(Prefer to watch/listen? See video on YouTube) Narcissists have this way of exploiting your need for connection. It’s part of how they get you stuck in toxic relationships and feeling like you can’t leave, even if money or family isn’t an issue.
See, as humans, we are wired to connect with other humans. In fact, according to scientist Matthew Lieberman, author of the 2013 book Social, it is as necessary for us as food and water. He notes that social pain (as in being snubbed or having someone say hurtful things to you in a social setting) is as real to us as physical pain.
Lieberman points out that phrases such as “that breaks my heart” and “that hurts my feelings” are cultural evidence of the fact that emotional pain is so significant. And he says that while we might not like it, our wellbeing as humans is literally directly affected in profound ways by our connections to other people. He says social pain IS real pain – so not connecting can be as detrimental to our physical and mental health as not eating healthy food.
And this is confirmed by the Canadian Mental Health Association, which notes in a 2019 report that connecting with other people is far more important than we might think. In fact, we are told that “social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune systems.”
So literally, by not connecting with other people, we put our health at risk. In other words, the evidence shows that we NEED to connect with people in order to be relatively healthy. But when you’re dealing with a narcissist in a toxic relationship, you might often find yourself isolated and feeling very alone.
Worse, narcissists seem to instinctively exploit our basic human need for connection and use it against us to control and manipulate us. How? Well, let’s talk about it.
Narcissistic Abuse Affects Every Aspect of Your Life
Say the narcissist in your life is a partner or former partner. Do you remember the time when you were with that person and you thought that they were your soulmate? You could not believe that everything you loved, they loved, and everything you didn’t like, they didn’t either. And then they would be so sweet and charming until their narcissistic side came out. They were at first like a dream come true to you and became your worst nightmare.
While the narcissist cannot truly feel compassionate and emotional empathy, they certainly watch and learn what you like and how you want and need a connection. Therefore, the only type of empathy that the narcissist expresses is cognitive, superficial, and agenda-driven empathy. They simply just know that you have a need for connection. And they will do anything they can to exploit it.
But why would they do that? Let’s discuss it.
How Narcissists Exploit Your Need for Connection
How would it benefit a narcissist to exploit your need for connection? Two words: narcissistic supply – they need it. And they will whatever they need to get it – including pretending to care about you and expressing false empathy. Here are five different ways narcissists will exploit your need for connection.
1. Narcissists Idealize You
Most of us who end up in long-term relationships with narcissists have experienced at least some form of trauma in childhood. Often, our childhood experiences led us to become people-pleasers or codependents.
In so many cases, we also don’t truly see our value and we have rarely experienced unconditional love. We don’t know how it feels to have someone who is really “on our side” and we’ve rarely been given the opportunity to be the center of anyone’s attention. If we have, it has often been short-lived and spotty at best.
But when you first meet a narcissist, and they see you as a good source of supply, everything changes. The allure of love bombing and idealization – it’s powerful! Because for those of us who have had difficult upbringings, or who didn’t feel loved and seen by others, the kind of validation and perceived love that we get in the beginning of a toxic relationship is literally like a drug! It FEELS incredible and brings out all kinds of feel-good neurotransmitters in us. And since narcissists are so intense, we think we’ve practically won the lottery of soulmates.
We feel like we are walking on air! Not only will some narcissists go to extremes with wooing you, but during that idealization phase, they can literally make you feel you are the most important thing in the world. And when you’ve spent most of your life feeling like you aren’t important or like no one really “sees” you? Yeah. You’re going to fall in love, and fast. And how can you possibly run away from that since this is all a wonderful dream? This is how they trap you and you cannot help but fall for it because you are simply being treated like royalty. But all that is before the other shoe drops, which brings me to my next point.
2. Then They Devalue You
Once the narcissist has you in their trap, they will then show their true colors. They know you value your side of the relationship and while they’re intent on keeping you as a source of narcissistic supply, this is around the time that they notice that you have flaws – you know, that you’re human.
See, during the love-bombing and idealization phase, the narcissist is enamored with you – they can only see what is good about you. And since they lack object constancy, the moment they decide you are in fact human and they begin to mentally tally your flaws, the person you met initially seems to disappear. They start to criticize you, think less of you, and tell you all about it, one way or another.
