when the narcissist wants to stay friends

What It Really Means When the Narcissist Wants to Stay Friends

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You’ve decided the relationship is over, but now you’re wondering what to do when the narcissist wants to stay friends.

You’re grown so tired of the intense fighting and crazy drama. You’re sick of feeling manipulated or abused, and you’re starting to recognize you deserve better from a partner. Whether it’s been a few months or many years, you want to start moving on and healing.

But now, the narcissist wants to be friends. What does this proposition really mean for you? Can this friendship work? Are there any serious risks you should know? And what’s the real, underlying motive- why would they want to be your friend?

Let’s dig in.

Understand How Narcissists Perceive Break-Ups

If you’re unsure why your narcissistic ex wants to remain friends- especially if the relationship became so chaotic- it’s important to understand how the narcissistic mindset works.

First, narcissists live by their own rules. This is crucial to remember. It means that they don’t necessarily have regard for societal norms. For example, although it’s socially appropriate to give people space after a breakup, that doesn’t mean the narcissist cares, understands, or chooses to respect that boundary.

Instead, the narcissist tends to react to breakups in the following ways. 


I was only kidding. Of course, I love you!

We were just fighting, and we both said things we regret. 

That wasn’t actually a break-up. Let’s start over. 

Do any of these lines sound familiar? They are part of the narcissistic soundtrack- they are manipulative statements meant to gaslight you. Instead of acknowledging the reality of what happened, they’re twisting it to make it seem like you’re misunderstanding or overreacting.

Grandiose Promises 

Maybe you have wanted to get married for years. Suddenly, the narcissist shows up at your doorstep with a velvet box and a ring. Perhaps you have wanted to move to a new city. Now, the narcissist calls you and tells you they bought your dream home. 

What’s going on? 

When a narcissist loses something of perceived value, they often do whatever they can to obtain it back. If they value you (because of something they can get from you), they will work hard to try to make you happy again. 

Unfortunately, these desires are incredibly short-lived. Once they win you over, they rarely follow through with their promises. Instead, they return to their usual tactics. 

Smear Campaigns

She completely broke my heart. I should have known I couldn’t trust her.

I’m pretty sure she was cheating on me. 

I wanted to work things out, but she wouldn’t even try. It’s so disappointing.

Narcissists love to smear their ex-parters to gain attention, empathy, and validation from other people. Smearing is a complete power move- it’s an attempt to knock you down while simultaneously boosting their ego. 

The type of smearing ranges in severity. Some will try to bad-mouth you to your immediate friends and family. But other narcissists will go to great lengths to tarnish your reputation. 

Even more mind-boggling, they will often continue to smear you to other people WHILE they’re telling you they want to work things out!

Excessive Hoovering

I was just in the area and wanted to see how you were doing.

Oh, I didn’t mean to call you…how have you been?

I know it’s your birthday today. Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you.

All hoovering tactics have the same motive: to suck you back into the narcissist’s world. Narcissists try to sneak their way back into your life while presenting as innocent, oblivious, or compassionate.

Make no mistake about it. Hoovering is a powerful technique designed to make you feel guilty, confused, or upset about your decision to move on. Many times, the hoovering becomes so unbearable that people give in to the narcissist’s control.

Why Do Narcissists Want to Be Friends? 

At first, it may seem strange, especially if you two had a rough breakup. But narcissists don’t have random motives. They calculate their moves, and they have reasons for why they do what they do. Let’s explore further.

They Want To Be Friends…With Benefits 

To the narcissist, a friends-with-benefits relationship may be the best of both worlds. They don’t have to commit to you while getting to enjoy the benefits of sex and intimacy. 

At first, you may seriously consider this option, especially if you had a tumultuous relationship together. You might assume that keeping things purely physical will reduce or even remove the emotional drama. 

But things don’t work that way. Instead, the narcissist tends to enjoy even more power and control. They often throw love bombs (I miss the good times we had…you’ve always been so good to me…I love the time we spend together) to keep you hooked. 

