Christine Regan Lake

Everything You Need to Know About the Discard Phase of Narcissism

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Christine Regan Lake

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In this article, we will discuss the key things you must understand about the discard phase of narcissism. We’ll go through a cursory overview of what a narcissist is, what the discard phase is, the reasons that the narcissist will discard you, strategies to deal with the discard phase, and some other key things that will help you heal and recover after a toxic narcissistic relationship.

You may find that you would benefit from narcissistic abuse therapy online to help you heal after this toxic relationship. Narcissistic abuse can create significant damage not just to your emotional well being, self-worth, and self esteem, it can also cause significant physical problems and even brain damage.

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) is a personality disorder assigned to individuals who have a “pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.”[1]  

Narcissists tend to be very selfish and self absorbed. You’ll find that whenever you are with them they’ll demand all the attention and suck all the oxygen out of the room. They’ll have an inflated sense of ego and entitlement, yet, paradoxically, they’ll suffer from extreme feelings of insecurity. Their inflated ego is a defense mechanism and coping strategy to ward off their own feelings of inadequacy.

In their grandiose image of themselves they view others as beneath them. As a result, they tend to be dismissive, condescending, and contemptuous of others, especially those they feel threatened by who they feel are smarter, stronger, more attractive than they are. 

As Ellie Lisitsa, former writer for The Gottman Institute, says…

Couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, etc.) than couples who are not contemptuous.  Contempt is the most poisonous of all relationship killers. We cannot emphasize that enough. Contempt destroys psychological, emotional, and physical health.

What is the Discard Phase of Narcissism?

The discard phase in a narcissistic relationship is when the narcissist will break up with, divorce, or end the connection with the person they are in a committed relationship, marriage, or friendship with. The discard will typically be very brutal leaving their victim without any idea as to why they have been dropped. 

After months or years at the hands of narcissistic abuse, this discard can leave you feeling as if your entire world just dropped out from under you. The more deeply you were connected to them from the trauma bonding phase, the more traumatized you’ll be from the breakup.

“Some relationships are like broken glass. It’s better to leave them alone than hurt yourself trying to put them back together.”

Reasons of Narcissist's DiscardA

The narcissist will discard you when they believe that you see through their manipulations and that they will no longer be able to secure the nourishing narcissistic supply that they have been getting from you in the past. 

More than likely you’ve been with them long enough to start seeing through their manipulations and have begun to put up boundaries to protect yourself and speak up when they disrespect you. This is their cue to exit stage left because you are no longer of use to them. If they can’t get something from you they no longer have any use for you.

Photo by Ujesh Krishnan on Unsplash

Covert Narcissist Discard Signs

There are quite a number of flags and signs that you will notice when a covert narcissist is ready to discard you.

Here are just a few;  

  • You’ll be deleted from their social media
  • Devaluation escalates and becomes more frequent
  • They’ll become spiteful and vicious 
  • The love bombing stops
  • They’ve secured a new source of supply (a new friend, colleague, girlfriend, boyfriend, a friend with benefits, etc.)
  • You’ll be ignored and ghosted

What Happens in the Discard Phase?

At this point the narcissist realizes that you are either too difficult for them to control because you’ve created healthy boundaries, learned to speak up for yourself, and will no longer accept their mistreatment.

Or, they’ve simply grown bored of the relationship and crave a new source of supply, someone who they view as ‘better’ than you — whichever the reason, what you can expect in the discard phase is to be dropped coldly and without explanation. You won’t be given a reason, or it will be a flimsy, vague excuse and there will be no talking about how to work on the relationship.

They might pick a fight with you as the final ending, or open a conversation with you blaming you for the relationship not working. They’ll return everything you ever gave them. Like they are erasing you from their life —  as if you never existed.

Depending upon your relationship, the discard could be a long drawn-out process where they continue to insult, devalue you until the relationship peters off, or, you might be the victim of a vicious  smear campaign to their family and friends to destroy your name and reputation. They’ll convince everyone that you were a terrible person who used and manipulated them. This tactic places all of the blame on you for the relationship’s demise and paints them as the helpless victim. 

If you are married to the narcissist and they’ve decided they want a divorce you can expect the divorce process to be a nasty fight where you will have to fight for custody and you’ll find that they exclude you from key decisions about the children and keep you out of the loop with important information about your child’s welfare. For them the children will be used as a way to punish you for your sins. 

Narcissist Discard and Silent Treatment

So, you’ve been discarded and now you’re getting the silent treatment or being ghosted. What can you do? Realize that this person has a personality disorder. And, if they’re not a full-blown narcissist — as true clinical narcissists only represent a very small percentage of the population between 0.5 and 5% of the population.[1] , just understand that this person has unhealthy patterns, beliefs, and behaviors when it comes to interpersonal or intimate connections that have nothing to do with you. 

That said, you must look at the relationship and take ownership on your part of anything you did to add to this dysfunction. Are you an overgiving empath (a.ka. – codependent) who refused to see red flags, and/or carried the relationship by doing all the work and letting them use you for love, attention, sex, or money? 

You’ll never heal this toxic cycle if you don’t look this ugly mess straight in the face and own your part in the dysfunction.

So they’re ignoring you and it hurts. What do you do? You need to decide if this is someone you want in your future or if this was a blessing from God/Universe to get you out of this toxic connection? If it’s a blessing now you can take the time to heal, grow, and evolve so that you can move onto a healthy relationship that will be capable of giving you the loving connection you want.

