How Do Narcissists Treat Old Supply?

Last Updated on July 4, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester

Narcissists live and breathe supply; it’s the praise, admiration, and status that makes their life worth living. While we all like to feel special from time to time, narcissists are like drug addicts in their never-ended search for more supply.

Given the importance of supply, those victimized by narcissistic abuse might wonder how narcissists treat their old supply and what causes them to act that way.

How a narcissist treats their former supply source has very little to do with the person and everything to do with the narcissist’s current state of mind. If a narcissist needs supply and thinks you can provide it, they will do everything they can to get you back and manipulate you into giving up the supply they need.

On the other hand, if your narcissist has found a better, newer source of supply, then you mean nothing to them and are treated with contempt or completely ignored.

To truly understand the effect that narcissistic supply has on relationships, we need to unravel the meaning of supply and its power over the narcissist.

What is Narcissistic Supply?

Society tends to think of narcissists as cunning, sometimes evil people that seek out victims to control. While some narcissists might behave in this way, most are not psychopaths devoid of normal human emotions.

They’re brimming with emotions like insecurity, doubt, and self-hatred. Narcissists seek positive affirmation from their environment – their romantic partners, friends, coworkers, and neighbors to deal with these negative feelings.


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That affirmation is referred to as narcissistic supply, and without it, the narcissist is left feeling empty and worthless.  

So what do narcissists do when they run out of supply? In the beginning, they might lash out at previous sources of supply. In their mind, these are the people that are supposed to make them feel better and they’re not doing their job.

Failing that, the narcissist will look for new supply sources- people who aren’t aware of the narcissist’s manipulations and lies. If they’re unable to find any supply sources, they’re likely to become despondent – withdrawing from the world that is unable to recognize their talents and greatness.

Types of Narcissistic Supply

Narcissistic supply comes in two forms: primary and secondary.

Primary Supply:

For all but the most famous and well-connected, primary supply can be hard to come by. It’s the kind of recognition and admiration that comes from people you don’t know very well or at all – the adoring fans of the narcissist.

So narcissists end up seeking out this form of supply through sexual conquest, making connections in their career, or even criminal acts. For narcissists, all forms of attention are good attention, even negative publicity or criminal punishment.

Secondary Supply:

Secondary supply comes from the people the narcissist regularly interacts with – their current partner, friends, neighbors, or coworkers.

These are the people who sustain the narcissist daily by showering them with praise and admiration. Should they fail in this respect, they will be coerced into a one-sided relationship where they must constantly express approval for the narcissist not to earn their ire.

The partners of narcissists often wonder, do narcissists care about their supply. Both primary and secondary sources are rendered expendable given enough time, but did the narcissist have feelings for them in the first place?

No, Narcissists don’t have the emotional capacity to care about their supply as individuals, only as sources to be drawn upon when necessary. 


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How Do Narcissists Treat Their New Supply?

How Do Narcissists Treat Their New Supply?

Whenever a narcissist enters a new relationship, there’s a honeymoon phase, a time when they’re genuinely brimming with excitement and affection towards their new partner. But, unfortunately, these feelings aren’t so much arising from the new partner as they are from the narcissist themself. 

This begs the question, did the narcissist ever love their new supply? No, they only loved what that person could give them in the form of supply. They love how this new person makes them feel.

As with any infatuation, those feelings fade with time and the narcissist grows frustrated with their new partner’s inability to excite them the way they used to. Every new partner is being set up to fail by the narcissist. 

Over time, the new source of supply becomes less desirable to the narcissist. To remedy this, the narcissist devalues their partner in an attempt to control them and get more of the supply they so desperately need. Eventually, even this tactic fails and the narcissist has no choice but to discard their partner and look for a new supply source.

When narcissists discard, they usually find a new partner very quickly (or already did before the discard). Discarding is a confident move that the narcissist only makes when they’re feeling comfortable in their ability to obtain further supply.


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How do Narcissists Treat Old Supply After a Breakup?

How do Narcissists Treat Old Supply After a Breakup?

Immediately following the breakup, or in this case of a narcissistic discard, the narcissist probably won’t be all that interested in their old supply.

They’ve walked away from that source because they have a new one and no longer need the old. This period of aloofness doesn’t last forever though, and there are several different ways they may react at a later time.

They Become Your Worst Enemy

You might assume that an abrupt and acrimonious breakup would mean the narcissist will never speak to you again. But, unfortunately, this is rarely the case; the narcissist might choose to carry on a largely negative relationship with you where they insult, demean, and attempt to make your life worse. 

