What am I to Him?

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For those who have become ensnared with our kind, it is a frequent question to wonder what you are to the narcissist. Of course, the short answer is that you are an appliance that is there to provide fuel first and foremost and there may also be the acquisition of traits from you and residual benefits. However, those that have begun to understand the narcissistic dynamic to some extent want to know how they have been regarded by the narcissist in terms of that dynamic. Of those questions, these are the ones which appear most often:-

Was I a primary source?

I don’t think I was devalued, why was that?

Have I been discarded?

Why did he not commit to me?

How has he moved on to somebody else so quickly?

Why did I have such a short golden period?

I feel like I am always hanging on for him, why is that?

It is typically the case that those questions are usually asked by someone who is an Intimate Partner Secondary Source (“IPSS”) although that person may not actually realise that this is the case. This article will discuss the IPSS and some of the peculiarities which arise with being an appliance placed in this role.

By way of brief re-cap, someone who is a primary source may be an intimate partner or a non-intimate partner. In the vast majority of cases the primary source is an intimate partner, thus a spouse, partner, boyfriend/girlfriend. You spend most of your time together and this arrangement occurs so that we are able to draw fuel from you each and every day, that fuel is of a high calibre (because of the greater emotional connection you have to us by reason of being a primary source and also because of your empathic traits). Occasionally the primary source is not an intimate partner and is usually then a family member.

A secondary source is a colleague, a friend or a family member. The secondary source will be seduced so that their loyalty and fuel is secured. Of course this is not done in a romantic fashion but through charm, pleasantry, doing favours and handing out benefits so that the appliance is drawn to the narcissist and is then installed in the position of secondary source.

A secondary source has an elongated golden period. This is because of the following factors:-

  1. The narcissist only draws on the secondary source’s fuel intermittently (compared to drawing on the fuel of the primary source);
  2. The secondary source is usually more compliant and does what the narcissist wants because the demands made of him or her are not as extensive as those made on the primary source;
  3. The fuel provided by the secondary source stays fresher and more potent for longer because it is only drawn on intermittently;
  4. The secondary source is less likely to challenge,wound or defy the narcissist

Accordingly, a secondary source will  enjoy a lengthy golden period. They may not be ever be devalued. If they fail to provide fuel, become disloyal and fail to do what the narcissist wants, they may be devalued but usually they will be immediately discarded. This is because it serves the narcissist better to remove the ‘rotten apple’ from hanging around and polluting the minds of other members of the coterie. It is also easy enough to seduce a new secondary source or turn to other existing ones. Thus, where a secondary source becomes unreliable they are usually discarded. Devaluation may only occur where an example needs to be made of the secondary source (this is usually more of the case for colleagues and family members as there is a connection beyond friendship) or the narcissist feels a need for the negative fuel and does not regard the devaluation as likely to damage the façade.

All secondary sources commence their relationship with the narcissist from a non-intimate position and there they may stay for a very long time. Some however are promoted to the position of IPSS.

This happens when the narcissist is devaluing their primary source and is looking to replace them. The promotion of a secondary source to that of IPSS means that we are considering whether you are worthy of then being promoted to a IP primary source and the existing one is discarded.

When this happens there is also the likelihood of somebody else occupying the role of IPSS. We often have more than one as in effect we are holding auditions for those who may be promoted to the position of primary source. This results in several scenarios arising.

  1. The existing primary source, let us say this is a wife, is being devalued. The narcissist embarks on affair with another woman who is the IPSS. She may have been someone he has known as secondary source friend for some time and has recently promoted, or he may have approached her and become a secondary source friend who is very quickly promoted to IPSS. In this dynamic you, as the IPSS, may know about the wife and she is smeared to you, she is abusive, unloving and so on. You are seduced and your responses convince the narcissist that you will make an effective primary source so the existing primary source is discarded and you are then installed as the replacement primary source.
  2. The scenario is the same as above however there are periods during your seduction as IPSS when the narcissist goes quiet. You may think that you are being devalued. You are not. As explained above, the narcissist regards a secondary source as an intermittent provider of fuel and therefore when this happens it is likely that a Respite Period has been granted to the existing primary source, thus the narcissist allows a golden period again, he is preoccupied with the existing primary source and you are kept on ice until the Respite Period ends. The devaluation of the existing primary source continues and your seduction continues once again. Eventually, the narcissist deems you worth of promotion, you are embedded and the existing primary source is discarded and you are installed as her replacement. This may take months or even years. During this period, if you accept the periods of quiet without complaint, there will be no comeback from the narcissist. If however you question what is going on, you will most likely be subjected to future-faking from the narcissist in order to maintain your interest. He will talk about needing to sort divorce arrangements out, or how the house is taking too long to sell, the children need to be sorted out, he hasn’t told his parents yet, it is not a good time for the soon to be ex-spouse as her father has died, it is her birthday next month, it is nearly Christmas and so on. This future faking is done because the narcissist regards you as too valuable to drop and wants to keep you in place as you are earmarked for promotion, but he has not yet decided that you are worthy of such promotion and thus has allowed the existing primary source Respite Periods until he is convinced you are a worthwhile replacement.
  3. The same scenario as two above but there is another IPSS. In order to better our chances of securing an excellent replacement primary source, we are devaluing the existing primary source and we are cultivating leads with at least two IPSS. Thus, we spend the occasional wonderful weekend with you but make various excuses as to how we can only see you once a month. This is being done for two reasons. The first is because we must make time for the ongoing devaluation of the primary source and also to spend time with the other IPSS who is being cultivated. The second reason is to test your resolve. If you reject such an arrangement then we will conclude that you lack certain traits that would make you a good primary source, such as you challenge us too readily, you lack ‘stickability’ and you are not responding to our charm and seduction as deeply as we had hoped or planned. In such an instance our attention will switch to the other IPSS but you are unlikely to be discarded. This is because you have shown potential, provided fuel and therefore we may as well keep you on ice to call on for fuel or to triangulate with the existing primary source and/or the other IPSS in order to satisfy our fuel needs.

