The IPSS : Shelved or Disengaged?


The Intimate Partner Secondary Source (“IPSS”). Who is this?

Briefly, these are ways in which the IPSS will manifest.

  1. Someone the narcissist is dating where intimacy has occurred.
  2. The narcissist is in a relationship (married, living with somebody, partners) but has a victim on the side as a mistress.
  3. As per 2, but where the victim is a side piece, a booty call, an occasional shag.
  4. As per 2, but where the victim and the narcissist know one another through repeated and extensive online interaction which has become intimate in nature.
  5. As per 2, but with someone the narcissist may see for a weekend or a few days and then does not see the victim for several weeks or longer. There is intimacy in the relationship.
  6. The narcissist is not in a relationship (married, living with somebody, partners) but the victim corresponds with 3,4 or 5 above.

Essentially, if you are intimate with the narcissist (from kissing, mutual masturbation over Skype, through to full sexual intercourse), you are not the primary source and you are seen by the narcissist more than once, you will be an IPSS.

As I have explained elsewhere, the IPSS manifests is three key ways so far as we are concerned.

  1. You have been selected with the intention of becoming our IPPS. You have an intense seduction (although this may not occur with a Lesser Narcissist) and therefore you are a Candidate IPSS. You may lose this position and not reach IPPS. You may not start as a Candidate IPSS but become one.
  2. You have been selected as a Shelf IPSS which means we do not (yet and may never) see you as becoming the IPPS, however, you are a valuable appliance and thus we pick you up and put you down. You may later become promoted to a Candidate IPSS.
  3. You have been selected as a Dirty Little Secret IPSS. We see you often but only for short periods and you are hidden from virtually everyone else in our lives. You may remain in this position or you may become a Shelf IPSS or Candidate IPSS.

In the first category we see a lot of you, maybe not every day, but the intensity of the seduction (save where Lesser) demonstrates you are on the fast track to becoming installed as our IPPS and enjoying the embedded golden period thereafter until the inevitable devaluation.

In the second category, assuming you remain in this role throughout, you will experience an elongated golden period but also periods when there is no or minimal contact. This is when you have been placed on the shelf. It is not devaluation. It is not disengagement.

In the third category, we see you often but you do not become enmeshed in our lives. Family, colleagues and friends do not know you or if they do, they do not know of you as someone who is engaged in an intimate relationship with us. You have an elongated golden period but you are kept hidden away, never receiving wider recognition. It is a relationship of hotel rooms, distant restaurants and short, furtive interactions.

Those who are IPSS regularly struggle with ascertaining whether they have been placed on the shelf or disengaged. Of course, once you realise that you are with a narcissist you should not actually be particularly concerned with whether you are on the shelf or you have been disengaged from (save to the extent this assists you in gauging the behaviour of the narcissist and what will happen next) but as we all know, your emotional thinking surges and you end up ruminating on this question ; have I been placed on the shelf or disengaged?

When you are an IPSS you have competition. Your competition comes from

  1. The IPPS (there is usually one);
  2. Other IPSSs (this is often the case, although not always the case) ; and
  3. Non-Intimate Secondary Sources (“NISSs”) friends, family and colleagues.

How does this competition manifest?

  1. With the IPPS they will be in devaluation and that is why we are engaging with you as an IPSS. The IPPS may be oblivious to your existence, may know of you but not know what is happening or may even be made aware that we are having an affair with you. The IPPS will be granted Respite Periods which because the IPPS has been painted white again will impact on how the narcissist engages with you.
  2. The other IPSS (or IPSSs if more than one) may outshine you which will then impact on how the narcissist regards you. They may cause problems for the narcissist which will then impact on how the narcissist interacts with you. They will be using the narcissist’s time and gaining his or her attention, which will again impact on you. They may be a Candidate IPSS which will then have a severe impact on your position as a Shelf IPSS. Conversely, if you become the Candidate IPSS this will elevate you above the other IPSSs and impact on them.
  3. Whilst these appliances are not competing with you in an intimate sense they will of course be advantageous to the narcissist and in certain instances their involvement with the narcissist will impact on you. If, for example  you are a DLS then where the narcissist is engaging with NISSs you will invariably suffer in that regard because you cannot be present when the friends and/or family are.