This type of relationship functions as supply for the narcissist, they’ve got your attention, and more importantly, they are exerting control over you.

If you’ve found a new partner, they’ll try to sabotage the relationship. You need to be there should they require more supply, and having a new partner complicates that.

Do Narcissists Go Back to Their Old Supply?

In short – all the time. Narcissists require continual supply and sometimes they don’t have a new relationship or they haven’t properly trained their new partner to give them what they need. They need that familiar relationship, the one where they knew how to control a person and extract the supply they needed.

Often, the narcissist will approach you and say they made a mistake by leaving the relationship. On the other hand, they may seem genuinely remorseful, telling you how unhappy they are with the new relationship.

Since they’re returning to you, the latter part of that statement may be true; the narcissist isn’t getting what they want from their new supply source.


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They’re not sorry about leaving you though – the narcissist is oblivious to your emotions since their mind is so preoccupied with their own emotions. The narcissist only knows that they’re feeling unsatisfied and that you were able to help them with that in the past. 

In this situation, your best option is to walk away politely. Tell the narcissist that your relationship was never good and that it was for the best that they left. Don’t believe their apologies, this will only get you sucked back into their supply cycle.

What Happens When the Narcissists Replaces You for New Supply?

what happens when the narcissist replaces you for new supply?

Narcissists often switch out their sources of supply when they’re not getting what they need. For instance, the narcissist might start an extramarital affair while maintaining their relationship with their spouse.

The narcissist needs to hide their new supply from their old supply to keep everything running smoothly. They want the rush that comes with an affair, which you can think of as primary supply, while holding onto the respectability and status of being married, the secondary supply.

They’re also not completely sold in their new relationship. They need to know that this person can give them the level of supply they’re accustomed to.

Since they’re returning to you, the latter part of that statement may be true; the narcissist isn’t getting what they want from their new supply source.


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This deception won’t last forever, as eventually, the narcissist will feel safe with their new supply and need the old.

They’re ready to take the new relationship public, with the narcissist showing off their new supply. They’ll be less careful about meeting with the new partner or covering up its evidence.

If they’re called out about their affair, they’ll blame their old supply, saying they weren’t good enough to make the relationship worthwhile. This kind of gaslighting is a hallmark of narcissistic abuse.

How to Tell if a Narcissist has New Supply?

Narcissists are usually quite adept at covering their tracks when they have a new source of supply. They don’t care about how you feel, but they do care about keeping a foot in the door and maintaining access to an old source of supply. These are just a few of the subtle clues that make it clear the narcissist has a new supply.

They’re More Outgoing, With Other People

When a narcissist has a new source of supply, they are on top of the world and they want everyone to know it. In addition, their new relationship brings them confidence and status, which will make them appear more extroverted with friends and colleagues.

When they turn to you, that outgoingness will evaporate though, as you are a reminder of their past self that’s lacking in so many ways.

They Stop Planning for the Future With You

Remember when the narcissist said you were their soulmate and that you’ll be together forever? That was probably a case of love bombing – emotional manipulation intended to make you feel special, but it comes to a screeching halt when they no longer see you as a source of supply.


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They Point Out All Your Flaws

Nobody is perfect, but we don’t need to be reminded of every mistake we’ve made over the years on a daily basis. Narcissists will use this incessant criticism to break free from the relationship only when they’ve already found someone else. 

They’re Very Concerned About Their Appearance

Once a narcissist has settled into a relationship, they often let their appearance slide. They stop working out, fall behind on their grooming habits, and don’t put any effort in when you’re the only one that will see them. If you notice that the narcissist is buying new clothes, getting a different haircut, and trying to lose a few pounds, there’s a good chance they have a new partner in the works. 

Do Narcissists Compare Supply?

Do Narcissists Compare Supply?
Do Narcissists Compare Supply?

Narcissists don’t make comparisons so much as evaluations. Sources of supply are like a restaurant menu, the narcissist will order something different depending on how they’re feeling at the moment.

Sometimes they need a sexual conquest to feel attractive, and at other times they need the reassurances and praise from an intimate relationship to boost their self-confidence.

Narcissists compare supply insofar as they assess what kind of supply they need right now and whether they can obtain it from that source.

In general though, narcissists prefer new supply to old supply. As with all things new, it feels more special. In addition, the lack of familiarity makes for a more exciting relationship and the source is less aware of the narcissist’s manipulation tactics, so they are easier to control. 

