Updated from the original post on 6 August 2014
If you have read about narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder you will have read that one way to deal with narcissism in your life is with no contact or low contact. In some cases this can be simple (natural fading of a relationship/friendship) but in other cases it may not work out that way. If you have decided to NOT have contact with this person then the next question becomes do they come back into your life?
If they come-back after a significant¹ about of time of no contact, then, how they try and re-enter is telling of whether or not they are up to their old narcissistic tricks. I believe people can change and I have seen changes in people’s behaviors. The manner in which the person deals with the significant time apart and how he/she re-surfaces may reveal whether or not the person is searching for his/her narcissistic supply² or if he/she is trying to make amends (and has understood and changed their unhealthy behaviors).
I have gone no contact with a few friends and they have tried to re-enter four months later, a year later and even eight years later. Based on my experiences, I have compiled a list of signs that reentry may be unhealthy or for ulterior motives (like narcissistic supply²). Please note this list is not inclusive nor should be taken as advice, it is a set of guidelines I have in place for myself and I share my learnings.
SIGNS RE-ENTRY MAY BE UNHEALTHY
1. No acknowledgement that time has passed
This is actually a boundary violation. The not acknowledging something that should be acknowledged (the not what is said is equally as important as what is said) is crossing a relationship boundary. The other person should show signs that he/she views the same reality as you – significant time has passed without contact (Katherine 2000, p. 122).
2. Picking up where the relationship left off
This is linked to #1. If upon contacting/interacting you, he/she jumps into normal conversation that you two used to have without discussing that something was wrong in the first place is a HUGE sign that this person is not concerned with respecting your feelings about the relationship.
3. Indirectly trying to make contact with you through a third party
When a former friend/co-worker contacted me after four months of no contact, she did so with another friend. This is odd behavior considering she didn’t do this often during the course of our friendship. She repeatedly did this a few times with the mutual friend. It felt odd to start speaking to me again with someone else present (on e-mail, face to face). I believe she did this as a way of control, to bully me to be silent about the events of our failed friendship.
4. Knows information about your life where you haven’t personally communicated it to them
A former friend contacted me after finding out I was moving. Yet, I never told her and she came up to me and started asking me about it. With mutual friends, this is tricky because mutual friends may pass on information about you when they don’t know that you have ended the friendship. However, this friend came up and started talking to me about it without mentioning where she had heard this information. This is also linked to guideline #2.
5. Reaches out to you upon hearing bad news about you
A few friends of mine where I had faded out our friendship, contacted me when they heard I was leaving my job. In fact, during the few months I was jobless (searching for a new one) they were really attentive. However, once I found a new job and I communicated that, I never heard from them again. I was their narcissistic supply for that brief period.
6. If you engage but no real concern follows about you
I lapsed one time and went out with friends where I knew the former friend would be. When I spoke to the former friend, she didn’t ask anything about what is going on in my life. There was no concern or curiosity at all in my life – something that had ended our friendship in the first place.
¹Please note that a significant amount of time is dependent on the amount of contact I had with the person during the course of the relationship. With one friend/co-worker, for example, I spoke to her and saw her every day (for one and half years). More than a couple of weeks of not talking/seeing her is a significant amount of time (I stopped car pooling with her to work, taking my lunch breaks with her and stopped e-mailing/talking to her).
²Narcissistic supply: another person that fulfills the narcissist’s exaggerated needs for attention, admiration and adulation
Further Reading & References
Katherine, Anne, M.A.: Where to Draw the Line – How to set healthy boundaries every day; Simon & Schuster, 2000.
The Narcissitic Continuum: The Appropriation of “No Contact”: When Narcissists Use “No Contact” Against You
In Bad Company: Frenemies (narcissists) and mutual friends