What Am I To The Narcissist


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.


45 thoughts on “What Am I To The Narcissist”

  1. HG, I see some comments on here saying narcs did not refer to anyone in their lives by name. The narc I was entangled with did refer to people by name from time to time as well as used generic names. So I don’t think not referring to people by name is a narcissistic behavior. What do you think? Thank you!

  2. HG,
    Think my situation is probably odd. Thinking of my exhusband, I was the IPPS for over 30 years. Now I’m definitely one of a raft of secondary sources (mostly family), but also definitely not intimate for the last 16 years. So looks like I would have gone from an IPPS to a NISS. Unless you are saying that in his mind I will always remain an IP, regardless of how we interact? Just wondering.

  3. I don’t affix bumper-stickers to my vehicle or wear T-shirts often, but that gem should be on both.

  4. Until reading this post this evening, morning technically, I answered the question, “What Am I to the Narcissist” exactly as I have since I first realized the nauseating truth about my “fiancee”: I’m her Primary Source. Obviously two month of continuous inquiry into NPD and ruthless self-examination have done little to diminish the naivete and arrogance that predisposed me to mistake abuse for love. I was never her IPPS. I was merely a frontrunner IPSS as is the man I mistakenly believed usurped my throne in a coup d’etat, but whom I now know she cultivated for months while living with me. He won IPSS runner-up honors and I would likely still be chomping at the bit to race him again (she subtly encouraged our competition at first), but I am a Super Empath (or am I?) who finally burst into flame and forced a Discard. I couldn’t understand why the ugly Devaluation FOLLOWED my Discard until now She wasn’t discarding me; she was shelving me while she tried out life with New Guy. The real “Winner,” the IPPS, would be obvious to a child. It’s not either of us boyfriends; it’s HER HUSBAND! THE MR. TO HER MRS. The man I believe I’d rescued her from (and here’s a sign that the cosmos has either a wicked sense of humor or that it pities my vulnerability enough to make congruences plain) EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO TODAY. We were engaged, she intended to divorce him, we saved the money for court costs, but somehow it never came to pass. I thundered to her my principles demanded the divorce be immediate, that I pitied him (now more than ever), but the sooner he accepted defeat, the sooner he’d heal. But those Love Bombs and especially the Love Making, they lulled me to sleep on the cold hillside, and La Belle Dame sans Merci had me in thrall. Now thanks to you, sir, I know the truth. She fled with me to punish her disobedient, reckless IPPS (himself a diagnosed BPD), and when she took a week’s break from our combat and stayed at their house, her “only available refuge,” the two of them sorting out residual business “platonically,” he was enjoying his RESPITE. As of a few weeks ago anyway, she was still living with IPSS #2 (I’ll call myself #1 for strictly chronological reasons!) so I don’t know who’ll take home the prize. But it won’t be your humble correspondent In sharp contrast to me, they are active addicts who both not only countenance, but encourage her promiscuity, kinks, and meth addiction AND they both have young children (a fuel source for her in both of her marriages). I know she’ll contemplate drawing me into a triangulation or perhaps circling back to me in a fuel or residual benefits (housing/hideout/transportation) crisis. But while this revelation is humbling, I feel profound relief that I wasn’t IPPS and lost the race to IPSS #2. HG, is there any possibility that I’ll tiptoe past Post-Discard Battle 3 and be left alone? I’ve been No Contact for nearly a month without a peep from here (there is a court order, mercifully that goes both ways). If she has those two to wrangle and I supply no fuel at all, could I escape this nightmare in peace? Thanks for any insight and for this brilliant article. It laid bare the real script of this drama. Oh, and Happy Anniversary, Clever Girl. I underestimated you badly,

    1. Wow! You’re the real winner PN. The best feeling is when you find out IPPS is the real hell and you never wanted it anyway. Stay NC. Don’t let your guard down, ever, unless she dies. Find someone who will appreciate your love, not take advantage of it.

