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11 Ways Narcissists React When They Can’t Control You

You’re likely here because you fell in love with a narcissist. 

Your head is spinning, your heart is broken, and your stomach has a pit as heavy as a boulder. 

Whether you’re looking to escape a narcissistic control freak, find your way back to the connection you once had, or want to heal from the searing emotional pain – you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article, we’ll use science and personal experience to show you the ways a narcissist reacts when they can’t control you.

How Does a Narcissist Try to Control You?

Learning the ways of a controlling narcissist is critical because they don’t love, fight, or leave like a typical suitor.

You are not going crazy – you have been sucked into a level of emotional torture you never thought possible. 

How are narcissists controlling?

First, you must understand that a narcissist lives off of “supply,” which means feeding their ego while building their falsified and unwarranted sense of self. 

1. They Love Bomb

Showering you with affection might not seem to be negative behavior, but you have to understand how they plot, and love bombing is step one. 

Like giving candy to a baby, they lure you in with showering affection. Your openness reveals the way to your heart, and they match cadence with everything you ever wanted. Now, you’re on the hook. 

2. They Isolate You

You might not realize this step until you’re in a narcissistic prison. Sure, at the start of a relationship, we tend to blow off other things and people because we are so hooked on chemical romance. 

As a shocker, a narcissist will never tell you that you are isolated, and they’ll initially celebrate your friends, family, and hobbies and then systematically tear them down.

Before you know it, you believe the narcissist is the only good thing in your life, and everyone else is out to get you.

3. They Gaslight You

Eventually, you’ll catch on to odd behavior from this seemingly perfect mate.

Since narcissists only care about their ego, wants, and needs, they will meet your calmest approach to concerns with statements like, “That didn’t happen,” “You’re overreacting,” and “Why are you being so sensitive?” 

If you show any emotion, you’ll be told, “You’re crazy.” A tried and true narcissist can look you in the eye and tell you the sky is lime green and the water is red. You can become so gaslit you start to believe it yourself. 

4. They Discard You

Otherwise known as “The Discard,” the narcissistic will use this as a controlling measure, especially if you have signaled any abandonment issues. They stop responding to texts.

They won’t commit to plans. They can even disappear without warning, block you on social media, and avoid you at all costs. 

This is a power play to get you thinking you did something wrong. You’ll likely beg them to come back, which means the “supply” is back. 

5. They Are Passive Aggressive

That sarcasm and wit that was so intriguing become a sharp weapon against you. The human brain is so easily manipulated, and it helps to understand why.

We are trained to believe the best in people, while our inner voice feeds us negative information too often. 

While a passive-aggressive narcissist tears you down, you believe the words while still hoping for the love-bombing lover you once had.

As you constantly strive to get their approval, you are systematically broken down into submission, believing their opinion is the only one that matters. 

6. They Belittle You

You could win the Nobel Peace Prize and still be beaten down with passive-aggressive or outright nasty comments. The narcissist could even rage against you for not giving them credit for supporting or helping you (even when they did nothing). 

Victims quickly see that their birthdays, promotions, and fitness goals mean nothing since it doesn’t give the narcissist a supply.

Unfortunately, this makes victims seek more approval or give more credit to their evil partner, thus being controlled by manipulation. 

7. They Make Lofty Promises

When you’re in a narcissistic relationship, you’re running an emotional marathon with no finish line.

No matter how poorly they treat you, they’ll keep you on the hook with promises of an engagement “when you lose weight” or a Hawaiian cruise next summer. 

Victims hold onto this hope and deal with controlling measures, assuming the promises are real and the abuse is not. 

How Does a Narcissist React When They Can’t Control You? 11 Obnoxious Behaviors You Might See

If you hear nothing else in this manifesto, hear this: when a narcissist loses control of you, the most malignant part of the relationship begins.

It’s not as simple as walking away, even with the strongest personal convictions. 

1. With Outward Narcissistic Rage

This is #1 because it’s the most serious and dangerous. It’s actually a coined phrase by a 1972 author as part of narcissistic personality disorder.

It doesn’t even take a breakup to trigger the rage.

If they notice that you see through their antics, you could bear the brunt of loud outbursts, verbal abuse, and physical abuse. Some narcissists will threaten to self-harm to get control again

2. With Inward Narcissistic Rage

Like a cauldron of loathing burning inside them, a narcissist with inward rage can suddenly become distant, withdrawn, or melancholy. 

woman pushing boyfriend away how does a narcissist react when they can't control you

The goal is to regain control of your attention, even though you are just trying to figure out what is wrong. This will introduce either a discard or gaslighting. 

3. With a Smear Campaign

Since nothing is ever their fault, when a narcissist loses power or thinks they are losing power, they’ll begin a smear campaign against you to anyone who will listen. Honestly, they don’t even care whether they tell the truth. 

They’ll exploit personal admissions you’ve made or just make up details in a twisted, evil web of words.

This supplements the gaslighting as others discard you, filling their supply with a new group of people unknowingly supporting the narcissist’s side of the story. 

4. With Another Supply

This part is tough because chances are if you’ve been discarded, that’s the time a narcissistic is getting another “supply.”

There’s only so much time in the day, and if they aren’t getting attention from you, they’ll woo someone else. They might even do it openly in front of you. 

Since the controlling starts with love bombing, you’ll see the person you fell in love with all over again, only this time someone else is being groomed. 


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5. With More Love Bombing

If the narcissist isn’t quite done with you yet, there’s a chance they’ll go back to the beginning and shower you with love.

They might plan a major birthday party for you, only to spend the night embarrassing you in front of friends or starting a huge fight an hour before the party. 