When the Narcissist Replaces You, Let Them

Having your partner walk away from the relationship looking like they don’t have a care in the world is painful. You feel devalued and that pain likely won’t heal before your next relationship.

However, having a clean break is the best thing you could ask for from a narcissist. At least for a while, they’ll be obsessed with the relationship they’ve replaced you with. So use that obsession to your advantage to get as far away from the narcissist as possible.

The vast majority of narcissists return to their old supply sources, and they do it in such a charming way that they’re back with open arms.

Narcissists rarely change, though their lack of empathy is a defining personality trait. They’re only returning to you because they want that old supply.

If you’re going to live a drama-free life filled with healthy relationships, you need to turn your back on the narcissist and refuse to provide that supply.


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Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

17 thoughts on “How Do Narcissists Treat Old Supply?”

  1. I had this happen recently. He met someone last summer and eventually lied and told this new woman we had broken up and started a full affair. But when she caught him, he made it sound like he and i didn’t even have a relationship so he could salvage the new supply. So he lied to us both but she still formed a bond with someone she knew had a girlfriend to start. So she is believing him-it took my daughter saying he was part of our family interactions for him to admit to her we had a relationship until 2 hours before she called me to force him to talk to me.
    Blindsided.
    I don’t need somebody like this in my life but I’m tired of these guys getting away with what they do. So I told everybody. The friends we met together his friends he introduced me to everyone. I’m sure he’s charmed and convinced them that I’m crazy or whatever I don’t care I’ll never see them again but when he starts doing this to another girl – Maybe they’ll think oh man you’ve done this before and call them out or help the girl not feel crazy.
    Its not ok.

    Reply
    • Hi abbey ,

      I’ve just came across this thread and I’m shocked with how similar this is to my situation I was with a guy for three years he done the same thing to me he started seeing a lady from work I had no idea after about 5 months she found messages on his phone for me when confronted he told her he barely saw me and we never had a relationship following this she asked him to end the relationship with me he asked me to go on a break telling me he needed to focus on himself I asked him if he was seeing someone else and he told me no I asked him to stay with me at this point I had no idea about her he agreed to stay with me but he Diddnt tell her this then suddenly a few months later he randomly turned nasty and discarded me and was vile ignoring my calls and blocking me after three years the relationship was over then about 4 weeks ago I noticed a random lady following me on Instagram and it was his new girlfriend she had been watching me for a while a few words were exchanged with us and she told me she found out about me and she has been in a relationship with him for 8 months!!!! Just bizzare behaviour and I have no idea why she has been religiously watching me it’s really weird behaviour.

      Reply
    • Same here, he went on to marry the new supply who knew we were in a relationship, she was married and even left her own kids for him. Her husband had to file for divorce by publicación cuz she was traveling the United States with my ex who I found out abused her physically prior, he’s wanted on 9 warrants in two states and she still married him. They both left me a financial nightmare and still run. Narcissists are like demons, they suck you dry and you feel like you sold your soul to the devil.

      Reply
  2. I have been in a 10 year relationship with my now ex husband, we separated 2 years ago divorced in October and have remained intimate the entire time until the end of may. I knew deep down he was seeing someone else but he of course denied it and then on memorial day weekend he blindsided me with her being at his house (our old home together) I have been called every name in the book, lied about, lied to and put through so much hell I don’t think I’ll ever recover. Once the mask falls off it’s balls to the wall how bad they can treat you how long they can give you the silent treatment and completely break you mind body and spirit. The hardest part for me is how they can throw you away like trash and you like an idiot still love them. I think it’s like we get addicted to the treatment of doing whatever you can to get just a crumb of the man you fell in love with in the beginning or who you thought they were. It’s the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever been through.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry. I just went through a 2 year relationship, was engaged, then we broke up for a month and he came back telling me he realized what he had (yeah supply), that no one ever made him feel the way I do. (Of course those women were smarter), well after 3 months of things going extremely well, he crossed a boundary on social media. I held him accountable and he broke it off, extremely angrily. I asked a week later if he really wanted to do this, he already found someone on a dating site. He was lying to her about when we broke up, it has been awful. First he sat there for 8 hours after church saying he missed me and could we make it work, then he said he wasn’t ready to get back together “yet”, then I found out about the new supply. Who lives in another state! He is lying to her, he lied that day to her about me. I did not tell her, I want to, but it may just cloud her judgement more. I pray daily for God to give justice and clarity. He is very Christian and uses that, he’s using that to disarm her too. I feel guilty for not telling her. But she thinks He’s a miracle after only knowing him 4 weeks.
      I’m heartbroken and devastated that what I thought was real was nothing. I loved him, wanted to spend my life with him. I knew he had some narcissist traits but didn’t realize he was a true NPD sociopath. I can’t eat, sleep, my work is suffering and I just pray to die most days. I won’t do anything to myself, I have a 20 y.o. Daughter, but I pray that God takes me. The pain is awful because I miss the good times with him, but they weren’t real. If it hadn’t “worked out” for real reasons it would be different, but it was because I enforced a boundary. I never mattered. It’s shattering. I don’t know if it even helps to know you’re not alone. I don’t exactly feel better knowing that. I miss him and I only want him, but now I don’t want him either knowing who he really is. He’s a demon inside! It’s very hopeless in my heart.

