Most people are not usually friends with their exes. How can you move on and start something new while clinging to the past?
Often it just doesn’t make sense.
Narcissists, however, can’t help but keep every ex under cover, like an aspiring cult leader. Maybe you noticed during your relationship that at least one of his exes was always just a phone call or text away.
Staying Facebook friends with a respectful ex is normal, especially after a long-term relationship. Narcissists, however, need to maintain a specific level of intimacy with their exes, for multiple reasons.
Here’s why narcissists stay friends with their exes, the dark motives behind these “friendships,” and what you can do to break free of the sadistic cycle.
Can narcissists be friends with their exes?
Yes. Narcissists can and almost always remain friends with their exes. However, narcissists interpret the term “friend” differently than normal people.
Normal people view a potential friend as someone they connect with based on shared interests, values, life experiences, and hobbies.
For the narcissist, a friend is someone to use for opportunities, sex, resources, validation, or attention.
Most narcissists are also often sadistic psychopaths. Not only do they require a specific type of attention to maintain their superficial identity, but they also lack the ability to feel remorse when they hurt people and experience joy in seeing people suffer, especially if they are responsible for someone else’s suffering.
This is a dangerous combination of qualities, often found in cult leaders. This is why many people feel compelled to remain friends with a narcissistic ex as a survival tactic, even at the cost of degrading their own sense of self-worth.
Why are narcissists obsessed with their exes?
Simply put, a narcissist will become obsessed with an ex when he or she refuses to be “friends” anymore.
The narcissist can be very open about this obsession, dragging as many people along as possible. These narcissists always seem to know the details about their ex’s life and play off the obsession as innocent gossip or concern for their ex’s well-being.
In this situation, the ex will always be portrayed negatively as a ploy to discredit him and smear his character.
Of course, the narcissist will lie and say that this character smear comes from a place of empathy – they are not obsessively stalking the ex to destroy their life. They are only concerned about the mental health and safety of his ex.
The thing is, being obsessed with the safety and health of an ex is not normal in any way, shape or form. If someone displays obsessive “concern” for an ex’s well-being, this is a major red flag that he is a narcissist with ulterior motives.
8 Dark Reasons Narcissists Stay Friends With Their Exes
1. Collect Intel and dig up dirt
Sharing details about your life with an ex, like where you work or what city you live in, can seem pretty innocent. Why shouldn’t you catch up and bury the hatchet?
Unfortunately, for the narcissist, innocuous statements about their hobbies, their workplace, and their living situation are valuable pieces of intelligence.
For example, a narcissist may track down and start dating your yoga teacher. They can also let someone at work know that you are “telling everyone” that they are not treating you fairly.
2. Multi-level jealousy
It’s a common misconception that the narcissist only gets jealous once you start dating someone new. The truth is that the narcissist is forever jealous.
If you don’t leave them for someone new, the narcissist will be jealous of your strength and confidence once you break up with them.
The narcissist needs you to value his opinion of you, long after you’ve broken up. This is why narcissists often go to great lengths to remain “friends” with their exes.
3. Constant access to resources
Narcissists are extremely needy and dependent. Your narcissistic partner may even have a strange relationship with your mother or father, for example, that society at large would find shocking.
The narcissist needs to keep an army of moms or dads on deck to provide them with resources like sex, housing, job opportunities, and validation.
Your personal drama is of no importance to the narcissist. In fact, this is also a valuable resource for them to exploit. The narcissist, if they can, could offer you shelter, a good meal, or even a friendly shoulder to cry on in their effort to:
- talk to themselves
- Explode your emotions
- Establish a traumatic bond
- Manipulate you along the way
4. Continuous Supply of Attention and Entertainment
Narcissists require constant attention to validate their entire existence. Negative, positive, neutral, it doesn’t matter. All attention is good attention and a source of entertainment for the narcissist.
Staying friends with an ex is a great way to get someone’s attention since, as an ex, the narcissist thinks they know all of your biggest triggers and vulnerabilities.
That’s why an ex’s behavior can suddenly take a 180-degree turn once you break up. Since you no longer provide them with a constant supply of positive attention, they must do and say things to draw negative attention away from you.
Also, anything you say to the narcissist becomes entertainment when he shares the details of your life with his circle of exes.
