As the name implies, the No Contact Rule involves avoiding or cutting off any contact with a narcissist.
However, will a narcissist come back after having no contact? If so, what should you do?
We asked our experts to share their insights.
Clinical Psychologist | Professor of Psychology | Author, “Don’t You Know Who I Am?“
It varies – depends on the nature of your narcissist. Narcissists as a whole do struggle with issues around abandonment because it threatens them, and can evoke feelings of shame.
In addition, if you did deliver narcissistic supply to them, losing you can mean losing something they really need. Also, if it is a narcissistic relationship characterized by control – no contact can be quite destabilizing for them because of the loss of control they have.
I would take the bet that they will attempt to contact you again to get supply
I would take the bet that they will (though the odds are about even) attempt to contact you again – to get supply because they enjoy the gamesmanship of approach-avoidant relationships. This is because they want control again, as part of a “hoovering” process of sucking you back in and starting the entire cycle of idealization, devaluing, discarding, they love winning.
Hence, the idea of “winning” and getting you to succumb and break no contact is quite an enticing prospect for them.
Ultimately, they may persuade you to break no contact, so they can be the one who does it to the other person to have a sense of domination, control, and subsequently diminished ego threat. That reduces the tension for them that they are the ones who go “no contact” on you.
This cycle can often be quite seductive for a person who may go “no contact” because of the narcissist’s insistence and persistence. You’ll enjoy a few weeks or months of honeymoon, and then the whole cycle begins again – it’s a toxic one.
As a rule, the best outcome of NC is that the narcissist goes on into their own independent future and you into yours.
It rarely goes that way, however.
Psychoanalyst | Expert on Narcissistic Personality Disorder | Author, “Are You Living with a Narcissist?“
It depends on the particular relationship
This is a fascinating question for narcissists and their partners to think about because it very much depends on their particular relationship.
It’s important that some people called narcissists only have narcissistic features, not the full-blown narcissistic personality disorder. Also, some narcissists seek treatment when they feel depressed and empty when they lose contact. Such individuals may indeed seek further contact after time passes.
Of course, whether the previous partner wants the narcissistic individual back in his or her life is another question. If the previous partner notices changes in the individual’s capacity for beginning some empathy and can express some fondness for the person they lost, feelings maybe rekindled on both sides.
If, on the other hand, the narcissist had been particularly offensive and blaming in a most uncalled-for way, the individual who left him may not want to test the waters again, for fear of being hurt once more.
The biggest question seems to be if any trust can be established that was absent in the original contact.
Each person and relationship have unique characteristics, so it’s important not to generalize. It also depends on how much time has passed. The non-narcissist may have very well moved on to other healthier relationships, having learned he or she wants to be treated kindly and with appreciation.
That’s a tough competition for the narcissist, even one who has been in treatment and has become slowly aware of his or her impact on others.
So, the question remains, not only will a narcissist come back, but will they be accepted second time around? Only if there are some changes and compassion that can be felt by both parties is this possible.
Also essential is if the narcissist has learned through treatment about actual remorse. Actual apologies for past actions may be rare, but gifts that really fit the former partner may be offered when words of remorse can’t be mustered up. The question still remains if then the two individuals can actually put words to their feelings about the gift.
Is dialogue possible now? If so, the non-narcissist’s empathy may be churned up again, and a trial connection may be resumed.
There are so many “ifs” about whether things change that may or may not be possible, that perhaps the likelihood of a fresh connection is unlikely. But if early seeds of genuine care are rekindled, there is some hope.
Licensed Psychologist | Author, “Unmasking Narcissism: A Guide to Understanding the Narcissist in Your Life“
It depends on the individual and their unique personality configuration
I would say that it depends on the individual and their unique personality configuration. Narcissists use maladaptive and inflexible strategies to try to maintain a positive self-image.
It’s the key to understanding the pathology. Everything they do that is narcissistic is about trying to hold that self-image together – to keep it from fragmenting or taking wild dips into extremely low self-esteem territory.
