This is usually how it goes:
Test #1 — Sweetness. They usually start off all sweet and seemingly vulnerable, maybe even with a pity ploy. They’ll tell you something they know you want to hear. They’ll act like they’re sorry or they can’t live without you. In this test they try to pull on your heart strings of compassion and love. If that doesn’t work and your boundaries are solid (ie: you don’t budge in your stance, you ignore them, etc.) they will quickly shift into Test #2.
Test #2 — Meanness.
Test #3 — Grand Finale. This is when they go after what hurts the most. They often know what most matters to you and they will try to destroy it for you. If they know being a parent is what gives you purpose in life and how much you enjoy that, they’ll accuse you of being an awful parent and/or remind you of any failures in the past. If they know that your work is what gives your life meaning then they will tell you how you’re no good at what you do and how you’re actually hurting people instead of helping them. (Btw you can watch a narration of a real life example of that in a video from last year called Leaving the Narcissist Before the Discard). This is the part where they often fabricate stories of “everyone thinks…” or “everyone says…” about you so you feel alone and isolated, so you will doubt yourself and maybe just maybe feel that false shame or guilt that they want you to feel because in that low state you could fall back under their control. Be very careful not to internalize these messages that the manipulator is saying. This is the Grand Finale test because by now either you got the point that this person is not someone you want in your life and you’re beyond done and/or the manipulator has given up their attempts to suck you back because you’re maintaining No Contact and they must move on to a more reliable supply source. Sometimes we wait for this level of the manipulator revealing themselves so we can assure ourselves that we made the right decision to leave.
3 tests, 3 words: JUST SAY NO. No response. No reaction. No taking the bait.