How to break a narcissist’s heart: 11 key steps

Sometimes we meet people that hurt us, and we don’t know if it’s possible to break their hearts at all.

Many of these people are narcissists.

If you’ve ever had a narcissist in your life, you know the struggle and the pain they cause.

We hope that you’re free from them now, surrounded by healthy people that love you without hurting you.

But if you’re still with them, we urge you to reconsider. It’s hard to get away, but not impossible. There’s no good outcome in this kind of toxic relationship.

Read on and find ten steps to leave them and break their heart.

Outsmarting a narcissist: is it possible?

Of course. Remember that they play games, and you can choose to no longer abide by their rules. When you’re no longer playing their games, you don’t have to follow their every command.

Outsmarting a narcissist often means:

  • Knowing and reinforcing healthy boundaries.
  • Respecting your honesty.
  • Ignoring narcissistic behavior.
  • Walking away from their life completely if that’s necessary.

That being said, narcissists play with our patterns of behavior. You can’t outsmart them by not changing anything, but it doesn’t mean you have to get confrontational.

Arguing with them or trying to be rational in the face of their actions won’t work. They’ll become more reactive and hurtful.

Once they get a reaction from you, they can become even more chaotic because they know how to hurt you.

Outsmarting them is not the same as getting revenge on them. Outsmarting means that you consciously step away from them. You don’t hope they change for the better, you don’t argue with them anymore, it all stops.

You even have to understand that they’ll never recognize how much of a bad person they are.

Understanding this can be painful, but it’s an important step in recovering from a relationship with a narcissist.

11 clever steps to survive a narcissist

Doing nothing is the worst thing to do when you are bound to a narcissist. If you try to piss them off, you’re feeding their behavior.

You’re playing their game.

This justifies them, in their minds, to keep treating you badly. They feed their ego this way.

We give you this advice not as a form of revenge, but as a form of escaping this kind of relationship and finally finding peace and healing.

1) Get to know yourself

The defend yourself from a narcissist, you have to know exactly who you are. You can start with meditation or a self-help book, an hour a day is enough if you can manage it.

Work on loving yourself and putting your needs first. Develop boundaries, discover and reaffirm your strengths, and the aspects of your personality that make you the lovable individual that you are.

Narcissists are charmers, but their charms aren’t real. Trusting yourself will prevent you from falling into their trap.

But I know — it’s not that easy to get to know yourself and find out who you really are.

However, reflecting on your thoughts or speaking to someone who will listen to you and give you guidance in your life might be helpful.

For this purpose, I decided to speak to a relationship coach at Relationship Hero. At first, I expected some vague advice about cheering up or being strong. 

Still, I decided to give them a try, and surprisingly I got very in-depth, specific, and practical advice solutions to get to know myself better.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice specific to your situation.

Click here to check them out.

2) Change the focus of your attention

Narcissists love attention. They work for it, and it doesn’t matter if it’s negative or positive attention.

You might find yourself putting your needs aside to tend to theirs first, it’s one of their most refined strategies.

You have to understand that they won’t stop looking for attention, no matter how much you give them. You can change your entire life for them, it won’t matter.

3) Reaffirm your limits

Narcissists tend to be very selfish people. They feel they have the right to invade your life, go past your limits and tell you how to be and feel.

They have a number of behaviors that tell a lot about themselves: they can take credit for your ideas or actions, they can give you unsolicited advice, or they can pressure you to talk about things you don’t want to talk about, especially in public.

They can even invade your personal space, crossing every line in their way. They choose not to see them. That’s why you need to know your boundaries and enforce them whenever necessary.

4) Don’t give in

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Confronting a narcissist isn’t the same as confronting anyone else. Where you might hope they react, they won’t. They will demand things for themselves if you don’t set boundaries.

They will try to make you feel bad or guilty, even trying to gaslight you into feeling like you’re irrational or toxic.

Stand your ground and, again, trust yourself. If you back down they won’t take you seriously.

