Breakups with narcissists are unfortunately common because of their toxic and fragile personality, but ex partners of narcs are often wanting to know how long it takes for them to come back.
Is there a common pattern with this? Do all narcissists try to come back to old partners/friends at some point, and is there a common time-frame for this happening?
As with so many things, the broad answer is, “it depends”, but here is a quick summary answer:
Some narcissists never come back once a relationship is over, but some do return months or years later if they run out of new sources of supply from other people. When this does happen, it’s often within the first year after a breakup.
There are lots of moving parts here, which is why it’s not possible to give a precise answer. But the question of if and when a narcissist ever tries to come back boils down largely to their addictive relationship with the “supply” they are constantly seeking – how much or how little of it are they getting after they leave, plus how much they idealize and want to rekindle the supply they got from you.
Let’s look at the entire issue of narcissists, supply and returning to relationships in more detail, covering the different ways this can play out (we also have a separate guide on how to deal with unexpectedly bumping into a narcissist ex in public).
Some Narcissists Never Come Back
This is the first thing to point out – some narcissists never come back. It’s literally like you’re dead to them after the discard or after you drop them, and it’s best to return the favor by also moving on with your life as though they never existed. Count this as a blessing as you don’t have to deal with their nonsense anymore, nor their attempts to “hoover” you back in (more on this further below).
In fairness, this tends to happen more when they’ve broke off with you and moved onto someone else. The hoovering and trying to come back happens more when you were originally the one who broke off with them. If they were the ones that broke off with you, then this is often when you never hear from them again and they never try to come back.
For those wanting to understand why some narcissists can so coldly and abruptly break off in relationships and never speak to you or come back ever again, then you need to understand the fundamentally broken and fragile nature of the narcissistic personality, and well as their addictive relationship with the “supply” they are constantly seeking.
The supply model also explains why they sometimes try to come back – we’ll cover this in the next section. But as regards why some narcissists break off never to be heard from again, it’s often simply that they got bored and found someone else who was a better source of “supply” – that constant need for reassurance that their false view of themselves and the world is true.
And because their new sources of supply stay constant, they never feel the need to come back to you. See our article on narcissists losing supply for more on this.
The crucial lesson to take from this is that if you’re still “stuck” on this person psychologically and are waiting and hoping for them to return, then you need to change your mindset, because as well as this being a bad idea to begin with, you’ll sometimes find yourself waiting forever, wasting your life away obsessing on someone with a toxic and incurable personality disorder when you could be moving on to better and healthier relationships.
If this is you, skip to the last section for some resources on changing your mindset and “un-cording” yourself from the narcissist and moving on.
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Some Narcissists Circle Back Months Or Years Later
Now let’s switch to the case when they do come back. Sometimes it can be weeks, months, or even years later. It’s difficult to find a common pattern in accounts on this, because it depends on what happens in the relationships they move onto, which you don’t have control over.
Most likely though, it’s most likely going to be months later, since narcissists can “smootch” and charm their way through relationships for weeks, and it often takes months for any new people they move onto to also find them out. Sometimes it can be years depending on how long it takes their new partners to also grow sick of them, and to run out of any other sources of supply, but more often it’s within the first year after the breakup.
Again, this all relates to the “supply” model of narcissism, where they constantly need their false and fragile sense of self propping up by those around them.
This supply validates to them one of two things:
- How they’re so beautiful, clever, bright, funny, exceptional and special. Some kind of admiration/adoration/attention.
- How other people (or one target scapegoat individual or group in particular) is stupid and dumb, which makes them feel superior and “full” by comparison
This can take many different forms; here are just some of them (list is not exhaustive):
- Love (but they never really love you back)
- Being feared
- Control or power over others.
- Constantly being validated and affirmed in their twisted worldview 100% of the time.
- Sexual attention.
- A sense of special-ness, uniqueness and perfection.
- A sense of being the best/number 1/top dog in some field or environment
- A sense of being the smart, enlightened one, while everyone around them is a stupid, inferior servant.
- Constant silly-ness and back and forth humor, jokes, memes, and being fed constant entertainment, as long as they’re the center of attention.
- A back and forth implicit arrangement where you’ll always agree on stuff and never disagree or challenge any of his obvious character deficits.
So here’s the bottom line that decides whether and when a narcissist ever comes back to you:
- They’re re-idealizing their old source of supply they got from you. There was something about it that they liked, and they want to see if they can get it again.
- Their current source of supply from the people around them at the moment is low, or has gone. Perhaps someone else has seen through their nonsense and discarded them as well, so now they’re addicts again in need of a fix.
- A combination of the above two factors.
“The narcissist drank all your “milkshake” and then moved onto someone else to drink their “milkshake”. But after a while they remember what your “milkshake” was like and they want to come back and try it again”
Narcissists & Supply (in 2 minutes)
Moreover, as we’ve already emphasized, there isn’t a one size fits all answer.
