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.


46 thoughts on “The IPSS: Shelved or Disengaged?”

  1. Wow! I thought I had been disengaged from on several occasions as I often challenge him which results in silent treatment and blocking. So if there is ANY channel of communication left open, it is just a corrective devaluation? I am, according to your writings HG, a sipss. And I very recently had a blow out via text where he threatened to block me, and I told him to go ahead! I promptly unfriended and blocked him on messenger as that is our main way of conversing. I could contact him by phone or his other 2 business pages if I wanted to as I blocked HIM there; not the other way around…he has ALWAYS left channels open when he gave me the silent treatment…and he stays away for 3 weeks at a time. Something tells me it will be longer this time as I blocked and unfriended his ass…we shall have to wait and see. Real nail biter. 😂

  2. HG,

    If an N is attempting to seduce individuals as IPSSs and during this period he is successful with one who he quickly wants to promote to IPPS. The other(s) potential IPSS not aucessfully seduced yet but had done nothing wrongs either so is placed back on the shelf so he can focus on the newly promoted IPPS.

    Would the candidate IPSS, who has not yet been seduced remain painted white whilst on the shelf?

  3. I have been shelved for almost a year now but it took me a long time to figure out what was going on. It really felt like disengagement because I was fb blocked but I see now clearly that it was shelving as a channel was left open (his phone) I have now received numerous corrective devaluations whereby I texted and was ignored when I said something he didn’t like as in I was going to block him sverywheee he blocked me on his phone only to unblock me 24 hrs later sometimes he would even do it with in an hours but one time as long as a week. So you newbies lmoe this if there is any channel left open that they are aware of, it is not disengagement even if they don’t speak to you. Took me a long time to figure this out. HG is there any significance in the length of a corrective devaluation while on the shelf ?

    1. Well done on working it out.

      As to your question about significance do you mean

      1. With regard to how long you are on the shelf whilst receiving repeated Corrective Devaluations; or
      2. With regard to sustained Corrective Devaluation whilst on the shelf?

      1. Thank you. I understand more and more as time rolls on. Sometimes. It takes awhile to work out because my situation doesn’t always look exactly as you describe initially but when you really begin to look closer it does. I’m interested in the answer to both but number 2 applies more to me as I have remained on the shelf a long time now, but have received numerous corrective devals. They have mostly been short in durestkn as I said usually hours or a couple of days only 1 time I can think of that it was a week but it seems that the length of the deval is significant. Is it based on the degree to which you have annoyed them or is related to fuel levels? Doing it within hours would suggest low fuel levels, but if that’s the case, i likely would have been taken off the shelf don’t you think?

      2. HG,

        In regards to the below concepts brought up by you and Lori:

        ”HG Tudor
        March 25, 2019 at 08:39
        Well done on working it out.
        As to your question about significance do you mean
        1. With regard to how long you are on the shelf whilst receiving repeated Corrective Devaluations; or
        2. With regard to sustained Corrective Devaluation whilst on the shelf?”

        -Do these scenarios occur when you have done something to become painted black, then put on the shelf? If so, then the lack of comfort crumbs is the Corrective Deval?
        -Can you be on the shelf painted white, and then you put up a fuss about being on the shelf, and are painted black? If so, would this result in corrective deval or a longer shelving?

        I’m still confused about painted black on the shelf.
        Thank you in advance.

        1. 1. You can be on the shelf and become painted black.
          2. You can be painted black and then placed on the shelf.
          3. You can be off the shelf and painted black.
          4. Yes, you can be white, on the shelf and then by pestering the narcissist to in effect ‘come off the shelf’ you become painted black. You may then experience a silent treatment (CD) which combines with being on the shelf, the difference is you hear nothing from the narcissist at all – no comfort crumbs. You might be on the shelf and be painted black and receive an unpleasant message telling you that you are a terrible person and such like.

          I recommend you organise an email consultation if you remain struggling with the concept.

          1. This one is a difficult one to workout intitially. It took me a long time to figure it out but basically my summation is (and HG can correct me if necessary) if you are an ipss its rare to be disengaged from. If there has been channel of communication that you have used with the Narc left open then you are on the shelf with or without comfort crumbs. I have been without crumbs for almost a year and I’m shelved not disengaged. I am correctively devalued without a single word. He will block and unblock sometimes within an hour and not a single word from him.