5) Don’t let them isolate you

The most common strategy from a narcissist is to try to isolate you. If you don’t have people who support you, it’s easier to undermine your self-esteem to manipulate you. Don’t allow that, ever.

Trust your friends, family, even your coworkers with your issues. More often than not these are the people the narcissist will attack first, trying to separate you from them, because they can usually see right through their tactics.

Your friends and family will protect you from their attempts at lowering your self-esteem and falling into depression. They can reaffirm your reality and contradict a narcissist’s mind games.

If you can’t stop the person from attacking you, focus on your network of healthy relationships. Narcissists tend to exhaust people emotionally, so try not to spend too much time with them.

6) Practice indifference

If you’re going to ignore them, you have to know that this is one of the things that make them the angriest.

If you feel like you have to be very careful and walk on eggshells around them all the time, it might be exhausting to just ignore them. You need all the energy just to deal with their toxic behavior.

Detaching yourself from their mind games can be a good place to start. You have to get to the point where their actions hurt you the least possible, or not at all. It takes time to get there, but you will. Sometimes you just have to fake it till you make it.

7) Remind them of their failures

Narcissists, however much they might think so, are imperfect. They don’t like that reminder, in fact, they’re afraid of others seeing their failures. They wouldn’t be able to feel superior if people see their insecurities.

Their entire worldview is shaped by how they see themselves and how superior they feel to others. They can’t take criticism in any way. If you belittle them or point out their failures, you’re hurting them.

This, however, isn’t the best approach. A narcissist knows exactly how to hurt you and they have no regrets about doing so. You might even be kind in pointing out their shortcomings, but their reaction won’t be. They will always find new ways to hurt you.

8) Be prepared for confrontation

The best way to check if someone’s a narcissist or not is by saying no to them, even in the smallest details. If they can take it, it’s usually fine. If they can’t… It’s not a good sign.

Saying no allows you to not become too attached to them, and shows you how little they care about you. Narcissists only care about themselves. 

If you need more proof, confronting them will set them off and prove how much they like to walk all over you.

9) You are not to blame

Someone with narcissism won’t admit the mistakes they make or the ways in which they hurt you. Instead, they will blame you or anyone else.

You can even accept the blame just to calm them down, but it’s not necessary to protect their ego.

You know the truth and no amount of gaslighting can make you doubt it. Don’t accept blame for things you didn’t do. They might not like it, but you’ll be safer for it.

10) Actions have consequences

Every action has its consequence, and that’s a good lesson for a narcissistic person.

Don’t go to the rescue every time your narcissistic friend fails to do something. Don’t bail them out, don’t protect them. It’s the best way for them to learn that they too are human.

If you’re being physically abused by a narcissistic partner and someone reports them, don’t stand up for them. They don’t deserve it and you’ll do a lot better without them in your life.

Bonus step: find joy

It’s very difficult to be happy when you are suffering from narcissistic abuse. Even when people say happiness is the best revenge, it might not sound believable. They are experts and gaslighting and undermining you.

Knowing that you can and will be happy requires you to take action. Even in the most hopeless situation, you can do it. Normal revenge won’t work, it will just feed them more ways to hurt you and leave you worse.

Choosing happiness means that you have to leave them behind. They can’t reach you, they can’t hurt you.  It’s a slow type of revenge but it’s the best one. Move on.

Can you manipulate them back?

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You know more than anyone how much they manipulate you and all the techniques they use to do so. They give you the silent treatment, they scream or gaslight you, they point out your supposed shortcomings. They don’t communicate, they disappear from days at a time.

They aren’t there when you need them. They cheat, they don’t fulfill their promises, they make you question your worth. They might even tell secrets about you to people and make you feel like you’re crazy when you tell them off for it.

You might be tempted to show them how it feels since they do it all the time to you.

The problem is that you’re not the manipulative person, they are. You are a decent person, with love and empathy for others, and that’s why they chose you as their victim.

