10 subtle things a narcissist says when they feel you pulling away

It’s now very obvious to you: you’re dealing with a covert narcissist.

So to protect yourself, you’re pulling away…very, very slowly, hoping they won’t notice a thing.

Alas, they already did! 

They sensed it the very second you thought about it. 

Be careful.They might already be doing tricks to pull you back! 

Here are 10 subtle things a narcissist says when they feel you pulling away.

1)  “Nobody cares”

So…you try to do a slow fade.

But then they’ll pull the “woe is me” act before you’re even able to put one foot out the door.

They’d say “Nobody cares for me” or “Nobody loves me.”

And so of course, if you’re a person who genuinely cares for others—and especially if you’re highly empathetic— you can’t stand hearing this. 

These words are so painful for your fragile heart that all you’d want to do is hug them.

You’d drop the idea of leaving them and you’d comfort them instead. 

You’d say “Hey, don’t feel that way. I’m here for you.” And so you’ll forgive them for being “a bit” narcissistic, and stay.

2) “I’m lucky you’re here”

Narcissists use praise to motivate others to keep doing things for them.

If they want you to stay, they’d say “I’m really glad you’re here.”

They’d even add “Some people just come and go, but you—you’re always by my side. You really are one of the kindest people I know.”

Yeah, a bit too much but that’s what narcs do.

They know that praise is an effective trick to win your heart, especially if you have self-esteem issues.

By praise-bombing you, they’re hoping that you’ll make decisions based on what feels good (and praise does feel good) and that you’d change your mind about leaving them.

3) “We’ll achieve our dreams together”

Before you can even say adieu, they’ll sell you hope.

They’ll remind you of your goals.

They’ll remind you of your journey together.

They’ll remind you that it will all be worth it in the end.

They’ll say “We’re going to become great!” and “We’re going to earn our first million this year if we just keep at it.”

Be very careful. 

Don’t let your dreams and ambitions allow you to get manipulated by others

At some point, you gotta draw the line especially if there’s no assurance that they can make your dreams come true anyway.

Narcissists can smell desperation…and they’ll toy with it if they feel like you’re pulling away from them.

4) “I was there for you, and now you’re here for me”

It’s kinda your fault. 

Once upon a time, when you were in desperate need of help, you accepted their favors. And now you have no choice but to repay them!

Except that they want more from you—in fact they kinda want your everything!

Like a debt that’s gained 50% interest, they want your full cooperation and more…

They’re saying this line to remind you that yes, you have no choice but to stay because you owe them big time.

You’re on their leash. And getting out of it will make you an ungrateful person. 

This guilt will make you change your mind and stay a bit more even if you’re perfectly aware they’re a narcissist.

5) “I’m just trying to help”

You realize that they’re trying to control you and make decisions for you.

So you assert yourself and tell them to stop doing what they’re doing. 

That’s the time they’ll say “Geez. I was just trying to help”, then they’ll act VERY offended.

Then when you both calm down, they’ll say “I know I sounded annoying, but really—I was just trying to help!”

And then they’ll double down with “At the end of the day, it’s still ultimately up to you!” 

Hearing these lines would make you go “Ohh…I was being judgmental. Perhaps they actually have good intentions.”

And before you know it, you’re back on their leash…and they’re calling all the shots once more.

6) “People have to learn that everyone is flawed”

put a narcissist in their place 10 subtle things a narcissist says when they feel you pulling away

And by “people”, they mean YOU!

Narcissists say cliche lines like “Nobody’s perfect” or “We have to understand each other.”

But it’s only when it works in their favor, of course.

These lines are meant to gaslight you—to make you doubt your perception of them, to make you minimize their flaws and become more understanding of their manipulative ways.

That way, when you think “They’re trying to control me!”, another voice in your head would counter “Nah, maybe you just fail to see their good side.”

And voila! They don’t even have to convince you they have good intentions because they’ve trained you to do that yourself.

7) “Just a bit more”

Narcissists love moving the goalpost.

Even if you already fulfilled your promise to them, they’d go “Just a bit more” or “Just one more time, I promise!”

And if you’re pulling away, they’d acknowledge and “respect” your need to prioritize yourself.

But then before that, they’d ask for more favors before they “allow” you to walk out the door.

They’d say “Okay, I get it. You have to focus on yourself. But before you leave….can you help me with just one more thing?”

Of course, you’d do it if you still care about your friendship.

But once you’re done, they’ve already lured you back by performing other manipulative techniques on you without you even knowing it.

8) “I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”

“I know I’ve been a bit selfish, but I’ll make it up to you. I swear!”

“I know I’ve been an asshole, but I’ll do my best to be better.”

This always works.


Because by acknowledging their flaws, we get an impression that they’re indeed “self-aware” and “honest”, and are therefore genuine with their promises.

Except that they’d never follow through.

They’re just saying those lines because those are the things you want to hear. And yes, they’re willing to say them if that’s what it takes to keep you around longer.

9) “I feel like I’m an awful person”

This is similar to the one above.

Narcs and master manipulators love using reverse psychology because it’s an effortless way to change your mind.

If they sense you’re pulling away, they’d act sad and say “I’m an awful person.” or “Maybe my parents were right—I can’t do anything right.”

And what this does is that you’d say “No, you’re not that awful” or “No, of course your parents were wrong about you.”

If you’re still not firm with your decision to leave them, then this could just be all they need to say to reel you back in.

10) “Do you still love me?”

Of course, you can’t say “No”, can you?

Even if you don’t love them anymore, you won’t say that—at least not out loud! But also, you still truly care for them!

And so you say “Of course, I love you!” or “What kind of question is that?”

But then they’d go “Then if you still love me, you’d stay by my side and support me even just a little bit.”

Checkmate. You’re back in their cage.

Leaving would make you a total asshole now because hey, you already said you love them, didn’t you?

Final thoughts

Narcs are truly one of a kind.

They’re very clever, and that’s why they always get what they want.

If you want to outsmart a manipulative narcissist, here are psych-backed ways to do it.

You gotta understand their game, practice assertive communication, and more.

Remember: Your life is your life. 

No one has the right to control you, use you, and make you the supporting actor of their story.

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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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