Does your ex think the world revolves around them?
Do they treat other people as disposable and seem to lack empathy?
Do they need constant praise and admiration?
Then there’s a good chance that your ex is a narcissist. I’m going to go over how to recognize a narcissist, what it’s like to date one, and how you can get a second chance with your narcissistic ex… if you decide that’s a good idea.
First, you need to know that some of these indicators are subjective so don’t start accusing your ex of being a narcissist just because they like looking at themselves in the mirror. The real test for a narcissist is how their actions and attitudes affect the people around them and how little they seem to care about those people.
Signs of Narcissism
The good thing here is that a breakup can really bring out these traits in people, so you had a front row seat to some pretty intense narcissistic behaviour. Here are the six signs that your ex is a narcissist…
Do they try to make you second-guess reality?
Do you ever feel the desire to tape record your conversations just to prove to them that they said something they’re insisting they didn’t? Then you’re experiencing gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a very popular term these days and it gets misapplied a lot but actual gaslighting is very real and very harmful. It’s one of the most common tactics narcissists use and the truth is, they probably don’t even know they’re doing it.
Narcissists are able to twist the truth in order to make you feel crazy, and gain control over you.
For example, let me paint you a scenario: You’re in a big fight with them. They say “You’re worthless, I’m the only one who’d ever put up with this. You’re going to die alone.” A couple weeks later, you can’t stop thinking about it so you bring it up. They say “I never said that. Why would I ever say something like that? That’s horrible.”
Now, you start to doubt yourself. They seem so sure. Did you misremember? This is gaslighting at work. They call into question things that you KNOW to be true and it sends you into an emotional tailspin.
When you start to doubt your own sanity, they win. Now you have to rely on them to tell you what’s true and what isn’t. This kind of power is extremely attractive to a narcissist.
Narcissists insist on their own superiority over others. They’ve taken self confidence to the extreme and believe that they really are the center of the universe.
They think that they’re the most special and unique person in the world and that it takes a very special person to understand their greatness. This is why narcissists can be very flattering to the people around them… Since they’re so amazing, then you must be amazing too since they want you around. To this end, they often exaggerate their own skills, achievements and stories. They’ll often talk about how lucky you are to have them. And their sense of self worth can border on manic.
3. Inability to take criticism
No one loves criticism, but narcissists can’t handle it even in its mildest form. They’ll often lash out in anger and turn criticism around on you. They may also be dismissive or sarcastic. Narcissists don’t like it when someone questions their inflated view of themselves and so they need to find a way to minimize the criticism of others.
When you talk about yourself, does your ex always change the topic back to them? This is because, to a narcissist, it’s difficult to really feel empathy or care about someone else beside themselves. This will be reflected in all of their behaviour, how they talk about other people, and their priorities. Remember that most people are selfish on a basic level but true narcissists take it to a whole other level.
5. Double standards
This is part of narcissists’ inflated sense of self and comes with a sense of entitlement. Basically: “I’m so special that the rules don’t apply to me.” They’ll often skip the line, cut corners and do whatever it takes to get what they want, without considering how this affects other people… like you. Maybe they yell at people in customer service, speed excessively or drive drunk. Narcissists will often be very judgmental of other people for doing the very same things that they do on a regular basis. This hypocrisy comes from a lack of self awareness.
6. Lack of empathy
Narcissists are prone to abusive behaviour because they have difficulty feeling empathy for others. Since they don’t consider the feelings of other people, they don’t have any qualms about manipulating and degrading others for their own benefit.
This can be malicious or simply oblivious but one thing’s for certain: narcissists will treat others badly and when confronted, they will exhibit a lack of guilt or shame.
Obviously, this can make breaking up with a narcissistic ex even more difficult and frustrating than normal, so don’t think you’re going crazy if your ex was particularly cruel or heartless during and after your breakup.
So, these are just a few of the many signs of narcissism. Basically it comes down to an inflated sense of self importance, a failure to empathize with others, and a tendency towards manipulative behaviour.
Narcissists Can Change
First, I’d caution you again against diagnosing them. Narcissism is a spectrum. Meaning we all are narcissists in our own way. Narcissism can come and go depending on what’s going on in our lives and often it will fade as we become more mature and learn more about other people.
