How to Break Up with a Narcissist.

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 8.1
Hearts 1.0
Comments 1.5
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
3 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

“In the mirror selfie, the reality star appears to expose her full right nipple in a sheer bra. And if she noticed, well, she clearly didn’t think it was a big deal.” She might be right: who cares.

narcissism instagram

narcissism instagram

If you find yourself in that push/pull struggle with a narcissist, here’s how you make him/her stop:

man narcissist guy

In my psychiatric practice, I’ve seen how hard it is for my patients to break up with a partner who’s a narcissist.

Narcissists can make you fall in love with them so hard that it feels like you’re giving up a part of your heart to leave them. And they use every manipulation in the book to get you to stay.

On the surface narcissists can seem charming, intelligent, caring—knowing how to entice and lure their way back into your life. But once they reel you back then they revert to their egotistical selves. Their motto will always be “Me First!” Everything’s all about them. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, crave admiration and attention. They can also be highly intuitive, but use their intuition for self-interest and manipulation.

Narcissists are so dangerous because they lack empathy, have a limited capacity for unconditional love. Sadly, their hearts either haven’t developed or have been shut down due to early psychic trauma, such as being raised by narcissistic parents, a crippling handicap both emotionally and spiritually. (The damage of narcissistic parenting is outstandingly detailed in Alice Miller’s Drama of the Gifted Child.) Hard as it may be to comprehend, these people have little insight into their actions, nor do they regret them.

To find out if you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, ask yourself the following questions from my book on achieving emotional freedom.

Quiz: Have I Been in a Relationship with a Narcissist?

  • Does the person act as if life revolves around him?
  • Do I have to compliment him to get his attention or approval?
  • Does he constantly steer the conversation back to himself?
  • Does he downplay my feelings or interests?
  • If I disagree, does he become cold or withholding?
  • If you answer “yes” to one or two questions, it’s likely you’re dealing with a narcissist. Responding “yes” to three or more questions suggests that a narcissist is violating your emotional freedom.

    Narcissists are hard nuts to crack. With these patients, the best I can do is align with their positive aspects and focus on behaviors that they agree aren’t working. Still, even if one wants to change, progress is limited, with meager gains.

    My professional advice: don’t fall in love with a narcissist or entertain illusions they’re capable of the give and take necessary for intimacy. In such relationships you’ll always be emotionally alone to some degree. If you have a withholding narcissist spouse, beware of trying to win the nurturing you never got from your parents; it’s not going to happen. Also, don’t expect to have your sensitivity honored. These people sour love with all the hoops you must jump through to please them.

    If you’re trying to break up with a narcissist, use these methods from my emotional freedom book to get your power back.

    Don’t Fall For Their Manipulations
    They will use every trick in the book to get you back so be prepared. Narcissists are really convincing. When you are ready to leave, stick to your convictions and move on to a more positive future filled with real love.

    Set Limits
    Since narcissists have no empathy, nor can they really love, you must leave them cold turkey and endure the pain. Set limits and say “no” to them and in your heart. Then gather all your strength and keep walking into the unknown towards something better.

    Focus on the Future
    Once detached from a narcissist, it is extremely important that you focus all your positive energy and thoughts on doing good things for yourself and the world. Don’t let your mind wander to the past or to what he is doing.

    Be Kind to Yourself
    Treasure yourself. Be very kind to yourself and know that you deserve a loving relationship with someone who can reciprocate that love.

    My view on life is that every person we meet along the way, loving or not, is meant to help us grow. Do not beat yourself up for getting involved with a narcissist. But please learn what you can from it, including setting healthy boundaries and saying “no” to abuse, so you don’t repeat this lesson again. It is very emotionally freeing to heal any attraction to abusive people so you can have more true love in your life.

    Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s NY Times bestseller, “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life”



    A Narcissist & an Empath Walk Into a Bar: Understanding the Dynamic of Abuse.


