If you’ve ever met a malignant narcissist or someone who has the traits consistent with narcissistic personality disorder, chances are that you know someone who is addicted to narcissistic supply. Most malignant narcissists are addicted to admiration, at least on some level, and nearly all of them are addicted to having people “give themselves” to them!
If you are among the people the narcissist considers to be part of their inner circle, or if you’re the spouse, child, or another family member, you are most likely being used for narcissistic supply, or you were in the past. They demand your respect even though they don’t earn it. They demand your support, but they never return the favor, unless it benefits them to do so. They love being told that they are amazing – and they love it when you freak out and scream and act crazy. That’s especially true when they drive you to it. They want attention whether it is positive or negative. That also means they demand compliments, money, sex, and anything else that helps them keep their false self alive.
The continuous attention and admiration that the narcissist gets from you help to feed their over-blown, bloated, secretly non-existent sense of self-worth and esteem – that false self they project to the outside world. In many cases, narcissists are able to summon up a powerful kind of charm and charisma that seems to help them keep getting more and more attention, assuring a constant stream of narcissistic supply coming their way.
What is Narcissistic Supply?
Narcissistic supply means attention, admiration, emotional energy, and other kinds of “services” the narcissist requires in order to function and to maintain their ego. It can involve smile attention, or sex, money, caregiving (and caretaking), and more. The narcissist’s need for your emotional energy can be likened to the mythical vampire’s need for blood. They require it to survive. It nourishes them and keeps them feeling comfortable with their lives. They get their narcissistic supply from people, but in some cases, they might even get it from a pet or group of people.
What does it mean when you call someone “a narcissistic supply?”
In the narcissistic abuse recovery community, we often refer to the victim of the abusive narcissist as “the narcissistic supply.” What we really mean is the “source of narcissistic supply,” and this is sometimes misunderstood. People might think by calling ourselves “supply” we are minimizing ourselves. But what we are doing is acknowledging that the abusers in our lives only saw us for what we could provide to them – not for what and who we actually are. In other words, we are reminding ourselves that, as a “narcissistic supply,” we are used by the narcissist to get attention, validation, admiration – all the “supply” they need to feed their ego.
What qualities do narcissists look for in a source of narcissistic supply?
Empathetic (especially when it means you react quickly to their extreme emotions).
Kind and compassionate (but they’ll call you abusive for setting a healthy boundary).
Willing to put others first (though they’ll always accuse you of being selfish).
Modest about your good qualities (so your ego won’t require much of them – they never validate you).
Attractive (even though they will tell you otherwise to hurt you).
Intelligent (even though they will constantly make you doubt it).
Independent and able to entertain yourself (so they can ignore you when they want to).
Willing to drop everything for them and do whatever they want, when they want, without question (because they need your attention when they need it, but they want you to leave them alone when they want that).
Flexible and willing to change for them (though they’ll literally never return the favor).
Loyal (because, obviously, they deserve loyalty, despite the fact that you don’t, according to them).
Low or reduced self-esteem (often due to having grown up in a toxic family or having previously have endured an abusive relationship of any kind (because it makes you more likely to accept abuse again and/or to have lower standards, along with a higher threshold for abuse, making you more tolerant and accepting of their abuse).
Socially brag-worthy (In other words, they’ll be proud to show you off and claim you as their property – even though they’ll do everything in your power to make you feel completely worthless behind closed doors. They do this because it keeps you from believing you can do any better. This, along with all of their other manipulations, is designed to keep you around if and when they want you).
What kind of people typically attract narcissists?
Whether you are a child of a narcissistic parent, a co-worker to a narcissist, or someone who has or had a narcissistic partner, you could be a source of narcissistic supply for them. Many have a whole circle of supply, which we sometimes call a narcissistic harem.
As a source of narcissistic supply, the narcissist sees you as someone who gives them something they need. This could be simply attention and admiration, or much more. In most cases, they may also get supply out of scaring you or making you cry, or out of making you chase them or worry about them.
While they may say otherwise, the narcissist sees you as a product and/or a service – or, in many cases, as an extension of themselves. And while they may claim to love you, what they really love is what you can do for them. They love that you are among the people who provide them what they “need,” and yet, sadly they can never love or feel any compassionate empathy for you.
What happens if you refuse to keep providing narcissistic supply?