Additionally, the friends-with-benefits dynamic gives them free rein to sleep with other people. And many times, the narcissist will enjoy having multiple sex partners while you’re still pining over your relationship and hoping things might change.

Even worse, you may become their confidante for the “relationship troubles” they’re having with the new supply!  Imagine having to hear the breakdown of how much they care about the new supply, how they’re thinking of popping the question, or even how the new supply isn’t meeting their physical desires! 

Being friends with the narcissist simply means they will continue using you and playing with your mind, only without any expectations for reciprocation.  

They Aren’t Getting Their Narcissistic Supply Elsewhere

Narcissists feel hollow without external approval, and they depend on other people to fulfill their emotional needs. This is one of the reasons why they are often unfaithful and have back-up partners. 

But sometimes the new supply doesn’t work out the way they hoped. Narcissists become bored and unsettled very easily. If someone doesn’t make them feel adored or important, they are no longer as appealing. And so, they might come running back to you, especially if they know you will give them the attention they desperately crave.

They Want Your Money or Other Resources 

Do you pay their rent or cell phone bill? Do they always seem to run out of money or need just a few bucks here and there? 

If you’re always loaning the narcissist money, it shouldn’t be a surprise when they want to remain friends. At that point, you’ve become an ATM- they know they can count on you when they feel pressed for cash. If you try to set a healthy boundary, they often react defensively or accuse you of being selfish or cruel.

If they don’t want money, they may want access to other resources, like your car or home. Creating limits around this behavior can be challenging. If you are used to sharing your things with them, it may feel difficult to say no.

They Want to Impress Other People 

Sometimes, narcissists want to stay friends just because they know it looks good. They want the praise and attention for being “such a great person.” 

In public, they may try to show off your friendship. We didn’t work out, but I love her, and I’ll always care about her! Or, they might spin it to make them seem like they’re doing you a massive favor. She’s going through a rough time with everything. The least I can do is be a good friend. 

This need to impress may be most apparent if you have children together. Narcissists want to look like the perfect parent. Therefore, they may go around telling people that they want to keep things civil for the sake of the kids. 

But behind closed doors, it’s usually a much different story. With nobody to impress, they let their guard down. They don’t praise you, and they don’t even seem to value the relationship. Instead, it’s more about having you in the background, so they can watch and control your behavior even though they continue doing whatever they want.

They Know You’ll Take Them Back

What’s the most common reason narcissists want to be friends? They know you’re still longing for them.

Narcissists thrive on being the center of attention. If they know you’ll keep coming back, they have no incentive to change their behavior. They get exactly what they want- every time. 

In fact, they don’t even mind the initial resistance or hesitation- to them, it’s a fun and exciting challenge. If you keep letting them in, they’ll keep engaging in the same pattern, time and time again. 

Is a Narcissistic Friendship Worth It? 

In a short answer, no.

For a more comprehensive answer, you must remember that narcissists aren’t capable of genuine relationships. Research shows they lack the real empathy needed for human connection. To them, relationships aren’t a mutual take-and-give.

Instead, narcissists use people to meet their own needs. It’s not about making you happy. It’s about restoring their power and control. It’s about making them feel appreciated and loved. And they will typically turn on you the moment those needs feel jeopardized…or even if they’re simply pissed off at the new supply. 

You’ve always filled in as their emotional receptacle so they can offload their dramas and anger onto you…and being “their friend” won’t be any different.

What Should You Do if the Narcissist Wants to Be Friends?

After a break-up, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for the emotional roller-coaster of feelings you might experience. It’s normal to alternate between feeling sad, angry, confused, and insecure. It’s also normal to question whether you made the right decision.

Expect that they will try to come back to you. Expect that they will try to reach out to your family, friends, or anyone else that will listen to them. Expect them to tell you that they want to give it another chance or that they have changed or that you’re the only one who really understands them. 

That said, even when the narcissist wants to stay friends, it’s essential that you stand your ground. Don’t give the narcissist any more of your time, attention, or resources. If you want to end the drama, you must be willing to cut off your communication. 