    The good kind of narcissism:



    Author: Judith Orloff

    Editor: Catherine Monkman

    Photos: Jason Saul/Flickr

    The Elephant Ecosystem

    Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

    Views 10
    Shares 8.1
    Hearts 1.0
    Comments 1.5
    Editor's Pick 0.0
    Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
    3 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

    Read The Best Articles of January
    You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

    Judith Orloff

    Judith Orloff, MD is the author of  The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. In the book she educates readers about empaths, highly sensitive people, and offers strategies for anyone who wants to avoid narcissists and transform difficult emotions to positive ones. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist and an empath who combines the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly highly sensitive people. She is a New York Times best-selling author of  Emotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Guide to Intuitive Healing, The Power of Surrender, and Second Sight. Connect with Judith on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff’s books and workshop schedule, visit her website. Republished with explicit written permission from the author. Join her empath Facebook community for sensitive souls here.

    Read more from Judith here.

    You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

    anonymous Mar 16, 2016 4:02pm

    All of these articles about narcissists trouble me. If the condition is so detrimental to others and seemingly incurable, should we consider NPD as cause for euthenasia?

      anonymous Mar 16, 2016 4:08pm

      It does seem awfully widespread for a psychosis, so we might be in danger of losing half our population if that were the case. 😉 Khara

    anonymous Jan 16, 2016 1:25pm

    In the article you say “he” is that because in your experience it has been a trait in men? I have recently been in a dysfunctional relationship for about 14 months and the very things you describe are how she treated me. I really thought that I loved her and her me but we couldn’t get on the same page so I kept letting her draw me back in and then I was always the one that had to do things differently not her. It’s a struggle trying to understand, cope, and move past this. I’ve been made to feel like I’m crazy and even at times it drive me crazy. I’ve spoken to different people about it and they tell me she is a user and emotionally abusing me. I just feel worn out and empty.

    anonymous Nov 14, 2015 6:39am

    The man that I am married to is telling people that I have PTSD and that my emotional abuse is too much for him. My children have not seen this, people who have known me longer than him have never seen it. He states that it from past relationships with males. Problem is the male friendships that I have are positive, with my brothers, married friends, co-workers, etc. He lies, denies and throws everything on to others, takes zero responsibility for his actions. by throwing this 'label', and it is a label for me, not a diagnosis, it takes all eyes off of him. PTSD is serious, and there are too many people who are living daily with this, do not just mamby pamby throw it out like Halloween candy…

    anonymous Oct 10, 2015 8:10am

    Sometimes I wonder what happened to us
    And some days I miss you so much
    My heart starts breaking all over again
    Knowing nothing’s for real, it’s the end.

    And sometimes I’m crazy for you
    And sometimes I’m nuthin but blue
    Remembering your hold
    I thought that we would grow old
    Together no more cause you’re through.

    The change was so fast, I wasn’t ready
    What happened to new starts and going steady
    Yet you thought the worst
    It was clear I wasn’t first
    In your heart any more on that day

    Each morning I hold my head high
    In my heart I know it’s a lie
    And at night the tears flow
    Cos of how fast you let go
    Of me and our dreams, say goodbye.

    And sometimes I’m crazy for you
    And sometimes I’m nuthin but blue
    Yet as each day goes by and
    The less that I cry
    I know that I’ll fade the memories of you.

    So there will come a day
    I’ll truly be okay and I’ll smile at the joy I’ve found in me
    I’ll find love again, but first I’ll make sure I mend…so that this never hapens again.


    anonymous Sep 7, 2015 12:39pm

    Is there a way to get a narcasist not to leave you or treat you better? Are they always gonna be broken?? Is there a way to get the upper hand with a narcissist??

    anonymous Aug 11, 2015 10:53am

    Change your thinking to change your life, your Self balance depends on it.

    You are a narcissist when you demand your way and only your way.

    You are a narcissist when you don’t compromise for balance.

    You are a narcissist when you unfairly label others.

    You are a narcissist when you are easily offended.

    You are a narcissist when you can’t laugh at your own stupidity.