Thus this is The Competition.

There are of course other material factors, the Intrinsic Factors. These are :-

  1. Have you done something to wound the narcissist? Is the wounding minor or severe?
  2. Have you exposed the narcissist in some way?
  3. Have you rejected/ threatened the narcissist’s control and is this minor or major in nature?
  4. Have you “broken down” in some way?

So, how can you tell, as an IPSS whether you have been shelved or disengaged from?

The prevalence of The Competition factors results in you being placed on the shelf. You will not have suffered any devaluation. Thus, if we have granted a Respite Period to the IPPS we will not have any desire to see you as the IPSS. However, there is no need to disengage from you and instead you are placed on the shelf for an indeterminate time. Of course, since it is a Respite Period this may only last for a few days, possibly weeks and maybe even months. You will remain on the shelf during this Respite Period. Even when it ends, we may select a different IPSS to engage with and thus you remain on the shelf. Thus it may feel like a disengagement because you have not seen us in months but it is not disengagement.

You can tell if you are on the shelf because you will not have been blocked by us on social media or on the telephone. We may not answer your calls but you will receive a message from us at some point (not always straight away) which will be Crumbs of Conversational Comfort .

You will note from that article the timing and method of those crumbs and the ways in which they appear.

We are polite, civil, often enthusiastic and often future fake as we wish to keep you engaged but on the shelf.  We do not want to see you but we do not wish to lose you, thus this will be done to keep you ‘warm’ and ‘onside’

You are on the shelf when you are still able to communicate with us albeit at a reduced rate and our responses are benign. You can of course find ourself being disengaged from whilst on the shelf, but that is a different topic.

In terms of disengagement, this happens because of the presence of the Intrinsic Factors. If the nature of the Intrinsic Factor is minor then you will be given a Corrective Devaluation. Thus, you may be insulted and we storm off and do not answer your calls, giving you a silent treatment but note you are not blocked. Blocking would equate to disengagement and of course if we block you, how would we gain the fuel that arises from your repeated pleading text messages? You may receive an Absent Silent Treatment as part of this Corrective Devaluation but it will not last for an extensive period, a few days, maybe a week. You will be ignored but not blocked.

If you do not respond to this Corrective Devaluation in the desired way, you may received another (or the original will be extended) and possibly another – dependent on the nature of the narcissist. However, you are moving closer to receiving a Disengagement Devaluation and then disengagement if you do not yield and respond in the expected and desired manner.

When you are an IPSS and you have been disengaged from you will be able to recognise this because

  1. One or more of the Intrinsic Factors will be present;
  2. The relevant Intrinsic Factors will be major in nature or several minor Intrinsic Factors where you have failed to respond appropriately to the Corrective Devaluations;
  3. You may actually be told that the relationship is over, that we do not want to see you ever again (although such words are not always used);
  4. You will be blocked, deleted, unfriended etc;
  5. If you manage to somehow engage with us we will ignore you or respond in a malign fashion;
  6. You will be smeared (which you may learn about but not necessarily).
  7. There are no Conversational Crumbs of Comfort

Accordingly, you need to ascertain whether you are an IPSS and then based on the above work out whether you are on the shelf or you have been disengaged from. Your emotional thinking will be looking to cloud the issue and if you require certainty then consulting with me will remove any doubt as to the situation you are in.

Whether on the shelf or disengaged from, you of course remain at risk of a future hoover, since it is a hoover which either takes you from the shelf removing the suspension of the Formal Relationship with the narcissist or engages with you once again as the Formal Relationship is resurrected.

35 thoughts on “The IPSS : Shelved or Disengaged?

  1. candleglow2 says:

    Im so confused ..whenever i try to break it off he wont let me he say’s he does not want to hear that from me that we are forever …but yet told me of a mutual friend messaging him so he put her favorite song on FB for her ..and he honestly seems to think that is ok ! .. is this triangulation ? I just said ” oh well thats a lovely thing to do and i do like her ” ..I did not want him thinking I was hurt by it wondering if he did it for that reason to hurt me as he seems to always do something hurtful if I post on Twitter or FB … is it control do you think HG .. or just to hurt me ..and thankyou for being here HG when i am feeling confused or hurt …I really wish I could block him everywhere but im a coward and scared of being smeared ..

