New Year, New Number
Find the freedom of going no-contact with your narcissist this year.
Posted Jan 01, 2021
Narcissists have an insatiable need for admiration and attention. Being the other half of a narcissist’s relationship—whether it be a romantic partner, friend, child, parent, or coworker—can be exhausting. The constant flow of recognition and flattery that is expected by the narcissist must be countered by a willingness to accept verbal, emotional, spiritual, and even physical neglect from the narcissist.
It is important to note that the obsession with attention is not unique to narcissists or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is a common trait that overlaps with other Cluster B personality disorders (APA, 2013). Borderline Personality Disorder, for instance, features “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment” as well as recurrent suicidal threats or self-mutilating behaviors (APA, 2013, pg. 663). Individuals with Histrionic Personality Disorder or traits exhibit discomfort when they are not the center of attention and use physical appearance or sexuality to draw attention. No matter the diagnosis, the need for attention, praise, and admiration from others is a persistent trait.
This overwhelming need for attention and contact can continue even after a relationship has ended. Narcissists generally don’t care if there is a break-up or divorce; their overblown ego makes it impossible for them to consider they are no longer an object of affection. They feel they are entitled and deserving of continued texts, emails, phone calls, and favors. If they do not receive their so-called deserved attention, a mere break-up can escalate into harassment.
What Is “No Contact”?
No-contact, or NC, is limiting, blocking, and/or ceasing communication between individuals. You can block all methods and forms of communication such as blocking a phone number, access to social media profiles, and email addresses. In extreme circumstances, it may even be beneficial to get a brand new phone number and have friends and family members block the individual from their profiles and numbers as well.
Depending on the relationship, options for no-contact can include a full block of all communication or structured allowances of communication. A situation can warrant a period of no-contact or can end all communication indefinitely. The level of contact can only be determined by the individuals involved and any necessary legal communications.
Good Side of NC
In many instances, no-contact is a great way to gain clarity about a relationship or situation. It clears the air and allows a clean slate for healing without fighting, drama, doubt, or anxiety. Ideally, ceasing contact with someone who has hurt you can provide freedom from manipulation and control and begin fostering the strength to be your own self. “You begin to focus on your day-to-day growth and not the past,” says Nick, 37. “You become someone who can live with it [the past or situation] and not be held back by it.”
Mark, 40, credits no-contact with calming stormy waters. “We literally had nothing left connecting us and my ex seemed to be fundamentally incapable of speaking to me in a way that was not condescending/demeaning or just plain mean. After four years, I contacted them about some financial/legal paperwork—and they were able to be civil and cooperative, which I judge the long silence actually helped to facilitate.”
Aurora, 34, of Louisiana, chose no-contact after a breakup. “I’ve been no contact for about six months. I am only now just beginning to feel like myself again. We had our first in-person encounter a couple of weeks ago and thanks to the months of not having his voice in my head manipulating everything situation to where he’s the good guy or victim, I was able to stand my ground and not allow him to speak to me.”
When NC Isn’t Possible
In many situations, going no-contact is simply impossible. You and the other individual may share children, financial obligations, business ventures, or other valuable assets. The court systems can be instrumental in not just protecting you physically but also emotionally. Depending on where you live and the details of the situation, you can pursue restraining orders, orders of protection, or stay-away orders through family or supreme courts.
Another option is limiting all access except for those necessary. For several months following their breakup, the only way Ginnifer allowed her ex to contact her was via a payment app. “We shared debt and we could not have a normal conversation about anything. I blocked him everywhere except for the payment app, and that ensured the debt was taken care of without having to have a discussion.” Andrew and his ex-partner are ordered by law to only discuss the care of their children, which helps keep conversations on track. Anytime the conversation veers off about something else, he is legally allowed to stop talking to her and end the conversation. In many cases, an order of contempt can be filed if the individual continues harassing and bothering the other person.