    You are a narcissist when you take no responsibility for your actions.

    You are a narcissist when you constantly whine and vent your blame elsewhere.

    You are a narcissist when you think it’s mostly men who are narcissists.

    You are a narcissist when you don’t understand it’s give and take in relationships.

    You are a narcissist when you believe nothing is your fault and it’s someone else.

    Find your balance in yourself first because when pointing fingers elsewhere, you point one finger, there are always three fingers on the same hand pointing back at you.

    Where can you start? Mind, body, and spirit. It sounds cliché’ but it really starts with how we eat. What we eat regulates our hormones, both in male and females. Our hormones dictates how the body feels. The way we think dictates how the mind feels, our habitual thinking defines our mental health. They both dictate how the spirit feels. Start with the foundations and eliminate those that which cause inflammation in the body and mind.

    Look at the person you are labeling. Do you constantly dwell on what others are doing or saying, or do you focus on your Self? Each drop of water creates a ripple effect. Your incessant whining and pointing out others faults, seeking answers outward while not reflecting inward first creates an unhealthy ripple of energy in yourself and around you. Until you fix yourself, you’ll never be in a healthy relationship.

    Start by eliminating all grains, sugar, sodas, processed foods, and eat plenty of eggs, fruits, vegetables, and especially fats. Fats are good for you, “It Starts With Food: Whole 30” is a great place to begin.

    And start by watching what you say and do, if you wouldn’t want someone to point out something negative about you, why would you do the same to another? If someone is doing it to you, you don’t have to react. Not every battle needs to be fought, they should be very rare.

    Good luck, life is meant to be a struggle to teach us lessons as without lessons to learn from, gain no wisdom.

    anonymous Jul 26, 2015 10:28pm

    Did not mean to be so abrupt on last comment but generalisations can be dangerous and inaccurate. Narcissism is a behaviour not exclusive to any gender its a learned trait

    anonymous Jul 26, 2015 5:38pm

    Yeah the last comment is the answer isnt it lets just blame the women end of story

    anonymous Jul 25, 2015 10:46pm

    Sad to say, but that list describes a lot of women in genera, not just narcissists. There are great gals out there, but a lot were raised to think that men have to bend over backwards for them to be worth their attention.

    anonymous Jul 23, 2015 5:25pm

    narcissism is my families " go to" emotional foundation based on me being the emotional cripple, them being the superior,know better, do better everything. They set the drama up on top of another drama to distract themselves from the real issue. I have had to disconnect from them completely because they have used and abused me all my life its taken a very long time to understand that l do not have to have loyalty nor obligation to people who behave like that even if they are called" family". l have gone back and set boundaries only to have them yet again be disrespectful no matter how many conversations were had. My last words were more or less, wish you and your family the best GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK! THEIR belief system is just that, l am powerless and have no control over it which is exactly how they want to keep it and keep it they shall, l just refuse to be a victim of it anymore

    anonymous Jul 19, 2015 2:13am

    I've been with a narcissist for a year and a half now. I only realised it a short while ago, after i had decided that i NEEDED to end it with him and there was no future. I've started reading up on this now and am convinced this is him, a "moderate" narcissist perhaps. It was hard to identify exactly what was wrong with him and therefore us, but all the articles have helped. In my worst moments i still see hope, at my best moments i am resolute that i must and will break up, now its just a question of when, not if. I can't believe I'm so weak here because I'm otherwise a champion at everything else i do in my life! I guess knowing deep down that he is not the one for me is the first step, now i need to take the next…