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Control and fuel, I would advocate you arrange a consultation with me.

      1. candleglow2 says:

        Thankyou HG I will do that ..

  2. Helen says:

    Why has my narc ex blocked me on Facebook after two weeks of no contact? I was previously blocked on Messenger and for calls/texts. Now Facebook, out of the blue, without provocation, even though he has security settings and I couldn’t see anything anyway?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      1. If you are checking his FB you are not engaging in No Contact.
      2. Because you are painted black and he does not want you seeing his profile.

  3. kim says:

    Hi all,
    Just found out, thanks HG, that I am a shelved IPSS that is painted white. What can I expect?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Comfort crumbs and then you will be taken off the shelf at a future point.

      1. Insatiable Learner says:

        “Comfort crumbs and then you will be taken off the shelf at a future point.” HG, this sounds like being taken off the shelf is a sure thing while previously you said that it is subject to a hoover trigger and HEC being met, which may not happen. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say,” …and then you MAY be taken off the shelf”?

        1. HG Tudor says:


        2. kim says:

          HI Insatiable,
          I knew I would be hoovered at some point in time and HG did tell me that it depended on the hoover criteria. I have got the addiction bad and being on the shelf is killing me.
          Thanks for the clarification.

      2. Insatiable Learner says:

        Thank you for confirming, HG. I appreciate it. A follow-up question if I may. You previously said that you are a nomad and, consequently, do not resurrect the formal relationship with your former intimate partners when hoovering them. However, you also said that you took your IPSS’s off the shelf repeatedly. Does this mean that you do not resurrect the formal relationship if you disengage but you do take them off the shelf since there is no disengagement only shelving?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Once can take somebody off the shelf and not resurrect the Formal Relationship. A one hour call is taking them off the shelf but not resurrecting the FR.

          1. Kim says:

            Hi HG
            What are the signs that the FR has been reinstated?
            Your humble empath

          2. HG Tudor says:

            Depends on what it was before.

          3. kim says:

            IPSS Candidate

      3. Insatiable Learner says:

        “Once can take somebody off the shelf and not resurrect the Formal Relationship. A one hour call is taking them off the shelf but not resurrecting the FR.”
        HG, thank you for your response. So what would resurrecting the formal relationship look like then?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Depends what it was before.

      4. Insatiable Learner says:

        “Depends what it was before.” How about shelf DLS? I thought if you are on the shelf, the formal relationship is in place but is suspended. if so, it appears that there is nothing to resurrect but instead resume?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          No, the FR is in place but is not being applied. Thus you can be The Other Woman (which is the FR) and remain that even though you do not see the narcissist for a week.

    2. Insatiable Learner says:

      Hi Kim, I am very sorry you are suffering. Yes, the addiction is horrific. It feels like it controls you in every way, your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It’s like it took over your will and agency. I’ve been there. Feeling better but not completely over it yet. I feel very vulnerable. In a way, I am glad I don’t believe the narc I got entangled with will hoover me even though from my assessment of the HEC, it should easily be met. It both pains me sometimes but also makes me feel relieved because I am not strong enough yet to be able to resist him. So him not hoovering is saving me. Hope you feel better. Wishing you healing.

      1. kim says:

        I just find it so bizarre that I can be feeling perfectly fine and all of a sudden like I drove my car into a wall the anxiety overwhelms me to where I am like a caged animal. I will be at a friends and just have to leave.
        I was just recently hoovered back in. The control now feels more powerful that it was before. I have been getting emails the last 2 weeks….started as small comfort crumbs and were working up to larger, longer regular texts. Now…nothing. Guess I am on the shelf and he is playing nice with the wife.
        Thanks for listening Insatiable. It is truly appreciated.

  4. S W B says:

    This is the most helpful and insightful thing I have ever read. I’ve been involved for 25 years not realising I’ve been a candidate dirty little secret now on the shelf. This would have gone on for the rest of my life. The game is up. I’m put of the running. I think I can start on the road yo freedom knowing this.