If you do not challenge this arrangement then it is a straight fight between you and the other IPSS as to who will eventually be crowned as primary source. You may know about the devalued primary source but you probably will not know about the other IPSS. You will both be tested, so you can expect cancelled arrangements, occasional bouts of odd acts and distant behaviours. These are not acts of devaluation but are rather tests during your seduction to ensure that you are made of the right stuff to be promoted to primary source and also that you are better than your competing IPSS. The nature of this competition is such that you may be in front one month and thus things will seem to be going well with us and then you will be behind your competitor the next month so things will be less pleasant. You are jockeying for position and all the while we are obtaining fuel as we ascertain who will be the best person to be promoted. This could go on for years as you are strung along.

If you then learn that the primary source has finally been discarded but somebody else is being paraded around as our girlfriend and you cannot understand how that has happened, because there is still (albeit minimal) contact with you, then you have lost the race to become primary source. This other person seems to have come out of nowhere but they have not. They have been cultivated behind the scenes and we have decided that they would make the best primary source. The existing one has been discarded, the competitor IPSS who you knew nothing about (or might just have been referred to as a ‘friend’) is installed as primary source.

Even when this happens, you are still unlikely to be discarded because we still see value as keeping you as a secondary source. There has been some investment in you and if you do not cause a problem for us, you will be retained and at some future point there will be a resumption of the relationship to draw fuel, to use you to triangulate with the now being discarded primary source and even to consider installing you as primary source. This latter consideration arises where you would be a good primary source, but the competitor was deemed even better. However, once that competitor is devalued, your status as a good potential primary source is revisited. Unless of course another competitor IPSS is sought and this one is deemed better than you.

If you rail against this treatment as you find yourself side-lined when you expected to become the primary source, but some usurper has appeared instead, this may be tolerated for the negative fuel and the purposes of triangulation. If however you become problematic whereby you may expose us, causes problems with the façade and interfere with the newly installed primary source, you can expect to be devalued, smeared and discarded.

4. You may find that there is no primary source. You are referred to as partner or girlfriend but your engagement with us is intermittent, excuses are made as to why we cannot see more of you, there are occasional periods of silence and you are strung along in this position for some time, unsure of what you actually are. Are you our girlfriend or just a friend with benefits? When this happens it is the case that we will have several IPSS on our books. The combination of all these interests and the attendant fuel means that there is no pressing need for a primary source and we are content to alternate between the various IPSS until we establish one which is installed as primary source.

The IPSS does not experience the standard template of seduction-devaluation-discard and this is why many commentators fail to explain our behaviours effectively to someone who is an IPSS. The narcissistic dynamic is different. The reason for this is that you are effectively placed in limbo. You may not be good enough to be promoted to the position of primary source but you are too valuable to be cast to one side and thus the dance continues for as long as you will allow it without wounding or challenging us.

Those who do not understand our kind tend to fall into the trap of thinking that we are some kind of commitment-phobe and will dole out erroneous advice to you in terms of making you try to bring about that commitment. All this will do is cause you further consternation as the decision is ours, not yours.

If you find yourself in the position of engaging with somebody who treats you well, but only does so intermittently, who occasionally seems to test you (and it is often difficult to spot this) and issues lots of promises about what will happen in the future but there is never any delivery, there is every chance that you are an IPSS entangled with one of our kind.

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30 thoughts on “What am I to Him?”

    1. No such thing as a discard. When there is dis-engagement, a hoover may well follow for the IPSS in accordance with the Hoover Trigger and the Hoover Execution Criteria.