            HG can you address whether there is any significance to the length of time of your corrective devaluation? as I mentioned sometimes he’s blocked me for an hour sometimes it’s been as much as week but he always unblocks.

          2. Rather than ask – is there any significance to the length of time of your corrective devaluation ask yourself this
            Why am I continuing to think about and monitor when I am blocked or unblocked, I should not be looking at this because doing so is breaching my no contact regime.

          3. Valid point HG. Extremely valid. I have periods now where I think of this less and less as I know have a professional project occupying a lot of my time, but if I am truthful when my mind is idle it will often revert back to this. In the end, it really shouldn’t matter. He is a narcissist and he won’t be cured and he will do this over and over. Does the length of time really matter ? It shouldn’t because there is no turning back now. I do however, enjoy plugging in your described scenarios into my situation and working it out. It’s kind of like working a puzzle. Am I over this? Clearly not or I wouldn’t be asking such questions because I wouldn’t care what the answers were, but I am much much better than I was and I see much more often than not that it’s good thing he doesn’t speak to me. Though he doesn’t need or want to help me, his refusal to speak to me may have been one of the nicest things he ever did for me and that’s how I know I was in something really fucked up

        2. HG,
          NISS or IPSS?? – Lots of flirtation. Many sexual innuendos. Admission (verbally) of mutual physical attraction by both parties. Large number of almost kisses (ie. being a millimeter away from lips touching but someone backs off at the last second)?

          Thank you.

          1. HG,
            Thank you for your answer and welcome back!
            I’ve thought through all my exes and past flirtations, men who have pursued me etc….with only a very few exceptions they are all narcs. And all along I thought MMRN was the first narc I encountered, silly me!!!
            If I view things through this lens, I am probably S-IPSS or former IPPS to about 6 narcs.
            Goodness, this is a lot to process, I never realized I was a narc magnet.

  4. I am black and on the shelf for 7 months now with Narc Friend. With the benefit of hindsight and time reducing my emotional involvement to only a tiny shred of what it once was, I honestly think that this particular narc was really focused on residual benefits as a major criterion of fuel source selection. I found my final in-person conversation with him distasteful because of his intense focus on my finances and even Googled whether it was normal to ask personal financial questions in his country of origin.

    I think what saved me from further involvement with him was the simple fact that he thinks the place I live is boring. He loves travel and he loves wealth and prestige. I live in “flyover country” in a place he considers boring and where he hasn’t set foot since sometime in the late 1980s. I believe now that he chooses women who connect him in some way with something he wants — a place, a lifestyle. In that sense women are truly appliances to him, a means to an end, and I think that he is actually so cold that there is little pretext of any warmth or love or connection. Women are vending machines, to put it bluntly, for this entitled young man. Interestingly enough, he sought out jobs in places like ski resorts where wealthy young people spend their time. It is an effective strategy for him.

    I think the question of whether or not I personally am hoovered depends on whether or not my residual benefits seem appealing to him in any way, or whether he runs into a severe fuel shortage. I’m sure he thinks I am available for future use. This narc seems more like a smooth con man than a man-child looking for love, and quite frankly I have no interest in bankrolling his lavish lifestyle.

  5. My ex-narc has had to change the phone number for a job change … he has not contacted me to give it to me. Is it a discard? I had left him a month earlier and he was hoovering me

  6. My Victim MRN doesn’t have an IPPS either. He probably has lots of NIPSSs.

    Me, being the ex DLS, has me wondering (considering he’s sooo secretive) if he gets by fuel-wise on many DLSs. Before I escaped, he would text and call me constantly…always have time for me etc on cam and visit whenever I asked. He still would if I messaged him now.

    Lucky I’m NC.
    But I do dread hoovers. He gets relentless and causes me anxiety.

  7. OMG I’m HORRIFIED. I emailed HG impulsively to wonder about why I was never upgraded from dirty little secret to IPSS and now I’m super worried it’s because I am a narcissist. I was not a good appliance to my victim Narc, which is probably why I was never elevated to IPSS. I responded to absences by telling my victim Narc to never call me again. I did this multiple times. There were multiple absences. I didn’t mean it to be manipulative-I said it because it was driving me crazy to spend time with him and have him go silent and at the time that I said it I was trying to mean it. Now I think I was never upgraded because I made him feel criticized and I’m also worried that maybe I’m like a super benign narcissist myself because I reacted in that way.