The fact that they see you as a source of narcissistic supply leads the narcissist to, on so many levels, literally NEED you. And that is exactly why you’re likely to see a fit of narcissistic rage if they start doubting your devotion. FOr example, you might suddenly decide you’re going to start taking care of yourself because you’ve recognized that you have recently slipped in that area. As you do this, you might even start setting a few boundaries and feeling even better.
How does the narcissist feel when you cut off their source of narcissistic supply?
This will lead you to start questioning them and demanding the respect you’re due. They might notice that you’re not bending to their wishes anymore. And of course, being as self-focused as they are, they won’t be interested in your personal growth. All they see is that their source of narcissistic supply might suddenly be cut off. That scares them.
Just for reference, close your eyes for a second and imagine how you feel when you are facing a power outage. If you’re anything like me, you might get a little irritated (or more than a little), especially if you are busy on a particular day and need the power to work on your computer. The longer it is out, the angrier you become.
Or, imagine how you’d feel if you were suddenly forced to fast for 48 hours and you’re not prepared. You’re going to stay hungry (and if we’re being honest, maybe a little hangry, at the very least). And you’re going to be pretty cranky.
Both of these examples offer a bit of insight into how the narcissist feels when they are deprived of narcissistic supply.
A narcissist will always look for a source of supply even if you are no longer that source if you go no contact. And if they find a source of supply before you leave them, then they will discard you and will end up hoovering if their new source of supply ‘dries up’.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
About a year after my divorce was final, I got a call from my ex-mother-in-law, letting me know that my ex was getting remarried. I was only mildly surprised – mostly that it had taken him almost two years to meet, successfully propose and schedule a wedding with his would-be second ex-wife. In hindsight, I’m actually kind of surprised it took him that long because usually, narcissists move much quicker. Still, I have absolutely no doubt he was dating and being “in love” with someone – more likely, more than one person, shortly after I left him, but for me, I didn’t even start dating until the divorce was final, and that itself took close to a year after I left.
Even though I did not in any way want him back, part of me felt some kind of way about this whole situation. It wasn’t that I felt jealous. I felt…confused. I felt like I wanted to contact this woman and tell her what she was in for. But if I’m being honest, I wanted to know how he was treating her. Was he being nice? Had he suddenly become the person I’d always wanted him to be? Had all the time and effort I spent trying to help him get it together finally benefitted someone, even if it wasn’t me?
Part of me hoped that he would be different for her. But the other part of me knew he wouldn’t.
It would be about five years later that I’d finally speak to her. When my now-husband decided to adopt my oldest son (the one I’d had with my ex), I had to reach out to the ex. He agreed to sign the papers because it might mean that he would no longer be on the hook for child support. Understandably, despite the fact that she’d never met or spoken to my son because he’d spent literally no time at all with my ex, his then-wife was quite concerned about the situation and showed up with him when I met him to sign the papers.
Once everything was resolved, she ended up calling me several times to discuss her husband and their relationship. She wanted to know if her experiences were like mine. It turned out that her marriage was nearly identical to mine, except she didn’t tolerate as much of his crap as I had. This led to his increasing the intensity and frequency of manipulation and gaslighting. Either way, though, she ended up divorcing him not long after. He’d end up married twice more after that, as far as I know.
The one thing I had felt worried about was that he would be better for someone who wasn’t me. But after having the opportunity to talk to both his second and third wives, I learned the truth: he was the same person for them as he’d been for me. He never changed.
Will the Narcissist Change for the New Supply?
Have you ever felt worried that your ex would somehow change for their new “source of narcissistic supply?” If so, you’re not alone. In fact, I hear this question all the time. People want to know: will the narcissist change for the new supply? Will they take everything I tried to teach them and use it successfully in a new relationship? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – narcissists and their new sources of supply – how they treat them and whether their new relationship is as good as they make it seem from the outside.
So, you’ve finally had the nerve to leave your partner, who you’re pretty sure is a toxic narcissist. And now, after years of psychological and emotional mind games, and you’re finally starting to breathe again. You are finally free of this horrible, selfish energy and you feel like you’re a brand new person! Life is just starting to get really, really good.
And then it happens. In-person or on social media, you spot your former would-be soulmate with someone new. You are startled and it feels like you’ve been slapped in the face. But pretty soon, you notice that there’s something different about them. They seem happier, brighter. Relaxed, even. They’re having a good time with a new person – maybe even someone who looks a little like you or who has something in common with you. They’re laughing, talking and even being charming.
“Who IS this person?” you wonder.