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  1. HG! 🕵
    Well done. Brilliant work. It is most clear and concise. I loved the parts about auditioning, being crowned and jockeying for position. You’ve clearly shown what the thought process is with the narcissist. There cannot possibly be anyone who is unable to understand what position they are in. Showing how a N would juggle different people is spot on. I watched others exude this behavior and participated in this behavior for years. Fortunately for me I got out of the game but, boy oh boy, was it fun while I was in it. Why? Because I loved the thrill of the chase and I loved winning. 💙
    *Standing Ovation* and a wolf whistle from me because your intelligence is hot as hell! 🔥

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  2. Hello, HG…. As an IPPS (spouse), how does one determine if in an extended respite or have been discarded/disentangled? In your opinion, how lengthy could a respite period be?

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    1. Ms Brown, when I use the term Respite Period it is as part of the Devaluation Period. I suppose, on reflection, Respite Phase would be a better description. Thus devaluation occurs, formal relationship continues, respite is granted, formal relationship continues. There is no dis-entanglement when there is a Respite Phase. The relationship is ongoing. Those Respite Phases may be days they may be weeks. Then the devaluation occurs again.

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  3. Hi HG,
    Thanks for this spot on analysis of such a common scenario. If the narcissist has selected a new IPPS (unbeknownst to the shelved IPSS), what fuel does he gain by ignoring a contact attempt by the IPSS and soon after publicly flaunting the new relationship with the IPPS? Would this be in any way calculated to get a reaction out of the IPSS or is it merely a function of his preoccupation with securing commitment with the IPPS?

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    1. If he sees a hurt response from the IPSS he gains negative fuel. If he does not he gains Thought Fuel from the perception of their hurt, frustration, jealousy etc.

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  4. How on earth are we supposed to figure out this maze? I am having an affair with my N (I am the married one), so I would assume that I am an IPSS. We talk every day. Some weeks we see each other often, others only a time or two. Sometimes it’s so wonderful, but other times, he can be horrible. Some days it’s wonderful for two hours, then he starts a fight right as I am leaving and I feel awful for the next few days. It’s a constant push/pull. Shouldn’t this manic behavior be left for his IPPS? He has a girlfriend who he sees more than he sees me. I know she is not in any sort of golden period, so it’s not like I’m just getting the devalue. She’s getting the push/pull just as bad, if not worse, especially because she has no idea about him. It’s so weird. I just wish I could function as only the IPSS and get the good and not the bad!

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  5. Hi HG. My narcissist experience was with a friend. He didn’t have a primary source (not after the “clingy” ex) but he seemed to be interested in more with me. We had one brief hookup, then told him I’d rather stay friends at that time as I had just come out of a relationship not long ago. After that he waited til I mentioned I was ready to date people again and then told me he had “just” met someone and thought he might be in a relationship with her soon. I remembered he had tried to make me jealous by mentioning a couple of casual flings before I guess to see if I’d bite and jump back into things with him. I think him telling me when he was almost in a relationship was him testing to see if I’d react to that. Guessing this, I didn’t react and instead calmly told him that this was becoming a pattern, and said for various reasons we’d be better off as friends (so that I could get out quietly). He got angry and flipped a whole lot of things around on me, blaming etc. I think this would be considered an escape? Or was it a discard? I’m hoping that’s the end of it. I’ve decided to learn more about narcissists because of this and am seeing his behaviour so much more clearly from reading your work – thanks HG.

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    1. Hello Spinout, you wounded him by failing to comply with his demands so he devalued you with his ignited fury and engaged in blame-shifting etc. You have not said if he told you that he did not want to be friends with you etc and you also said that you would consider it better off if you remained as friends therefore on the information provided he did not dis-engage and you did not escape, unless more happened following his anger and flipping which you have not conveyed to me.

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  6. So being challenging would keep one from becoming an IPPS, it seems some enjoy the challenge.

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  7. It’s an odd conflict – to have been an IPSS who wanted nothing more than to be IPPS (without realizing the situation of course.) And now realizing he would have destroyed me beyond recognition if I had been “promoted.” But still catch myself wondering like “Why didn’t he want me as his primary?” Like asking why a serial killer murdered her but not me. LOL. I should be grateful but it still feels like an insult.

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  8. What is the reaction of a mid-range narc when a shelf IPSS escapes? No Grand Initial hoover, and possibly future hoovers if enter the sphere of influencee, but initially how does this feel to the narc?

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  9. HG I was referred to as his girlfriend for almost a month. Not devalued. Everything seemed fine 1 day and then I was discarded. Never heard from him for almost 4 months now. He has been spotted with his children’s mother recently by others. She was supposedly abusive and a nightmare. She recently had their 3rd child 2 months ago. I had no clue she was even pregnant. My Question is: Was I an IPSS that was discarded?

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  10. Hi HG
    1.Can a shelf IPSS be promoted to non-shelf IPSS or IPPS?
    2. When you say one source is better than the other, which qualities or criteria makes her better?

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  11. HG-
    My ex and I were engaged and long distance. Since we were engaged and his family and friends all knew about me I am guessing I was a primary source but I am wondering if I wasn’t primary since we only saw each other in person every weekend. Can a primary source be someone you don’t see everyday?

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