    1. kara, I’m not HG, but a lot of women on here wondered why they weren’t in the relationship they wanted before they found out he was a narc. The answer is because he is a narc. You can’t have a healthy relationship with a narcissist, they won’t allow it because they can’t, whether IPPS or IPSS, doesn’t matter, Not being upgraded is a good thing. It’s normal to respond to absences that way. Just take your time and keep reading.

  8. Oh this one is near and dear to my heart. I recently had contact with the narc. I mean he didn’t speak but I did and then he blocked me. Within 24 hours I was unblocked. This has happened numerous times. HG Does this fall under shelf ipss receiving a corrective devaluation ?

      1. HG if we have escaped and are applying true NC, are we still in the shelf IPSS category. Even if we’ve ignorned the hoovers?

  9. Is he angry because I escaped???

    I was an IPSS (as I know understand by your text): we live 4 hours far away from each other. He imposed me a silent treatment for not accepting one of his terms. After 10 days I blocked him in WhatsApp… but he wasn’t blocked in telephone and email. Also we shared a blog.

    He contacted me after 3 months, begging,crying, saying he “adores me”, he wanted to call me on soon and blablabla.

    For me something was wrong, because beside of what he said to me, time schedules for communication were assigned tacitly and he was not that into me. I told him that I don’t want that kind of relationship and immediately he said that it was up to me and that he doesn’t like to force me. Then came 5 days of very polite crumble chats, and he assured me that I won’t be blocked and he’ll be there “if I want to”.

    Then I blocked him in phone, WhatsApp, email… (Someone refered me to your blog, HG… and I said “No kidding”)

    What was funny in the next month was that he blocked me, unblocked me, delete our blog… he’s far away but I think he’s pissed off: I don’t react anymore to anything he does in the spheres available.

  10. Absolutely brilliant HG! I love this article and I know I’ve been ‘discarded’ but since reading nearly all of your books and your very helpful audio consultations I’m so glad I was. Your ‘telling it like it is’ makes working through the awful experience of being with a MRN a lifesaver…literally. Thank you for this blog and offering no-nonsense assistance to so many who’ve been suffering in ignorance.

  11. Hi HG 🌹 I think my UMR Elite has various IPSSs on the shelf but no Primary Source (IPPS), is that possible? He lives alone, is ‘single’ on Facebook, tries to phone me in the evening, is always available on Fri/Sat nights. I think his Candidate IPSSs quickly turn into Shelf IPSSs.

    What type of Empath does an UMR Elite like? Thank you

    1. Yes, it is possible. However

      1. There may be an IPPS but you just do not know about the IPPS;
      2. There may be a NIPPS instead;
      3. If there is no IPPS or NIPPS then this state of affairs will not last for too long, as the UMR Elite can manage for a period without a primary source but not months.

      1. Thank you so much HG. Maybe he is Greater because he’s been like this for as long as I’ve known him- over a year. However he seems under the surface to be disheveled, unsettled, and off-kilter.

        1. Whitney does he have a ex that he talks about and doesn’t live with? For years I thought the ex was an ex. I still call her the ex out if habit, but she’s actually the IPPS. He keeps her around for residual benefits and has many IPSS on the side

          1. Yes Mercy his ex might be his IPPS. However she doesn’t live with him, or even in this city. They talk and catch up from time to time. They are not intimate, they are just friends. He said he “couldn’t get his dick hard” and that’s why he broke up with her, but he “still loves her to bits”.

            I think she is a Saviour Empath (I have looked at her on Facebook). He says stuff that sounds like a Saviour Empath- so I think he adopted her personality.

          2. Whitney, I don’t know about your situation but in my experience anything they tell you about a ex is lies or half truths. I was his best friends to his IPSSs and his IPPS. “Huh? Really? Do you sleep with all of your friends?” Like I said l, your situation could be different but don’t be so quick to trust what he’s telling you about other women. As far as your special attention, maybe it’s because he doesn’t feel like he’s ensnared you yet.

          3. I know this is obsessive but I am his only friend who’s profile photos he likes. Apart from the Saviour Empath- he likes hers occasionally. He likes all my profile and cover photos. He’s friends with all these women who I thought could be supply, but he doesn’t like their photos.

            We do not have sex. He puts a lot of attention into me and I don’t know what he gets from it. I do not ask about his life. We only talk about me. If we are in a group he pays total attention to me and directs other people’s attention towards me too. He doesn’t brag about himself but he brags about me.