      1. Thank you, I occasionally and maybe with good reason doubt that analysis above and fear that D Day is coming, not a hoover,a punishment. I face an accusation in court, but I have a mountain of evidence, good advice from attorneys, and I’m treating this as my recovery from my own vulnerabilities (including SuperEmpath narcissistic traits and co-dependent spinelessness, one helluva cocktail). That’s been the key. I’ve reduced her to a symptom, not a cause, and that shift freed me. It plucked more teeth out her bite than even the meth has.

    2. I bet you’ve already tiptoed there PN ^^.
      That was a beautiful merciless analysis.
      Very inspiring. Thank you!

      1. Thank you, shesaw. I hope you’re right. I’ve been around and in recovery 18 years this October (with several difficult relapses), and this trial by fire is teaching me again to understand and distinguish between what I can only accept, whether I like it or not and what I can change. When I took responsibility for my vulnerability and my own abuse (the damage I did others and myself), it restored my power (which is faith that a Higher Power can work through me and with me if I clear obstacles), The Narc lost her power over me. I stopped trying to control that inherently uncontrollable nightmare of a creature and the outcome. As I said to another person above, she became a symptom and not a cause. It’s not reasonable to feel anything but disgust for an infirmity like addiction or codependency and compassion for someone overcoming it, but you feel nothing toward the pile of empty bottles. They’re just a measure of the sickness. Her presence ultimately awakened me to my own illness. Her absence (I put that bitch in the road) and inability to disturb my peace, even with a fictitious public accusation and a threat of physical violence and exposure of compromising photos) are signs of my ever-growing health. Everytime people like you understand and encourage me or I them, even merely sharing a fragment of a foggy story that resembles someone else’s, I get stronger. To my mind, it’s the fruit of mutual consideration and decency. That’s the exact opposite of the exchange between human host and narcissistic parasite, the former gives, the latter takes (that’s their simple, inferior role in the food chain). For humans, the more goodness we give, the more we have, It’s hard for empaths sometimes to distinguish humans from abominations mimicking them, but I believe when we do and give our love to the loving, we’re going to find a bliss that by comparison makes a so-called Golden Period about as appealing as the brutal rape that it actually is.

    3. Holy shit wow. They were some similarities here for me in that narc was married but so was I. I was clearly Candidate ipss. This guy was in contact with me 24 7 often discussing our future together then became distant for awhile only to come back around only to do distant again only this time telling me there was someone else in the picture and I went from Candidate to almost NISS and now what I call a conplete shelving and/or discard with him blocking me on social media. Since his blocking of me, I have learned about all sort of lies and I’m really realizing what a complete and utter whack job I’ve been dealing with.

      Be grateful that you have escaped this. Even though I still hurt some, I am truly grateful that he has just gone and that something worse didn’t happen. I had no idea what type of person I had been entangled with. Be thankful she’s gone

  5. Even when you escaped that question is still there … what was I beside fuel? He had many woman in his life it found out lately that I was the only one he had intimacy with beside his IPPS.

    For some reasons I can rationalise the residual benefits – one day I told him I felt I was a number – at the time I was number 2 being devalued to number 3 . I really felt like a number and I stayed – for some reasons I was addicted and I stayed and coped with stupid rules and chaos.

    I still wish I was more than number and fuel but maybe because that is probably the case I don’t feel devalued anymore – I know all this as nothing to do with me – we are all numbers.

    1. Nothing to do with you at all, On My Journey. I also stayed and then escaped, and I am also certain that I was the only one mine was intimate with apart from his IPPS. You were not a number. I was not a number. I thought mine didn’t know my name (so I was just a number) because he never used it. But one day he came over and I went to open the door and overheard my landlady asking if she could help him. He said he was there to see me and used my name. LOL. So, well, now I know that he never used my name ON PURPOSE to make HIMSELF believe that I was just a number. I wasn’t. I have a name, he knows my name, and I was the only one he was intimate with apart from the IPPS for the two years we were ‘together.’ Besides, he creeped me online so much that occasionally I would mention something that he couldn’t possibly know because I hadn’t told him, such as ‘oh, I used to live in X city.’ But I knew that he did know because he had creeped me. Mind games. All of it. You were fuel, I was fuel, but not JUST fuel. Don’t ever believe that you didn’t matter.