You’ll start to be confused. You’ll try to figure out what you’re doing wrong, and you’ll do things to try to change yourself to be better for them. You’ll think it’s all your fault and that is partially because this is exactly what the narcissist wants you to think.
Plus, you’ll find that even when you do “fix” something the narcissist complains about, they’ll find something else that’s wrong. You cannot win. So, as you might imagine, this is when they begin to instill fear into you, make you insecure, and this is where the heavy-hitting manipulation tactics like gaslighting come into play.
All of this ends up confusing you to the point that you literally don’t even know which way is up sometimes. You feel like you aren’t capable of making your own choices and you start to lean on the narcissist more and more for affirmation of any decision you have to make. So, as you might imagine, you become increasingly dependent on the narcissist, despite the fact that they become increasingly cruel and negligent of you and the relationship you’re in.
They will play with your thoughts and feelings but will keep you afraid to do anything against their wishes because they also know at this point that you would never leave them because you just simply need a connection. You are dependant on them and they will abuse that and will abuse you. That means you at some point will fight back and this also provides them with the supply they need because even negative attention is still attention.
3. They Will Discard You If They Find New Supply
Even in a long-term relationship, narcissists always seem to be on the lookout for new supply. And while not all narcissists cheat, many or most do. And sadly, regardless of the level of commitment they’ve promised you and to which they’ve caused you to be obligated, the narcissist can easily disappear if they find a new source of narcissistic supply.
This is true even if they are still in a relationship with you. At this point, they might have even been cheating on you to find the new source. Because they can’t jump from one branch of a tree before they’ve got a good handle on the next – or, to put it more directly, they can’t ever be alone. So in most cases, they’ll hold on to you while they’re looking for their next victim.
And, of course, before they discard you, they will appear to act indifferent to you which will make you even more anxious. And this is another way the narcissist exploits your human need for connection.
See, because they know you fear that they will leave you – and they often do – they will manipulate you by giving intermittent reinforcement during this time. This is where they give you tiny glimpses of kindness, of love, and of that person you originally signed up to be with. You know – little “crumbs of affection,” just enough to keep you hooked and intermittently sprinkled between bouts of gaslighting and other forms of emotional and psychological abuse.
Often, this will lead to the narcissist ghosting you without warning – which will leave you confused, and if you are already dependent on them as it is, it will leave you frazzled, to put it mildly. A lot of times, what they want is for you to chase after them and to beg them to come back. And if you don’t, just wait – many, if not most, narcissists will come back around looking for more supply from you. We call that the hoover maneuver – and it means exactly what it sounds like. Just like a vacuum cleaner, the narcissist will try to “suck you back in.” You might even fall for it, thanks to that need for connection.
How to Deal When a Narcissist Has Exploited Your Need for Connection
With all of that being said, the best thing you can do for yourself if this happens is to never go back to a narcissist that discards you. If you are able to, go no contact. So so block them from your phone and platforms if they haven’t done that already to you. If you can’t go no contact because you have kids with this person, you can always go low-contact, meaning you can just only communicate with them about the business of raising the kids and never about emotional stuff.
A male narcissist I used to know once admitted something to me that left me a little shocked: he said that whenever he felt like he was being shown up in a conversation, he would quickly change the subject. He would start talking about something he knew he could use against them – something that could hurt that person. It was his way to sort of take back the attention or “win” the conversation. I found this admission shockingly insightful and sadly stereotypical of narcissists in general.
Karpman Drama Triangle and Narcissistic Manipulation
Let’s talk about the Karpman drama triangle, what it is, how narcissists use it against you, and what you can do to cope.
We all know that narcissists love to create trouble and drama in the lives of the people around them. They enjoy watching you squirm in the wake of their emotional destruction because it makes them feel like they’re able to control and manipulate you. They twist things to their own advantage, and this is true whether we are talking about someone you work with or someone with whom you’re in a romantic relationship. It’s even true for your parents if they’re narcissistic.
Narcissists are odd in that they crave your attention, even though as far as you can tell, they don’t seem to like you very much. While the level of attention they require might vary from person to person, and depending on what type of narcissist they are, in most cases, they are happy when they have the spotlight. Ths is true whether they’re getting attention for positive or negative reasons, unfortunately.