At first, it might feel difficult, but going no-contact is the only way to achieve this goal. If you want to feel free, here are some helpful resources:  

1 – The Break Free Program – Explore techniques derived from behavioral therapy (vetted by the psychological and neuro-psychological communities) to finally heal your life.

2 – The THRIVE program – Rediscover your lost self after narcissistic abuse (and prepare yourself for true love).

The Bottom Line

Everyone has the innate capacity to heal themselves. But, it’s likely you will need external support to heal the traumas that get in the way of your ability to tune into this gift.⠀It’s also important to avoid falling prey to the idea that there is a way to be ‘friends’ with the narcissist that isn’t tormenting beyond belief.  

If you are trying to leave a toxic relationship, my testament to you is that as horrible and crippling as it feels in the beginning to go No Contact, there is an end to it.  The body and mind have enormous wisdom.  They know how to heal themselves if you create the conditions in which they can do so. 

Give them that opportunity by working on yourself – healing your wounds and altering those of your traits that left you vulnerable to narcissistic abuse.

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Karen says January 30, 2022

Can I state we did not badger them .we gave them space . We fully understand that he is their child all we wanted was the odd times to see him grow up. When our grandson was three months old his mum dressed our grandson up in an outfit our daughter bought him. This was a time when our daughter was blocked also. One day our daught was at work and realized that she had been unblocked again and appeared a picture of her nephew in the outfit our daughter had bought him. Our daughter ticked like then hours after that the bitch blocked our daughter again. This is what we have been dealing with now our poor daughter who had a callasped lung and a twelve hour op even longer then we thought has been asked by this vile person to be friends again. She met up with our son and her in a cafe yesturday . Our daughter offered to pay for coffee but son said fir once he would pay. Get this he asked his partner if she wanted a cake but never even asked or offered if our daughter wanted anything to eat. She was stood there with a great big scar and bein g so kind to them. And then our daughter asked our son if he wanted a relationship with us her parents and this is when he stated she can be he would not any they never stopped any of us from seeing the child! After said game playing just wicked. Our son visited daughter wither a cheap gift after she got out of hospital but his partner never even visited. You may say he made the effort to meet up but only because his car was in for a service and our daughters work place was ne xt to the garage. This a typical minimum effort by them both and would have had a free co ffee but they moved to cafe instead. Many a time over the years he visited in that area and never even called in or asked how she is all about them.

Karen says January 30, 2022

Some times it is draining to write about these topics. I would like to share with you that over eighteen months we have been ghosted cut off by phone and text and doors and curtains drawn to stop access from our grandchild. One of these people now wants to be friends our son no he states we can visi t but when he is not there and he demands his sister to be there. Her brother and partner has treated her just as bad but now wants to be friends with her as well. We have now been told just when our grandson is starting to talk that we could always see him from the start and that we are the ones who didn’t visit!. How could we my husband was locked out of their home when they took the pram away marched pasted him and slammed their door leaving him outside and told his sister they never stopped any of us from seeing him!. So now one of them who treated us bad has control if she starts to be nasty “babies mothe”r then she can then side again with our son and we will be ghosted, it’s black mail. If we don’t comply then we are the ones to look bad yet we tried so hard to see him all of a sudden one of them wants a relationship the one who was worse of all in behavior. Grandson is attending school soon so I think this is to paint us black so they look good when questions are asked about grandparents.

