How Dating A Narcissist Changes You

You may have heard the word “narcissist” tossed around in regard to toxic relationships or when talking with your besties about crappy past relationships. A narcissist typically has traits such as a feeling of importance, exaggerating their worth by bragging about accomplishments, manipulating others to get what they want, and a lack of consideration for others. No matter how severe, dating a narcissist changes you in a lot of ways, both bad and good. While only 5% of people are clinical narcissists, those negatively affected by them feel the effects long after their relationship is done.

How dating a narcissist changes you

  1. You trust people a whole lot less. This is one of the biggest ways dating a narcissist changes you. If you dated a narcissistic person for a while, you’ll learn how easy it is for someone to manipulate you and make you feel poorly about yourself. You may give them your heart only for them to insult you or say you will never be as good or worthy as they are. Even when you meet someone new, you are convinced that their great qualities are all an act. The upside of this is that you are more cautious with people and are able to weed out the toxic ones with ease.
  2. You question your worth. If you’re around someone who undermines you constantly, your self-esteem will tank. Some common narcissistic traits can translate into abusive behavior, like gaslighting, passive-aggression, and extended times subjected to the silent treatment. When the person who is supposed to love you does these things, you believe you are no longer worthy of love or don’t deserve the person you’re with. But in reality, they never deserved you. The psychological changes you go through during and after dating a narcissist can take a long time to undo, further prolonging the trauma.
  3. You question yourself. Everyone else saw how this person was but you. Why? How? Did any of the things you saw happen actually happen? Do you deserve to feel hurt and betrayed by your former partner, or are you being dramatic? Maybe it was a mistake leaving them. Just know that what happened to you was real and your feelings are valid.
  4. You self-sabotage. A narcissist may see your success and become jealous. They might pick fights with you or guilt you into hanging out with them to stop you from succeeding. Even after a breakup, you can continue these behaviors out of habit and out of low self-worth. Challenge those thoughts and learn how to reclaim your worth again by doing what you want and deserve.
  5. You’re reluctant to start dating again. This is another one of the major changes you experience after dating a narcissist. Before you met them, you were super outgoing, loved dating, and were always on the lookout for the person who could be your one big love. However, that’s not the case after getting rid of a narcissist. You worry that you’ll end up in the same situation all over again, and that’s terrifying.
  6. You still walk on eggshells. “Walking on eggshells” means that you become cautious and concerned about how your actions, no matter how small, can affect someone’s mood. If your partner came home and went on rants about how no one recognizes their worth or how something that happened is “your” fault because you forgot to do a small task. Even small shifts in people’s moods makes you nervous. Just know that you are not single-handedly responsible for anyone’s emotions.
  7. You get better at setting boundaries. You learn very quickly that boundaries are essential to maintaining your peace. Or if you’re fresh out of a relationship, you are on the road to learning them ASAP or should be. Healing means taking action to fight back, and establishing firm limits helps you find your power again.
  8. You save your best qualities for the people who deserve it. This is perhaps one of the best changes you go through after dating a narcissist. No more giving 110 percent to losers and liars. You save your best self for those you love and trust. You set your expectations high for the people you date. No more draining people in your life, only the ones that fill your cup! You also learn how to strengthen your bond with people who lift you up. With time and effort, your relationships will be stronger than ever and so will your sense of worth.
  9. Remember to watch out for covert narcissism. Ever heard of a “victim complex”? Covert narcissists, or people that are narcissistic but a little sneakier about it, love playing the victim. They may even convince you that you’re the cause of their problems by guilting you into thinking you’re the reason behind why they haven’t been able to find a job yet or that you’re making them feel bad when you don’t compliment them every moment of the day. They might even claim that no one else understands their problems or no one else suffers the way that they do.
  10. Even if they’re not a diagnosed narcissist, don’t accept bad behavior. Too many people excuse bad behaviors all of the time. In reality, you need to cut off toxic behaviors ASAP. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a “real” narcissist or not if they make you feel awful about yourself. And don’t wait for them to finally go to therapy. A person can have one typical narcissistic trait and still cause long-term damage. While there is no such thing as a perfect partner, you should still find a partner who respects you.

How to practice self-care after leaving a relationship with a narcissist

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You don’t want the trauma you experienced with your ex to inform all of your future relationships or even how you feel about yourself. That means doing the work to ensure you don’t carry the baggage of this relationship around with you.

  1. Seek support from trusted friends or a therapist. It goes without saying that a professional will be well-equipped to help you work through trauma after dating a narcissist. They can also provide you with valuable skills to take with you into your next relationship.
  2. Set healthy boundaries to protect yourself from further harm. While another person’s behavior is never your responsibility or fault, there are things you can do to avoid getting in this situation again. By setting boundaries and refusing to let anyone violate them, you can help protect yourself.
  3. Take time for self-reflection and identify any patterns or beliefs that may have led to the relationship. You might do this via meditation, journaling, or simply giving yourself time and space to mentally recount what you’ve been through.
  4. Engage in activities that bring you joy and promote relaxation. Going for a run, knitting, reading, etc. are great choices. Whatever makes you feel at home and at ease is a good option.
  5. Practice self-compassion and acknowledge that healing is a process that takes time. Dating a narcissist changes you, there’s no doubt about it. However, it doesn’t have to ruin your life. Don’t let it. Take the time you need to heal and regroup and have faith that you’ll get there because you will.
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