At times, the narcissist will intentionally create drama in order to get you to react to them. Your reaction offers them narcissistic supply. Of course, there are times that they’ll be kind to you one minute and cruel the next. They suddenly become someone you don’t recognize – that whole Jekyll & Hyde thing.
What is the Drama Triangle?
The drama triangle is a concept first documented by Dr. Stephen Karpman back in the 1960s. At its most basic level, the drama triangle outlines three different roles, including the victim, the persecutor, and the rescuer.
Here’s another area where narcissists are especially interesting – at any given moment, they can and will play any of these three roles interchangeably as it serves them to do so. That means that you’ll never know exactly which role they’re going to play in any given moment. It means you don’t know what to expect from them. And, since you’re so used to walking on eggshells, you might not even really know how to respond at all.
All three roles will exhaust you, but the narcissist will find them strangely exhilarating. The entire dynamic of this kind of drama is incredibly toxic. Whether you’re healthy, you’re codependent or you’re a narcissist, it can be difficult to get out of the cycle once you’re in it. Certainly, you will feel the need to escape, but you won’t always feel like you can do that – and this is especially true when there is a narcissist involved.
Most narcissists have a tendency to hold onto drama and negativity like a dog with a bone. This is demonstrated in the Karpman drama triangle.
Karpman Drama Triangle: Definition of Roles
The victim will see the situation at hand as though everything is happening to them. They will feel helpless and like they have no power. They think they have no ability to change their own circumstances. They need someone to rescue them. They desperately want validation of the fact that their problem is unsolvable, and they are not looking for actual solutions. They just want you to feel sorry for them.
The Rescuer seems like they really do want to help the victim feel better, do better, and solve the problem at hand. But what you’re really dealing with here is someone who is acting as if they want to help, but who is really more concerned about everyone being aware of the fact that they are rescuing the victim. The narcissist plays this role because it gives them plenty of attention and narcissistic supply. Unfortunately, they’re not always actually helping – rather, they’re putting on the mask of a helper in order to get attention.
So within Karpman’s drama triangle, the rescuer position is always held by someone who is letting people know they’re trying to help, but they’re really there for that attention. By being the rescuer, the narcissist also holds a certain amount of power over you. Anytime they do (or promise to) solve a problem for you, it will be done with strings attached. This way, the narcissist gets even more benefit from the situation.
The role of the rescuer seems to focus on the anxiety of the victim. It is problem-focused, rather than solution-focused. It is specifically geared at keeping you powerless and preventing you from getting your needs met. It keeps you from actually getting the solution to your problem, so while you might initially feel relief when the offer of help comes through, it’ll be short-lived.
The Persecutor could be a person or even a situation that is actually causing the problem to the victim in the triangle.
How to Deal with the Karpman Drama Triangle When a Narcissist is Involved
Your primary goal is to get out of the triangle, so that begins with awareness – being aware that it’s happening and that you’ve become involved. Then, you have to recognize your own role in the triangle, which in most cases, you chose or were assigned without realizing it.
Often, as codependents and narcissistic abuse survivors we all into one of these roles unintentionally. Most likely, we do this because we have experienced this ongoing cycle throughout our lives, often beginning in childhood. It’s like an old habit, almost.
The drama triangle will leave you feeling confused and lost.
Once you’ve gone through the idealization or love-bombing phase of a relationship with a toxic narcissist and you’re in the devalue phase, you’ll find yourself spinning into one of these situations. You’ll have no idea what you did to deserve this or what you’ve done wrong, so you’re always trying to get back to what you thought the relationship was in the beginning. When you can’t, you blame yourself – because as far as you know, you might be the problem. You don’t know that you’re dealing with a narcissist (until you do), so you just think you’ve done something to upset or anger them.
Karpman Drama Triangle and Narcissist Manipulation Tactics
The narcissist uses certain tactics around the drama triangle, such as guilt-tripping and even pretending they’re going to save you, but then persecuting you for actually asking for help. They might also act like they’re your victim and that somehow you’ve negatively affected them by needing help.
All of this is then combined with the intermittent reinforcement that keeps us hooked on the narcissist – alternating verbal abuse and praise, comfort alternating with tearing down and devaluing you. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself making excuses for the narcissist’s behavior.