BERRY says January 8, 2022

Thank you, Kim! You truly KNOW narcissists AND (just as importantly) their partners. After 11.5 years of a train wreck marriage and the finale of me filing after he took off his mask COMPLETELY and vowed to “destroy me, leave me broke and homeless and wanted visitation rights to my dog”, I went no contact, filed and followed through (BTW, 2nd time I filed). And, yes, I chose to cut my financial losses and walk. For me, I had to look at the big picture and decide whether I actually could recover financially. It was so worth it. I know this is not the case for everyone and my heart goes out to the women who stay bc of financial needs for their children. 2.5 years later he saw me at a social event and told me he really wanted to talk with me. I never in a million years thought I would be able to do it, and I’m glad I did (although I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone), bc he replayed the same old garbage within 2 minutes. The narc cycle was amazing. First thing he said was, “I was just listening to a CD of love songs you gave me. Next he said, “I would have never divorced you.” blah, blah, blah. Love bombing, hoovering, gas-lighting, rewriting history, etc. It took me six years of intensive PTSD therapy, lots of reading and listening to the RIGHT experts, to be able to see it, stand firm and calmly and walk away. I know that’s not a typical response, so I’m not recommending this to anyone. But it was freeing to me. I was terrified of him before. Six months ago my therapist saw how I was still terrified of him and she said it would be important to walk through the fear someday. That was the day. I was completely calm and I have NO fear of him AT ALL, now. I see him as the very sad man he is, using people for his own desperate and selfish needs. I am not angry at him or myself (most of the time), he doesn’t take up (much) space in my head (most of the time). I check in on Kim’s website when I’m feeling confused and/or I’m triggered and it reminds me of reality. I have promised myself not to date until I feel healed and whole. That means it may not ever happen and that’s okay. My primary objective is to live the life I’ve been given, honoring my own personality and never disrespecting myself again by being involved with an abusive/disrespectful person. They are EVERYWHERE and I used to be scared, but I’m not anymore. If I meet someone and my “narc alert” goes off, I don’t panic, I just watch calmly and “back away from the car”, cordially and respectfully. On the brighter side, I have much more respect and gratitude for people who are real and wonderful. I love that they are in my life! It takes time to heal, buy I’d rather live in healing, than live in hell. The whole experience was sad for my family and we’re all moving forward. Thank you, Kim! You have been a partner in my journey.

anonymous says November 16, 2021

I’ve been knowing my narc for about 4 years now. We dated for about a year in junior college, went no contact for 6 months once he transferred to play SEC football and eventually reconnected when I transferred to the same school. For the past 2 and a half years we have been friends with benefits and I still feel like I’m in the same place as when we broke up 2 and a half years ago. After we ended things, he got with another girl quickly and about a year ago they had a baby together. He claims that the are only coparenting but I know there is something more because she visits him and stays weeks at a time. It hurts so much seeing them be a family when we talked about having a child together before he even met her. Now im trying to finally move on from this dead relationship because I have realized that we will never get back together and he is using me for sex. Every time I have tried to leave he guilt trips me with the “I never thought you’d leave me, I didn’t expect this from you out of all people” spill and I fall for it almost every time. Well now I have met someone else and want to at least feel what its like to be with another man because I haven’t received the love and care I deserve since we were together. The only advice I can give is don’t stick around giving the narc what he wants being friends with benefits because at the end you’ll eventually be discarded again and feel used. I wish I would’ve never went back and gave him the opportunity to play with my heart again because he’ll be leaving in a couple weeks to train for the NFL draft and I know he won’t have any need for me anymore. I’ve been trying to slowly end things for weeks, but as soon as he realizes that he starts hovering and constantly reaches out to hang “have sex”. I hope once he is leaves I can finally move on, but it hurts that it has taken this long for me so see that he really has no feelings about leaving me and that him and his babymomma share a stronger bond than we once did.

Steve Miller says December 5, 2020

The way out of a narcissistic relationship is that my Mom died!

clara says December 4, 2020

Another timely and very helpful article. Especially as I contend with narcissistic traits in family members. It’s helpful to see how my wish to love and be loved can easily keep me snared.

Karen says December 4, 2020

I agree! Your the one??? It’s a joke, but we believe it at the time, just to be left high and dry as they go back to their girlfriend! It’s just dreadful to feel like shit every day because of how they have continually made us feel

Anonymous says December 3, 2020

It always amazes me that he “seems” so genuine when he says I am the one. I want to believe it because I would never say that to anyone if it weren’t true. Each time I know a little better I guess. Their words are so shallow but their actions tell all. I don’t care if I never have another relationship again. Being alone is way better then being repeatedly abused and manipulated just to feel foolish again and again.

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