      anonymous Jul 28, 2015 9:56am

      i have been w my man for 2.5 years, living together, i didnt know there was a word for him. lol.
      he is mentally and emotionally abusive and threatens bad things when he is mad, but when he is in a good mood, we talk about it, and it was just him venting. ha.
      i have nervousness when he gets mad, to where my dog can sense it and she even shakes.
      when you live w someone in your hometown, and he knows very few people, and isnt good with making friends or relationships, his family is in puerto rico and NY, and he has nothing, no savings, his car isnt in the best condition, so how do i split w him. he lovesssss me, in loooovvvvee w me, cant live without me, blah all the time, posts it all over fb, im his queen, the love of his life, but the smallest thing sets him off and it makes no sense to me, and if he loses or misplaces his keys, license, money, etc its my fault becasue i cant help him keep up w his own things. and if he has an issue with a family member, which he always makes up something to complain about and get mad about w them, even if they do nothing, he takes it out around me, bitching, yelling, complaining, etc.. and his rants are aweful. but the godo is amazing, but the bad outweighs it. we have no future, even though we have planned it all, talked about babies, and weddings, but then he says he dont like my family and dont want them at my wedding. lmao what a joke. idk wtf to do w him. i feel you girl, we have to start somewhere.
      i thought he was the one, but i think thats all hog wash.

    anonymous Jul 6, 2015 12:06pm

    My realization of emotional abuse came right out of my own mouth. It was: i feel as beat up as if you hit me with your fists. It was at that point i prepared my self to leave. Once i left i never looked back!

    anonymous Jul 1, 2015 9:39pm

    I've been married to a narcissist for 16 years….We have a 14 year old son together. He is verbally, emotionally & mentally beyond abusive. He threatens physical abuse very "vaguely". I have 2 part time jobs (which he has deemed "barely one job"), and I still can't squirrel away enough $ to get away from him. My son, who used to be so loving, has begun to mirror his father's attitude towards me. I am afraid he won't come with me if I'm ever able to leave once and for all. I've begged my family and even some friends for help, and no one will. I honestly feel like I want to die, most of the time….
    Please don't respond with words telling me to "just leave him", as most do. I have no where to go and no way to get there. And certainly no way to care for my son if we're living in my car.

      anonymous Jul 5, 2015 11:19am

      Please, please call your local battered women's shelter or domestic abuse hotline. Verbal and emotional abuse are still abuse and they can help you get away. You might need to stress the physical threats on your first phone call to the shelter, as sometimes the person who answers the phone is less experienced at dealing with more subtle forms of abuse. But call, tell them you fear that you and your son are in danger, and let them help you get away and get on your feet. Later, when you are in a more stable situation, you can volunteer or donate to the shelter if you feel the need to "pay back" for the help they give you. But please call now.