      Reply
    • I was with a guy for 8 years, dating, had separate homes but I stayed there most of the time with my children. We were both divorced so we had rules so that our relationship would be stronger. We didn’t want to bring other people in our relationship, kids came first, family time was important & he was a role model to my kids since their father was absent. He turned out to be the most perfect guy & we had things in common. However it turned out he was narcissist, arrogant, controlling, selfish & he had no emotional attachment to me or my kids like I thought. Sex was just sex. I was there to fill his needs, void, wants & desires. My close brother dies a year ago & we grieved without this guy being there for us. Find out this summer the guy cheated on me, lied to my face multiple times, other women. When I confronted him, he threw me out like garbage, acted like we were never officially dating, that we meant nothing to him. That it was my fault, grieved to long, I was to depressing he needed fun. The mental & emotional rollercoaster he put me thru, me questioning what the last 8 years was. I’m trying to reassure my kids that not all men are like that but I don’t even myself.

      Reply
  3. Am married of 29 years. My husband is doing this with a cousin he had not seen in 50 years. He went for a visit and now he brought her back to our hometown and is renting her a place to live She has mental health issues and so does he. She is manipulating for cash He is vulnerable. He thinks once she is settled he’s coming home to triangulate me. This is so awful

    Reply
  4. I dated my ex for about four months last year and walked away because he was overwhelming me and I was dealing with a family death at the time. He tried coming back twice and the second time was last month and I felt I was in a good place to reconcile and repair things. We talked, flirted, and even made plans to meet again, but before that could happen, I found out he was dating someone else who looks like me, doesn’t seem to have a car, doesn’t seem to have a job either, and is in a different state and it’s as if he downgraded. I stopped everything, warned this person, and my ex sends me a massive text about how happy he is with this person he tried to cheat on with me (not even acknowledging that fact) and blame shifts by blaming me for leaving him before blocking me. It makes me feel like he did that out of some cruel revenge to teach me a lesson and now it feels like he’s trying to hoover or triangulate since his new boyfriend has been viewing my social media and even liking some posts. It’s the most confusing and infuriating thing I’m going through because I want answers and closure and I feel that I won’t ever get them.

    Reply
  5. It’s truly awful…I’m replying to this feed because I don’t want to txt, call, or show-out.
    I hv been with mine for 8 yrs…as a older women ( over 40) who never had experienced anything like this. It’s been one of the hardest things ever in my life. I finally broke away, changing my number several times. But mostly by faith and finding a way to be strong. I would beg and cry cuz it was so traumatic.
    He tracked me down by email. The last 2 months hv been wonderful…alot of the things I wanted felt like he was giving to me. Pretending to care and being a true friend.
    Until I got a call at 11 pm at night from a women. I didn’t even hv these experiences in my younger years. It was traumatic. And now it’s my fault. I couldn’t eat for 3 days in a mess. I’m on the 6th day. It’s hard. All the work I did on myself all the peaceful days I had…dealing with h a life that has stress. But to be back in this spot? I pray for those and me in this kind of pain, hv faith that this will pass🖤

    Reply
  6. I had been with my Ex Narc 8 years, left and got reeled back in countless times. It was great at the beginning, claiming we were best friends and a special connection plus the love bombing. Then the constant put downs and belittling.

    She’s obsessed with her physical being and has lots of men friends hanging about, some im pretty sure she sleeps with, the others just feed her ego. Sex was ok, she was a real ‘pro’ but felt mechanical with zero emotional connection. Always put herself first.

