6 Ways To Know If Narcissistic Supply Is The Cause Of Your Toxic Relationship

Photo: getty
woman victim of narcissistic supply

Most couples describe a healthy, loving relationship as one of give and take. Sometimes, one person needs the attention, support, and love of the other in a one-sided fashion.

Then, at a future point in time, the tables may turn, with both people accepting that they give to each other as needed, with the understanding that they also receive this unwavering support and attention in their time of need. 

Now, imagine that the relationship was not based on this unwritten expectation that both people were there for each other.

Imagine a relationship where everything was given a value and one person was in the relationship to accumulate as much of the value as possible.

The entire relationship is based on one person getting their own needs satisfied and never returning any of the value to the other. 

RELATED: 7 Serious Signs Someone You Know Has Narcissistic Rage

RELATED: 20 Extremely Brutal Signs You're In Love With A Narcissist

What is narcissistic supply and how does it affect toxic relationships?

When you take a closer look at the type of individual who would be in that type of toxic relationship, in most cases, it's a narcissist with an insecure attachment.

In other words, they never had the comfort, love, and attention of a caregiver early in life. There was no understanding that others could be trusted and had good intentions.

Instead, the child learned that people could not be trusted and it was critical to protect themselves by accumulating as much value from the other person as possible and keeping all of that value for themselves. 

In this system, the child learned to barter for the attention and affection of the caregiver. This created a distortion in their ability to interact and connect with others in meaningful ways in order to protect their sense of self-worth.

As the child matures and enters into adult relationships, this pattern persists and creates a toxic dynamic. 

RELATED: How To Avoid Narcissists And Toxic People, According To A Self-Aware Narcissist

The narcissistic supply is what the narcissist demands from the partner.

And what the narcissist requires to feel good may be obtained by bartering or manipulation.

Still, the goal is always for the narcissist to obtain a desired and never-ending supply of:

  • Sex without personal or emotional intimacy.
  • Winning in every aspect of life.
  • Control over the environment, partner, and the lives of others.
  • Limitless attention and adoration.
  • Feelings of power and grandiosity.

The narcissist does not care about the emotional or mental health and well-being of their partner. They need a constant level of narcissistic supply, which often results in going outside of the relationship to fill the emotional void or hole in their being.

Some people think of this as the gas tank of a car — no matter how carefully you drive, you need to constantly fill the tank, which is similar to the ongoing need of the narcissist. 

Narcissists do not start the relationship with these ongoing demands. In the early part of the relationship, they may be the ideal person. You're the focus and they seem to fit everything you want in a partner.

Your interests become their interests, at least in the initial stages. Once you are committed, the demands start slowly building.

Combined with manipulation and undermining of your sense of self, these demands start to ramp up to meet the narcissistic supply needs. 

RELATED: How A Narcissist Thinks (Warning: It's Pretty Messed Up)

Here are 6 signs of a narcissist who needs a narcissistic supply in their toxic relationship

1. They are selfish

Demands to do what the narcissist wants without any concern for your wants.

2. They are egotistical

Expects constant praise and attention for everything good while taking no responsibility or blame for anything that is negative inside or outside of the relationship.

3. They must be the leader

Your acceptance that they are the leader and the decider in the relationship.

4. They don't care about others' goals

They won't accept that you have your own goals, and express the expectation that you give up everything to help them meet their goals.

5. They are manipulative

Constant gaslighting, ghosting, and other forms of manipulation.

6. They use emotions as a weapon

Sudden periods of ignoring you completely or intentionally withholding any type of interaction with no explanation or clear reason.

Working with a therapist with experience in toxic relationships is key to recognizing these behaviors and evaluating the partnership.

In many cases, ending the relationship is the best option for healing.

The narcissist is typically unwilling to recognize or accept the damage they are causing and make the necessary changes to rebuild a healthy, positive, and mutually supportive relationship.

A professional will be able to answer the question "What is narcissistic supply?," and evaluate whether or not your toxic relationship is suffering from it. 

RELATED: 9 Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse, Explained By A Therapist

Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach who helps people cope with codependency, love addiction, toxic relationships, and mental health issues. She is also the author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to Find Everlasting Love.

This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.