(Prefer to listen or watch? See video on YouTube)
You know that old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” right? We all know that isn’t true – certain words really can hurt us. And we all know that narcissists have some pretty unrealistic standards, one of which basically asks us to actively censor ourselves when we speak to them so as to avoid triggering their fragile egos and sending them into a spiraling narcissistic whirl – basically a meltdown.
And if you know me, you know that this has often been a problem in my own life. See, I am one of those people who can’t shut up sometimes. It’s a real issue. For example, if I hear someone saying something that is just an outrageous lie, or misrepresentation of me in some way, I cannot not tell them. I have to say the truth. For years, it was almost like I couldn’t help it, and even if I tried to stay silent or to go along with the lie, the words would still almost involuntarily spill out of me.
Now that I’m an adult, and since I’ve done the work of healing from my toxic relationships, I’ve gotten better in one way: I don’t bother to argue with anyone who won’t hear me. I have learned it’s a waste of breath. I’ll tell someone the truth once, and if I can see that they’re intentionally not receiving the message, I’ll stop trying to make them understand.
But, as you might imagine, when I was a kid, I got in trouble a LOT for the words I used. Not because I cursed or said things that were extra mean, but because I couldn’t shut up and go along with the various lies that were thrown at me. For example, if I did a chore wrong, my parent might ask me to agree that I was lazy and worthless. And if I refused to agree, which I inevitably did for some ridiculous reason, this would lead to a really bad day. My little brother would pull me aside and ask what was wrong with me: why didn’t I just say whatever they wanted me to say so I would stay out of trouble? I wanted to, I really did, but something in me just wouldn’t stay silent. I’d go on to do the same thing during my marriage to a narcissist – that dang word vomit thing would get me in trouble every time.
It’s funny how much of an impact words can have on us, isn’t it? This is true for narcissists too, and there are certain words and phrases that you can say to a narcissist that will positively destroy them. And while it might be tempting to use this information to hurt the narcissist, that isn’t the reason I’m sharing it with you today. In fact, while we all know that the ideal answer to dealing with a narcissist is to go no contact, there are certain situations where we have to continue to deal with them – either we can’t leave right away or we’ve got kids with them, or some kind of business we need to accomplish with them. In any case, if you’re dealing with a narcissist, then you know you have to tread very carefully. This means to avoid using certain words around them. That is because if you use certain words, they will destroy the narcissist. And as tempting as it is to do that (because they had it coming), the consequences of facing the narcissistic rage is far from pretty.
If you can relate, stick with me because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – words that destroy a narcissist, what you can say or do instead of using them, and if you watch till the end, I’ll fill you in on the number one word you can never say to a narcissist without completely destroying them.
1. ‘I know the truth about you’ or ‘I see right through you’
Narcissists cannot stand to have their masks unceremoniously removed and their true selves called out. So, if the narcissist claims to be something that you know for sure they are not, it would really hurt them to hear you say you see through them. For example, if the narcissist is always talking about how they’re a genius, you might point out that you saw a copy of their IQ test and the score was average, at best. Or if they claim to have won some big beauty pageant 20 years ago, but you know they were really the third runner-up, pointing this out will only upset them. If you want to avoid drama, you’ll have to keep pretending that you believe they are the false self they pretend to be.
2. ‘I don’t remember that’
Narcissists have this way of expecting their sources of narcissistic supply to go along with their lies, no matter what. So, if you’re with a group of friends and they tell a completely made-up story, you better go along with it, or you’ll hurt their feelings, eliciting narcissistic injury at the very least (and probably risk dealing with their rage later). For example, one client told me a story about how her narcissistic father would always tell made-up (or at least, heavily altered) stories that featured him as the hero. She instinctively knew to go along with them, “or else.” But one day, she’d finally had enough. So when he told yet another tall tale at a family gathering, he turned to her and said, “Remember that?” She said, “No, actually, I don’t remember it that way at all.” She said he gave her the “you’re dead to me” look in the moment, and when they got home, she got in big trouble. To avoid the drama here, you’d have to pretend that you do remember whatever story they’re telling – even when it makes you look bad. Not worth it, in my opinion.
