7 Twisted Things Narcissists Say And Do To Get You Back

Disclosure: this page may contain affiliate links to select partners. We receive a commission should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on them. Read our affiliate disclosure.

If you’ve ever dated a narcissist, you’re fully aware of how difficult it is to break off your relationship with them.

Those charming, manipulative jerks seem to know just which buttons to press in order to make you feel like you’re the villain for giving up on your union, even after they’ve put you through more levels of emotional hell than you could ever describe.

Breaking free is possible, however, especially if you’re aware of the key tactics narcissists will use to try to keep you in their lives.

Knowledge is power, and if you spot this behavior, you can disarm it, evade it, and remove these persons from your life for good.

Below are some of the most common hooks that narcissists employ to lure you back into their clutches.

The one and only narcissistic abuse recovery program you’ll ever need.
–> Don’t miss out.

7 Tactics Narcissists Use To Get You Back

When a narcissist wants you back, they’ll use a variety of different tactics to see what works and what doesn’t. If one approach falls short of the mark, they’ll regroup and try something else instead.

The following methods are some of the most common ones they’ll use:

1. Hoovering.

Let’s say you’ve managed to cut ties with your narcissist ex. You’ve maintained radio silence, you’ve started to put your life back together… and out of nowhere, they get back in contact with a message that just kicks you in the guts.

Maybe they heard that one of your parents died and they text you just to let you know that they’re sending their condolences.

Or perhaps you get a tear-stained note taped to your door in which they lament their brokenness and say that you were the only good thing that had ever happened in their life, and they’re so sorry for having messed things up between you.

Like your standard vacuum cleaner, this is a hook that’s meant to suck you back into their web.

If you’ve opened yourself up to this person, they know your vulnerabilities. They know what makes you tick, and like a well-trained assassin, they know the weak spots they can target to achieve their intent: in this case, to get you back in some way.

In all likelihood, they don’t actually want to rekindle a relationship with you—they just want to prove to themselves that they could have you if they wanted to, so they can suck up your energy to fuel their ego games for a little while before discarding you once again.

2. Intermittent reinforcement.

Remember when things were really wonderful at the beginning of your relationship? Before everything went to sh*t? When you were their world, their sun, their stars? Before every single thing you did irritated them?

It’s those memories that a narcissist will draw upon to hook you back.

Imagine a dog that gets kicked by its owner 95 percent of the time, but the remaining 5 percent, they get cuddles and treats and love. The dog will tolerate the kicking because of the memory of how wonderful it was when they had moments of being truly loved.

And just like a narcissist will treat you like crap most of the time, they might gaze at you adoringly now and then, marveling at how gorgeous you are, and how they really don’t deserve someone as amazing as you.

This technique is especially effective if you have low self-esteem because the little blips of kindness are like oases of hope in what is otherwise a wasteland of utter excrement.

When those moments happen, remind yourself of the overwhelming ugliness that happens the rest of the time, and how those fleeting moments don’t make up for how horribly they treat you.

Print out abusive text messages and emails and hang them on your wall for instant reminders, if you need to.

And read this great article to learn more about how intermittent reinforcement works.

3. Promises of change (lies lies lies).

The person you dated, but have mercifully been free from for a while, suddenly emails or texts you to let you know that they’re in therapy.

They’ve realized that they need help. They want to change. They’re taking steps to do so, and one of the things they want to rectify is how horribly they’ve treated you.

…and there go your heartstrings.

Because you did care about this person fiercely (and possibly still do), and they’ve just prodded on that soft spot in your heart that always hoped (prayed, dreamed) that they would wake to their potential and be the person you always knew they could be.

The thing is, they know full well how effective this hook can be, which is why they use it. It’s all lies and deception, of course, but it’s a damned good manipulation tactic because it appeals to your empathy and compassion.

Of all the things narcissists say to keep you around, seemingly heartfelt calls for empathy are the most insidious. They literally weaponize your own humanity against you and then use it to manipulate you back into their grasp.

4. Rescue me!

Yet another hook that will stab into your marrow and draw you back in is when the object of your previous affections is suddenly in danger.

Maybe their new relationship has (supposedly) turned abusive, and they need your protection or strength to extricate them from it.

Maybe they’ve taken a drug overdose, gotten arrested, or found themselves in some other horrible situation and OMG you are the only person in the world they can trust and count on when they’re in such a bad place so please please help…please.

Effective, isn’t it?