5. Coordinated gaslighting attacks
The narcissist spends a lot of time recruiting, training, and deploying his flying monkeys against anyone who acts out of character.
But this kind of gaslighting isn’t always done to alter your interpretation of reality.
The narcissist expects you to know that you are being cheated on. They want you to be flattered that they talked about you with their exes. They want you to defend yourself against gaslighting because it would show that you value his opinion.
6. Maintaining a (superficial) superiority complex
Narcissists exhibit a childish level of insecurity. They constantly compare themselves with others.
The narcissist must find unique ways to feel superior to others. This often includes staying friends with his ex and drawing joy from his ex’s suffering, a hallmark of sadism.
Why? The narcissist may continue to gather information about his ex to sabotage job prospects, future relationships, and everything his ex cares about.
7. Constant source of distractions
As someone without a real identity or sense of self-worth, the narcissist needs a constant source of distraction to avoid facing himself in the mirror.
Narcissists are never interested in genuinely improving themselves.
By staying friends with their exes, narcissists keep up an endless stream of drama, problems, and things to complain about. This is perfect for the narcissist because it means he has no time left to focus on himself.
8. Sabotage relationship prospects
No one wants to start a relationship with someone who still pays attention to their ex on a regular basis.
By staying friends, the narcissist tries to make sure that you never start a relationship with someone respectful. They hope that you will only attract superficial partners who will use you. If they start to suspect that you’ve found someone on the rise, they’ll start to smear you with that person in the hope that you’ll end things quickly.
That’s fine with the narcissist because, as their “friend,” they may complain about their new partner, providing attention, valuable information, and validation that it was the best thing they’ll ever have.
Recognize the addictive qualities of abuse
While incredibly harmful, abuse is also addictive. The roller coaster triggers the release of brain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol. Normal can feel incredibly dull and boring.
It’s important to recognize the addictive qualities of abuse because this could prevent you from replacing one addiction with another, such as drinking or using drugs (which the narcissist would love).
Evaluate your own friendships and strengthen your circle
Unfortunately, the narcissist takes advantage of your friends or family, often under the guise that they are concerned about your well-being.
Evaluate your circle of friends. Consider proactively changing your phone number or moving. Practice keeping personal data to yourself. Don’t share details about your mental health or emotional issues online unless you feel safe and have become familiar with some of the people on a particular platform.
Create your own distractions
Switch to spy mode. What does a spy do? They throw themselves into a new city, get a new job, and pick up new hobbies, and they don’t tell anyone.
This not only destroys all the information the narcissist has about you, but also creates a bunch of healthy distractions for you. Distractions are important because they give you healthy things to focus on, new goals, and new opportunities to make new friends.
you always deserve better
Narcissists prey on your positive emotions like empathy, compassion, and remorse, qualities that all narcissists and psychopaths lack.
The abusive cycle of being “friends” with a narcissistic ex may seem normal after a while, but it’s not. You always deserve better, no matter what they do or say to convince you otherwise.
Now that you’ve identified some key patterns, what do you do next? How do you change the cycle of your life?
First, learning to recognize narcissistic patterns is essential.
Even if you’re tempted to “move on,” you probably haven’t developed a solid narcissism radar. Insight is the best step forward. Are you really aware of your triggers? Do you recognize yourself in any of the reasons mentioned above? If so, take some time to reflect on how you can improve those weak points.
Personally, when I left my last toxic relationship several years ago, I forced myself to be alone for a long time. During this period, I did a lot of healing work that I describe in The break-free program. I gave up and accepted that I hadn’t been willing to walk away when the red flags started to appear. I learned my coping schemas and figured out how to overcome my triggers. I did energy healing, both alone at home and through energy healing practitioners. I overcame the financial PTSD I had developed from losing my finances and being forced to start over.
These are the same steps you can take.
I promise you that even if you have experienced horrific trauma and abuse, you can still heal your life. You can learn to stop betraying yourself and acting out of alignment with your own integrity. You can learn to be comfortable setting limits without feeling guilty. Like you, I once felt hopeless and fearful that I was doomed, but once I did the inner work and implemented everything I had learned, my life began to transform in ways I never thought possible.
This can also happen to you.
As always, I sincerely hope to answer your questions and comments below.