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Surviving Narcissistic Ghosting: Why It Happens & How to React!

Does this story sound familiar?

You meet. You start spending time together. Then more time. Then more time. You fall in love. (Or do you?) Everything seems glowing and perfect …

And then they’re gone.

If so, then you’ve likely fallen victim to narcissist ghosting.

This experience can feel frustrating, confusing, or heartbreaking –usually all three at once. And sadly, it’s becoming all too common.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of narcissist ghosting, you’re likely looking for answers.

So let’s get to it!

What is narcissism?

First, what’s a narcissist?

“Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition in which people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance,” says the Mayo Clinic. “They need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. People with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others.”

What’s interesting about narcissists is their confidence is largely a facade. Deep down, they’re actually quite fragile, easily rattled, and allergic to even the slightest criticism.

Unfortunately, this personality trait is not uncommon, reports the Cleveland Clinic: “Experts estimate that up to 5% of people have NPD.”

So in that regard, you’re bound to run into one at some point in your life if you haven’t already.

But what if you end up dating one?

That brings us to ghosting.

A woman wipes her eyes and looks down at her phone with concern. The title reads "Understanding Narcissistic Ghosting"
Narcissistic Ghosting

What is ghosting?

Ghosting is a term that needs less explanation than narcissism since most of us have been the recipient of it at some point.

Essentially, it’s when someone with whom you thought you had a relationship disappears from your life without warning or explanation.

Note that ghosting is often associated with breadcrumbing in dating. This is where a person strings another along with little tidbits by text or on an app but never wants to meet or deepen the relationship.

Such behavior is often followed by ghosting.

Hoovering is another behavior frequently associated with ghosting. After falling off the face of the Earth, the ghoster will sometimes reappear, then work very hard to suck the ghostee back in.

This is another confusing and sometimes even scary event in a ghostee’s life.

Is ghosting a narcissistic trait?

It can be! Because ghosting is a behavior that fails to take the feelings and needs of the ghostee into account, it frequently ticks the boxes.

Narcissists are either unwilling or unable to consider another’s point of view, so they simply act in what they perceive to be their best interest in the moment, regardless of how it makes someone else feel.

Which begs the question, why would ghosting be in their best interest?

As it turns out, there are a lot of reasons (none of them helpful or satisfying if you’re on the receiving end).

Why do narcissists ghost?

Now that you understand the basics of the narcissistic ghosting pattern, you’re likely wondering … why?

Here are a few of the most common reasons someone you thought was devoted to you would disappear.

A close up of a hand scrolling on a phone. There is a graphic of a ghost. The title reads "Why do narcissists ghost?"
Why do narcissists ghost?

#1. They like the power.

According to psychologists, one of the main motivators for narcissist ghosting is to gain power over you.

If they can make you doubt yourself, they have the upper hand. If they can make you miss them, they get to feel like a commodity. Either way, they win, and you lose – which is their entire goal.

#2. They’ve found another “supply.”

“Supply” is the clinical term for the influx of praise, adoration, and attention that narcissists need to cope with the world.

According to Choosing Therapy, “Narcissistic supply is a form of psychological addiction where the narcissist requires, and even demands, limitless special treatment, admiration, importance, or validation to feed their sense of entitlement and self-centeredness.”

It’s very possible that you made up the bulk of that supply for a while, as romantic partners often do. Then, either because you were busy, didn’t feel like it, or became old news, the narcissist moved on to find a new supply.

It’s not uncommon for narcissists to monkey branch from one relationship to the next in an effort to maintain that steady supply and “new relationship” high.

#3. They want to provoke you or see how much you care

Narcissists are often very fragile creatures beneath their shells of brash confidence. They frequently doubt themselves and their partners’ love, which causes them to engage in toxic behaviors to see how much you care.

In addition to testing, they may also wish to provoke or punish you. This is also common among people who struggle with BPD abandonment issues. The two can be interconnected.

#4. They hope to pull you back in

If things were going well between you, the narcissist may become bored and wish to shake things up. However, if things were already dicey – you were getting sick of their behavior, for instance – a narcissist might ghost to up the ante and “make you care again.”

Because narcissists don’t understand healthy behavior, they may choose total disappearance as a way of resetting the game before pulling you back in.