You’re basically screwed either way: if you come to their aid, you’re sucked back into their blackened vortex of horribleness and the entire cycle will begin anew.

If you don’t help them, you’ll feel like the world’s most cold-hearted person for abandoning them when they had a moment of vulnerability and reached out to you (to you! They MUST really love you!).

Furthermore, if you don’t help them when and if they cast their fishing line out to reel you back in, you might find yourself faced with…

5. Smear campaigns.

Some people choose to go back to a narcissistic partner in order to prove to themselves (and others) that they’re not a horrible, abusive charlatan… which is how the narcissist has chosen to paint them after a breakup.

If your narcissistic ex has been in contact with your social circle and told them horror stories about how you were cruel to them and then abandoned them, you’re going to look like the worst person on the planet.

You might find yourself frozen out of people’s lives, or cut down by complete strangers for actions that you either didn’t do, or that you did in order to save yourself.

Like leaving.

In this situation, you might actually be the one who tries to re-form a connection with the narcissist in order to amend the perception that you’re an awful human being.

You might find yourself apologizing to them for making them feel bad when you called them out on their abuse. You may grovel and ask for a second chance after you dared to walk away from their gaslighting and neglect.

If they consider you worthy enough, they might do you the honor of letting you back into their life, at which point the entire cycle will begin anew. Won’t that be fun?

6. Triangulation.

Triangulation is one of the key tricks narcissists use to come back into your life, but few people are familiar with what this term means.

In simplest terms, triangulation involves bringing another person into the mix to push the victim into providing the narcissist with what they want.

If approaching or manipulating you directly doesn’t work, they’ll go complaining to someone else to get them onto their side. The key is that they’ll choose someone who they know will join them against you because there’s some type of rivalry between the two of you.

For example, let’s say you know that your housemate is enamored with your narcissistic partner. When you and said partner have an argument, your partner might call the roommate over to join forces against you. The roommate may jump at the chance to get closer to your partner and prove that they’re better than you are in the hope of getting together with them.

Meanwhile, this possibility might make you more inclined to acquiesce due to fear of them breaking up with you. It’s a lose-lose situation, with the narcissist inevitably coming out on top.

This isn’t limited to romantic pairings, but the approach will change depending on whether the narcissist is your parent, friend, or co-worker.

Generally, they’ll lie to someone they know is more loyal to them in order to have a buddy to help them make you doubt yourself, or otherwise create a sense of insecurity.

7. Employing the help of flying monkeys.

If a narcissist’s first attempts at getting you back aren’t effective, they’ll employ flying monkeys to do their bidding for them.

These are people whom they’ve won over to their side or cause by playing the victim and being the most amazing person ever. Essentially, they’ve charmed these folks into believing their tales, in which they’re a vulnerable, misunderstood soul who just isn’t being given a chance by the one person in the world they truly love and trust. That would be you.

As such, you may find yourself on the receiving end of messages, emails, phone calls, and even visits by well-meaning idiots who haven’t bothered to get your side of the story.

They’ll mostly start with gentle entreaties in the hope that you’ll give this person another chance, since they miss you and need you and so on. Then, if you don’t agree to do so, they might get more aggressive and start to harass you until you cave in.

Rarely will they ask you your perspective, since your ex will have undoubtedly told them all they need to know about the situation, and as such they’re preemptively biased against anything you might say in your defense.

This is especially true for narcissists who imply that their ex-partners are somehow mentally unstable. They don’t just gaslight you to your face: they tell others that you’re a liar or unhinged so nothing you can say will be taken seriously.

Why does my narcissist ex keep coming back?

If you’ve broken up with a narcissist—either through your choice or theirs—you’ve likely noticed that they often try to come back more than any other partner has. Here are some possible reasons why:

They love what you did for them.

Just about everyone who has a narcissistic ex has heard them talk about things they liked when the relationship was solid.

If you’ve dated a narcissist, you’ve likely gotten random texts about how much they miss that thing you did, or the dish you cooked, or how you were the only person who understood them and made them feel less alone.

Hearing phrases like these is one of the key signs the narcissist wants you back. They’re not getting in touch because they love you or they miss you, but rather they love how you made them feel and they want more of that.

Maybe their most recent fling fizzled out or they weren’t lavished with a sufficient amount of love and affection. As such, their minds turn to the person who fussed over them the most, and they reach out to see if there’s a chance of them being doted on that way again.

They don’t have any other source of positive attention right now.

