Crying in front of a narcissist is as advisable as using a hairdryer in the bath.
But it happens.
Emotions flood and your body reacts.
So that’s what we’re tackling today: all the aspects of narcissist crying.
How do they react when someone sheds tears in their presence?
Do narcissists cry?
What should you do when you feel the tears rushing in?
So if you’re stuck with a narcissist in your life, pull up a screen, and let’s jump in.
- Do Narcissists Like to See You Cry?
- 13 Warped Reactions When A Narcissist Sees You Cry
- 1. They’ll Offer a False Apology
- 2. They’ll Yell and Scream
- 3. They’ll Become Aroused
- 4. They’ll Offer False Empathy
- 5. They’ll Demand You Stop
- 6. They’ll Smirk and Smile
- 7. They’ll Say, “Crying Doesn’t Solve Anything”
- 8. They’ll Call You Childish
- 9. They’ll Accuse You of Being Self-Centered
- 10. They’ll Storm Off
- 11. They’ll Ghost You
- 12. They’ll Smear You to Others
- 13. They’ll Be Abusive
- What to Do When a Narcissist Reacts Badly to Your Crying
- Do Narcissists Cry?
Do Narcissists Like to See You Cry?
While there are several types of narcissism — overt, vulnerable, and malignant, to name a few — they all share a few qualities.
- Entitlement: People with narcissistic personalities believe they’re special and people — friends, family, and strangers alike — should go out of their way to help them.
- Superiority: Narcissists have an impenetrable sense of superiority. They genuinely believe they’re better than others and have little to no patience with ideas or opinions that don’t jive with their own.
- Pathological Selfishness: Have you ever known someone who expects more than they give? They’re blind to everyone else’s troubles and stresses but require maximum sympathy and support when the roles are reversed. This level of toxic selfishness is omnipresent among narcissists.
- Hyper-Sensitivity: Even though most narcissists present as self-assured and confident, behind the facade, is a cripplingly insecure person. As such, they’re often hyper-sensitive and will mangle and misinterpret things people say into slights against themselves.
Whether a narcissist likes to see you cry partly depends on what category they fall into.
For example, covert, communal, and vulnerable narcissists may get a rush when you weep in their presence.
Some may even feel relief, viewing it as a sign that you finally understand their “pain and suffering.” (Remember: They’re also self-referential.)
Malignant, grandiose, and antagonistic narcissists will likely react with anger because they cannot tolerate visible emotions.
And if the narcissist caused the outburst, they’ll probably shut down because they don’t want to connect with the reality of the situation. After all, they can’t be the cause of the upset! They’re perfect!
13 Warped Reactions When A Narcissist Sees You Cry
Crying in front of a toxic person is risky business. Since narcissist emotions are entirely self-serving, they have strong and adverse reactions when it happens.
Let’s look at 13 ways they may respond.
1. They’ll Offer a False Apology
A genuine apology is infused with true accountability and remorse. Since narcissists are terrified of facing inner turmoil, they’ll do anything to shut down situations that require empathy or recognizing others’ emotions.
Instead of a good apology, they’ll usually say things like “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I don’t know why you’re reacting like this, but I’m sorry you are.”
Those aren’t apologies; they’re deflections of blame, and it’s a form of gaslighting.
2. They’ll Yell and Scream
Have you ever found yourself saying, “my boyfriend gets mad when I cry,” or “my husband doesn’t care when I cry?”
If so, you’re not alone.
Emotions are anathema for narcissists, and they resent when people force them to face uncomfortable feelings. Moreover, they may lash out and start yelling and screaming when they don’t feel fully in control of a situation.
This is common among the more overt types of narcissism, like grandiose, malignant, and antagonistic.
Some may even believe your tears are fake and you’re using them to manipulate — just like they do.
3. They’ll Become Aroused
Interestingly, some narcissists are attracted to people who cry in front of them. This usually happens when they’re hunting for an egotistical supply and need fresh victims.
Crying is a sign of vulnerability, so they see the tears as a way in. In these instances, they usually start love bombing to hook the weepy target.
Unfortunately, it often works — because people aren’t attuned to red flags when feeling down in the dumps.
4. They’ll Offer False Empathy
Some narcissists can show empathy in the short term, especially if it allows them to manipulate or control the crying person.
However, it’s often superficial and short-lived, and they quickly return to their maddeningly selfish behavior.
Vulnerable narcissists are particularly good at mimicking emotions and will use the opportunity to strengthen the trauma bond. Sometimes, they’re conscious of their actions; in others, it’s an instinctual reaction.
5. They’ll Demand You Stop
They make many demands, and if you shed tears in their presence, they may insist you stop. In some instances, they may even threaten you to cease and desist.
The demand will likely be accompanied by gaslighting. Again, in their eyes, you’re the one causing the trouble, and their brains can’t comprehend that you’re crying for a reason.
6. They’ll Smirk and Smile
One of the most off-putting, frustrating, rage-inducing reactions to crying is the smirk and smile.
When someone opens the ducts in their presence, these self-absorbed people will actually get a rush of pleasure from seeing someone else unload.
Sometimes the egomaniac harbors resentment against the crying person for not prioritizing their needs and wants, so they view the person’s cries as deserving payback.
Other times, it’s pure spite — a desire to see others suffering.
7. They’ll Say, “Crying Doesn’t Solve Anything”
A favorite saying among narcissists is, “crying doesn’t solve anything!” It’s a go-to sentiment because they don’t know how to deal with emotions.
