How Do Narcissists Treat Old Supply?

Last Updated on March 3, 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?

1 thought 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

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