          4. Hi Mercy 💖 I am very gullible, and I just realised he lies. I don’t really know him. I don’t even ask him questions because he seems guarded and stressed. He knows he ensnared me and I think it’s an ego boost for him.

          5. This is interesting about his ED and the ex. I’ve that many of them experience this when they feel things are too intimate. I guess some sort of self protection. I believe it had to do with the Madonna / Whore complex many of them suffer with. They cannot have sex with someone “they believe “ (but we know is impossible) they love. So your Narc saying he can’t get his dick up yet loves her total sense

            Hg I’ve never seen the whole ED thing brought up here but it is common with Narcs. Is it an intimacy thing?

          6. Mercy I’ve known him about year and half.

            Yes Lori!
            It is like he cannot have sex and ‘love’ both.

            He loved one girlfriend, and “couldn’t get his dick hard”.
            He was attracted to another girlfriend, but didn’t love her.

            He will not have sex with me again but he’s had the opportunity. I thought he was gay or something. I’ve slept in his bed and he spoons me and strokes my face. He acts ‘loving’ towards me. He listens and helps with everything in my life. Extremely supportive. He offers to help with practical things too. When I talk he acts like he finds me endearing. He gets into a state I can’t describe- giddy? He gives me drinks of water and food, he’s considerate. He makes everyone else cater to my needs “change that song, Whitney doesn’t like it” etc.

            He said I have the same personality as his mum. When I was at his house he showed me an animated movie that his mum likes. Another day I asked his favourite movie. He didn’t answer. I asked again and he said it was the animated movie he showed me, and he was shy.

            He says I’m “very very sweet”, “honest”, “intelligent”, “caring to a fault”, “very very empathetic”, “funny”, etc etc.

            I delete him from Facebook, readd him and he forgives me haha.

            He adds girls on Facebook who look less wholesome than me who he’s trying to have sex with them.

          7. Whitney your narc has Madonna/Whore complex. Round 2 with Narc 1 I became the Madonna.

          8. Lori that is really interesting.

            It’s the source of his struggles, and he doesn’t know it. He is struggling to find a woman he feels for, and is also “attracted to her pheromones”.

            I know this is dysfunctional but I’m happy he pays attention to me and gives me emotional support.

            Can you please tell me about your experience? You became Madonna? Were you something else at first? Thanks

          9. Whitney. I did. Round 1 with Narc there was a crazy amount of sex I was ipps for 5 years. Fast forward 15 years he returns swearing he has always loved me blah blah and wham an ED issue but the guy always said he loved me etc we have known each other since high school. Our previous relationship post college in our early 20 s was tumultuous to say the least some crazy emotional stuff happened anyway he said that time had treated me well and he would love me the rest of his life that he should have married me, but he knew I would eventually divorce him and that I deserved better. I think on some level he believed all that shit. This guy is extremely handsome and wealthy and never married. It was almost like he said I know I’m gonna treat you like shit and I may be gone awhile but I still love you. So weird I do think on some level he believed this shit hence the ED.

            Anyway after another disappearance, I was left in shambles. I finally got over and then enter Narc 2 completely different from Narc 1 so I didn’t see the Narcissm. The reason I didn’t see it was Narc 1 was an upper mid ranger and Narc 2 a middle lesser. Completely different but now I see very much the same just different styles and levels of ability to control their behavior

          10. Hi Lori, sorry for my slow reply, I don’t know how to be notified by other comments.
            I’m sorry for your experience with Narc 1, it sounds like a really confusing rollercoaster with him 😔 maybe his ED was because he had aged 15 years? I think the midrange Narcs are so confusing. They say all kinds of contradictory things and really they don’t understand themselves what they are doing. I think they have major defense mechanisms, insecurities and a fear of abandonment.
            Oh yep, my Narc 1 was Lower Midrange and since then all sorts have tried to ensnare me, and the Upper Midrange was successful. I was unaware of the different types because I hadn’t read HG’s work yet.

    2. Whitney
      I feel this way about my UMRE too. I don’t think he’s lying about not having an IPPS, I have been in his house (there is no woman living there.) he is always available when he’s not working, etc. I think he has a lot of IPSSs and like you said, I believe his candidate IPPS go to the shelf, quickly. He also has young children so I’m sure there is a lot of fuel flowing there.

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