When things ended with my narcissistic ex, I thought that I was going to be able to simply walk away and that it would be a relatively normal break-up.
At that moment I was completely naive to the fact that there was a storm brewing that had begun before I decided to end the abusive and toxic relationship.
If you have ever been through the end of a relationship cycle with a narcissist where either you are discarded, or you are able to walk away from them, you have most likely gone through a smear campaign.
This is what happens in the aftermath of trying to cut ties with a narcissist where they will do everything they can to ensure that your name/reputation is completely dragged through the mud.
There are psychological reasons as to why the narcissist launches a smear campaign against you following a break-up and educating yourself can help you better understand and protect yourself if this is happening to you.
Here are the primary reasons why a smear campaign is so likely to happen after a break-up with a narcissist, and how you can protect yourself.
#1. They have to safe face
Imagine that you have just spent months, or years invalidating your partner, lying to them, and ultimately crushing their confidence and self-worth.
Narcissists know somewhere within themselves, that their behavior has been less than ideal. They will fear after a break-up that there is a possibility you could reveal their behavior and they will do everything they can to show the world that you are the one to blame for the demise of your relationship.
“The smear campaign is born out of a combination of factors, including the need to be right and have his or her “truth” become the prevailing script, retaining status and standing (making sure that his or her inner hidden shame doesn’t become public), and maintaining control of his or her image.” -Psychology Today
At the core of a narcissist are their insecurities and shame and they believe anyone that could possibly reveal those truths about them needs to be silenced immediately.
#2. They want to have control of the narrative
When I ended things with my narcissistic ex, there was a group of his friends that had also become my friends.
Immediately they turned away from me and bought into my ex’s stories that painted him as the victim and me as the cruel girlfriend.
Through the grapevine, I later heard that the story he told was that I had heartlessly abandoned him in his time of need and didn’t have the emotional capacity for a real relationship.
Controlling the narrative can be beneficial for the manipulator for many reasons. They can decide whether they are the hero deserving praise or the victim in need of sympathy. In either situation, the accompanying actor is the villain. -Psychology Today
Although he was the one who had psychologically and physically abused me, I was the villain in his narrative of our story.
#3. They don’t want to take any accountability
Time and time again I have watched victims of narcissistic abuse struggle to come to terms with the mind-boggling reality that although they were the ones who were manipulated and abused, there is no admission of fault on the narcissist’s side of things.
What I want to point out is that when we decide to admit that we are at fault it requires us to be completely vulnerable.
Narcissists are not willing to put themselves in that space, and therefore they will do everything they can to avoid taking any part in the demise of a relationship.
Although the smear campaign is used in part, to hurt the victim, it is also used to protect the narcissist and their fabricated sense of self that is constantly just hanging by a thread.
How you can protect yourself
Victims of psychological abuse are often shocked at the rage and rath they face after things end with a narcissist.
Your first instinct may be that you need to fight back. You need to tell everyone that you can what happened so that you can try to control the narrative.
I always remind my clients of this simple truth. A narcissist has been manipulating for years, if not decades. They are a master of their craft, and I guarantee that before you ever have an idea of who they are, the narrative has already been written in their favor.
Don’t waste your energy on them. Instead, focus on the one thing that you can control and that is yourself. Block them completely if you are able, or go low contact if you have children together and have to allow for some communication.
By educating yourself on the smear campaign and the reasons behind why the narcissist is doing this, you can take a step back and realize that it truly has nothing to do with you.
Remember… what you experienced was valid and you saw the manipulator hiding under their guise and mask. Although the narcissist may be falsely claiming the role of the victim, you are the one who is choosing to move on with your life and emerging as a survivor.