Since many toxic people are the way they are because of childhood trauma and neglect, the saying is one they likely heard a lot in their youth and internalized.
8. They’ll Call You Childish
These toxic individuals live in a world of their own making. Since appearances are everything to them, they never fess up to their own hardships — especially if said troubles are materially or financially related.
Since people with narcissistic personality traits see themselves as highly responsible and mature, they may accuse you of being childish for crying. To them, only babies shed tears.
9. They’ll Accuse You of Being Self-Centered
Projection is one of the most-used clubs in the narcissist’s tour bag. Couple that with the idea that crying is self-centered — which many of them were scolded for when children — and you end up with a gaslighting mess.
Instead of acknowledging your pain, they’ll accuse you of being self-centered for daring to cry in their presence.
Moreover, in their eyes, tears take attention away from them, which enrages their egos.
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10. They’ll Storm Off
Storming off may be their most common reaction to crying. Since tears crawl underneath their skin and drive them crazy, storming off is common.
The situation is intolerable to them because they’re not in control.
But avoid falling into the trap of thinking they are mindful of this fact. In their minds, you’re the one behaving poorly, and they’re the poor, put-upon victim who is unfairly forced to deal with your nonsense.
11. They’ll Ghost You
These selfish people may ghost you for crying when they get their supply elsewhere. It makes them so uncomfortable that the thought of seeing, talking to, or dealing with you in any way is abhorrent.
If they’re lacking the attention they crave, they may ghost you for a while and then pop up out of the blue like nothing is wrong.
In these cases, don’t expect them to acknowledge the incident or inquire about how you’re doing. They likely already forgot about it because it “had nothing to do with them.”
12. They’ll Smear You to Others
People with narcissistic personality styles are big on smearing people’s reputations.
So if you weep when they’re around — or worse, they cause you to cry — they’ll immediately shift into self-preservation mode, often blaming the people responsible for their uneasiness.
And don’t think they’ll stick to the facts. When narcissists feel threatened, they’ll lie to regain a sense of internal control. The scariest part is that they genuinely believe their misrepresentations.
13. They’ll Be Abusive
In worst-case scenarios, narcissists can “flip out” and be abusive when someone in their presence is not following their script.
Malignant and antagonistic sub-personalities are most guilty of this behavior, though it’s not out of the question for a grandiose narcissist to also lose control.
Abuse is never acceptable, and abusers never genuinely change. So if you’re in a fraught relationship that’s sometimes punctuated with physical intimidation, do everything you can to get out.
Contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline if you don’t know where to turn.
What to Do When a Narcissist Reacts Badly to Your Crying
We’ve discussed the frustrating ways these toxic people handle other people’s tears. So what should you do if you’re the one crying and “upsetting” a pathologically toxic person?
You have a few options:
- Leave: At the beginning, end, and middle of the day, narcissists won’t understand your emotions; worse, they’ll blame you for being ridiculous or overwrought.
- Stand Your Ground: Staying put and shouting back is an option. You’ll never change their opinion and get them to see the light, but sometimes standing firm and letting it all hang out is cathartic. But be careful; it may throw them into a rage.
- Get Support: Are other people around? Turn to them for comfort and ignore the narcissist in the room. Understand, however, this could cause them to lash out even more because they’ll feel like the weepy individual is monopolizing attention.
Ultimately, education is the best emotional defense against a narcissist having a tantrum over your tears. When you know what to expect, you can prepare yourself.
When Do Narcissists Cry?
Have you ever heard the term “crocodile tears”? It derives from an ancient belief that the murderous reptiles would shed tears while consuming prey.
Today, the phrase is an idiom for insincere sorrow. And when it comes to these selfish types, crocodile tears are their only ones.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t cry! In fact, some narcissists are experts at turning on the waterworks.
However, they’re not weeping for others but instead for themselves.
When They’re Being Manipulative
Manipulation is a hallmark of the narcissistic personality. They’re constantly calculating and jockeying, seeking attention and favor. So if they see a benefit to crying, they will.
When They’re Crying for Themselves
Tears are a psychobiological response to overwhelming emotions. When mentally healthy people cry, they’re often sad about things that affect other people.
That’s not the case for narcissists. Instead, they only weep for their pain and circumstances.
When They Want Attention
As mentioned, people with NPD and similar traits love the limelight.
Some may claim they’re shy — especially people who fall into the vulnerable category — but it’s a front. Without all eyes on them, they feel invisible.
Typically, this type of attention-grabbing weeping often occurs at funerals and other significant events.
When They Feel Shame
Shame is the narcissist’s kryptonite. A hint of it can send them off the deep end. So if you say or do something that triggers humiliation, tears may follow.
When this happens, watch out — because they demonize the person who made them cry in these cases, and they aren’t above reputational smearing.
When They’re Trying To Trap a Source of Narcissistic Supply
Narcissistic supply is the attention and adoration people with NPD need to feel stable and comfortable.
So when they’re running out of options, they may claim to be a changed person and shed tears to reel you back in.
For instance, when people finally wake up and opt to leave a narcissist, the waterworks usually flow.
Dealing with narcissists is traumatic, and their manipulative tactics can complicate the situation even more. So if you’re trapped with a toxic person, stay vigilant.
Do your best not to fall for their false tears because, as an African proverb warns: Don’t insult a crocodile when your feet are still in the water!
Furthermore, do yourself a favor and try not to cry in their presence — because 9.9 times out of 10, they’ll flip the script and use it against you.