They unconsciously utilize those around them as ‘self-objects’ to help regulate their self-esteem. This strategy relies on a blurred boundary between self and other. In short, your qualities and behavior either reflect well or poorly on the narcissist.
They attempt to control their own self-worth by controlling you.
When you attempt to end the relationship by going ‘no-contact’ it can be a significant blow to the narcissist’s already fragile self-image.
Depending on the degree of pathology, their self-image may fragment, or fall to pieces. This is an internal crisis for the narcissist, whose behavior may become unpredictable and erratic. They may react with entitled anger.
They may also attempt to harm the person emotionally or even physically in an attempt to stop the downward spiral of self-esteem happening inside of them.
Most narcissistic individuals will eventually invest in other sources of self-esteem. It doesn’t benefit them to remain emotionally tied to a rejecting and frustrating object. This is where individual differences in personality are important. Narcissists who also have strong borderline or sociopathic aspects to their personality, or who become obsessive or paranoid may continue to seek connection or revenge long after the individual has gone.
It’s important to remember that narcissists aren’t mustache-twirling villains. They are individuals with a mental illness, and their outrageous behaviors reflect inner crisis. They are just as likely to act out against themselves as others.
Substance abuse, depression, and suicide are all associated with narcissism.
Mary Joye, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Winter Haven, Florida Counselor
Many times a narcissist will come back after no contact, and sometimes it is chaotic and frantic on their part.
They may blow up your phone, come to your house or call your friends and family. They need supply, and if they can’t find the “quality” of supply you gave them, then a return to you is highly probable and has the potential to be dangerous.
When they come under the guise of pretending like nothing ever occurred to make you go without contact, it can be confusing as to when they blame you for the perceived affront.
The most important and most difficult thing to do to stay on higher ground when you’re flooded by love bombing or intermittent blame-shifting isn’t easy, but it is liberating.
Unlike the narcissist, you can accept responsibility, and if there is or was a narcissist in your life, you allowed it in some way. Even if it is a parent or a boss, at some point, you gave them fuel, and they aren’t likely to take it lightly when you cut off the supply.
Systematically you can:
- Take responsibility for allowing some of their bad behavior.
- Adjust your high tolerance for bad behavior to a lower level. You can do this by not answering their leading questions or giving them too much information or defending yourself.
- Detach from the emotions the narcissist imposed on you with self-compassion.
- Last but not least, don’t defend yourself or try to get the narcissist to see what they did to you. They know what they did. They did it with intent, and if you play into it but trying to get them to see what they already know, you will have delivered them more fuel, which is the opposite of what you want to do.
Narcissists are very adept and adapting to your kindness and compassion. If you have any self-doubt, they will enter your life where you are vulnerable. I know we are being taught these days there is power in vulnerability, and there is, but NOT with a narcissist.
You simply can’t be your total and complete self around them if you have a place in your heart that is vulnerable to predatory behavior. You have to guard your heart with your mind and trust your gut.
If you feel bad about yourself around a narcissist, pay attention to you and not them.
They are not just trying to isolate you from others; they are trying to get you to isolate from yourself and your best interests. Be true to you, and if a narcissist comes back, make sure you are in touch with who you are, what you really want, and don’t deviate from your authentic path in life.
If you don’t give them fuel and make sure you let them know your tank is empty for them, they will be forced to find a new supply. You don’t have to cut them off, but this simple equation helps.
Less exposure = More composure.
Tiffany Schneider Raff
Masters in Counseling Psychology | Certified Process Therapist | Life Coach, Life Change Advice
You need to realize that narcissists are human beings. They’re not robots that will all respond in one unified way. Each narcissist will respond differently in various situations, depending on multiple factors.
With this said, yes, they most definitely may come back.
The million-dollar question here is not will they come back, but if they come back, what is their intention for returning?