    At the start claimed ‘im always up for it’ and wore sexy nightware etc towards the end in baggy PJ’s. Devalue 5 weeks ago took her 2 minutes to say we were done and a week later she was living with a much older and richer guy.

    Just seems so cruel and unfair, though now realise I was just one guy on a v v long list and there are people out there still waiting to be taken into the web. Angry with myself for falling for it, I was simply a source to feed her warped ego
    She couldn’t sleep at night, now know why.

    Reply
  7. It hurts! I’m a 39 year old male I left the house a few times. Because I couldn’t handle the picking. I just thought everyone needed space and I didn’t want to cause more of a scene than I already did. I’m the type of person that holds things in and releases it all at once. With a narcissist this isn’t a good thing, but I also didn’t know. I just thought things were so perfect and we were the fairytale. She started on my kids and my ex and she was obsessed with telling me what I needed to do and say. If I didn’t do as she said I would get shunned.Th went on for awhile and it seemed like I couldn’t get anything right. She favored my youngest son and treated him like he was her own, but my son that would stick up for his mother. She literally made this boy think he was the devil. I knew he wasn’t, he is a great kid who gets straight As never and gets in trouble at school. She said he was so disrespectful and she did so much for him. I truly think she used him because he stuck up for his mother and didn’t give her credit for everything she did for him. Anyways king story short I was working long hours the week I was moving out. She had a pumpkin carving c party with her new supply. Before all my stuff was gone. I found this out from her son. He called me and said Joe I feel bad for you. I said buddy you need to protect your little sister and watch videos on children of Narcissist. I know I’ll be ok, but she is breeding more of these creatures. I put my all into this relationship to find out it was all a lie and now I have to watch some other guy get his balls ripped from his legs. I have alway tried to help people and be nice. But these creatures are evil. They have to be of hell.

    Reply
  8. I honestly would like to write a book. About my life the past 2 years. At least it might make a good life time movie. I had full 💯 custody of my kids. Me being the people please that I am. I lost my kids more to their mother ( who isn’t the best) whenever I broke it off with her she kicked me out of her house. I wish I was a good writer because it would be the perfect romance novel of a narcissist and her puppets. I told thise closest to me and they think she just mean. But I know that she is mentally incapable of fixing herself

    Reply
  9. Unlike most people here, my ex was not caught on cheating. It’s just the relationship itself became unbearable.

    We broke up almost a month ago. Long distance – guess I’m lucky here.

    I didn’t fall in love with him momentarily. I just loved the way he treated me. Yet some things were disturbing: 3 kids from different women; he was calling his last ex “crazy” and once bragging to her about me (when he was on a call with his baby daughter); he was saying things like “if you ever decide to walk away from me, you will regret it” or “I want to get married soon, so you get trapped and don’t leave me”; complaining about regular adult things like paying bills; arguments he stared out of nowhere; owing me €300 and getting angry when I reminded him, so I felt guilty about asking; always bringing up ideas about building a house together and so, but never actually doing anything for it to happen, not even checking a piece of land (his country); and the last thing that made it all over…

    I was planning to come in November for winter. But had some struggles with work and only managed to save money for quite expensive tickets – for me and my son. He said he was not going to provide… because I was only planning to come for a holiday, not forever (originally he was going to come to my country, but I’m from Russia and the war started, so we had to come up with the new plan).

    He was doing good things for me. And sometimes I blame myself… I don’t know. Maybe, maybe I wasn’t showing the same level of love. But maybe it’s impossible to show the same level of love, because that was not love, but love bombing. And he was saying he always loved me more then I loved him.

    I’m still very confused.

    Reply
    • run to the hills my love, he’s not capable of commiting and having REAL love, which is team work and lots of effort. words are empty , actions are everything. I pray for your peace x

      Reply
  10. This was such a great article I have been dealing with the discard for two years now with two kids… Everything in this article is spot on thanks

    Reply
  11. I was with my ex boyfriend for 4 years. Discarded 6 months ago for no apparent reason. He met a younger woman who does everything he tells her. I get random text from him asking “ can we meet up and just talk?”. When he doesn’t get the response he desires, here comes the insults. This man has even discarded his own children because they see through his lies. Found out from his ex wife that he lost his job because he has too many DV order of protection against him. He was never fool enough to lay hands on me or even attempt to. I’m so thankful that I’m done with this fool of a man Wayne

    Reply

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