Narcissists need a constant supply of admiration, adoration, and affection because they have little to no self-esteem. Their sense of self-worth is entirely dependent on external validation.

See this rather like how babies need constant reassurance and affection in order to maintain emotional equilibrium. If they don’t receive it, their insecurity can lead to anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behaviors.

Will a narcissist try to get you back if they don’t have anyone else to pander to them? Absolutely. In fact, you can almost count on them trying to do so.

They’re bored.

This isn’t meant to damage your ego in any way, but if a narcissist is trying to get you back, it’s possible that they’re bored and are looking for a source of entertainment and amusement.

This isn’t the same as one who has temporarily lost their narcissistic supply as mentioned above, but rather someone who isn’t getting the same degree of sadistic entertainment they got from you.

If you were with the type of narcissist who was intentionally cruel and controlling toward you because they get off on humiliating others, then it’s likely that your reactions delighted them more than anyone else’s did.

This often happens with highly sensitive people and empaths. People who stand up to the narcissists don’t entertain them, nor do they allow the narcissists to feel strong and powerful.

As such, they’ll go back to the one(s) they know they can overpower—rather like a cat returning to a damaged, bleeding mouse so they can torture it a bit more for their own amusement.

They see that you’re happy.

On a fundamental level, narcissists are deeply insecure, fiercely jealous creatures who need to feel special and adored in every way.

As such, if they find out that you’re truly happy and fulfilled without them, that can launch them into a raging, sulking fit.

One narcissist tactic to get you back when you’re feeling good about yourself is to flatter you and appear to be supportive. They might talk about how they’ve come to an epiphany about how much better they could have treated you, and how seeing you this joyful makes them want to step up and be the partner you always deserved.

If you actually fall for this, they’ll be the best, most ideal partner ever for a very short time until they revert to old habits and treat you like crap. Then, once you’re riddled with anxiety and depression again, they’ll feel justified in leaving you because you’re such a downer.

They’re feeling a loss of control and seek to dominate an easy victim.

Many narcissists behave the way they do because they don’t have much control over their own lives. As such, they choose relationships with vulnerable people whom they can dominate and manipulate.

When they find themselves in situations where they feel small, such as if they’ve been insulted by someone or otherwise made to feel inferior, they want to get their sense of power back by any means necessary.

Since they have a track record with you, they slither back to familiar territory in order to get a temporary ego boost.

They need something from you.

A lot of people have had relationships with narcissists who lived off them like parasites.

Many of them want to be loved and tended to like they were when they were children (or wanted to be, if they have abandonment issues), so they find partners who will treat them with absolute devotion and affection—much like their own parents did (or should have done).

If you’ve been in this type of position with a narcissist, you’ve likely run yourself ragged trying to tend to their needs and show them the love they desperately wanted, only to be cast aside when they got bored.

This is where your natural empathy can be your worst enemy, since a common narcissist trick to get you back is to come to you for help.

You may have been left a broken, defeated mess when the person you loved dropped you like a bad habit and insulted you on the way out the door, but if they show back up on your doorstep, bedraggled and weeping, your first instinct may be to hug them and make everything okay.

They’ll play that role well, and encourage you to help them out with a place to stay, or a financial loan, or whatever else they need.

Then, as soon as they’re on solid ground again, they’ll walk right back out the door. You’re nothing to them other than a means to get their needs met, like an ATM or a feeding trough.

Why do I keep going back to a narcissist?

If you find that you keep going back to a narcissist, then it’s important to understand your motivations for doing so. This will require some intense introspection, as well as facing up to some potentially difficult truths.

The reasons below are just a few as to why you keep letting your narcissist ex back in:

External validation.

One of the primary reasons why a person would keep going back to a narcissistic partner is for the external validation they can provide.

Many narcissists are good-looking, charming, even successful in their careers, and as such are considered to be prizes that are only earned by the most amazing people ever.

If you have a narcissist on your arm who everyone is drooling over, that paints you as the hot, special winner in this scenario.

In simplest terms, the way a narcissist makes you feel in other people’s eyes might make you overlook or justify their terrible behavior behind closed doors.

That said, any temporary ego boost will drop like a stone when your narcissist devalues you and leaves you for the next hot creature who’s captured their attention. You may feel like your self-esteem has been annihilated and spend ages wondering what’s wrong with you.

A narcissist might try to get you back by spouting epiphanies about how amazing you really are, which will work toward healing that low self-esteem. You’ll suddenly feel valued and appreciated… until the next time they treat you like crap.