If you want to get back together you can contact them to see if they are open to working things out. If you know it’s best to walk away and cut your losses then look at their silence as a gift. No contact enables you to heal.

Realize though that if they are a full-blown narcissist they will more than likely come back and try to ‘hoover’ you back up once they get bored with their latest narcissistic supply. Hoover, you back up implies sucking you back in like a vacuum into their web of narcissistic dysfunction.

Your most important decision needs to be deciding if this is someone you want in your future or not. If you don’t want to reconnect, keep moving forward and don’t look back. Block them on your phone, social media, and focus on healing. 

How to Respond to a Narcissist Discard?

If you have recently been discarded by a narcissist the most important thing you want to remember is keep your self-respect. If someone doesn’t want to connect with you. Let them go. You don’t need to chase anyone. If someone doesn’t want you to be in their life, don’t be. Don’t try and force a connection. You will embarrass and humiliate yourself and they will lose respect for you.

Also, make sure you don’t drop to their level and start bad mouthing them to your joint-friends or colleagues. Be the bigger person. Hold your head up high, act with dignity, and move forward to restart your life without this person.  

Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

Discarding a Narcissist First

Some people believe it’s always better to break up with someone first rather than to have them break up with you— that’s fear and ‘lack of consciousness.’

If you love someone and want to build a future with them, then you try and work it out. If you know this person doesn’t share your values and you can’t envision building your life with them, then common sense would say it’s best to move on and end the relationship.

Do what is authentic for you and in your long-term best interest.

The Discard Phase is an Illusion

The reason that the discard phase can be an illusion is that in many cases it’s just a temporary move before they circle back and hoover you back up when they want to love and attention from you. Remember narcissist is very self-centered and only thinks about themselves.

Why do they hoover you back in? It suits their need for attention and narcissistic supply. Remember they feed off your energy, focus, love, affection, and even your negative energy. They need emotional energy so it’s not just the positive emotions they want. If you don’t give them love and affection they’ll take the negative ones like fighting, stonewalling, blaming, and criticizing. 

How Does the Narcissist React If You Don’t Beg Them To Get Back Together

They don’t like it when they can’t manipulate you. This will trigger them in anger, rage, or resentment. They’ve convinced themselves that you are less than them — so if you don’t want them, and you are less than them and unworthy of them, then that triggers deep feelings of not being good enough, which they will react to with anger, rage, and hostility. 

Ways You Can Tell The Narcissist Will Discard You

  • They’ll be busy all the time and release their once controlling hold over you. They’ll let you see your friends and family more because they need time to go out and find their next source of narcissistic supply.
  • They’ll no longer show feelings of jealousy over you. Where once they would be constantly checking your phone now they don’t care and never check it or notice if someone is checking you out.
  • You’ll notice a distinct change in their personality. They are now in chameleon mode to transform into the mirror image of the next person they have identified they want to connect with. Narcissists morph with each person they are in a relationship with because they don’t have a solid identity of their own.
  • You will find that you start catching them in more and more lies. They are out mixing and mingling with people and so they need to make sure you don’t find out what they are up to until they’ve found your replacement.
  • They’ll generate a nasty smear campaign against you to destroy your name to family and friends to make you look like the bad guy.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What triggers a narcissist to discard?

There are a number of potential triggers depending upon your relationship but generally speaking it’s because they can no longer manipulate you to do what they want emotionally, mentally, physically, or financially or they’ve simply grown bored of the relationship and want the high of a new romance and honeymoon phase.

How do you know when a narcissist is discarding you?

They will distance themselves from you. They’ll create a nasty smear campaign, they may block you on social media or block your number on their cell phone, and they may start being really mean as their devaluation of you escalates to a much more degrading level. 

How do narcissists discard their partners?

Narcissists can be very brutal in the discard phase. They may hit you out of the blue with it when everything seems fine, or they might pick a fight with you and escalate it to a final break up. Another tactic is the smear campaign mentioned above where they will ruin your name before they break up with you. This makes you out to be the bad guy so when anyone asks about the  break up they are the victim. 

Will a narcissist discard you for good?

It depends on the relationship they had with you and how good it had been at one time. It also depends on how good their next relationship is with respect to giving them narcissistic supply.

Whether or not they come back, you always have the choice not to engage. They can’t force you to re-engage but you need to be smart if you are going to allow them back into your life. You might find you regret it later as they do another round of devaluing and discarding

What does a narcissist discard look and feel like?

It will look like you were blindsided out of nowhere and you’ll feel like you were used and abused. You’ll experience shame and guilt for allowing someone to treat you so poorly, and you’ll feel despair with the loss and grief as you try to heal from the trauma bonding that you experienced. 

Trauma bonding creates a chemical addiction in you that literally makes you addicted to them. You’ll keep trying to figure out how to get back to that amazing love bombing phase where they loved you like you’ve never been loved before. But, sadly, you need to realize you will never get back there, and if you do, it’s just a short stay before they start to devalue you again.

Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary(Monty) on Unsplash

Do narcissists come back after they discard you?

Most times they will circle back to hoover you up when they need a quick hit of energy. Narcissists love to have an entire cadre of old girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, or colleagues who they can go to get attention when they need a little boost. Narcissists don’t know how to fill their own cup, so they rely on the love, affection, and attention of others to lift them up. 

Healing after narcissistic abuse is a journey of evolution as you learn to heal and rebuild yourself. Be kind and gentle with yourself. You did the best you could with what you knew. Now you know better and you’ll do better as you move forward to find and co-create a true partnership.


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