      1. He overused my name :)) all the time he would say my name and when he was on calls with flying monkeys and coterie he would say I am with and would say my name . Always on speakerphone delivering a message to me of course … all those calls were prepared with specific messages … it was almost a joke .

        I was a number – maybe a special number – I know the physical attraction was real – or he thought he needed to be ultra pleasing to keep me- which is not that true.

        In anycase – he liked my brain apparently that other people told me – but again how true that was.
        He said to other also that we never fight , that I am a shoe in in his life, that I am always happy and smiling and that I would be the best to take care of him . That what he says to his IPSS – but also that I go crazy on him at my period and that I write pages of texts when I am mad. Which is true.

        That is as much as a number that I was- another’s girl another woman another brain another ass another smile another and some girls are bigger than others … like the smiths says …

      2. i just pictured HG muttering under his breath: we don’t need your name because we have your number.

      3. I am laughing all alone here !!! I can imagine HG too on so many posts muttering … lol… You are a number !!!! Got it lol!!!

      4. I am laughing too, OMJ. I do often wonder what HG must think. Are we all just numbers to him? Harrumph.

      5. And let me just add here that for most of the time we were together my narc never referred to anyone by name – not me, not his wife and not any of his daughters. He would say ‘my daughter’ when he has three. But towards the end he would say ‘my middle daughter’ or ‘my youngest daughter,’ and finally he used one of their names. My name was not the only one he did not use. He also used a fake name for himself at first, and although I would use his name – mostly when I was exasperated or angry – I wasn’t connected virtually to anything with his name on it until the very end.

      6. SMH, the Narc I was with never used names either. His son was, “my son. His wife was, “my spouse” and I was “baby, my sweet love, etc.”. I always thought it was strange, but now I get it. He has no connection with anyone.

      7. Not even with himself, Braveheart. I found this so strange and almost embarassing. I think it’s because everyone in his life is an extension of himself – my wife, my lover (or my bit on the side), my daughter (even if there are three), my boss, etc. MY, MY, MY. I think it’s because he could demonstrate possession using ‘my.’ Using someone’s name makes that person a separate individual.

      8. SMH
        My narc friend was same. He always referred to his daughters as the older one and the younger one. Never used my name either. When i asked any question about his daughters using their names, then he would reply using their names.

        They all are same. My narc ex husband will mix names of his children all the time. He would Call me using his present wife’s name, and then will appologize. This only happens in old age. But he is only 50.

      9. SMH
        Ha, ha! My exhusband is the same way mixing names. He all the time says the wrong name for women in the family. I know he is not doing it intentionally and he is usually unaware of his mistake. When he was younger, correcting him would make him irritated. He just seems a little sad now. Usually we just smile and ignore the error. I have noticed that he tends to confuse women of the same level of importance (fuel) to him.

        Pet names might have solved this for him, but he has never used pet names for any woman. Just the idea of it would probably make him gag. He thinks any show of affection is fake and beneath him and has always looked down on men who show any romance, gallantry or supposed love.

      10. Windstorm,

        Mine never used a pet name for anyone either, at least not for me (IPSS). I would use them for him all the time kind of teasing. I once asked him if he minded but he loved it. I also used my son’s name all the time (sounds weird for me to say ‘my son’ to someone I am sleeping with).


        I never used his daughters’ names even though I knew them because he was so weird about it and hadn’t actually ever told me (I had other ways of finding out). The last time we saw each other was the only time he used one of their names, and that is because his cover was way blown by then. He knew I knew anyway because he didn’t say ‘my middle daughter, whose name is X’ he just said ‘X’.

        Very funny when I think about it. I started out simply trying to figure out his name. Bingo. Found him online with clues he had inadvertently provided. Fast forward 10 months and it’s now become an affair. He first refers to IPPS as ‘my ex’ (as in ‘my ex wants to reconcile’ – first I knew for sure of her existence). Then she becomes ‘my wife.’ I said, ‘I know who your wife is’ (true – not personally but I even know her ‘maiden’ name, sister’s name, mother’s name etc :-)).” Long silence. He never stopped referring to her as ‘my wife’ even though I would use her name.

