What happens when a narcissist’s partner learns about narcissism?

A narcissist’s partner may not know what they’re in for at the start of a relationship. After all, narcissists are incredibly charismatic, and they shower new partners with love and affection in the beginning stages of a relationship.

New partners may be fooled into thinking that the narcissist is their perfect soul mate, so they remain completely unsuspecting of the narcissist’s true nature. 

However, at some point, the dynamic in the relationship shifts, and the narcissist begins to reveal their dark side. When this happens, the narcissist’s lack of empathy and inflated sense of self-importance are likely to damage the relationship.

Confused by the shift in the narcissist’s behavior, the partner may begin to research information related to their partner’s behaviors, so they can understand what’s going on in their relationship. When the new partner learns about narcissism, the realizations they come to can be both empowering and challenging. 

The journey toward understanding 

The journey toward learning about narcissism begins with confusion and frustration. Feeling undervalued and emotionally drained, the narcissist’s partner may begin to seek answers, leading them to discover information about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). 

Once the partner realizes the behavior they’re experiencing aligns with narcissism, they will come to a revelation. On the one hand, the partner will have a sense of clarity and validation.

On the other hand, the realization that one’s partner is a narcissist can be heartbreaking.  Some of the effects at this stage in the game are described in more detail below. 

#1 A deep emotional impact 

Once the partner realizes they’re dating a narcissist, they will experience a range of emotions, some positive, some negative.

Feeling validated 

The partner is likely to experience a sense of validation once they realize their partner is a narcissist. They will realize that the emotional roller coaster and manipulation they’ve been subjected to actually make sense. 

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Validation can be crucial for the partner’s emotional well-being, as they will realize they aren’t to blame for the relationship’s problems.

Grief and loss

While the partner is likely to be positively impacted by a sense of validation, they may experience feelings of grief and loss when they learn about narcissism. They’ll realize that the narcissist’s charming behavior and love bombing were simply an act and a manipulation tactic.

Anger

Finally, the partner may experience anger as they process the fact that the narcissist has subjected them to deception and emotional abuse. The partner may be angry at the narcissist for subjecting them to this abuse, as well as at themselves for not recognizing the red flags. 

#2 Shifts in relationship dynamics

The relationship is likely to change when the narcissist’s partner learns about narcissism. They may attempt to fight back, which can cause problems in a relationship with a narcissist.

Boundary-setting

Once the partner knows that they’re with a narcissist, they may start to set healthier boundaries. Unfortunately, this is likely to trigger a strong reaction from the narcissist, who may become increasingly manipulative or abusive to regain control. 

Seeking independence 

The partner may also be tempted to assert their independence once they learn about narcissism. They will seek activities that take them away from the narcissist’s grip, so they can rebuild their sense of self.

Increased conflict 

Now that the partner is armed with new knowledge, they are no longer as vulnerable to the narcissist’s influence. This can cause heightened conflict in the relationship, because narcissists do not like losing control.

Arguments are likely to escalate, and this can be a dangerous time for the partner, who may be subjected to intense abuse as the narcissist reacts to the loss of control.

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#3 Long-term changes

It’s pretty much over for the narcissist when their partner learns about narcissism. The partner will now know that they are in a relationship with someone who is cold, callous, self-absorbed, and incapable of empathy.

The partner will also realize that they are likely to be subjected to ongoing mistreatment if they stay with the narcissist.  This can cause some long-term changes in the relationship.

Deciding to stay or leave

Once the partner realizes they’re with a narcissist, they will find themselves at a crossroads. Should they try to stay in the relationship and cope with the narcissist’s negative behaviors, or should they hit the road?

Some partners may decide to stay in the relationship, hoping the narcissist will change. This is more likely to be the case when the partner has children with the narcissist or depends on them financially.

In other cases, the partner may leave the relationship to protect their mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Seeking professional support

A person who has learned about narcissism may seek therapy to help them process their experiences. Some partners may reach out to a professional therapist to help them develop coping strategies for dealing with the narcissist.

Others may see a therapist to help them cope with their grief, make a plan for leaving the relationship, and move on with life.

Personal growth

Learning about narcissism can, in some cases, facilitate personal growth and change. A partner who learns they’re with a narcissist may be motivated to reclaim their life and build healthier relationships in the future.

Learning about narcissism can help the partner recognize that they’ve been with many narcissists during their lifetime. This recognition can pave the way for seeking healthier relationships in the future.

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Trying to “fix” the narcissist”

Sometimes, learning about narcissism can prompt a partner to try to “fix” the narcissist. Armed with new knowledge about NPD, the significant other may convince themselves that they can outlove narcissism.

This can lead to desperate attempts to heal the narcissist of their abusive behavior through love and devotion. Unfortunately, the partner who reacts this way will likely be disappointed in the end. 

Recapping the experience of learning about narcissism 

When the narcissist’s partner learns about narcissism, they are likely to experience mixed emotions. On the one hand, they may feel validated, while on the other hand feeling anger and grief.

It’s also important to note that the effects of learning about narcissism are likely to result in the partner progressing through several stages. During the initial stages, the partner will feel validation mixed with anger, resentment, and a sense of loss.

As the partner spends more time in the relationship, they may try to assert themselves and set boundaries, leading to intensified conflict.

Next, the partner will move to the final stage, during which they either stay or end the relationship. A partner who leaves will likely be empowered to make positive changes in their life, while a partner who stays will try endlessly to fix the narcissist’s bad behavior. 

Conclusion

When a narcissist’s partner learns about narcissism, everything changes. Suddenly, the abuse they’ve experienced makes sense. Realizing that one’s partner is a narcissist can be validating, but it can also lead to heartbreak.

Ultimately, the partner will need to decide whether they leave the relationship for something less abusive, or stay and subject themselves to ongoing mistreatment. 

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