You’re confused. You’re hurt. You’re angry, maybe. A far cry from the narcissist you recently knew, your ex has somehow transformed themselves back into the amazing person you fell in love with. But seconds later, almost as if time is moving in slow motion, you realize what is happening. Your narcissist has found their next victim – and they’re in the process of love bombing this person, and for just a moment, you get a front-row seat.
Listen. I know it stings. I know it hurts when you see the person you fell in love with re-emerging after you’re away for a while. And I know that you wonder (at least a little bit) if somehow he narcissist was right all along – and if it really WAS just you.
(Side note: I PROMISE you that it wasn’t you.) Let’s talk about it.
The Truth About Narcissists in Relationships
Time for a reality check, my friend: you were never the problem in your toxic relationship. I’m not saying you were perfect. I’m not saying you didn’t make mistakes. I’m just saying that the majority of your issues in the relationship were a direct reaction to the mind games and manipulation that you were putting up within the relationship.
First, let me acknowledge that while every step in the healing process after a toxic relationship with a narcissist can be very painful, this one is probably one of the most confusing. See, while the bigger part of you knows that the narcissist is never going to REALLY change, this other little part of you still loves them – or, to put it more accurately, the version of them that you once believed was real. The one you signed up for in the first place. And that’s the part of them that they’re parading around now – so it’s like you’re mourning “that version” of the narcissist all over again.
But let me repeat: the problem was NOT you! The problem was that the narcissist took you for granted. They got used to having you around. They got spoiled by your supply. And they got bored, or you demanded that they behave like an actual grownup. Or maybe they got shiny new object syndrome, or they said they didn’t love you anymore, and left you to pursue whatever it was they wanted in the moment. Maybe you just finally had enough and you left the narcissist yourself.
Why the Narcissist Becomes the Person You Fell In Love With When You Leave
Maybe it would help you to understand why the narcissist has suddenly become Mr. or Ms. Perfect again. Here’s the truth: now that the relationship has ended, whether it was the narcissist’s idea or yours to end things, the narcissist was left without a source of regular narcissistic supply – and it is not possible for a narcissist to exist for long without it. Sure, they’ll have their little circle of supply. Friends, family members, even people they’ve cheated on you with. But now that you’re no longer officially together, the narcissist is out there on the prowl again, seeking out the new source of narcissistic supply that they need to save them from themselves.
This is normal – it’s exactly what you should expect from a toxic narcissist. And while a small part of you might secretly hate the new supply, the other part of you sadly already knows that it isn’t going to be all hearts and flowers for this person either. That’s right – if you really think about it, you’ll know exactly know how this story is going to go.
Narcissistic Abuse Has a Standard Cycle
Now, as you know, narcissists are very hard to live with, and even a reasonably intelligent person would feel ashamed that they tolerate the narcissist’s manipulative tactics. This means that the new supply is probably keeping any drama and BS under wraps. And if you’re being honest, you might have done the same thing back then, especially on social media. I remember being really embarrassed if anyone found out what I’d been dealing with, so I told very few people.
This happens in varying iterations and it happens often inside the same relationship over and over for decades sometimes. But if I’m in your shoes at this point, I’m going to make use of the no-contact/low-contact thing and use it to my advantage. That means to block them both on Facebook so you can stop torturing yourself by stalking their profiles. It means you will not listen when some well-meaning flying monkey tries to offer you updates on the narcissist and the new supply.
It means you’re going to move forward and focus ONLY on what you can control (not what you can’t), and since you couldn’t control the narcissist while you were together, you sure as heck can’t now (nor should you want to – this person no longer your problem!). If you have kids together and you can’t go completely no contact, then you go low contact, meaning that you ONLY deal with the narcissist about the business of raising the kids. Nothing else.
But how do you deal with the painful reality of watching your ex narcissist be perfect for someone else?
How to Deal When the Narcissist Moves On with Someone Else
1. See the Patterns!
Start by remembering what you dealt with and by recognizing what the new supply will deal with soon enough, if they’re not already going through it. (And even if you’re tempted to warn your narcissist’s new supply about what they’re getting themselves into, don’t do it – even if your intentions are good. Since chances are they’re still in the love-bombing or idealization phase, and since your ex has likely told them a lot of lies about you, they won’t likely believe you anyway and you’ll end up regretting the decision to reach out.)