Make no mistake – when a narcissist uses this type of manipulation when you try to walk away, it’s no different from Hansel & Gretel being lured into the witch’s gingerbread house. 

6. With Self-Pity

The greatest “tragedies” in a narcissist’s life are generally manufactured or exaggerated right when their partner calls them on the carpet.

They might even acknowledge the relationship is over but need your support since they just had to put their dog down, and “…Bruno loved you as much as I did.” 

They might send texts suggesting they will hurt themselves and make it seem like you are the only person who can stop them.

7. With Stonewalling

This isn’t just the regular silent treatment. It’s expert-level ignoring with a topping of persistence. This is slightly different from The Discard because discarding means they’ve chosen to get rid of you. 

Stonewalling occurs when you’ve laid down the law. Beyond ignored texts and calls, they’ll pass you on the street like you’re a stranger.

You’ll try to speak to them, and they’ll calmly walk away. The more agitated you get, the more devoted they are to stonewall. 

8. With Stalking

It might start with a flower on your doorstep and go as far as hacking your social media accounts. You could be followed on dates or risk them showing up to your weekly happy hour with colleagues.

The goal is to teach you that breaking free of their control won’t come easy. 

Should you call the police, they’ll bring out the doe eyes and make you look like a bad person. If you face this issue, talk to someone at the local police department about stalking and cyberstalking laws in your jurisdiction. 

9. With Betrayal

Walking away from a narcissist means every secret or memory you’ve shared with them is now fair game. The more the confession can hurt you, the better for them. 

You’ll quickly realize that every deep talk you shared was nothing more than a narcissistic FBI file on you, ready to be released to the public.

The fear of this information getting out could keep you in the relationship, even when you’re ready to break from their control. 

10. With A Game

This item goes beyond love bombing all over again. They aren’t trying to repeat a cycle. They are trying to break you in any way possible. Sometimes they just want to fulfill their inflated sense of self to prove they CAN get you back. 

Whether it takes a day or a year, they’ll walk away as soon as you’ve caved. When this happens, it can truly shatter a person’s ability to trust again. 

11. With Thievery

Before you consider leaving a narcissist, get your house in order. Detach from shared bank accounts, remove them from credit card access, and hide the good jewelry. 

Sometimes, you’ll be so happy with their promise to go away finally that you’ll agree to “pay them back” for the free birthday cruise you took together.

If they are going to lose you, you are going to lose a lot more than some self-esteem. 

reactions of a narcissist when they can't control you infographic

Will a Narcissist Discard You If They Can’t Control You?

There are several reasons why a narcissist will discard you, but they likely won’t do it once and for all until they are ready to do so.

You in no way, shape, or form controlling this relationship. Here are essential things to know about The Discard:

  • It is meant to lure you back
  • It is an act of manipulation
  • It is rarely final

Once you’ve been part of a narcissist’s life, you will spend a lifetime as a tool in their box.

Since they don’t understand emotions, they see people as inanimate objects meant to serve their needs. In their mind, you have never really ended for good.

Think of it as you would a bottle of champagne. When it’s time to celebrate, you get one. When it’s a regular Tuesday, you’ll drink beer or soda.

The bottles of champagne, soda, or beer are really people in a narcissist’s life, meant to be used as needed. 

What Happens When a Narcissist Knows You’ve Figured Them Out?

You certainly don’t want to stoop to their level, but it takes a certain plan to leave a narcissist without going through emotional and reputational wreckage.

Once you’ve figured them out and acknowledged it, they’ll go back to their FBI file on you and search for the best way to manipulate you

Victims should always be prepared for the worst – ghosting, yelling, emotional manipulation, begging, or sharing of intimate secrets. Under the grandiosity of a narcissist is a self-loathing, weak, spineless creature.

When you see the monster for who they really are, you’ve waged war on them, and they need to restore a sense of superiority through any means possible. 

How Does a Narcissist Feel When You Don’t React?

Here’s a little secret about narcissistic supply – it doesn’t matter if it’s love or hate. They want ANY reaction from you, even anger.

The worst thing, in their mind, is someone who doesn’t react to them in the aftermath of a relationship. In this diabolical mindset, they’ll even get mad if you ignore them during The Discard!

There’s an actual method called “Gray Rock” that victims should use to avoid narcissistic rage or reward them for toxic behavior. 

  • NO CONTACT: If you can, have no contact with them. It gets more complicated if you share children or work together. With no contact, no supply is being met. 
  • NO CLOSURE: Stop looking for answers from within them. Any attention fuels them. Crying simply shows them how truly important they are to you. Screaming to leave you alone shows them they control your life, even though they aren’t part of it. 
  • NO ATTENTION: The phrase “Gray Rock” means you should look, talk, and act no more exciting than a gray rock. Don’t dress to impress and make them jealous. Make yourself as invisible as possible to them. 
  • NO ELABORATING: If you must interact with them, be cool, calm, and steady. Yes and No answers only, and never let them see you getting emotional or irritated. 

NOTE: It can get worse before it gets better with Gray Rock, as it might prompt some obnoxious behaviors. Know that your dedication to “no reaction or interaction” is the only way to (eventually) get them to leave you alone. 

Final Thoughts

Empathic people are notoriously attracted to narcissists in their desire to please people. It is not your fault you fell in love with a narcissist. 

Don’t blame yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been caught in this cycle. Use this information to escape the trap once and for all.

Having a therapist can help your mental health and get the safety resources you might need if the narcissist’s behavior escalates. 

How does a narcissist react when they can't control you? Find out common reactions of narcissists when they notice you are not someone they can control.

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