Falling in love with a narcissist may, at first, feel like a dream come true. Unfortunately, that dream can turn into a painful, confusing nightmare, as you become a ‘narcissistic supply’.
‘Narcissistic Supply’ is a way of describing how narcissistic abusers view their victims. Rather than being in a caring, responsible, balanced relationship, ‘supply’ exist to serve their abuser’s needs for attention, functional care and adoration.
Many times, victims of narcissistic abuse can fail to recognise the signs someone is a narcissist due to the positive character strengths the victims possess. Unfortunately, these attractive character traits (that most of us value and aspire to) can make anyone an easy target to become a ‘supply’ for this type of emotionally abusive partner.
Victims are often confused and defeated by these relationships. Understanding more of this dynamic can help you avoid it and also shed light on why it is so hard to identify what has happened.
Overt and Covert Narcissists
Overt narcissists represent the stereotypical ideal of a narcissist. The person who is confident show off, able to charm and easily dominate a room while openly enjoying the limelight.
Covert narcissists lack the brash confidence of obvious attention-seeking and performing. They would rather stay on the sidelines where they are less exposed. However, covert narcissists, like overt narcissists, lack empathy and are extremely manipulative. They are just more difficult to identify.
It is not only important to know the signs that someone may be a narcissist but to also be aware of what type of person they will target and why.
They often seek out those who are empathetic, kind-hearted, trusting, and open. These types of people are less likely to catch on to their games and manipulation quickly until they are deeply attached. This makes it more painful and often much harder to leave.
Common Traits of a ‘narcissistic supply‘
- Empathetic: Emotional abusers like victims who are empathetic. It is easier to manipulate a sensitive, reflective person who is in touch with their emotions and feelings, and who cares deeply about others. When a person is able to empathise (put themselves in another person’s shoes), they can be easily convinced that something ‘negative’ going on in the relationship was their ‘fault’.
- Self-Reflective: It is important to a covert narcissist that their partner has some self-reflection so they can more easily take the blame for things going ‘wrong’. The self-reflective person will slowly start to take responsibility for things not working out in the relationship. They want to grow and learn which is why they take responsibility for their own behaviour and how it may impact others.
- Optimistic: Often a narcissist’s targets are optimists as they continue to look for the silver lining in life. They are unable or reluctant to easily grasp the real danger they are in as they are wired to trust and look on the bright side.
- Trusting: Targets are trusting people; they easily forgive and move on. They don’t hold grudges or keep score. They are committed to building a solid foundation of trust and compassion in their relationships. This is why the manipulative behaviour experienced in narcissistic relationships can be so deeply devastating. Trust is shattered.
- Loyal: Narcissists look for someone who is loyal as this is what will tie their victims to them no matter how difficult or painful things get. They know that once you are committed you will be less likely to share the pain of the relationship with others and not leave.
- Honest: Targets are often honest, straightforward and real. They are authentic and genuine; they don’t pretend to be someone they are not. Since they are so real and honest it is hard for them to see when others are not, it is not in their worldview and belief system.
- Responsible: They are responsible and often have good jobs and are committed to their family’s well-being. They are heart centred and are often the ones working incredibly hard to hold the family/relationship together.
- Intelligent: Many targets are intelligent people. Bringing down an intelligent, caring partner is a fascinating game for a covert narcissist. Because their targets are often also caring and trusting they continue to take on the responsibility for the problems in the relationship. Often they are modest, and they begin to believe the cruel criticism of their partner and start to second guess themselves.
These qualities are all incredible when part of a constructive and loving environment. They will allow one to flourish and thrive. Unfortunately, these important character strengths are used against victims by a narcissist looking for a narcissistic supply.
This can give rise to shame. What was wrong with me? How didn’t I know what was happening or recognise that my partner is a narcissist? Many feel that they did something wrong. Since society values being loyal and loving, victims can have a hard time believing that their partner is not who they pretended to be in the early ‘love bombing’ days.
If you are struggling in a relationship and feel that your partner may be a narcissist, it does not mean you are weak. It will likely indicate that you are a kind loving human being who has, unfortunately, been manipulated.
You are not alone and there is help. For a free 30-minute call to discuss a pathway forward of help and support please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org