Although the narcissist tries to sound positive about the relationship and why you shouldn’t leave, you’ll notice that all these “reasons” are actually negative remarks about you and what is wrong with what you’re doing. These are not real encouragements to stay in the relationship; they are actually manipulations to lower your self-esteem so you won’t leave.
If the coaxing and persuasion don’t work, the narcissist can bring out the especially negative evaluations to trigger your sore spots and make you feel bad about yourself:
“You were nothing before you married me. Go back to that stupid family of yours and rot. You’ll be sorry when I’m out in California and making loads of money. I can find somebody who will really love me and always put me first.”
If the narcissist still needs you, (s)he won’t want you upsetting their plans. Your leaving gives you more emotional strength and power in the relationship by moving you further out of the narcissist’s control, and (s)he doesn’t want that to happen.
3. Attempts to guilt-trip you into staying
Guilt is a powerful tool for the narcissist to pull you back into the relationship. The narcissist brings up every time he has done something nice for you or stresses how much he cares about you or reminds you of the wonderful times you’ve had together. If the positives don’t work to bring you back, narcissists default to their devaluing attacks. Any complaint you have made about the narcissist will be turned around on you. Narcissists consistently blame their partners for behaviors they are actually exhibiting in that very moment—screaming, name-calling, hostility, selfishness, hatred, and passive-aggressiveness, to name a few.
Being told you are selfish, unkind, cruel, greedy, stingy, or hurting someone’s feelings can be especially painful to a caretaker. You work so hard to never do or be those things and almost never even have those kinds of feelings, so you feel deeply wronged. These comments are such a clear indication that the narcissist doesn’t know you or see you for who you are, and that can be heartbreaking.
These kinds of accusations also increase your feelings of guilt, so you’re more likely to redouble your efforts to prove to the narcissist that you’re not that kind of person. That’s just what the narcissist wants because it reengages you in the relationship. Once the narcissist has goaded you into reacting, (s)he can keep you feeling powerless, guilty, and be participating in the relationship until (s)he’s ready to end it.
4. Demands for attention, even after you’ve broken up
It is easier to leave a narcissist if you cut off as much contact as possible. However, narcissists can be extremely persistent in grabbing your attention. Clients have reported many types of attention-getting behaviors from narcissists who feel rejected, for example, drunk calling in the middle of the night, “accidentally” breaking into your house to get their belongings, hundreds of texts or emails in a day, constant pleas for you to “explain” why you want to leave—all of which lead to the narcissist’s denouncing you for being so negative.
If you have children together, these pleas for attention can go on and on. One client was so anxious from all the pressure that she actually lost her voice when she saw her former husband. He was so determined to get her attention that he even pressured the court to “order” her to speak to him in public “for the sake of the children.” Of course, it was actually for the sake of his own egotistical need to be acknowledged.
5. Promises to change
If persuasion, guilt, and attention-getting behaviors don’t pull you back into the relationship, the narcissist pulls out the promise to change. Suddenly the narcissist says (s)he understands why you are upset and ready to leave. (S)he appears to be taking responsibility for his/her behaviors. (S)he promises to go to therapy, do everything you ask, do things your way. (S)he is so, so sorry to have hurt you.
This is a tempting appeal for a caretaker who truly wants the relationship to work. Now it seems that the narcissist finally understands what you’ve been saying and is ready to make things right. (S)he seems genuinely sincere. You breathe a sigh of relief and hope builds in you again.