3. ‘I’m busy and don’t have time for you right now’
Narcissists, especially those of the more overt nature, will need every moment of your time, or at the very least, they will expect you to drop whatever you’re doing when they want or need your attention. Their inflated sense of entitlement and lack of an actual self makes it impossible for them to spend any time alone. They can’t stand the idea of having to fend for themselves and might have to face themselves if you leave them alone for too long. So no matter if you’re at work, or taking care of your kid or doing anything else at all, if they want your attention and you don’t dole it out as requested, they’ll crumble into a big old pile of narcissistic injury. As always, when that doesn’t work, the rage will soon follow. Why? Because they feel like you don’t feel like they’re important if you don’t drop everything when they need you. To avoid drama here, you can try saying, “I’ll be right there,” or “We can talk at this time,” but even that won’t be good enough for most of them. Many narcissists will even go so far as to sabotage your job and push away all of your friends in order to monopolize your time.
4. ‘You are a failure’ or ‘I am so disappointed in you’
Telling a narcissist they’re a failure or that you’re disappointed in them in any way sort of tugs at that false self – the mask they hide behind for most people. And even if they already know that you know who they are, acknowledging that they’re anything less than perfect will only enrage and offend them. Side note: even if someone else shares this kind of sentiment with them, they’re likely to take out their negative feelings on you – a sort of emotional garbage dump. For example, if their boss at work gives them a bad review or points out a mistake, they may come home and ruin your night as a result of it. To avoid drama in this case, you’d need to take their side in every situation and agree that it isn’t their fault somehow – which brings me to number five.
5. ‘It’s your fault’
You probably already know that narcissists refuse to take responsibility for their behavior, at least when it comes to anything they feel makes them look bad. They will blame everyone but themselves for their failures and screw-ups. On top of that, they’ll expect you to go along with their delusion. So, using the example from number four, if you don’t agree that the boss is at fault for the bad review or mistake they pointed out, the narcissist will have another reason to go after you. Oh, and this will even be the case if YOU are the person being blamed – if you don’t agree that it’s your fault, they will make you pay. To avoid the drama, or at least minimize it, you’d need to agree that someone else is responsible – even if that means you have to admit to something you didn’t do.
6. ‘I Don’t Believe You’
You know that narcissists are pathological liars and of course you have learned to take anything they say with a grain of salt, right? And with good reason. But if you tell them that you don’t believe them, watch out. They can’t stand it. If you want to avoid drama, don’t bother pointing out their lies. Not only will they never admit the truth, but you can use this to your advantage if necessary. For example, let’s say you find out they’re cheating and you confront them. They’ll deny it, even if you have actual proof and are showing it to them. As infuriating as this will be, pretend to believe them. Yeah, that’s right. Go ahead and let them lie – they will assume you believe them. And since they also have a tendency to underestimate you, they’ll get sloppy when they think they’ve got you snowed. This will allow you to do what you need to do to deal with the cheating (which, for the record, I hope means you’ll be getting your ducks in a row to leave them) without having to deal with their drama.
This is the ultimate way to destroy a narcissist. See, narcissists need narcissistic supply to function – like a vampire needs blood and darkness. If you’re one of their sources of narcissistic supply, they can’t stand the idea of not having you around to dump all that emotional garbage on, not to mention to give them the attention, praise and admiration they demand. If you say goodbye and leave, and then you go no contact and stick with it, they will, at least temporarily, be destroyed. Of course, they’ll also use this narcissistic injury as a way to gain attention from other people and often to find a new source of supply, playing the poor me game and engaging in various smear campaigns about you with anyone who will listen. But if you hold out, and you use the gray rock method – as in, you don’t react emotionally – or you just remain fully no contact and don’t react at all – they’ll eventually move on and stop torturing you. As difficult as this can feel, it is ultimately the best outcome of a relationship with a toxic narcissist.
Bottom line: remember that in the end, while you can certainly temporarily destroy a narcissist using words such as the ones I’ve shared here, the very best revenge you could get on any narcissist would be to simply live your life well without them. To find true happiness and peace in your life, despite the fact that they exist. Not only would learning you’re happy without them and living like they don’t exist destroy a narcissist, but it would make them feel like you’ve won the relationship. Not that you need such a trophy – but you do deserve to be happy and to not live in fear of triggering the next episode of narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury. No one should have to live like this. Walking on eggshells is both difficult and painful and it can change you in some pretty profound ways. If you’d like to learn more about how narcissistic abuse changes you, check out this video.