Some narcissists won’t ever come back, but some will. It all depends on how much they liked the supply they got from you, and still want it from time to time, plus how much or little supply they’re managing to extract out of the people currently in their midst.
Beware Of Hoovering From The Narcissist
If a narcissist does come back, then be ready for an onslaught of “hoovering” – where they try to charm and “sweet talk” you into taking them back again, telling you everything you want to hear to try and get you to give them another chance.
Do not be taken in by any of this glib nonsense. It’s just more game and manipulation.
Here are some examples of it:
- They’ll contact you again out the blue on social media or by text, email or some other means. This is why no contact is important to stop them doing this.
- They’ll go back to the seemingly innocent, sweet, caring image if this is what they initially reeled you in with.
- They may issue seemingly heartfelt apologies about how sorry they are about how they hurt you.
- There will be promises that the cheating, gas-lighting, projection, lying etc. won’t happen again.
- If you had been trying to get them to go to therapy because of their toxic behavior, they’ll promise to get help if you take them back.
- Any other changes in their behavior that you wanted them to make first time but they never did, they’ll latch onto these and promise to do them now, or claim they are “growing/changing/evolving/self aware” now when they haven’t changed at all.
- The general message they’ll try to hoover you back in with is “I’ll be the person you always wanted me to be”.
- If you do take them back, they’ll keep up these apparent changes for a while, then drop them and go straight back to the old, obnoxious, abusive patterns.
Hoovering From The Psychopath/Narcissist:
When you see through the cheap trickery of an NPD, it’s almost comical. Don’t fall for any of their nonsense. Drop them cold and move on.
See also our article on managing a narcissist’s attempts to recontact you after months or years for more tips.
Do Not Let The Narcissist Back In
The bottom line on all of this is that if a narcissist ex partner contacts you again after a long time, regardless of whether it’s days, weeks, months, or years, just ignore or dismiss them. Don’t be drawn back into their drama and toxicity, and don’t fall for their trickery trying to convince you “it’ll be different this time”.
Whatever abusive behaviors they did before; they’ll do again. Full blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a completely un-treatable and incurable condition. There’s nothing that anyone else can do to make a narcissist change; see our lengthy article which examines this issue in detail.
Here’s a simple criteria that we put in this article to assess the narcissist’s claims of change:
- Foundational question – has the narcissist ever sincerely apologized for their abusive/exploitative behavior? You’ll be surprised how often they actually don’t do this, even when trying to hoover you back in. They will often use clever word trickery that may sound conciliatory but avoids them actually ever taking any ownership and blame for their toxic behavior. See the hoovering video above.
- Have they undergone several years at least of intensive psychotherapy, with a skilled therapist well trained in personality disorders?
- Additionally, or alternatively, have they “hit rock bottom” in their lives – reached a low point where they have lost everyone and everything, and undergone a process of several years of fully rebuilding themselves from the ground up, which will also likely include the intensive, prolonged therapy mentioned in point #2?
9,999 times out of 10,000, the answer to all 3 of these questions will be no, and you can brush them off accordingly and move on with your life.
Essential Resources For Getting Over Toxic Relationships
I’ve consumed a lot of different resources on toxic relationships and personality disorders, and by the far the best I’ve found on this topic is Richard Grannon. His knowledge and information on personality disorders, abusive relationships and recovery are second to none, and his courses are specifically geared with a strong emphasis towards moving on and not staying stuck on the narcissist of their abusive behavior towards you.
Click here to see his YouTube channel, which has everything many people need to recover for free over time.
For those who feel they need something more in depth, check out some of his linked courses on getting over narcissistic abuse and moving on with your life:
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery – Detailed seminar with almost 10 hours of content from 2015. Great for fully understanding narcissism and NPD in detail (but don’t stay stuck obsessing on this).
- Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse – Another detailed course, but more focused towards recovery and healing if you’re stuck with the after-effects of a toxic relationship.
- Break The Trauma Bond – An essential course if you’re stuck obsessing about one person and can’t seem to let them go or break free. Brilliantly structure course aimed at integrating reality and breaking denial to finally let go of the person and move on.
- Unplug From The Matrix Of Narcissistic Abuse – A more expensive but more in depth course on his new site that offers detailed exercises on identifying and de-constructing the “Shared Fantasy” that often keeps people “stuck” to the narcissist psychologically.
- Plus the older videos on his YouTube channel has a lot of the information for free.
Again there’s lots of stuff out there, but Grannon’s is the best in my view, because of his emphasis on moving on and letting go. Too many recovery resources and communities stay stuck obsessing on the disorders or abuse itself (jargon), and this is counterproductive long term.
Grannon seeks to get you to a happy place where these people aren’t important to you and aren’t on your mind, which as well being the best thing for you, is also what annoys the narcissist the most.