Maybe you’re currently dating a narcissist.
Or perhaps you’ve just left one.
Whichever the case, the relationship undoubtedly changed you — but how?
Can a narcissist turn you into a narcissist?
Did this relationship damage you permanently?
The good news is that narcissism isn’t contagious, and humans can overcome many emotional hurdles with proper guidance.
But yes, the narcissist relationship cycle is a roller coaster, and it’s rare to experience or escape it without altering the way you process, react and behave.
With that in mind, today, we’re looking at 13 different ways dating a narcissist can change you.
Some of the changes are good.
Either way, acknowledging the potential impacts of partnering with a narcissist for any length of time can go a long way in helping you heal.
How Does a Narcissist Make You Feel in a Relationship?
Before we dive in, let’s first define how we’re using the term “narcissist.” Because let’s be honest, we’re all a bit self-centered these days.
Heck, we live in the age of “selfies,” and humans are genetically predisposed to survival, the ultimate expression of selfishness.
But narcissistic personality disorder — aka NPD or “malignant narcissism” — is an advanced form of the condition outlined in the DSM-5, and people with it tend to treat their romantic partners abominably.
What makes it even more frustrating is that NPD has proven highly resistant to treatment.
So what’s life like when dating a narcissist? People who’ve been through it tend to describe the experience as “highly unpleasant” — especially when the narcissist is triggered or feels threatened.
Depending on the situation, people with NPD may go out of their way to make their partners feel unworthy, unintelligent, and otherwise rotten.
When in relationships, narcissists tend to:
- Move Very Quickly: Since their narcissism is usually rooted in fear of abandonment, they move at lightning speed in relationships to avoid rejection. Once they sense someone will validate them, they latch on.
- Gaslight: People with narcissistic personality disorder are gaslighting professionals. They cannot handle being wrong and will do everything possible to overpower, manipulate, and control anyone who questions them or makes them feel threatened.
- Throw Temper Tantrums: Malignant narcissists can only handle praise. Criticism — constructive or otherwise — is like kryptonite, and temper tantrums are common when they’re faced with it.
- React Jealously: Everyone is competition for a person with NPD, so jealousy fuels their personal interactions. Moreover, they only value what people can do for them.
- Struggle with Empathy: Narcissists don’t do empathy because they cannot relate to other people. Their needs always supersede their friends, partners, family members, and coworkers.
Can a Narcissist Change in a New Relationship?
The narcissist dating cycle is consistent and repetitive. During the first stage of idealization, they shower you with love and affection. Next comes the devaluation phase, where they berate and belittle.
Eventually, they’ll reject you. It may take one week or 50 years, but the time will eventually come.
However, on a compassionate note, it’s kind to remember that NPD is nearly always rooted in childhood trauma. For someone to develop a full-blown narcissistic personality disorder, they likely went through some very terrible things at a very young age.
That doesn’t mean you must appease them or subject yourself to their emotional abuse.
But sometimes, when we let a generosity of spirit lead the way, we’re better able to pave our own paths without exacerbating already fraught dynamics.
How Dating a Narcissist Changes You: 13 Ways It Will Impact You
We’ve talked about what it’s like to date someone with a narcissistic personality disorder.
Now, let’s dive into 13 ways dating someone with NPD may affect you. As we said above, some are good, and others aren’t. Either way, understanding the positives and negatives leads to deeper healing.
1. You May Lose a Sense of Identity
It cannot be stated enough: dating a narcissist isn’t easy. Due to the nature of the condition, they tend to be experts at emotional abuse and dominate the relationship. They prefer their partners to be submissive and unfailingly laudatory.
Resultantly, people who remain in romantic relationships touched by NPD may lose a sense of identity over time.
2. You Become a Master of Boundaries
By the time you make it out of a relationship marred by narcissism, you’ll have learned how to set and maintain boundaries. You’ll be a pro. It’s a super skill to have, both socially and professionally.
3. You May Enable and Defend Abuse
Partnering with a narcissist can be an exercise in emotional abuse. They use it to manipulate and control. When you become accustomed to this pattern, you may find yourself making room and excuses for such behavior.
4. You Cope Better With Grief
Dating or being married to a narcissist involves a lot of loss — loss of identity, expectations, and emotional respect. Depending on the length of the relationship, you can cycle through these losses fairly regularly.
As a result, many people who go through it become better at coping with grief.
5. You Risk Becoming Problematically Conflict Avoidant
Accommodating a narcissist involves a lot of acquiescing. And while there are times when it’s appropriate to walk away from tense situations, extreme conflict avoidance can be ruinous and impede healthy relationships.
Sometimes, we need to acknowledge and address interpersonal problems and challenges — and brushing everything under the proverbial carpet prolongs the matter and ultimately worsens it.
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6. You Develop a Better Radar
Nearly everyone who survives a union fractured by NPD comes out of the experience with a finely tuned “radar.” They can better spot red flags and know how to extricate themselves from potentially toxic situations.
7. You May Develop Trust Issues
People who stay in relationships with NPD personalities for extended periods can develop trust issues. They become accustomed to keeping things close to their chests and expect to be disappointed by their partners.
8. You Develop Closer Relationships with Friends and Family
Formal therapy with a counselor often works wonders — so does opening up to friends and family! When you go through the wringer with a narcissist, you learn to lean on those closest to you for support.
Though forged in turmoil, those bonds can introduce you to a heightened — and satisfying — level of love and connection with your friends and family.
9. You Can Develop Self-Esteem Issues
It may seem counterintuitive, but people with NPD have incredibly low self-esteem. Subsequently, when threats seemingly descend, they lash out against the people closest to them.
This behavior inevitably leads to self-esteem issues for the people being attacked.
10. You Learn To Stand Your Ground
At the beginning of a relationship with a narcissist, you may fall into a pattern of subservience. But by the end, when you’ve gathered enough courage to walk away, you’ve likely learned to stand your ground by that point. It’s a great skill to have!
11. You Can Become Excessively Paranoid
As they say: paranoia can destroy ya. Unfortunately for people who weather relationships with narcissists, this is an all too real warning.
Since people with NPD are constantly looking over their shoulders for “traitors” and assorted saboteurs, their partners can fall into similar patterns.
Plus, avoiding confrontations is a big part of dating someone with NPD, which can also foment paranoia.
12. You Learn Self-Respect
Self-respect feels good. People who have it are usually leagues more content than those who don’t.
To be clear: self-respect doesn’t mean following old-fashioned rules about chastity. Instead, it means cultivating love for oneself, regardless of what others think or say.
Narcissists do their best to belittle their partners. However, when said partners begin to realize their worth and stand up for themselves, they strengthen the self-respect muscle — and that’s a win.
13. You Develop More Compassion
It’s unfair to define anybody — including those with NPD — by one aspect of their existence. None of us want to be judged solely by our worst parts — and though it can be painful to admit, we all have them.
So it stands to reason that if you stayed in a relationship with a narcissist for any period, you also saw their “good” parts — and that takes a lot of compassion, one of the most beautiful qualities a person can possess.
Remember, though, that everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. Emotional harassment is a form of abuse, and self-compassion is also vital.
Dating after a narcissist can be challenging, and once it’s over, shedding habits acquired during the relationship can be equally tricky. It’s tough emotional work — but worth every effort.