It’s not at all unusual for relationships to draw to an end, for various reasons.  Sometimes people simply move away, change jobs, or develop separate priorities.  Other times, the relationship loses its original luster as differences arise.  But then, there are times when relationships end due to the presence of unhealthy, even abusive patterns.  

Whatever the reason, narcissists tend not to end relationships well. 

Their pattern of life is undergirded by emotional instability, so they are inclined toward exaggerated interpretations of a break up, and this is especially true when hurt, aggravation, and disappointment are present.  In those circumstances, a narcissist’s anger can be so strongly triggered that they cling to strong resentment: “I’ve been injured, insulted, and mistreated.  No one is going to get away with treating me like that!”  (By the way, in those moments, truth is negligible to that narcissist.)

As relationships come to an end, narcissists often claim the role of “Punisher-In-Chief.” 

Being naturally competitive anyway, they cannot just move on with lessons learned.  Instead, they must establish themselves as the Victor and you as the Loser.  They become venomous, and their #1 coping mechanism is to become an inflictor of pain.

Commonly, they will declare: “I regret ever knowing you.  You will rue the day you came against me.” 

Unable to leave well enough alone, they can run smear campaigns, trying to train others to disdain you as they do. They can be petty when there are still matters requiring some level of coordination.  You can become the recipient of rage or contempt.  Your flaws or differences become subject to exaggerated negative interpretations.  

In other words, narcissist become captivated by their inner pain, but instead of addressing it cleanly, they transfer it onto you with accusations, blame, gaslighting, and humiliation.  It’s ugly.

Naturally, this is disconcerting to you, so as you attempt to find closure, you might naturally ask:  What does the narcissist’s behavior reveal, and how can I get my bearings as I move on?

Let’s first examine what is likely inside the narcissist who declares regret for ever knowing you:

  • They illustrate how naturally judgmental they are.  Repeatedly, narcissists display their inner confusion related to the problem of shame…which is the emotional currency they use when conflict arises.  All their lives they have thought in terms of blame, and in conflict it rises quickly to the surface.
  • Narcissists have astonishingly low self-awareness.  You will virtually never hear a narcissist acknowledge their contributions to the demise of a relationship.  They have a very poor memory of who they have been, relative to you.  Insight gives way to accusation only.
  • They draw upon authoritarian thinking.  When tensions arise, the narcissist thinks: “Someone around here needs to set the record straight, and that person will be me.”  There is virtually no willingness to listen or consider alternative explanations.  They are in high control mode.  
  • To them, playing the “regret card” is invigorating.  They assume the victim role because it presumably gives them the right to criticize.  In their minds, when the relationship ends, it means you owe them.  They actually revel in the potential for dominance.
  • Love does not exist in the world of the narcissist.  Whatever love or regard they might have expressed historically is completely lost.  All along they wanted your fealty, deference, conformity, and blind admiration.  That’s it.
  • Forgiveness is not an option to the narcissist.  Plain and simple, when challenged to let go and move on, they would rather hate.  They like the pseudo-power that the situation affords them.

As you understand what is at the base of a regretful narcissist’s caustic attitude, it will become clear that no amount of pleading or appeasement from you will make a positive difference.  They need an excuse to be mean, and now that you are on their bad list, they have the “necessary” justification for whatever foul play follows.

As the narcissist persists in declaring regret for ever knowing you, your challenge is to stay disentangled.  The last thing you need is to let them establish your pace as you move on.  That being the case, let’s focus on some key truths to guide you:

  • Reality is.  Accept the truth about the fullness of the narcissist’s dysfunction.  Instead of complaining “I can’t believe how that person is treating me,” believe it.
  • Disillusionment is.  It’s reasonable to make room for your many frustrated emotions.  There is no need to deny that you are troubled by the narcissist’s problematic attitudes.
  • Inner strength is.  While the narcissist uses the strategy of forcing the external world to change, you can do the opposite.  Which of your good qualities has the narcissist overlooked?  What healthy traits are accessible within your personality?
  • Decisiveness is.  As the narcissist attempts to pull you into raw visceral reactions, don’t play along with that game.  Be intentional about your plans as you move forward.  Stay proactive as opposed to reactive.
  • Freedom is.  In their regret toward you, narcissists want you to forget that you can choose for yourself who you will be.  They think their control attempts make sense, but your can move forward knowing that you owe it to yourself to decide what priorities you will follow.
  • Dignity is.  Claim it.  Narcissists have zero comprehension of your dignity, especially as you show yourself to be too “other.”  That is not your problem to solve.  Dignity is your birthright.

Narcissists may shout from the rooftop that they regret ever knowing you.  In your mind, you have inevitably concluded that the relationship hasn’t exactly been a bowlful of cherries for you either.  You distinguish yourself, though, as you commit to being a maturing person who is able to learn the lessons life throws your way.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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