One of the telltale signs of being in a relationship with a narcissist is the feeling that you are always doing the giving, and they are always doing the taking. This is very different from a healthy relationship where both partners give and take. Even though sometimes one partner may need or ask for more, they are also prepared and willing to do the same for their partner.
The term narcissistic supply refers to the constant attention, admiration, and subservience that a narcissist needs. No matter how much their partner gives them, they constantly demand more to fill their inner void. This often starts in childhood and continues into adulthood. In relationships, the narcissist relies on a codependent partner to be their narcissistic supply. In some cases, the narcissist may have more than one person used as a narcissistic supply, and even ex-partners can be drawn into the trap of feeding the narcissist’s emotional needs.
Signs You Are Feeding the Narcissist’s Supply
In most relationships, the narcissist uses a full arsenal of tactics, manipulations, and abusive behaviors to control and condition the other person. This can take the form of being kind and attentive one day only to become distant, cool, verbally abusive, or offensive to the partner the next.
The partner never knows what to expect, and they try to create the ideal conditions to keep the narcissist happy. The narcissist keeps playing this emotional game, eventually molding a submissive partner that continues to feed their narcissist supply.
To determine if you may be playing in the narcissist’s supply, look for the following behaviors:
- You do whatever they ask without thinking about your own needs
- You spend most of your time giving them compliments, support, praise, and attention
- You are constantly validating their experiences, even if they are gaslighting or manipulating the experience
- You feel as if you are controlled or manipulated and have no choice.
- You are always accepting the blame or making excuses for their bad behavior.
- Your wants, needs, goals, or desires are of no interest to your partner.
How to Avoid Feeding the Narcissist
It can be very difficult to move from codependency to having autonomy after experiencing life with a narcissist. Working with a therapist
or counselor is often the best way to begin to make the significant changes to break out of the relationship and end codependency.
There are also strategies to help stop feeding the narcissist supply. In conjunction with learning to prioritize yourself and your self-care, it is important to:
- Learn about narcissist behavior – becoming educated and learning about narcissistic behaviors gives you the insight to recognize their manipulation and tactics and choose how to respond.
- Give only necessary information – limiting the amount of information you share with the narcissist reduces the leverage against you. If asked a question, give the shortest answer, even if it is a yes or no.
- Avoid getting into explaining your choices – stop justifying your choices and justifying why the narcissist needs to know all the details. This limits what he or she can turn against you or berate you for doing.
- Limit time and contact – limiting the time you are in contact with the narcissist is important. This means limiting face-to-face time, phone conversations, and online interactions. Keep it to the necessary information and no more.
- Stop taking responsibility for their actions – instead of justifying their bad behavior or trying to make things right, let the narcissist deal with the mess he or she has made. The more you attempt to manage the situation, the more they will blame you for anything negative associated with it.
- Learn to disengage – recognize the abusive language patterns and develop a set of phrases to use to disengage from the conversation. After making these statements, do not continue to engage in the conversation. Examples could include:
- I hear what you are saying.
- I understand your perspective.
- I understand you are angry.
Another important way to starve a narcissist is to not engage in their over-the-top behaviors. These behaviors may include grandiose gestures to try to win you back or dramatic personal statements that are designed to play on your empathy and compassion. The more you become indifferent to these efforts, the more likely it is that the narcissist will move on.
If you think you may be in a relationship with a narcissist, take my quiz to find out and get your FREE ebook,
Narcissistic Partners and Obsessive Love.
Working with a therapist or joining my community Wake Up Recovery for healing after a codependent or toxic relationship to learn to validate your own experiences and feelings and to create and maintain boundaries will also help to move from fawning to valuing yourself in any relationship.
Be sure to share your thoughts and questions using the comment section below so we can all learn from and help each other.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach
Author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to Find Everlasting Love
And Wake Up Recovery for Toxic Relationships, Codependency and Love Addiction