        As I said above, he also knew my name the whole time. He just never used it. I liked to yank his chain by dropping little knowledge bombs here and there. I left the kids out of it because, well, kids. In the end, though, he was forced to surrender on the name front. One battle won!

  6. My ex BF suddenly broke up with me 5 months ago, out of nowhere. Saturday we were making plans for the following weekend, Sunday he said he was no longer in love with me and couldn’t see me anymore. He said he got ahead of himself and couldn’t be in a relationship and that I was ready for more of a commitment than he could give me. He said he needed to focus on being the best dad he could be for his young daughters and to figure out who he was and what he wanted from life. I found out 3 weeks later that he was already seeing someone else and I’m sure he was seeing this woman while he was seeing me (it was a mom from his youngest daughter’s school) because he had mentioned her to me before, that she and her husband had just separated. The last month of our relationship he said he was starting to have doubts about us and was no longer sure what he wanted or if we were right for each other. There were also times when he’d go “silent” for hours at a time and some evenings wouldn’t answer my texts (the next morning he’d say sorry I fell asleep). My question is this: Was I discarded by a narcissist? It’s been 5 months and he hasn’t tried to contact me in any way. His Facebook page is gone (it suddenly “disappeared” a week before he ended things, his profile pic was of us together) and he also deleted his Instagram acct. He’s just vanished. So was he just an a**hole or was he a narcissist? Thoughts? Also, he was married for 12 yrs and with his ex 17 yrs total if that makes any difference.

    1. Keep reading here and see if the pieces fit. Believe it or not narcissists all shares certain types and patterns of behavior. They are all different yet the same. After you read here long enough you’ll have a good idea as to whether or not he’s a narc. If he is, be thankful he’s moved on eventhough it’s painful and the new woman will experience exactly what you did in due time

  7. Question on this. I have been blocked via Facebook but not phone. He thinks it’s best we don’t talk. I am certain at one point I was Candidate ipss then it almost seemed as if I were NISS for awhile and put on the shelf. When I wouldn’t really accept that I was blocked on Facebook I don’t see any one description for this

    What does the make me now?

      1. Which is a good reason to never want to go from IPSS to IPPS, right? The ex IPPS will always be potential fuel and susceptible to a hoover. The thought of it makes me so glad that I was happy to be an IPSS. It’s like they say – if he cheated on her he will cheat on you too, and with her! Yikes.

  8. This is something I’ve been confused about on one hand I would be considered primary source because we were married and he posted it on his facebook.page we were married months before we were I met his family and friends I know he didn’t have another primary source no.other wife or girlfriend in real.life , I went through golden period devaluation discard several times all this indicates I was primary source but on the other hand we only met in person twice first time spent four and a half months together second time only spent almost two weeks together though he’s invited me back many times but the rest of the relationship was long distance online which is more like a secondary source but I know for a fact he never had another primary source during our relationship even during discards he only had other woman he talked to online , but since we didn’t live together does that mean I was actually a secondary source?

    1. Some may be jealous of you, but truth is, some are jealous of who they think you are. They don’t really see you to be jealous of you.

      1. Sarabella
        I think that’s true a lot. The paranoid ones often get jealous of what they think we have or even if they just think we have something and they do not.

        Have you ever had one be happy when they realize they were wrong and that after all you didn’t have something that they had been envious of? Of course if they’re higher level they might be saying that deliberately to be hurtful and draw negative fuel, but it’s a mix of humorous and pathetic when the dumber ones realize they’ve been envying something that didn’t exist. 😊

  9. I’m finding that people are not who I once thought. Each day, I like myself more. It has been through the information provided by HG Tudor that I have been able to free myself. My eyes and ears are open, like never before (due to the information I’ve learned). I think at this point I could smell smoke a mile away. Thank you for sharing. I think I’ll enjoy a long happier life. Eyes wide open, Heather

  10. Does kissing make someone an intimate partner or is having sex the only thing that makes a source an intimate partner?

      1. Well then they’re all intimate partners because they can all kiss my ass.

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