Third-party mediators, lawyers, and even a trusted friend or family member are other options for when civility is impossible. There are many apps available for free or at a small cost that can control, record, and maintain contact between vested parties. Some apps will even allow monitoring from a lawyer or therapist to ensure civility.
Narcs and No-Contact
Ending a relationship with a narcissist and replacing it with a no-contact policy is a lengthy war with many battles. Going no-contact establishes boundaries that protect you from the narcissist and blocks the ability to be manipulated and fooled again. Thus, the practice of no-contact shifts the control from the narcissist to you. Narcissists always have a desire for social dominance and to be catered to; no-contact will decimate a channel of attention, thereby infuriating the narcissist. You will have to be prepared for the various attempts at control, including micromanipulations, love bombing, and rewriting the narrative. Narcissists “can be especially voracious in their attempts to defend or restore their self-worth” (Fields, 2012).
Different apps also make it possible to contact someone even if the number is blocked. David tried blocking his narcissistic ex but she kept sending messages to him through her friend’s cell phones and private messaging apps. He eventually had to get his phone number changed to stop his ex from contacting him.
Distance can also allow the victim of a narcissistic relationship to gain perspective and clarity. It is like the parable of the frog placed in a pot of water: If the water is gradually heated, the frog will have no idea they are being boiled alive. A victim of narcissism has the same mentality. They have no idea the type of hell they are living in until they are out of it and have put enough distance between them and the abuser to see the damage left behind.
In the case of Lila, she caught her narcissistic spouse in an affair and sought a divorce. “I was gutted. I thought I failed my husband, my marriage… and I wasn’t the one who cheated! My husband said it was my fault he cheated, and due to the years of emotional abuse I endured from him, I believed him,” she says. After a few months of separation from her spouse, she met a new man and was shocked at the difference between the relationships. The lack of arguments, emotional demands, and verbal abuse made her rethink the entire marriage. “My ex realized I was in a new relationship because the contact between us slowed down. He tried desperately to get me back. But the months of separation allowed me to look back and see how unhealthy and toxic the marriage was. My only fault was choosing to ignore the red flags and marry him in the first place.”
How to Go NC
Going no-contact is far from an easy fix, but it can be the best one. It will take consistent boundary work, self-respect, and support from friends and loved ones.
- If you have no legal commitments or requirements to the other person, go full no-contact. Block numbers, emails, and social media profiles. Review your own privacy settings and adjust as necessary. Check out these helpful links for maintaining your privacy:
- In extreme situations, contact your provider to get your phone number changed. Contact your phone provider for information about doing this.
- Ask your friends and family to block the individual as well. This will prevent the narcissist from “piggybacking” onto your page through other people and can stop the narc from asking friends and family about you and seeing you on their pages.
- Recruit your friends and family to support you in-person if you know you will see your ex at a party, event, or other social gatherings. Aurora says, “it helped tremendously that I had a couple of our mutual friends around me who were aware that I don’t want any contact [with my ex].” He approached Aurora at a public event, and “two of our friends physically moved themselves to stand in front of me. He eventually got the message and walked away.”
- Understand your legal rights. Check out your state’s court systems information or legal aid societies. You may have several options for protection, including orders of protection or restraining orders. Document and keep records of all evidence of harassment and repeated, unwanted communication from your ex. If an ex-partner attempts to manipulate you through threats of physical harm, stalking, or suicide, contact your local police.
- Identify sources of help for both your physical and psychological well-being. There are many options for counselors, therapists, and domestic violence outreach. Click "Get Help" at the top of this page for more guidance.
- Blocking on Facebook
- Manage your privacy on Facebook
- Instagram settings and blocking
- FTC guide for blocking phone calls
- Blocking numbers or texts
- Blocking emails
Fields, S. K. (2012). Narcissism and intimate partner violence: An establishment of the link and investigation of multiple potential mediators. [Thesis]. https://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2408&context=etd
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). DSM-5.