      anonymous Oct 10, 2015 4:19am

      On May 15,2013 I left my husband for the second time. The first time I went to a homeless shelter with my 2 children. When he actively started looking for us they had me contact the local battered women's shelter. When I went in for an interview and had to be honest in telling them that I had never been physically abused or forced to have sex they turned us away because my situation was not high enough risk for us to take the place of those who are in more physically and sexually dangerous relationships. The homeless shelter was able to set up our move to a battered women's shelter in a near by city…it was hard for me. At that point I didn't see as clearly that he is an abusive person. He doesn't have the capacity to love selflessly because his mind puts all people and relationships into a framework of "what will it do for me". That time I went back 1 1/2 weeks after we were moved to the new shelter. Things were somewhat better for almost 2 years…better as in I didn't fear for my safety. But in that time I did learn that practically everything he'd ever told me about himself was fictional, that almost everything he said was at least tainted with lies and he became increasingly verbally abusive again. By the time things got so bad that I had to take the children and go to a homeless shelter again I had changed the status for my SSDI payments from him being my representative payee to me once again being able to receive payments in my own name. I had gotten a valid, up to date ID card and in the last month before we left I had to turn him into Social Security for misusing the funds…charges he maneuvered his way out of and threw in my face, but by that time we were out of his house and saving money to move into an apartment and out of the homeless shelter.
      I tell you just a part of my history, not because I want sympathy, but so that you see that I understand where you are, I've been there.
      These are the points I want you to take away from this:
      1. There are 2 reasons that your friends and family may not be helping you. A. You may not look like an abused woman to them. They can't see bruises. Mental and emotional damage is not as easy to see. Someday they may get it, in the meantime there are most likely others who already do get it.
      B. They may be hearing that you need a place to stay, and they can't offer one. But that doesn't mean that they don't want to help you, or that they can't help you in other ways.
      2. In what you've written I hear a lot of can'ts. One of the things an abusor does best is to hide from us our options. We get so used to thinking in the pattern that we've been taught that we can't see an answer right in front of us, or if we see it we don't want to take it because it doesn't fit into what we believe is acceptable. Your 14 year old son is already following in some of the patterns of his father. You have a very limited amount of time before his personality and belief system are set for the rest of his life. I know, this is what I'm being told about my 14 year old son too…but it's not too late. Show him how strong of a woman you can be, for both of you.
      3. If you've already contacted a battered women's shelter it's very possible that they have turned you down for housing. They have limited space and it is reserved for those in more physical danger. That doesn't mean that there aren't other things that they can do: classes, support groups, counseling. Sometimes we don't get the full answer on how they can help us because out requests are too specific. I lived in a homeless shelter with my children but I am now working on getting set up to take a class through the Women's and Children's Alliance (our local battered women's shelter) on Nurturing Parenting so that I can learn how to teach my children empathy, respect and healthy family values. They also have a support group for me. My difficulty is the fact that I am disabled, can't drive so transportation is an issue. You have a car, often such groups and classes are free, you could do this and it will help to grow your circle of support and give you resources. See waht your local area has to offer.
      The point is that to do this you will need support. You can do this but it will be a battle, it won't be pleasant but you are fighting so that you and your son will have a better future. Remember that you are not alone. I am in the trenches with you as are many others. Meet some of them and be inspired by them.

    anonymous Jun 30, 2015 11:46am

    Hi thank you for your article! I still feel a bit lost as to how to break with my narcissist friend.

    I keep feeling like I want to explain how she's made me feel and how emotionally manipulative she's been. After reading about narcissist and after my conversational attempts to make her understand my feelings in the past (she would only recognise my need for space and that being at her beck and call was causing me problems when I refused to meet her, she then made me feel really guilty for not 'being there' for her, and when I gave in a bit, she started trying make me feel down too, attempting to cover it by saying that she didn't mean to she was just upset which was everyone else's fault) I don't think a conversation will work. I'm trying to accept that I may not get closure.

    But I don't know whether to out-rightly say I don't want to be your friend any more. I feel that she'll want a reason. She's made it so that I couldn't call her out on behaviour in the past, and on the occasion I did she said she didn't mean anything by it and played the victim. If I give a reason she'll only have something to argue against. But I also don't want to do damage to her, or feel guilty for it afterwards. -she repeatedly told me that she has been hurt by friends in the past who started ignoring her or suddenly said they didn't want to be friends with her, that she is easily upset, and that I'm one of her closest friends-
    There is also never a good time to talk either as there is one emergency or horrible day after another and she keeps looking to me for emotional support.

    I'm torn because she seems like a nice person, but it took me getting to a low place where she was sucking all the energy out of me, and she's still distracting me from my own work and problems, for another friend to point out her exploitative behaviour. She's made me feel from the start that she really needs a good friend and I wanted to be there for her and help her. But I've found that she see's her time and her problems as far more important than anyone else's, and I've now found it's the same towards her fiancée. She has taken up too much of my time worrying about how to phrase things, how I can be there for her and balance my own things etc. I appreciate these articles, I think I needed it confirmed that I don't and won't have an authentic relationship with her.

    anonymous Jun 27, 2015 12:18pm

    Dr. Orloff, could you suggest some help for the narcissist?
    I desperately seek change.