Narcissists’ biggest fear is abandonment. Often due to prior trauma or an inability to attach properly to their primary caregivers, they have a distorted sense of love attachment that makes them constantly fear abandonment, mistrust others, and ironically think they’re not good enough.
Most people don’t realize this because they look at their outward acts like boastfulness, success, and powerful control. But ultimately, they do these things because they don’t actually trust you or believe that they are worthy without the reinforcement of the outside world.
A narcissist will come back for the following reasons:
- He/she is panicked that you left them because they’re afraid to run out of the supply you provide (money, power, status, sex, or a home).
- Their back up plan is failing them. They usually have a backup plan i.e., another lover, bank account, or identity that you don’t even know about. Perhaps they first left for their backup lover and that planning is failing, so they come back.
- They want to reconquer you to prove that they can still have you with the intention of eventually dumping and humiliating you (if you initiated the initial break off).
- They became attracted to you again once they thought you were gone. Narcissists are attracted to people who don’t want them.
Unfortunately, here, the moment they feel like you’re dependent on them again, the cycle will usually restart unless they have a profound AHA or life-changing experience.
Divorce Lawyer | Author, “Negotiate Like YOU M.A.T.T.E.R.“
Narcissists will keep reappearing in your life until there is no continued source of supply
So you’ve listened to all the experts on narcissism and gone “no contact.” You’ve blocked them on social media, on your phone, and on your email. You’ve done everything you can to “disappear” them from your life.
Can you breathe easily now? In short, probably not.
Narcissists are like weeds that keep popping back up even after you’ve pulled them, sprayed them, and put down rocks. Just as weeds will reappear until there’s no more nutrient source, narcissists will keep reappearing in your life until there is no continued source of narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply is what the narcissist feeds on. Sometime during their childhood, narcissists were traumatized, or maybe abused or neglected. Some experts even speculate that overindulgence can lead to narcissism.
Regardless of its origins, it manifests into an adult who has virtually no feeling of inner value, so he or she has to suck all of their sense of value from externally from people around them.
What they are “sucking” from people is what is called “narcissistic supply.”
In short, it is anything that feeds the narcissist’s ego. While most think of ego feeding supply as money, compliments, adulation, or prestige, it also reveals itself in the much darker form of devaluing, debasing, and degrading their targets.
Narcissistic supply is the narcissist’s oxygen, food, lifeblood, and what they live on.
It is crucial to understand this to understand why they come back up after their targets have gone “no contact.” They will continue to come back as long as they believe there is supply to be had. This is sometimes referred to as “hoovering,” which is wherein the “discard” phase of a narcissistic relationship, the narcissist will come back and try to “love bomb” again just to try to assert control over their targets again.
Narcissists will take their supply from anyone who is willing to give it to them. Showing that you care, that you are afraid, that you are intimidated, that you are angry, that you need them, or any other type of emotion is totally detrimental to your attempts to be “no contact.”
As a divorce lawyer, I see this so often. The target wants the narcissist to know how wronged they are, or what they’ve done to them. I’ve also seen clients attempt to go “no-contact” then the narcissist comes at them with feigned attempts to either settle “amicably” or even to reconcile. It’s all a trick to reassert their control.
So, in short, the answer is yes, a narcissist will continue to come back after “no contact” until their targets cut off all forms of narcissistic supply, leaving them no choice but to go find other prey upon which to feed.
Body Language Expert | Speaker
Yes; they will come back till they get nothing
Malignant Narcissists are empty, lacking a positive emotional connection to themselves that can fill them, they instead feel they are in a dark abyss. They need to continually be fed narcissistic supply of other people’s emotions.
To them, you are a possession, a source of supply that they can pick up and use anytime. Time for Malignant Narcissists is not linear; it’s never too late to hurt you and get fed by your pain. It never too late to reach for you to get the pleasure they once had. Because they still feel any pain that ever happened to them as if it is still happening.
They feel they should be able to reach for you to get the pleasure they once had.
