone back to an ex, yet doesn’t have all the other traits, they are not a narcissist.
If you’ve been abused, mental or physical, if they are a narcissist or not, if someone continues to let you down, hurts you and walks away from you when you need them the most, you need to get out safely, and you need to stay out. Change one thing at a time, and it can change everything for you, step by step, day by day. Those little steps you take today will so add up to leaps and bounds into happiness. No one deserves to be mistreated, you can, and you will break free onto a much better life for yourself.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach. She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.
When the narcissist moves straight on with someone new.
How they take your boundaries and how to rebuild them.