10 things a narcissist will do when they realize you won’t back down to them

Understanding a narcissist’s behavior is like navigating a maze—complicated, confusing, and downright exhausting. But as you hold your ground, their reactions can start to feel like clockwork.

Once a narcissist grasps that you won’t be swayed, they’ll likely unleash a barrage of tactics to reclaim control. And let me tell you, being aware of these tactics can save you lots of headaches. 

In this article, I’ll unveil 10 maneuvers a narcissist will pull when they sense your resilience. 

Ready? Let’s dive in.

1) They resort to gaslighting

Navigating a relationship with a narcissist can feel like you’re treading on quicksand – the more you resist, the harder they push back.

One of the common tactics narcissists employ when they sense resistance is gaslighting. It’s a manipulative strategy where they make you question your own sanity and perception of reality.

Gaslighting can be subtle or overt, but it always serves the same purpose: to make the narcissist appear superior and to keep you in a state of self-doubt. It’s a particularly sinister form of mental manipulation because it’s designed to make you more dependent on the narcissist, not less.

When you’re aware of this tactic, it can become a lot easier to identify and resist. Remember, you’re not crazy – they’re just trying to make you think you are. Stand firm and trust your instincts.

2) They play the victim card

In my own life, I’ve seen this play out countless times. When a narcissist senses they’re losing control, they default to playing the victim.

Let me tell you about Jane, an old friend of mine. She was textbook narcissistic. The moment she felt me slipping away, she’d launch into victim mode.

Suddenly, every chat revolved around how unfair life was to her, with me as her supposed only ally. It was a blatant attempt to guilt-trip me into staying, fulfilling her endless need for attention.

Recognizing this tactic is crucial—it’s pure manipulation. It takes guts not to get sucked into their drama. Remember, you’re not responsible for their happiness.

3) They resort to smear campaigns

A narcissist thrives on being the center of attention, and when that’s threatened, they can become quite vindictive. This often manifests in the form of smear campaigns.

A smear campaign is an attempt by the narcissist to tarnish your reputation, often by spreading lies or half-truths about you to others. This can range from telling friends and family that you’re unstable, to making false allegations about you at work.

Interestingly, researchers found that people who engage in malicious gossip tend to have high levels of narcissism and social dominance orientation.

Recognizing this tactic can help you to counteract it effectively and protect your reputation. It’s always crucial to stand your ground and not let their lies define your truth.

4) They switch between love-bombing and devaluing

When a narcissist feels their grip slipping, they’ll switch tactics to keep you off-kilter. This often means bouncing between love-bombing and devaluing.

Love-bombing is when they shower you with praise to reel you back in. It’s a charm offensive aimed at ensnaring you once more.

But don’t be fooled. This sweetness is often followed by devaluing, where they tear you down, leaving you feeling worthless. It’s a vicious cycle meant to keep you emotionally entangled.

Remember, your value isn’t determined by their rollercoaster of behavior.

5) They provoke jealousy

Narcissists crave attention and validation from more than just one person. When they feel you’re not giving them the spotlight they desire, they may resort to provoking jealousy.

This could mean flirting with others in your presence, reminiscing about past relationships, or even inventing admirers out of thin air. Their goal? To leave you feeling insecure and scrambling for their affection.

The trick to handling this maneuver is seeing it for what it is—a manipulative game. Instead of getting caught up in their drama, prioritize your self-esteem and emotional health. 

6) They deny your reality

A narcissist’s world revolves around their own needs and wants. So, when you refuse to comply, they may deny your reality.

This is particularly heartbreaking because it involves denying your feelings, experiences, and even your identity. They may dismiss your emotions as overreactions, downplay your achievements, or belittle your experiences.

I’ve seen the hurt and confusion this can cause in many people’s lives. It’s as if the narcissist is trying to erase a part of who you are. But remember, your feelings are valid, your experiences are real, and you have the right to be heard and acknowledged.

It’s important to hold onto your truth in the face of such denial. Remember, their refusal to recognize your reality says more about them than it does about you.

7) They threaten or intimidate

When a narcissist sees that their usual tactics aren’t working, they may resort to threats or intimidation. This can range from subtle emotional threats to outright physical ones.

I was once in a relationship where the moment I expressed a boundary or stood up for myself, my partner would become threatening. He’d say things like “You’ll regret this” or “You don’t want to see me angry”. It was his way of trying to regain control.

Keep in mind that no one has the right to intimidate you. Stand firm in your boundaries and seek help if you ever feel unsafe. You deserve respect and kindness, not fear and intimidation.

8) They become overly cooperative

This might seem surprising, but sometimes when a narcissist realizes you won’t back down, they suddenly become extremely cooperative. This isn’t a genuine change of heart but a calculated move to regain control.

They might start agreeing with everything you say, doing things they know you like, or making grand promises about future behavior. It’s as if they’ve suddenly become the perfect friend or partner.

However, this is often a temporary phase designed to lure you back into their web. Once they feel secure again, the old patterns usually resurface.

9) They engage in stonewalling

When a narcissist realizes they can’t control you, they may resort to stonewalling. This is a manipulative tactic where they refuse to communicate or cooperate, effectively shutting down any attempts at discussion or resolution.

Stonewalling can take many forms – from ignoring your calls and messages, refusing to engage in conversation, or even physically removing themselves from your presence. It’s their way of exerting control by withholding communication.

When faced with stonewalling, it’s vital to maintain your composure and remind yourself that this is their issue, not yours. Your voice deserves to be heard.

10) They question your sanity

In their quest to regain control, a narcissist may make you question your own sanity. This is a form of gaslighting, where they make you doubt your memory, perception, and even your mental health.

They might insist that things didn’t happen the way you remember them, accuse you of overreacting, or suggest that you’re unstable. It’s a deeply unsettling tactic designed to undermine your confidence and make you more dependent on their version of reality.

Always trust your instincts. You know your truth. Don’t let anyone manipulate it.

Hold onto your truth

Dealing with a narcissist can feel like navigating a maze—draining and confusing.

Through our exploration of these ten tactics, remember: they’re not about you. It’s all about the narcissist’s hunger for control and validation.

Whether they’re gaslighting, playing the victim, or spreading rumors, you’ve got the power to resist. Your reality is yours to hold onto.

As you go forward, trust your gut, honor your experiences, and prioritize your mental health. You’re not alone, and reaching out for help is okay.

In the face of a narcissist’s tricks, cling to your truth—it’s yours and no one else’s.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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