So if you go no contact, they can feel just as angry at you years later as they did when it first happened, if you hurt them in the relationship they are still mad, if you loved them and they liked that, they feel you should always give them that.
They may show their need for supply by calling you and or driving by your house, tracking you on social media, even trying to come months or years later with flowers and promises to change.
Three factors that can help them stay away and not seek contact:
- You must make sure they no longer get any supply from you. Go no contact. Don’t accept calls. Don’t reply to any emails or texts or comments on social media. If you see them walk away. Be boring.
- You have to hope that lots of other people feed them, so they don’t have to cycle back to you as a formally reliable supply source. That’s a complicated reality. If your ex has a new gal, (or three )as much as you may fear for her future, having her as a source of supply may keep him for hurting you. Coworkers and employees that work with your abuser can also be sources of supply rather than you.
- If your abuser is isolated from other relationships for any reason, you are more likely to be in danger as you are their last source of supply. You have to hope they won’t keep playing with you at a distance with actions like smear campaigns, name-calling, and damaging your other relationships as that can continue to feed them. They will continue to feel connected and in contact, and you need not care or give any energy to these actions.
Consequences to the MN don’t typically work well, but their greatest fear is public humiliation. If they look weak or stupid and their masks fall down when they seek to recontact, that can work.
For example, if you go no contact, but your abuser is still driving by your house, don’t feed your abuser by responding. You can protect yourself. Contact law enforcement to report it, but don’t contact your abuser.
Make it clear to your friends that your abuser is driving by to stalk you. But if they are in contact with your abuser, it feeds them to know they are affecting you. You can tell them it makes you feel sorry for him and how small his life must be. That may make him look sad and low, and he may stop stalking you.
There are a few ways it can work if their last contacts before “no contact” gave them no supply. You need to make sure you go “grey,” giving them no emotion, monotone voice, and no facial expressions. Please don’t feed them with your anger or submissiveness.
Again, show no anger, no sign that you are upset or afraid, no indication that you may have grown more strong and powerful. Just be boring. The simple secret is to give them nothing.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Behavior Coach | Consultant | Author
After going “no contact” with a narcissist, the person going No Contact should expect their boundaries to be crossed, challenged, and/or violated.
This is regardless of whether someone has stated their intentions to go No Contact.
Boundary crossing happens because the narcissist feels entitled to you. They will try to reach you via your friends, employer, social media, or any other avenue where they feel they can get your attention.
Remember that the narcissist thinks that they have done nothing wrong. They are genuinely confused as to why you decided to cut contact with them regardless of their repeated toxic—and sometimes dangerous—behavior.
You must put together a No Contact plan with the following resources (at least):
- Emotional. Emotional resources include your friends, family, therapist, and support groups. (Remember that anyone who sides with the narcissist is not an emotional resource and may possibly help the narcissist get back in contact with you.)
- Financial. It is important to make a list of your financial resources because the narcissist may try to access these in court or claim that “you owe them” money purely to get back in contact with you.
- Employment. This is just in case the narcissist infiltrates your job situation. Know that, in this case, it is best to plan to leave. This is because you cannot expect your HR department or upper management to protect you. They may be manipulated by the narcissist or lack an awareness of what narcissistic abuse looks like. (This happened to me—and when I did, I updated my resume, took time off to go on interviews and consolidated resources that I had built for my clients to take to my next job.)
- Internal. Prepare a list of your self-care strategies (including but not limited to exercise, relaxing music, inspirational quotes, and reminders of why you decided to cut contact with them in the first place). It will most likely be emotionally difficult when the narcissist crosses your boundaries. Prepare yourself with self-soothing resources. Put a list of these resources where it is easily accessible.
- Legal. If the narcissist breaks the law crossing your boundaries, make a list of legal resources that you can access.
Dr. Cali Estes, Ph.D.
Psychologist | Cognitive Behavioral Therapist | Celebrity Addiction Specialist | Founder, The Addictions Coach
You need to think of a narcissist as a predator. They need to win, be in control, and conquer the objective (in this sense person).