    anonymous Jun 27, 2015 8:59am

    this is very complicated matter, narcissism is a group of behaviors or a description of a style of functioning. Yet the causes and destructive patterns can vary. Many learning disabled children have these traits, many people with true attention difficulties have these characteristics. Realistically if we are honest we all at times show these patterns, some times while grieving or when going through stressful times. I have found that we can grow from the insight we gain when we pay attention to how a narcissist has impacted us, or how my narcissism has hurt other or pushed them away. Relationships are the hardest thing we do in life, some times our needs are not met and some times we are not a good match, regardless we grow and learn from our experiences if we want to be an experienced person who can ask for what they need and want, give for the sake of giving and be patient enough to accept that we can't always get what we need or want. Some times you just have to take a deep breath. Well that's my two cents

    anonymous Jun 26, 2015 3:47pm

    What if the narcissist in question is your mother?!

      anonymous Jun 26, 2015 6:43pm

      Yes what if I think my mother is as well !!!!

    anonymous Jun 26, 2015 12:26pm

    I wish I’d known this 10 years ago! I just spent last year reconnecting with an ex who is so much the stereotypical narcissist I’m still shocked it took me that long to figure it out. Everything on your list applies to this guy. Every time I tried to share something important with him, he’d tune out. Every time I wouldn’t say what he wanted to hear or be the person he thought I should be for him, he got verbally abusive. He lied to me for months and then lectured me about my apparent lack of honesty. Last year he emailed me that I didn’t deserve to be in his life and 8 weeks later (to the day) texted me for a booty call! And couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t jumping up and down with joy. People like this are so good at making you believe that everything that goes wrong between you is entirely your own fault. The relief you feel when you finally get free of them is overwhelmingly good.

      anonymous Jul 28, 2015 2:57pm

      4 years for me and I'm only now seeing the signs. Of course, I feel like I am not qualified to make any diagnosis, but it sure seems like NPD to me. What I don't understand is why I am having such difficulty simply ending this. It doesn't help that we live together, but I need to take control of my life.

    anonymous Jun 26, 2015 6:28am

    Great article, thank you for your insight Judith. Narcissism and narcissistic abuse can be so prevalent these days, I know from experience you can feel like you’re losing your mind.
    There’s a great article from the hart centre that helped me, it goes into indepth detail, even has a 100 point checklist. Here’s the link:
    thanks again Judith!

    anonymous Jun 26, 2015 3:32am

    I only knew my husband was a narcissist a couple of years into counseling following our breakup after a 26 year relationship (he left me and our two children). On reflection, he was also emotionally abusive though it sounds like the two go hand in hand. It was totally soul destroying from beginning to end and unfortunately I can't be rid of him as he is still involved in my children's lives. I was diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder as a result of his treatment of me over the years, and 5 years down the track, I am still struggling to pick up the pieces and rediscover the real me. These people are toxic to all those they encounter and I feel sad for my children that they have one for a father.

      anonymous Nov 12, 2015 2:05pm

      Sandra,your story is almost word for word like mine.except I ended up with M.E rather than parenting is such hard work with theses nut jobs.throw his other women in the mix and it's been bedlam fro 18 months.much love to you

    anonymous Jun 25, 2015 10:14pm

    What if the narcissist has broken up with you and you want her back? I know the logical answer is to be thankful she’s gone! But I can’t let her go. Is it insane to love a narcissist?

      anonymous Jun 27, 2015 11:55am

      Respecfully I say it is pretty destructive to love a narcissist. I understand the pull but the results will not be good. You will always be longing for more and will be disappointed when this person can't give your what you need. Read the section in The Ecstasy of Surrender on how to let go of patterns that keep you from love. There is true love out there.

    anonymous Jun 25, 2015 7:28pm

    I really appreciate the article and it makes some excellent points. I hope the writer will also elaborate on thedifferent kinds of narcissists out there. I was married to a covert narcissist which is even more difficult a nut to crack. He was incredibly special because he was so selfless, so without ego (he liked to say with great regularity). He tried to convince me and others that he was the epitome of empathetic. Anyone with any kind of ego that was in relationship with him was the one who was the "narcissist". We do best now as ex-spouses by having a mutual agreement that neither of us is served by interacting with the other—it works well.