So being a narcissist isn’t always permanent. But–and here’s the important part–you’re not going to be able to fix them. All you can do is set boundaries and manage your own reaction to their behaviour.
So decide if this is something you can live with. I’m not saying roll over and play dead. I’m actually going to give you some very tangible steps you can take to protect yourself and get your own needs met while dealing with a narcissist.
But, to some extent, this is who they are. They’re not just going to wake up one day and be a completely empathetic, selfless person.
How To Get Your Narcissistic Ex Back
If you do decide to give it another shot, here’s what you need to consider while trying to get them back. Just warning you now: this advice WILL involve some manipulation. My thought is that if they can dish it out then they need to be able to take it too.
1. Avoid conflict
This is important. Don’t let a narcissistic ex bait you into conflict. They’re better at it than you are and they’ll use it to break you down to prove how much better off they are without you.
Instead, keep things light and breezy. The time will come for more serious discussions about what the future holds but for now you should just focus on reconnecting, making them laugh and spending time with them.
2. Flatter them
Narcissists enjoy flattery because it confirms that they’re the best person who’s ever lived. Don’t just give it up to them for no reason though. Use praise to reward your ex for positive steps towards reconciliation. If they start showing signs that they want you back, use praise to seal the deal or to entice them towards more intimacy.
This can be a tricky process because you don’t want to overdo it and further inflate their ego.
3. Set healthy boundaries
Since your relationship is in flux, you may be afraid to set boundaries with your ex, in fear that they’ll just run away. In my opinion, setting boundaries is actually going to make them want you MORE.
This is because narcissists think of themselves as extremely valuable. If you show them that you’re willing to put your own needs above their attention then they’re going to think that you’re valuable as well. Remember, it’s all about perception here.
And, obviously, if your relationship with your ex was toxic–which is very likely if they’re a narcissist–then setting boundaries like this is going to set you up for a more equitable arrangement if you do end up back together.
This can include things like how much time and space they’re allowed to occupy in your life, what topics are off limits, what they’re allowed to say to you…really anything that bothered you in the past you can set a firm boundary around.
I’m not going to lie…in some situations a narcissist will see a boundary like this and decide that you’re not worth the trouble. Unfortunately this is still worth the risk.
Remember that your relationship as it was was not only hurting you and your self image, but it also fell apart or you wouldn’t be here right now. You need to create a new status quo if you’re going to have more success this time around and to do that, you’ll need to take risks like this.
Ultimately, someone who is worth being with will be happier with boundaries in place because, even if it’s not always obvious, they do actually want you to be happy.
4. Play hard to get
Narcissists are typically interested in social status. With that in mind, you need to make yourself appear as valuable as possible. The best way to make this happen is to give your ex the sense that they might lose you if they don’t act right. So don’t be afraid to blow them off and ignore them sometimes. Show them you’re not the doormat you were in the initial relationship.
Playing hard to get means not making them a priority. I know that this can be difficult, because I’m sure you want their attention more than anything, but remember that you’re playing the wrong game… getting them back will be worth denying yourself their presence for one afternoon.
5. Don’t let them manipulate you
Easier said than done, right? I know, but now that you and your ex are not sharing the same space, you’ll have a better shot at avoiding their manipulation. And if you add in some boundaries, this starts to become more doable.
Remember that manipulation is something that they do almost unconsciously. If you can stay strong against it, eventually they will see that you’re not someone they can treat this way. This may take a long time but if you stay firm in this way you’ll be on the way to creating a healthier dynamic with your ex which will help you going forward.
6. Hold out for the real thing
The attention of a narcissist can feel like the sun on your face, but if you’re not careful, they may be gone come nightfall.
Don’t let your ex use you for sex, validation or love bombing only to disappear when things start to get serious. Hold out for the real thing rather than letting them treat you this way.
This means managing your time together and making sure that the relationship moves forward intentionally rather than according to their moods.
7. Post photos on social media
This works for any ex, really, but it goes double for a narcissistic ex. Use the power of social media to make them jealous and you’re going to make them worry about losing you.
To that end, post photos having fun with friends, ideally of the opposite sex. Show your ex the exciting life that you’re leading without them and make them want to be a part of it.
Narcissists can be extremely possessive and afraid of abandonment. If you show them that they’re not the only thing that matters in your life, they’re going to want to compete for your attention and that will result in them spending more time with you.