#5. They’re afraid of confrontation

If a narcissist knows deep down that you’d like to see change, they are unlikely to find that a tolerable state of affairs.

Because they are so fragile, they’ll choose to move on rather than deal with the ongoing empathy and compromise required by a healthy relationship.

The root of the problem is that a narcissist doesn’t know what a healthy relationship should even look like, explains The Nurturing Coach: “The area of the brain responsible for empathy (the frontal lobe) is much less developed in a narcissist that the rest of the average population.  Therefore they are physically less able to understand others’ feelings, and so will struggle to recognize love.”

That overpowering sense of love – both giving and receiving – is what makes many of us willing to stick around and fight for a relationship. Lacking that, a narcissist often just ghosts.

#6. They don’t want to be unmasked

The idea of a narcissistic “mask” has been challenged by psychologists. Simply put, most people are not sociopaths who design facades meant to suck you in. Rather, your average narcissist is simply an emotionally fragile person with a thick, confident-looking shell.

However, narcissists usually put on their best face when meeting people and are professional manipulators.

Once they’ve convinced them of how great/fun they are – sometimes addictively so – they don’t have to work as hard. However, eventually, in any relationship, the bloom is off the rose. When that happens, and they worry you’ll see their true side, they may see ghosting as the best alternative and not even feel guilty about it.

What’s the best way to deal with a narcissist ghosting you?

If you’ve fallen victim to a narcissistic ghosting pattern, don’t blame yourself. Ghosting is a sign of immaturity and poor ethical standards, so your only job is to figure out how to avoid the same thing happening in the future. Here are the best steps to take:

  • Consider it a blessing in disguise: Narcissists don’t get better without a lot of time, hard work, and therapy. If you haven’t seen such things, then you’re better off without this person.
  • Don’t take it personally: Again, a narcissist’s brain is actually physically different from a normal person’s. You could not have changed that, and it was never about you, so don’t take it personally.
  • Keep a look out: One in 20 people is likely a narcissist, according to the above stats. That means you’re likely to meet one again in life, so educate yourself on what to watch for.
  • Cut ties completely: There’s no “halfway” with a narcissist. You can’t have a “better” relationship if you see them less, set ground rules, or have long talks about their behavior. They are who they are. The best option you have is to move on and find someone who treats you right.
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Apply the same rules to friends and family.

Although it’s true that narcissist ghosting is most commonly an event associated with romantic relationships, it doesn’t have to be.

Narcissists can and do ghost their friends and family members. While this doesn’t lead to the same type of anguish you might feel from a partner, it can still hurt deeply and take a long time to heal from.

As with a romantic partner, your best bet is to set your boundaries and move on. “Blood is thicker than water” is a toxic phrase invented by abusers, so don’t bow to it, even for those who supposedly love you most.

What if the narcissist tries to come back after ghosting?

Remember above, when we discussed hoovering?

If you’ve been ghosted, you should prepare for the possibility that someone will want to return and “vacuum” you back up.

Don’t let that happen.

Instead, refuse to be the supply this time.

Don’t listen to explanations or soften to tears. Don’t be fooled by love bombing, a behavior pattern whereby the narcissist offers tons of love and sweetness upfront – more than the normal amount between partners – when you know the same behavior will inevitably follow it.

Ignore their texts and efforts until they get the message.

Most importantly of all, understand that if you let this person back in, you will get hurt again. Only you can prevent that from happening.

How to protect yourself from narcissistic ghosting the future,

If you’ve been ghosted, it’s okay to let yourself off the hook.

You couldn’t have prevented it, and you did nothing to cause it. You were with a sick person, and now you get to be free of them, even though it hurts.

Rather than beating yourself up, spend your time reading through the above tips, and preparing yourself against the eventuality that your ghoster might return – or that you might encounter another.

Remember: you deserve better.

You deserve relationships that make you feel valued, where the person adds to your sense of self and your life rather than chipping away at it. Stay away from narcissists, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting that.

Want more resources on narcissists and ghosting?

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for this, I keep reminding myself to be patient with my healing but I’m so tired of feeling broken and used so deeply, it’s always looming and I can’t feel good about anything anymore. I just want to feel normal and alive again and not like a victim of this person forever