  5. On My Journey says:

    I just read the crumble article that was linked and all the 107 amazingly teaching comments below it. I am flabbergasted, Narc school exists! They all say and do the same things, I was crumbled last night.

    Well… Despite reading 6 of HG’s books in the last 3 weeks and extensively spending time on this site, I woke up, dreaming of golden time or semi golden time or even any fake narc paradise…

    Knowing now I understand what is happening- I am being thrown ceumbled and I will find the reasons soon I am sure. I am committed to write my journal and trace the cycles and the behaviors attached to it. Although I have an understanding in my head- when I go into emotional thinking ( like this morning) I need to go back to logical facts thinking.

    Funny I wrote to him and he answered 2 things
    1st text: thank you for the information BUT my problem is ….
    2nd text: You are so so nice

    He realised he is supposed to be in crumbing positive hope mode so he corrected in the second texts with golden period daily shower of how nice and sweet I Was…
    I have not had my fuck it moment… I have something to accomplish first and with HG’s help and all your comments, this hope is not fake crap nark hope.

    I used to envy all the IPPS ( starting with my mom , with my narc father) now I think «  thanks gee I was never promoted to IPPS…. being shelved gave ma respite time to breath outside , starting to search and opening my mind, escaping for 9 days gave me a glimpse that when I decide to goso I will be ok.

  6. All out of Fuel says:

    1. What if we are unfriended or unfollowed but NOT blocked?

    If we are unfriended or unfollowed from them but not BLOCKED does that also equal shelf status? Or does that mean that blocking will eventually be imminent?

    For example, they unfollow us so as to not see our stuff but we are not blocked from seeing their stuff.

    He unfollowed me on Instagram but did not block me from following him (I can see his page still). He has not unfollowed me on Facebook (not yet anyway) because if he did I would not be able to see his stuff.

    I recall you saying that when shelved that the narc tends to monitor what you are doing in a way to control you and the situation. Would that explain unfollowing me on one platform but not another?

    I assume this is all done intentionally as part of his continuing social media mind game?

  7. DoForLuv says:

    Can someone be a “IPSS” but being told by the narcissit that he/she is the “IPPS”
    (Victim Not knowing about the exsistence of the IPPS or lied to about the IPPS) ?

    And can a ex IPPS become a IPSS and “ shelved” too ?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      1. Many people are often misled into thinking they are the IPPS or rather the lay term for this.

      2. A Former IPPS always remains the Former IPPS however
      (a) They may be hoovered as the Former IPPS with no resurrection of that Formal Relationship;
      (b) They may be treated as a Shelf IPSS (but in the capacity of Former IPPS);
      (c) They could be made the IPPS again;
      (D) They could be treated as a NISS (but in the capacity of Former IPPS)

      You keep the label of Former IPPS (as this is relevant to your potency of fuel) even though the dynamic you are then subjected to is of say Shelf IPSS or NISS.

      1. DoForLuv says:

        Very interesting ! . Thank you once again !

      2. Lori says:

        Interesting. Why would a Narc downgrade an ipss who supplied a bunch of fuel to NISS. I feel like I’ve been downgraded as he said he could not have a relationship with me anymore due to things that have happened between us. Is that just said to extract fuel or am I downgraded to NISS?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          You remain viewed as an IPSS even though you may be treated as a NISS. Such a comment is common and is designed to provoke.

      3. Lori says:

        Damn you are good HG. Does a Narc do that so that you will keep trying?

        1. HG Tudor says:


      4. Lori says:

        I swear HG the more I have had the feeling that the more this guy was trying to say oh we can never be in relationship that he was saying it so I would want To be in one with him.

        why the hell would this guy tell me he’s “talking to someone else ?” I mean he would have to know that changes things permanently.

        Is it done just to hurt?

      5. MaC says:

        Hi 🙂 So I was the IPSS. Parents were the primary. If I send him a message he reads it immediately, but does not respond. I am trying to ascertain if I am shelved or dis-engaged?

        1. HG Tudor says:

          You are on the shelf.

  8. Lisa says:

    If they tell you it’s over and they are engaging with another ipss but leave all channels of contact open is shelving or disengagement?

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