When a Narcissist Sees You Cry How Does He React?

A highly narcissistic individual will not have a typical reaction to seeing you cry. People with the ability to feel your emotions would probably feel sad and compassionate when you are crying.

Narcissists cannot feel your emotions because they have low affective empathy. Therefore, their reaction to seeing you cry will be in line with their callous, hostile, and aggressive nature.

Here are some possible reactions a narcissist may have when they see you cry.

False Empathy

During the love bombing phase, a narcissistic person might put on a front of being very empathetic and supportive because they want to win you over. 

For example, they might listen to you for hours, ask questions and seem very interested in your life. When you tell them about any painful past experiences, they offer their support and compassion.

They seem to care and you feel like you can trust them so you let your guard down. But eventually this apparent empathy will disappear and they may even use what you told them against you. 

Certain types of narcissists, such as altruistic or communal narcissists, pride themselves on being seen as empathetic and selfless. 

However, beneath this facade is a callous interior that seeks validation and praise by any means necessary. It is not true empathy but rather a way to manipulate people into submission and a false sense of security. 

Their goal is for you to see them as your confidant and savior because this puts them in a powerful position. 

They might even be the ones inflicting the pain and then manipulate you into believing they are saving you from pain. 

For example, your friend makes out with your boyfriend and you find out.

Instead of apologizing and owning up to this betrayal, your friend tells you, “I was only helping you out! I was testing his loyalty for you and proved that he’s a lowlife. You should be thanking me!”. 

Power and Control

When a narcissist sees you cry because of something they did, it can give them a sense of power and control. Getting an emotional reaction out of someone, regardless of whether it’s negative or positive, gives their self-esteem a boost – it’s narcissistic supply.

They want to be at the center of your attention and need to feel like they have control over you and your emotions. Therefore, seeing you cry because of something they did will confirm they have control and make them feel powerful.

For example, you’re at home alone, waiting for your partner who should have been home hours ago. You feel emotional because he seems to be working late a lot recently and spends less time with you. He comes through the door and doesn’t even greet you.

This brings you to tears and you start crying at the kitchen table. He comes over and asks, “What’s wrong?” and you tell him that you feel unimportant and neglected because he doesn’t seem to care anymore.

Outwardly he might refute what you are saying but, on the inside, he feels gleeful like “Wow, I really have her wrapped around my finger”.

Become Angry

A narcissist might become angry when they see you cry depending on the circumstances. It may arouse an overwhelming feeling of shame or losing control over the other person and their own emotions. So to regain control and suppress shame, they might react with aggression.  

If you cry often, they might find it annoying because they lack the necessary empathy to understand and care about your emotions.

They might be tired of pretending to care or feel disgusted by your “weakness” and say, “Stop crying all the time, you’re so annoying!” or “You’re such a crybaby, just toughen up”.

Seeing you cry may also anger them if you are crying about something that has nothing to do with them (e.g. if you argued with a friend). They may feel like their spot at the center of your attention has been stolen and they are losing control over you.

They might become aggressive, belittle you, and threaten “Stop crying or I’ll give you a real reason to cry about!”

They might also get angry if they feel you are accusing or blaming them because this challenges their grandiosity and position of power.

For example, you argue with your narcissistic partner because you found out they are having an affair. They play their usual gaslighting manipulation game and tell you to stop crying.

You snap and say “This is all because of you! You’ve destroyed this relationship – it’s your fault I’m crying!” They may feel you are backing them into a corner or challenging their authority and consequently become enraged.

Play the Victim

If a narcissist feels blamed or accused by the fact that you are crying, they might try to reverse the roles and play the victim.

Narcissists cannot take responsibility even if they are clearly in the wrong. They live in a fantasy world in which they are perfect and never to blame for anything.

Taking responsibility for making you cry would mean they are less than perfect, so they refuse to do so and turn it back on you.

For example, a colleague at work is always taking credit for your work and spreading rumors about you to managers. It’s having a significant impact on your well-being, and you decide to confront her.

When you are explaining your position, you start crying out of frustration and anger.

Your colleague says, “I can’t believe you would think I would do those things. The fact that you’re crying is so manipulative! You’re just jealous of my success – you’re trying to sabotage me! Why is everyone always against me?”

Start Laughing 

Some narcissists, especially those with antisocial traits, have what is called “contrast empathy”. It means they will find a situation funny that most people would find sad or concerning. So, when these types of narcissists see you crying, they find it funny.

For example, you had to have your dog put down and naturally, feel very emotional. You return home without your dog and start crying.

Your partner asks, “Why are you crying?” and you tell her what happened. She bursts out laughing saying, “Oh come on, it was just a stupid dog. You can just get another one”.

Give the Silent Treatment

Considering their lack of genuine empathy, some narcissists will not react when they see you cry.

Their capacity to care for and support other people is very low when there is no incentive to do so. So when you cry and it has no bearing on them, they might feel nothing at all and ignore you.

For example, your dad walks into the room and sees you’re crying. Either he just walks past you or asks, “What’s wrong now?”. You explain that something terrible happened to you at school.

He shrugs and says, “Is that it?” and then walks away shaking his head.


Some narcissists experience pleasure at the sight of seeing someone upset and crying. This is called dacryphilia and may be sadistic if it’s about domination and control.

Sadistic dacryphiles get aroused by making their partner cry through physical or emotional pain.

Some dacryphiles get aroused by seeing someone cry regardless of the reason i.e., it’s not about control, they just get aroused by seeing tears.


di Giacomo, E., Andreini, E., Lorusso, O. & Clerici, M. (2023). The dark side of empathy in narcissistic personality disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14.

Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Compassion, dominance/submission, and curled lips: A thematic analysis of dacryphilic experience. International Journal of Sexual Health, 27, 337-350.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Educator, Researcher

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Anna Drescher

Mental Health Writer

BSc (Hons), Psychology, Goldsmiths University, MSc in Psychotherapy, University of Queensland

Anna Drescher is a freelance writer and solution-focused hypnotherapist, specializing in CBT and meditation. Using insights from her experience working as an NHS Assistant Clinical Psychologist and Recovery Officer, along with her Master's degree in Psychotherapy, she lends deep empathy and profound understanding to her mental health and relationships writing.