And there would be little tells that not everyone would notice – dog whistles in a way. For example, when we first started dating, he would say certain things when he flirted with me that may have sounded innocent if you didn’t know he was flirting. For example, when I would say, “I’m sorry,” he’d say, “You’re gonna be.”
Now if you didn’t know this was a flirt line, you might just think he was trying to be funny. But I knew what was really going on. And when I’d witness him playing this game with my friends or other random women, it caused a lot of conflict. I would not say anything in the moment, but would later confront him. At that point, I’d be told I was crazy and he’d start tearing me down, telling me I was always too jealous and that if I was going to accuse him of it, he might as well go ahead and do it. Of course, this only led me to feel less secure in the relationship and got me walking on eggshells – exactly where he wanted me.
During our relationship, I’d catch him in a lot of somewhat compromising situations, which he’d always explain away. It drove me insane.
I became so obsessed and jealous that I started watching his eyes to see what he was looking at all the time. In hindsight, I’m shocked that I allowed myself to act this way, but it was such a pervasive way to manipulate me that I almost couldn’t see past it. So much so that it followed me into my next relationship and caused drama that didn’t need to be happening. I was eventually able to move past it, thankfully, but it took much longer than I would’ve liked. Can you relate?
Did you have a narcissistic ex who always wanted to make you jealous? Did they seem to constantly have random “mysterious” people to text, or spend a little too much time watching or reading dicey stuff on the internet, or maybe have their eyes on your “competition” too often?
Something you should know: If the narcissist is purposely making you jealous, this is yet another form of abuse. But why do they do this? What in the world could they get out of making you feel jealous? You might be surprised that they get more than one benefit out of it. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – why narcissists seem to want to make you jealous and what you can do to stop feeling that way.
Examples: How Narcissists Try to Make You Jealous
First, let’s talk about some of the ways that narcissists might try to make you jealous, outside of the example I shared. Some common narcissist tactics to incite jealousy might include:
Choosing to spend time without you, doing whatever they like, and not telling you who they’re with, or telling you and not caring how you feel about the company they keep.
Blatant flirting with people of the opposite (or same) sex, whatever y’all are into.
Gawking at people who have certain qualities you don’t, and pointing them out to you, or just ignoring you while they look.
Making you feel invisible.
Constantly talking about their exes and how certain parts of their relationship were amazing, even getting into their intimate experiences in detail.
Sharing too many details about their new supply when your relationship does end, or about the person they’re cheating with this week.
Making sure to tell you and everyone else how much better their relationship is with the new supply than their relationship with you turned out to be.
Suddenly changing their appearance in some way – they lose weight or start dressing better, for example. You wonder who they’re trying to impress.
Where they used to give you all of their attention, they suddenly start to give attention to anyone and anything, while now totally ignoring you. This might be their phone or another human, or certain online people and websites that might bother you.
Ignoring your calls and texts when they’re not with you, leaving you to wonder what they are doing and who they are with.
These are just a few examples, of course. But why do they do this?
Why do narcissists want to make you jealous?
Let’s discuss the reasons that narcissists enjoy making you jealous.
1. The Narcissist Needs to Have Power Over You
You may already know how desperately narcissists feel the need to maintain control over you and other people in their lives. By intentionally making you jealous, they sort of gain control over your thoughts. You become obsessed with figuring out what they’re thinking about, what they’re looking at. You can think of nothing else. Now, the narcissist has exactly what they want: you, focused almost completely on them as you are attempting to be perfect for them. In the meantime, you’re torturing yourself and feeling threatened by everyone who seems to have whatever quality it is the narcissist seems to want but that you just don’t have. Plus, making you jealous is just a way to give them extra power to feed their ego.
2. The Narcissist Needs to Feel Secure in the Relationship
Your average narcissist might seem to exude confidence, but under all of that bravado is often a desperately insecure person. One thing they desperately seek is some level of security in their relationships. They want to know for sure that you want them and that you won’t leave them. So if they can make you feel and behave like you feel jealous, it is just one confirmation that you want them and that you are not going anywhere. This makes them feel secure in the relationship, which is ironic considering it leaves you feeling quite the opposite.