They look at a no-contact boundary as a challenge and will try to overcome it as much as possible
They may dip out for a bit and get distracted by another conquest (in this case, a person) and still return to you.
Most narcissistic personalities will have one specific target that they can not take no for an answer from. This is the person that they may tell, “you will never leave me, no one else can have you, I will kill you before I let you leave, or I will kill myself.“
If you have broken the chains of a narcissistic personality and feel free, they may come back after the “no contact” period is up (can be a restraining order or you cut them off completely).
A good example of this is Jodi Arias. Travis cut her off, moved and she drove through multiple states to get to him, when he rejected her yet again, she killed him and left. She had to win and decided that no one else could have him.
Narcissist Blogger & Mental Health Professional
A narcissist will come back after no contact if they find themselves low on attention
A narcissist will come back after no contact if they find themselves low on attention, and they consider you easy to get that attention from. Most narcissists hate being alone, and they need attention far more than most people.
Narcissists don’t care about your feelings, and they don’t miss you. Even though they will say they do to lure you back. They’ll tell you anything you want to hear to draw you back if they need you for something. But they only care about what you can give them.
If the narcissist has plenty of attention, then they’re unlikely to give you a second thought. Unless they’re getting bored of their new partner, or there’s something else they can extract from you, such as money. It’s only when narcissists need something that they appear back in your life.
Jennifer Hama, MS, LPC, CPCS
Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor, Petrichor Counseling
It is nearly guaranteed that a narcissist will come back after no contact. That’s part of what makes a narcissist a narcissist.
Narcissists, by definition, are exploitive of others and lack empathy for others; therefore, any rules regarding contact will be ignored by the narcissist.
The pattern of returning to the relationship is called “hoovering.”
Much like the vacuum, the narcissistic will hoover in the background until they find an opportune time to contact.
A classic example occurs on anniversaries or birthdays. The narcissist will reach out and often make a sentimental remark or even a shallow apology.
It has the appearance of thoughtfulness or change, yet rarely is there real change or empathy for the victim. Unfortunately, this often pulls the victim back into the abuse cycle through no fault of their own.
This cycle continues until the victim no longer responds and ignores the narcissist’s attempts to reengage the relationship. Though a narcissist will come back after no contact, I still recommend that people go no contact or low contact with narcissists because it keeps the person being abused by the narcissist safe.
Dr. Benson G. Munyan, PhD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Director at Neurocove Behavioral Health, LLC
It is notoriously difficult to predict behavior, whether or not someone has narcissistic traits.
Those with narcissistic traits (and those with narcissistic personality disorder) are characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, inflated sense of success, power, or other desirable traits, and beliefs that they are special.
They may also lack empathy and demand excessive admiration.
While it is certainly possible they may reach out after extended periods of time; behavioral frameworks would suggest it’s unlikely, as many of desirable elements (such as praise, love, or admiration) should not be experienced during prolonged periods without contact.
These instances of reducing social interaction may be perceived as criticism or defeat, which can be especially hurtful.
It is also possible that the emotional response to criticism will include increased levels of anger or disdain, which could amplify contact, particularly on social media. That said, it is also possible that such periods of no-contact are disregarded or minimized because they perceive themselves to be special.
Stephanie Campbell, MS, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Blooming Lotus Counseling
Losing control over you through no contact often creates rage within the narcissist, which will be unleashed upon you through phone calls, voicemails, text messages, and emails.
If those means of communication do not work, the narcissist may come to your home, workplace, or reach out to family or friends in an attempt to regain that control over you.
Even if they have moved on to someone else, they need to have you as part of the supply that fills their empty soul.
Once they are able to make contact with you, the cycle of abuse will restart with love-bombing and any other trick they learned that makes you forget how bad the abuse had become and why you had left.
Unfortunately, this phase does not last long since it is difficult for them to keep their mask in place. Keep in mind that it might not be tomorrow, but they most likely will resurface at some point, even a year or two later.