You wouldn’t hurt somebody deliberately, in fact, you’re not mean at all. Your values and your conscience won’t let you be mean to someone on purpose, not even someone as evil as a narcissistic partner. The moment they show vulnerability, you’ll stop out of sympathy.

It might even make the situation worse, especially if they get angry. They will hurt you again. If you hope that by being mean they will recognize their behavior, it won’t work. They’ll play the victim card every time they feel like it.

If they wanted to be better, they would, without you having to show them. They have justifications for all their bad actions, and they feel superior to everyone. That’s why they feel like they have to get special treatment.

Moving on from a narcissist

More often than not, people with narcissistic personalities are verbally or emotionally abusive.

There are the telltale signs of an abusive relationship:

  • Criticism and name-calling
  • Mockery, especially in public
  • Threats and yelling
  • Judgment and accusations.

But that is not all. Here are some other warning signs of abuse or future abuse:

  • Never blaming themselves when things go wrong.
  • Keeping track of what you do and belittling your friends and family to isolate you.
  • Telling you what your reactions should be.
  • Projecting their bad behavior on you.
  • Gaslighting you or making you feel like you aren’t reliable.
  • Making fun of your needs or opinions.

Every relationship goes through good and bad times, so when should you give it up?

These are some key factors to take into consideration:

  • You’re being psychologically abused through yelling or insults.
  • They attempt to control you or manipulate you.
  • You’re being hit or pushed in any way.
  • You feel isolated from friends and family.
  • The narcissist suffers from addiction but doesn’t get the help they need.
  • Your health declines whether mentally or physically.

How to move on from a narcissist

Adjusting after breaking up with an abusive person can be super difficult, even when you’re doing the right thing.

It’s hard, even when they treated you like garbage because you might believe some of the things they said.

Your emotions are all over the place, even worse than when you were in the relationship.

We’ll give you three steps to make this process easier for you.

Don’t let obsession take over

A relationship with a narcissist implies you’ve had to walk on eggshells and analyze every single move they make before making your own, to not give them surprises and avoid suffering.

This form of hyperawareness can last long after the relationship is over, but you have to put a stop to it.

They are no longer part of your life, so you no longer need to analyze what’s wrong with them. Every time you think of them try to find something else to do, to take your mind out of them. Do it as often as you can: it can take up to three months to change a thought pattern.

Don’t make excuses for them

To survive the relationship and all the struggle it brought with it, you were forced to make excuses for everything: their abuse, their lies, their self-delusions. All that work, just to keep a fragile peace.

When you miss them— and you will, because they represent familiarity— you’ll keep making these excuses and thinking that maybe they weren’t as bad as you believed.

Don’t give these thoughts a lot of importance. Remind yourself of the objective reasons why you left and avoid getting gaslit into coming back to them. One of the best ways to manage this is to cut off all contact.

Block them from everywhere. Social media, your phone, everywhere. If you live in the same house, go as far as changing all the locks and putting up extra security. There’s a reason for it, that we’ll go into detail at the end.

Manage your levels of anxiety

The narcissist you were with probably made you super anxious. Even if you left them, your nervous system might still be suffering from that trauma. It adds to the stress of just leaving them and starting over.

On top of all of that, you’re not having sex anymore so there are no rushes of dopamine or oxytocin to help with the anxiety.

Physical activity and breathing exercises can help with this. Do them as much as you need, until your anxiety goes back to a manageable level.

Love yourself more than ever

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A tried and true narcissist strategy is to humiliate others to elevate their sense of self. You probably never had support from them or even kind words or compliments after they seduced you.

Verbal abuse and its consequences are no joke.

Your insecurity and low self-esteem are what they use to manipulate you even more. Feeling sure of your actions and yourself might feel daunting now. You have to start trusting yourself more after surviving such an ordeal.

Now, where to begin?

There are many books, groups, and therapists that can help you find yourself again. Self-love is what you need to go forward and heal after the breakup.

If you feel like you can’t do it alone, that’s okay. Find a group of people on the same path and you’ll see the results in no time.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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