3. The Narcissist is Testing You
Narcissists have a way of wanting to test you constantly. Whether they’re trying to test their bond with you to see how strong it really is or they’re trying to see if you’ll retaliate (or something else), this is a common reason they want to make you feel jealous. They want to know if you REALLY love them, and often, if you don’t react strongly enough, they will up their game and push even harder to get the reaction they so strongly desire from you. Of course, once you do react, they get the confirmation they need – they feel that you really do want them and you have “passed their test.” Even so, they will never let you feel like you’ve passed. In fact, they’ll probably complain that you’re SO jealous and controlling that they can barely breathe. Manipulation at its finest.
4. The Narcissist Wants Revenge
Let’s say someone flirted with you at the checkout counter at the store, or the server gave you some free bread or something at the restaurant you went out to last week. Your narcissist, in their insecurity, most likely felt very threatened by this, even if you didn’t react. And God help you if you were even remotely friendly to the person in question – this would lead the narcissist to spiral into the need to get revenge on you. If they have any reason to feel jealous or threatened, then their first move would be to intentionally make you jealous in an effort to get some sort of revenge. Again, even if what you did was completely innocent, it would not matter. Even just by ignoring them when you have to work or by smiling at a stranger, you might be flirting or at least trying to make them jealous as far as they’re concerned. Remember: It does not take much to make the narcissist jealous. And this leads them to try to get you back by making you jealous, too.
5. Narcissists Need Narcissistic Supply
It is a known fact that beneath that grandiose front that most narcissists have that they are deeply insecure. They have very low self-esteem and they need a partner for approval. In fact, many narcissists feel invalid without a partner to prop them up. So, even if they’re not being faithful to you, they want to be sure you’ll be faithful to them. Since they don’t see you as a real person, they don’t see any reason to be faithful, ironically enough. And a sure way to confirm that you really do care about them is if they purposely make you jealous and you react as a result of it. Your jealous reaction feeds their ego and gives them a false sense of pride. This is what we call narcissistic supply, and the narcissist needs it like a vampire needs blood.
6. Narcissists Need to Tear You Down
A lot of us do our best to conform to the narcissist’s rules in these toxic relationships because we grow tired of fighting and begging them to understand us. So we kind of numb out and we do what we have to do to get through the days. This can reduce the level of drama in the relationship significantly, and the narcissist gets bored. They need something to tear you down about, so they will often use jealousy to incite conflict in the relationship. See, the feeling of being jealous of your partner paying attention to other people can be likened to an evolutionary behavior. Back in the caveman days, we needed our partners for safety, security and to be able to have children – all of which are very primal instincts and needs. The narcissist probably doesn’t realize it cognitively, but by making you jealous, not only are they playing on one of our biggest human fears (the fear of abandonment), but they are also giving themselves a sure-fire way to make us feel bad (or worse) about ourselves. Then we begin to obsess and research and figure out what is wrong with US – and that definitely takes our focus off what is wrong with them.
So how do you deal with this?
What can you do to stop feeling jealous when the narcissist is actively cultivating jealousy in your relationship?
Truthfully, the best option is to end the relationship and start over. But I know that isn’t always an immediate option. Still, outside of simply going no contact and trying not to feel connected to them in this way, anything else you do will simply be a bandaid that will only temporarily relieve your stress.
You’ve got to remember something really important here. Any narcissist in your life never has the best intentions for you. It is all about them, all the time.
So, in general, you can try to focus on building your own self-esteem, and on not reacting to the narcissist’s attempts to make you feel jealous. You can attempt to do a lot of things, but remember that you’re dealing with someone who just isn’t like a normal, healthy person.
Just think about it. In normal, healthy relationships, low self-esteem can affect how you feel about your partner, but in those relationships, the partner doesn’t foster your jealousy or attack you for it – instead, they will reassure you, and your jealousy will go away in time.
When your partner attacks and belittles you for feeling jealous, especially when they’ve actively fostered that jealousy in you, it should be a huge red flag for you – this is abuse. You have to recognize that the narcissist is doing this on purpose, and do your best to avoid taking it personally. With that being said, it can feel nearly impossible to stop feeling that way when you’re in the middle of it. So again, aside from becoming emotionless and just ignoring their behavior, you can work on your own self-esteem. And if you’re lucky in that process, you’ll recognize that you deserve SO much better than someone who would intentionally cause you to feel so small and insignificant.
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.