This cycle will repeat until you choose to end it for the sake of self-preservation.


Codependency happens when someone doesn’t have a strong sense of self, but instead revolves their life around another person.

If you’re wondering why you keep attracting narcissists, you may need to do a bit of soul searching to determine whether it’s because pandering to them and their needs gives you a sense of direction and purpose that’s otherwise lacking in your life.

Do you have a strong idea of who you are? Or do you adapt your likes and pastimes to suit the whims of whoever you’re with at the time?

You don’t have a firm footing in your own reality.

Narcissists are masters at gaslighting, lying, and manipulation. As a result, their victims are often left in a state where they don’t know what’s true or not, or even what’s real.

If your narcissist has degraded your mental health to the point where you can’t tell down from up anymore, it’s possible that you feel as though you need them around to govern your life for you.


Familiarity may breed contempt in some cases, but in others, it can bring a strong sense of security.

This is one of the reasons why some people stay in abusive relationships as long as they do—because the “devil they know” is far more comfortable than the one they don’t.

Additionally, it’s important to note that many people who feel comfortable in relationships with narcissistic abusers are those who were raised by narcissistic parents. The coping mechanisms and responses they learned in childhood can be employed with the new narcissist, making them feel strangely comfortable.

Fear of being alone.

How a narcissist tries to get you back will depend on your insecurities.

If your narcissist ex knows that you’re terrified of spending the rest of your life on your own, then they’ll hone in on that fear and increase it.

They might talk about how nobody else will ever love you the way they can, or even go so far as to say that no one else will ever want you because of your various “flaws.”

As such, you may let them back in even if you don’t want to simply because you’re afraid they’re right, and that if you don’t, you’ll be lonely forever.


Narcissists will use whatever tactics they know will work best on you. If you’re a kind-hearted soul who can’t bear the thought of letting anyone down or hurting them, then that’s the avenue they’ll use to get back together with you.

For example, they’ll twist things around to make it seem like the breakup was your fault and thus you owe them another chance.

Or they may imply that unless you give them another chance, they’ll either suffer horribly or even hurt themselves, and it’ll be all your fault. As such, you may get back together despite every cell in your body screaming “NO,” so you don’t have to live with the guilt that may ensue if anything bad does happen.

How far a narcissist will go to get you back depends on how quickly and easily you’ll cave to their attempts. Consider how well their approaches work on you and why, so that you can learn how to defend yourself when and if they attempt them.

What happens when you go back to a narcissist?

Going back to a narcissistic ex is never a good idea. Ever.

You may lose sight of this truth if you’re being love-bombed and feel that maybe this time things will be different and better, and that they really have changed.

Because they haven’t, and they won’t.

This initial period of things being decent is like a second honeymoon phase. It’ll be short-lived, and then things will go right back to how they were before, if not far worse.

Grab a pen and write down all the horrible things that your ex said or did to you when you were together, and that means everything. All the insults, gaslighting, belittlement, condescension, lies, cheating, stealing—all of that, in great detail.

Once that’s done, ask yourself how much of that you’d like to contend with again, because if you go back to a narcissist, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

If you choose to go back to a narcissist, you will be traumatized. Their harmful, abusive behaviors will trigger memories of past hurts, and those wounds will be built upon by new abuses in turn.

Furthermore, the abuse may actually escalate and be far worse than the last time because they’re angry at the situation and will take that anger out on you.

Finally, they’ll simply end up discarding you again, wreaking even worse havoc on your self-esteem.

Letting a narcissist back in is essentially handing them a sledgehammer so they can do further damage to your psyche. Don’t do it.

Final thoughts on narcissists who return.

If you want to know how to tell if your narcissistic ex wants you back, take a look at how they’re approaching you. Should they display any of the tactics shown here, shut things down quickly and run in the opposite direction.

This may be a difficult truth to face up to, but the reason why your narcissist keeps coming back is because you’re letting them do so.

We all make choices, and if you find that you’re getting back together with a narcissist over and over again, then you’re allowing yourself to be manipulated by them.

The only way you can leave a narcissist for good is to excise them like a cancerous tumor. Go no-contact with them, get a restraining order if needed, or move to another country if that’ll sever the ties between you permanently.

Do whatever it takes to break the cycle.

Check out this online course designed to help someone heal from narcissistic abuse.
Click here to learn more.

About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.