The basic thing to know about all people who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder is that while they may have many gifts and talents—intelligence, wit, charm, business sense—forming and maintaining intimate relationships is not one of them. Their relationships are usually very shallow no matter how much they profess to love you.
Many narcissistic individuals are quite capable of assuring you that you are the love of their life one day, and then suddenly leave you for someone else because they got angry or bored. Their desire to reconnect with you after the “discard,” is equally shallow. How they react to you ignoring their new overtures depends on their personality style. This is equally true of narcissistic men and women.
Let me use a typical situation as an example. Let’s assume you are a woman, have been dating a guy you like for a while, and then your narcissistic boyfriend suddenly dumps you. Now for reasons that you do not know, he has contacted you again and you have chosen not to respond.
What happens now?
This can go a few different ways depending on his personal style. Not all narcissistic people are alike. One person might shrug this off, while another feels mortally offended that you are rejecting his overtures. If you want to know if you should prepare for a fight to the death or the sudden arrival of a bouquet of roses, below is some information that may help.
Note: In this article I am using the terms “narcissist,” “narcissistic,” or “narcissistic adaptation” as shorthand ways of describing a person who qualifies for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.
The best way to predict future behavior is to look at past behavior. Everyone has a style that does not really change all that much. I have found that most narcissistic exes tend to fall into three groups with respect to how they react when their new overtures are rejected. If you think back to how your ex behaved during the relationship, you are likely to be able to recognize him as belong to one of the following three groups.
Group 1: The Trophy Hunter
This is the guy who is a hunter at heart. He loves a challenge. If you played hard to get in the beginning of your past relationship, this made him want you more. Now, when you are rejecting him, his hunting instincts are reawakened, and he becomes very, very interested in you again.
Even though he was the one who broke it off with you, now he sees you as the one who got away and he wants you back. He will begin courting you again. The more you reject him, the more desirable you become. The rejection only increases your value in his eyes. You are now being seen as a status enhancing trophy.
He may start “liking” your Instagram posts, send you cute texts, or suddenly remember that your birthday is coming up and suggest that the two of you celebrate with a drink in your favorite date place. Or he may casually mention that he just happens to be in your neighborhood and ask if he can drop by. He is likely to tell you that he misses you terribly. He may even say that he regrets how the two of you broke up and ask for a second chance to prove to you that he loves you and has learned from his mistakes.
If you are flattered and naïve about narcissists, you may think that all of this is about how much he still cares for you. Do not be fooled. Nothing here is actually about you, not the bad things he did previously or the nice things he is doing now. Everything is about him.
In the same way a deer hunter does not care which deer’s head he gets to mount on the wall, as long as he enjoys the chase and outwits the deer; your guy sees you as a trophy that he can bag by regaining your attention again. Once he “has” you, he is very likely to lose interest in you and exit the relationship as he did before.
You are just another dead deer. When he says, “my dear,” he really means: “MY deer.”
Group 2: The Mean Guy
This person cannot bear to be rejected by you, even though he walked out while loudly declaring that you were worthless garbage who needed to lose ten pounds. He is insulted by your rejection and now wants to viciously punish you. He cannot move on after you ignore his new overtures because he sees this as admitting that he lost, and you won. His shaky self-esteem cannot take the hit. Your rejection makes him feel insignificant. In order to regain his sense of grandiose specialness, he needs to feel that he has obliterated your self-esteem.
This means that he may leave nasty drunken phone messages in which he says everything that he can think of that may hurt you. If the two of you have friends in common, he is likely to say mean, untrue things about you behind your back. He is not above lying to protect his image of himself.
He may spend a great deal of energy on finding ways to publicly portray himself as highly desirable, while portraying you as worthless garbage. Expect to see multiple photos of him with different beautiful women on his Facebook page. He wants you to see them and die of envy and regret. Many of these photos will be of women he does not know but saw in a bar and grabbed for a “selfie.” His goal is to prove to you that ALL women find him incredibly desirable. Or, he may simply post pictures of beautiful scantily clothed women that he found on the internet in the hope that you will think he is dating them. His pictures are as fake as he is.
The best thing to do is ignore him and eventually something or someone else will get his attention and distract him from you. As he is likely to enjoy open confrontations more than you do, if you say or do anything back in response to his provocations, he is likely to escalate the conflict even more. Unless you are ready to press the nuclear button and go for all-out war and have lots of weapons to use against him, you may want to sit this one out and wait till he loses interest in you again.
Group 3—The Ghost
Unlike Mean “Guys,” “Ghosts” tend to dislike confrontation. They are basically avoidant by nature. This man probably originally left by simply disappearing from your life without telling you why. He stopped calling and did not answer your texts. You were left wondering what happened. Now he has reappeared, and you have no idea why he is back or why he left.
When you ignore a “Ghost,” he usually goes away again. He is likely to have a whole list of women that he has done exactly the same thing to. As people are generally interchangeable to narcissists and are valued mainly for the functions that they provide and not for themselves, your “Ghost” will likely go on and contact someone else on his list. Ghosts rarely explain why they leave, but they are used to moving on and haunting someone else.
Punchline: If you want to try to predict a narcissist’s behavior after you ignore his attempts to reconnect, you need to ask yourself which of the above categories best characterizes him. Of course, not every single person will fit into one of the above, but I find that these three basic styles are a good place to start: Is he a “Trophy Hunter,” a “Mean Guy,” or a “Ghost?”
A version of this post appeared on Quora.