Why Narcissists can turn their backs on you so easily

20 Jul 2021

Some Narcissists are long-stay, others not so much. Still, it always comes as a shock when the person who had vowed to love you, discards you like yesterday’s pizza box. When that happens, it is perfectly normal to end up asking yourself that most self-defeating question:

“How could they treat me that way?”

The question sucks, of course, primarily because you have made it all about you when the reality is that that is just how they behave. You were the person in their firing – or, if you prefer, rejection – line.

Nevertheless, their behaviour remains a reflection of who they are. NOT who you are.

But, in this post, I want to look at the fundamental question: Why do Narcissists abruptly walk away from the people who love them?

1) Narcissists know perfectly well how devastating that will be for you.

They find that certainty extremely gratifying. In fact, that is why many Narcissists stage many faux departures, near departures and post-departure returns before they finally exit your life. From their point of view, this is all good fun. They heartily enjoy acting as puppet-master and making you dance on their string – or drop off it.

2) They never truly cared.

As you know to your cost, it is never easy to walk away from someone that you truly care about. Narcissists find it so easy because they never truly cared.

In a narcissistic relationship, the partner has a more or less equivalent role to that of a hire car. It simply happens to be the most suitable vehicle at a particular time, whether they hired it for prestige, economy, practicality, availability or whatever other consideration was uppermost in their mind at the time.

3) They were never truly invested in the relationship.

Admittedly, this is a partial reworking of 2). But because it is such an important thing to recognise, it is worth restating.

The relationship did not matter to them. Nothing that you thought that you had built together really mattered – including their own children. In their eyes, the relationship served only as a device to get others to invest in them.

4) Narcissists check out of their relationships long before they leave

– if they ever actually checked in.

In reality, the only time that Narcissists make an effort to be emotionally available is during the lovebombing period – and that is not exactly authentic. Once that is over, they become less and less emotionally – and quite possibly also physically – present to you. Narcissists don’t crave intimacy and connection. They crave your unconditional adoration and the power this gives them over you.

5) Discarding you and taking up with your successor offers them supply on steroids.

A lot of Narcissists are officially* so happy with their new partner that they make sure that you hear all about it – whether via social media, mutual friends or the children you have in common.

They know exactly how hurtful that is for you. That is the point.  That means that they get to savor all the thrills of being the adored lovebomber on the one hand and the nightmare who makes you feel worthless on the other.

This strategy works even better if they have legal cause to be in contact over divorce proceedings or the children.

* In reality, anyone that mean-spirited and vindictive cannot be that happy in their new life.  Genuine happiness is something that you enjoy, not something that you weaponise to hurt others with.

6) It gives them a delicious sense of their own power and superiority. 

What matters to them is manipulating and outmanoeuvring you. It doesn’t cross their minds that outmanoeuvring you is not really that hard since you are

  1. a) not playing their game – not being a game-player, in the first place.
  2. b) not even aware that everything is just a game for them.

It helps to understand that a Narcissist can outmanoeuvre you until such time as you accept that they operate in completely different way from you. That means that you cannot afford to lead with your emotions when you do have to deal with anything to do with them.

7) It gives them the opportunity to impress a (new) audience with their latest persona and/or toy.

As you already know – but may still struggle to accept – Narcissists are incredibly superficial. For them, it really is all about appearances. Feelings don’t matter but appearances do, where they are concerned. So, having a new audience or playing a new role is always gratifying for them.

When I think back to “my” narcissistic ex and others that I have known well, I have a strong sense that they are always watching and applauding their own performance –whether they are playing Wronged Partner, Newly Loved Up Partner, Parent of the Year etc.

They revel in showing the world a new and improved version of themselves and whatever narrative they are enacting at any given time.

8) It’s never final.

In a Narcissist’s head, nothing is ever final unless they say it is. However, even if they say it is, that can change, according to their circumstances.

The mere detail of divorcing you, marrying someone else and having a family with them wouldn’t necessarily deter them from reappearing in your life. If they can see a reason to come back, they will very probably do so, years later, if necessary. They tend to keep you neatly archived in case they ever want to use you again.

Narcissists can leave you behind so quickly and/or brutally because they were never really there in the first place. That and the fact that they are utterly heartless. You couldn’t know that people like that existed when you first found yourself locked into a narcissistic relationship and feeling like you were disappearing down the proverbial rabbit hole.  Now, sadly, you have learned it the hard way.

9) Gratitude and loyalty were never their thing.

In the end, you learn a huge amount from a narcissistic partner about who NOT to allow into your life. In a narcissistic relationship, you constantly try to teach an abusive partner how show you the gratitude and loyalty that you deserve. You always fail miserably, of course.

Because Narcissists just don’t do gratitude or loyalty.

They expect it from you. But they are never going to give it to you.

In the end, a narcissistic relationship leaves you with a lot of hard life lessons that you really need to learn if you are ever to enjoy the happy, rewarding life that you deserve. You have to learn how to recognise bad behaviour without defaulting to your old pattern of making excuses for it or trying to change it. You have to learn to act like your own feelings matter. You have to learn to break the old patterns of showing up in the relationship as the emotional workhorse.

If those issues that you know you struggle with, my Breaking Old Patterns Toolkit can help you overcome all of them.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

6 thoughts on “Why Narcissists can turn their backs on you so easily”

  1. How do you know for certain that you are married to a narcissist, because my husband recently shared with me that he never loved me so I imagine he doesn’t truly care about me either.

    • Well, if he never loved you and yet married you, he must have had an agenda and it certainly was not a loving one.

      So, you have to ask yourself who would do such a thing? And who would say such a thing?

      Possible answers are:

      a) A complete jerk.
      b) A narcissist.
      c)Someone who wanted to make your life miserable for the hell of it.

      Of course, it could well be all three. But in any case, this is not someone who you can continue to share a bed, a home and a “life” with.

  2. I really think this blog sums up the mindset and behaviour of the narcissistic partner so well!

    Such a pity that we only realise this once the damage has been done but, in a way, as you so clearly point out, it’s a salutary life lesson however hard-earned.

    Personally speaking, I find it liberating to realise it was never love in the first place.
    Much ado about nothing and all that👍

  3. Omg I live this way every day of my life especially when you surrender and give in and go into the rabbit hole it has been over 20 years and I’m still weak and under his control.
    As far as him knowing it’s been over for years he’s been living in the other room for years . He manipulates humiliate and degrade me in so many ways even went as far as to put scratches on his own face and throw me in jail I have been such a miserable life but I don’t know any other way it tears me apart every day.

    • Terry, you really need to get out.

      The man has managed to have you put in jail. There is not much that he will stop at.

      Without talking to you, I can’t know what resources you have in your life. However, I do know that you can ALWAYS build something better without someone like that.

      So years is already way too long.


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