Sneaky Tricks Narcissists Use To Keep You Addicted To Their Drama

Sneaky Tricks Narcissists Use To Keep You Addicted To Their Drama

Narcissists lack the capacity for healthy love.

This means their relationships are really just a source of supply for their fragile egos – attention, validation, the rush of power. You’re not seen as a person with your own needs, but as an object to be manipulated. These manipulative tactics ensure you’re caught in a cycle of emotional highs and lows, keeping them in the center of your world.

1. Drenching you in affection early on, creating a false sense of connection

The idealization phase is intoxicating, admittedly. Over-the-top praise, intense texting, mirroring your interests — you’re their whole world (or so they claim). This creates a false sense of security, making the eventual devaluation even more shocking. It’s designed to make you forever chase that initial euphoric rush, even amidst escalating abuse.

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2. Subtly eroding your sanity and trust in your own perceptions

They often whip out the ol’ “I never said that,” despite clear evidence that they actually did. They might hide your keys, then accuse you of losing your mind when you say you’re sure you left them in a certain place. They manipulate reality itself, making you doubt yourself, leading to a sense of helpless dependency on them. You lose trust in your own memory and end up constantly apologizing for things you didn’t even do. As USA Today notes, narcissists love gaslighting and use it often.

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3. Offering an unpredictable mix of cruelty and occasional crumbs of kindness

This is behaviorist psychology 101, and it’s way more addictive than consistent mistreatment. The rare moment of warmth after days of cold contempt keeps you hooked. Like a gambler at a slot machine, the brain clings to hope that THIS time, if you just try harder, they’ll return to the person you fell for.

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4. Dragging other people into the drama to instill jealousy and insecurity

Flirting in front of you and raving about exes/coworkers/random strangers keep you off-balance. The goal is to make you feel replaceable, so you desperately try to win their approval, competing against these real or fabricated rivals. It creates a climate of constant anxiety, keeping you focused on them, instead of questioning their behavior.

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5. Playing the eternal victim, making any boundary you set “proof” of your cruelty

Calling out mistreatment? You’re “being mean” when they’re “so sensitive.” A narcissist masterfully twists things so it’s ALWAYS your fault. This erodes your ability to trust your own gut. Questioning them is painted as selfish, keeping you placating them constantly to avoid accusations that paint you as the heartless one.

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6. Sucking you back in with feigned remorse after you’ve pulled away

Dramatic apologies and promises to change are rarely genuine, but just enough to reignite hope. Just as you start rebuilding your life, they reappear, exploiting your empathy. This teaches you that any attempt at separation is followed by the “good times” again. The cycle repeats, each time breaking you down a bit further.

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7. Accusing you of the very things they themselves are guilty of

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A cheater is obsessed with whether you might cheat. A liar scrutinizes your every word for dishonesty. They dump their own shame onto you. This puts you on the defensive, so busy justifying yourself that their own appalling behavior gets a free pass. It’s both a deflection tactic and a form of psychological abuse.

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8. Intense cycles of abuse/reconciliation create a twisted attachment mistaken for love

Your brain forms a powerful bond to the person who provides both pain and relief. It’s similar to Stockholm Syndrome. The euphoric reconciliation after abuse feels SO good compared to walking-on-eggshells-misery, you misinterpret this as a deep connection rather than a trauma response. This makes leaving incredibly difficult.

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9. Recruiting friends or family as allies, smearing your reputation and isolating you

Narcissists are charming to outsiders. They paint YOU as crazy, abusive, the one causing problems. This undermines your support system – those who question the narcissist are swiftly cut off. The isolation deepens your dependency on them, and hearing how ‘awful’ you are from those you trust further chips away at your self-worth.

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10. Momentary glimpses of “the real them” create the illusion of intimacy and potential for change

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Sharing a childhood wound, a flash of tears…it makes you feel like you’re finally seeing behind the mask. These are calculated. It elicits your empathy, overriding frustration and making you believe they’re truly capable of change…if only you love them hard enough. It’s a lure, not true self-awareness.

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11. Not being able to handle you shining brighter than them

They use subtle put-downs when you’re excited about an accomplishment or manufactured crises to pull you away from a job interview. They slowly undermine your self-confidence out of a need to keep you smaller. This erases your own goals and ambitions, making you even more dependent on them for validation.

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12. Pushing your buttons, then blaming you for reacting

They know exactly how to get under your skin, that old insult that cuts deepest, the snide remark about your family guaranteed to make you explode. Then, your completely justified anger is used as ‘proof’ you’re unstable, while their initial provocation is forgotten. It keeps you perpetually off-balance, walking on eggshells, terrified of setting them off.

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13. Giving lots of PDA in contrast the private cruelty

They’re the doting partner in social settings and love to hold hands, give you kisses on the cheek, etc. This has two purposes. It helps maintain their facade of being a good person, making it harder for you to expose them. It also deepens your own confusion: “How can someone so affectionate in public treat me so monstrously when we’re alone?”

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14. Punishing for any perceived wrong to reassert control

Stonewalling you leaves you frantic with worry, desperate to make things ‘right’. It’s a power play. They train you that questioning them, or any boundary, is met with icy withdrawal. You agonize over what you ‘did wrong’, begging them to break their silence, re-enforcing their position as the one who dictates the terms of the interaction.

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15. Nothing you do is ever good enough, keeping you forever chasing their approval

You change your behavior, sacrifice what matters to you, all to please them… and they just find something new to criticize. It’s intentional, ensuring you never feel secure, forever striving for a validation that will never come. This keeps you fixated on trying to win their love, a futile endeavor that eats away at your self-respect.

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16. Lying about absolutely everything, making it impossible to discern truth from manipulation

Lies from the mundane to the grandiose. They lie even when the truth is harmless. The goal is to create perpetual chaos. They lie about you, they change their stories, they deny what’s obvious. You’re kept on edge, losing faith in your own grasp on reality, which deepens your dependence on them as the only ‘reliable’ source of information.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.
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