2. Realize the Truth!
Don’t sit around thinking that the narcissist’s new supply will end up getting the benefit of all the work you did trying to fix them. It doesn’t work like that. The narcissist is and always be exactly who they are. Narcissists do not change. I’m not saying they can’t – because I believe that if a narcissist were to really dig in to discover and heal their core wounds, it might be possible. But I’m saying they don’t. In all the years I’ve worked in this business, I’ve never seen it happen. I’ve never seen it happen with any narcissist in my own life and I’ve interviewed and worked with a number of psychologists and other experts who will tell you the same thing: a narcissist does not change (not for long, anyway). The most you’ll get is a temporary behavior modification, and that’s only if the narcissist gets something out of it.
3. Grieve the Relationship!
This is one place I failed in my early recovery. Rather than grieving the relationship, I decided to avoid my feelings and just move forward. That turned out to be a bad idea as it would later come back and bite me in the butt – and while the grief process will wait, it will not just go away. Eventually, you’re going to have to grieve the person you signed up for and let them go.
4. Be Honest with Yourself!
Remember that you’re not really mourning the person you lost; you’re mourning your illusion of who you believed they were. It’s an ever-turning cycle that the narcissist will repeat in varying iterations for the rest of their life. Be glad you’re off the wheel.
5. Put Yourself First for Once!
Stay focused on you, and on making your own life better. You have already been tortured enough – if you let this situation keep making you miserable, you’re only allowing the narcissist to continue the abuse and control you from afar. Take back your life, my friend, and choose to be happy, in your own way. Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t.
6. Focus on Healing.
It’s time for you to heal and release the anger and sadness. As you work on your own healing, the layers of anger and sadness will soon disappear. One of the hardest things for me and for many survivors of these kinds of relationships was mourning the illusion of that perfect relationship we wanted to truly believe that we had. Letting that go was a big step for me and many other survivors have told me the same thing.
7. Don’t Overthink the New Supply.
NEVER compare yourself to the new supply, unless it’s to feel sorry for them as you take note of the pattern that you’re thankfully no longer subjected to in your life. Don’t do yourself the disservice of trying to think the new supply somehow “better” than you; the truth is that narcissists are very picky, so chances are, if the new source of narcissistic supply “seems” better somehow, it’s only because the hasn’t ruined them just yet.
8. Skip the “What Ifs.”
Don’t “if only” and “what if” yourself to death. It’s common to have feelings of regret after any relationship ends, and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t wonder what you could have done differently or whether something you did or said could have been the trigger that caused it all to go downhill. But that’s not the truth, and it’s not helping you – it’s only causing you more pain – and chances are, you couldn’t have changed the situation without going completely insane trying to make the narcissist happy. Remember that the narcissist will NEVER be truly happy, because true happiness comes from within – and they are empty on the inside, at least on an emotional level. Now it’s time to live in the moment and to think about how you want the future to go.
What do you think?
Question of the Day: Have you ever experienced watching your ex-narcissist get involved with a new person, or even just appear to return to the person they used to be, and how did it make you feel? What advice would you offer your fellow survivors in this situation? Or are you currently dealing with this issue? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it.
You might say that narcissists have their own personal harem dedicated to being dedicated sources of narcissistic supply.
In fact, when we are talking about a “narcissistic harem,” we are talking abt a group or “collection” of friends/admirers (AKA sources of narcissistic supply) that a narcissist gathers up to keep them topped up on their daily supply of love and admiration.
Since no single individual person could ever fill the void that is the hole inside a narcissist’s soul, they seek to fill it with whomever they can – and often these relationships are interchangeable.
How does “narcissistic recycling” work?
The narcissist has their group of “options” – AKA their little harem – and while there may be an occasional new addition or temporary member of the group, there are a few who remain in place for years or even decades.
But in any case, the “re-idealization” part is often facilitated by the hoover maneuver.
You might think that it’s over – but very often, the narcissist has other ideas. in fact, more often than not, the narcissist will do something to suck you back into their drama – or even fully back into the relationship – using a technique called hoovering.
What is hoovering?
Hoovering, named after the famous vacuum cleaner company, is what we call it when the narcissist tries to “suck you back in” after you’ve left them or ended the relationship, or after they have discarded you. They may use some kind of personal problem or dramatic issue to pull you back in, or they may use love-bombing. Hoovering is always an attempt to obtain more narcissistic supply from you, and in many cases, it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship. It can also just be a manipulation tactic used to get you to break no contact.
What are the signs of a hoovering narcissist?
The first thing you need to remember here is that there is no level to which a narcissist won’t stoop – nothing is off-limits for them. Here are a few ways narcissists might engage in hoovering you. (Details on each are included in this video)
Finally saying that one thing you’ve been dying to hear.