Does the narcissist think about you after the discard? Short answer: yes, but not for the reasons one would hope. Let me explain.
For the average toxic narcissist, the discard leads to the “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon. They don’t see you as a whole person but as an extension of themselves. Their perception of relationships isn’t the same as yours or mine – they see previous relationships sort of like they see their smartphones.
Sure, when they first got them, they were new and shiny and fast. They had new features. But eventually, they slowed down and they became obsolete. A newer, faster, better model came out. They quickly upgraded. Maybe they miss a feature or two, but in general, they don’t dwell on their old phones.
Narcissists are infamous for going to revisit old flames, for sure. But you’ve got to know that it’s not about the old flame. Instead, it is about what they can get from the former flame in the form of narcissistic supply.
Don’t confuse that with the idea that they miss you or that they feel something real. Think of it like this: let’s say you’re craving ice cream and you hear the ice cream truck coming down the street.
“What luck,” you think. “I was just craving ice cream!”
You go outside and you stand there with your money. As the ice cream truck approaches, you won’t turn away and go back inside if it isn’t the truck you expected to see. You are not thinking of that specific ice cream truck at all. You’re only thinking of the delicious ice cream you’re about to indulge in – so it’s what it can provide, not the truck itself. You can and would get your ice cream fix from any ice cream truck.
Does that make sense? Let’s dig in and relate this to narcissists and their psychology.
By nature, narcissists are extreme in their affections, so they’re as shallow as they are unstable.
During the love bombing phase, narcissists will find you to be highly desirable. Since they’re in “acquisition mode” during the beginning of a relationship, they’re on their best behavior. Since they’re trying to get you “hooked,” they are trying to “win” you – and this means they don’t bother looking for anything wrong. They put you up on a pedestal – and they fool both you and themselves.
The truth is that part of the reason we don’t notice the red flags during that time is that they actually BELIEVE it in the moment – they really think, at least temporarily, that they have found Mr. or Ms. Perfect.
You have to remember too that narcissists lack object constancy, and that means they can only see you as either perfect or totally and completely worthless – there is no in-between. Of course, right about the time they get you fully attached, they start to notice little flaws about you. Nothing big – just enough to help them recognize that you are, in fact, human.
Of course, now that they’ve got you in their clutches, they see you as a sort of object – a trophy, if you will. While the initial days of this phase will feel too good to be true, you’ll soon notice that it actually IS – the idealization (or love bombing) phase ends abruptly and painfully as you head into the discard phase.
This is around the time they get bored. The narcissist’s feelings seem to go from fire to ice: they will suddenly become the most critical person you’ve ever met. It’ll start subtly at first, maybe, a veiled insult here and there, and before you know it, you’re the primary target of quietly horrific psychological abuse.
Most narcissists can’t have decent relationships – once they know they have you, they almost feel like they don’t want you anymore. Of course, if they lose you, they go into “hoovering” mode. That means they’ll suddenly NEED to be with you again and nothing will stand in their way – the chase resumes and they’ll pursue you like no other (at least until they have you back – in which case they’ll go right back into the devalue and discard phases).
This can feel almost as good as love bombing to an unsuspecting codependent. But as always, the other shoe drops and, despite how sincerely they recently professed their love, no matter how many exciting and detailed plans they future-faked you into believing – as soon as their interest wanes, they suddenly develop a very convenient case of amnesia and start backing toward the proverbial exit door and right out of the relationship. This is, as you already know, a vicious cycle that can continue for months, years or even decades.
And where does all of this leave you? Devastated is an understatement. You won’t understand how someone who was just so passionate and hot for you is suddenly freezing you out. But why would they be so cold?
Here’s the awful but simple truth: in this moment, they do not care about you. Yes, they may try to suck you back in at some point, and yes, this cycle WILL repeat. But the truth is that it’s not YOU they’re coming for – it’s the narcissistic supply you offer them. It’s not who you are. It’s what you can do for them.
So is this all YOUR fault, or what? Did you do something wrong?
No. The fact is that you couldn’t have done anything to change this situation – the narcissist repeats this cycle in every single one of their relationships. No matter who you are – and you could be the most amazing person on the planet – it doesn’t matter. The narcissist does not succeed in relationships – at least not long-term, healthy ones.
Don’t get me wrong – in many cases, they’ll sit around and suck up your narcissistic supply for years if you let them. They are incapable of keeping up a healthy facade for long – and this will lead healthier targets (people who haven’t had their self-esteem destroyed by their parents or another toxic relationship, for example) to walk away from the narcissist. That will often lead a narcissist back to a more “reliable” form of supply.
Bottom line? Narcissists seem to stop thinking about you when they no longer want you, but most narcissists repeat this cycle over and over again with you and with everyone they get involved with in various capacities.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.