How Dating a Narcissist Changes You Forever [21 Sad Truths]

Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re wondering how dating a narcissist changes you. In addition, you’ve likely already noticed at least a few changes that have occurred as a result of dating a narcissist. However, you’re searching for confirmation of your feelings and validation of your concerns.

Well, you’ve arrived at the perfect destination. Dating a narcissist does change you. In fact, dating a narcissist can completely alter the person you used to be before meeting one.

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What Does Dating a Narcissist Look Like?

Couple staring at each other with a black background

Before we dive deep into how dating a narcissist changes you, let’s first review the definition of a narcissist according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

The DSM-V lists nine observable characteristics of a narcissist that may be very familiar to a person dating one. At least five of the below traits must be present in order to be officially diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD):

  • A grandiose view of self in an exaggerated fashion. Narcissistic individuals innately have a very pompous attitude and believe their presence is essential to improving the lives of others. In other words, they believe that they make everyone else happy just by being present.
  • Fantasies of power or control live in their everyday minds. Narcissists live to be the best at everything. Even if they are in fact not. However, in their minds, they believe being at the top of the ladder is the best position to be in. They also believe they will inevitably achieve their goals of being the best in every possible category of life (i.e. power, success, attractiveness, intelligence, etc.).
  • An inflated self-perception of being exceptionally unique and deserving of special treatment from individuals of high status. They believe that their “uniqueness” can only be understood by special individuals, likely in positions of power (i.e. CEO, manager, company founder, etc.).
  • Excessive admiration from others is a dominant need. In fact, narcissists often demand that individuals compliment them. In addition, if an individual doesn’t immediately offer a compliment the narcissist may hint around it until they receive exactly what they are looking for.
  • A sense of entitlement in everyday situations is a regular occurrence. Narcissists must have the best of the best, always. Whether it’s the best job title, car, clothes or even what they perceive to be the best mate. Additionally, they believe they deserve special treatment from everyone around them, even if they themselves are not treating others well.
  • Exploiting others is justified and a means to get what they desire. They see people as objects instead of living, breathing people who deserve to be considered and treated well. Using others for their own personal gain is a regular occurrence.
  • A lack of empathy is perhaps one of the most common traits noticed when dating a narcissist. Narcissists are very cold individuals and show little to no concern for the feelings of others no matter how serious the situation may be. Tears and pleas for love and concern from the narcissist do absolutely nothing to disrupt their cold hearts.
  • Constant envy of others and the belief that others are envious of them is a regular occurrence. Their accomplishments make others jealous, and they thrive from this false assumption.
  • Narcissists are flat out arrogant, conceited, and pompous. So much so, they could care less of what others think of them. Their behavior is acceptable to them no matter how damaging it is to others.

How Dating a Narcissist Changes You for the Worst

Sad white woman staring at the camera revealing how dating a narcissist changes you

As a disclaimer, the following are changes that can occur when dating a narcissist IF you allow them to rule your world and fail to take control of the situation. However, if you properly educate yourself on the hallmark signs of narcissism, set boundaries, and refuse to become a long-term victim, many of the following changes can be prevented or corrected.

But for many victims of narcissistic abuse, ending the relationship isn’t an easy thing to do. Especially if children are involved.

Here are 21 different ways how dating a narcissist changes you:

1.) Your self-esteem may be lowered as a result of constant narcissistic abuse. Dating a narcissist can take a heavy toll on your self-confidence and overall well-being. After a while, the lack of concern and validation of your feelings from your partner may eventually begin to negatively affect your self-perception and sense of worthiness.

2.) Gaslighting makes you doubt your own reality. Narcissists use gaslighting to manipulate their victims by convincing them that their experiences are invalid or imaginary. This technique often makes individuals doubt their own truth, therefore becoming less confident in conversation. This is exactly what the narcissist wants. To break you down and make you feel as if you are losing your mind.

Recommended Reading: The Gaslighting Recovery Workbook: How to Recognize Manipulation, Overcome Narcissistic Abuse, Let Go, and Heal from Toxic Relationships (Mindful Relationships)

3.) The narcissistic abuser’s needs become more important than your own. Being in a relationship with a narcissist takes a lot of effort and energy. So much so, that you may place your own needs on the backburner, and instead cater more to the narcissist. This is especially the case if the abuser makes you feel guilty for not focusing all of your time and attention on them.

4.) You’ll feel wrong even when you KNOW you’re right. As mentioned previously with gaslighting, they goal of the narcissist is to mentally confuse you. Therefore, over time, they are successfully able to make you feel like your intuition is absurd and discredit all of your feelings.

5.) Second guessing your thoughts becomes a normal part of life. In cases of long-term narcissistic abuse, individuals sadly get used to feeling wrong. So even in instances where the narcissist isn’t involved, they will lack confidence in their everyday decision making (i.e. financial decisions, work, kids).

6.) You’ll get used to suppressing your emotions. Since your emotions likely won’t matter much to a narcissist, you will likely give up trying to express how you feel. Therefore, suppressing your emotions will appear to be the best option since they’re usually ignored.

7.) Finding inner peace will be a challenge. It’s awfully hard to be at peace when your world feels like it’s crumbling down. It’s also exceedingly difficult to experience peace when you’re constantly in the presence of a selfish person that hardly ever allows you to focus on your own personal needs.

Recommended Reading: Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving A Relationship with a Narcissist

8.) You may lose interest in previous passions. You may start to notice you’ve stopped doing the things you used to enjoy. The narcissist often consumes so much of your mental space, you’ll hardly ever have to time do anything outside of the relationship.

9.) You will make up excuses for your abuser’s behavior. The narcissist has a mysterious way of making you feel as if their behavior is normal. Therefore, any time an outsider comments on their behavior, you may feel the need to defend the narcissist’s behavior.

10.) Your heart may become hardened. The longer you remain in a relationship with a narcissist you may become calloused. After dealing with everything that comes with dating a narcissist, the caring person you used to be perishes a little inside.

11.) Your physical health may become affected (anxiety, BP, etc.). Dating a narcissist is incredibly stressful. Therefore, quite naturally your health may be affected. Stress often presents itself in the form of hypertension, anxiety, heart disease, and obesity.

12.) Putting yourself last becomes the norm. When dating a narcissist, you are often perceived as a means to please him or her. An object. Therefore, you will always be less important, and they expect nothing less.

13.) Your view of the world changes. It is true when they say life experiences can affect the way you perceive the world. If all you’re familiar with is heartache and sadness, your outlook may not be so positive. 

14.) Giving up will be easy to do. Feeling defeated will become a common occurrence. Therefore, you may notice you don’t put as much effort into certain things that you previously gave increased effort to.

Recommended Reading: The Covert Passive-Aggressive Narcissist: Recognizing the Traits and Finding Healing After Hidden Emotional and Psychological Abuse

15.) You will feel lonely. Narcissists aren’t warm individuals. While they may have appeared more caring in the beginning of the relationship, they are actually very standoffish. For that reason, you may often feel as if you are all by yourself in the relationship. In other words, single.

16.) Your desire to spend time with loved ones and friends may diminish. It may be challenging to divide your time between your narcissistic mate and the other people you care about. Dating a narcissist can be so mentally draining, you may not have the energy or desire to plan outside activities.

17.) You develop a paranoid mindset in everyday situations. Paranoia is a byproduct of constant gaslighting. The more a person is gaslighted, the more his or her mental state becomes affected. You are no longer able to clearly delineate what is real vs. fictitious.

18.) Sadness may become your primary emotion experienced. Dating a narcissist can truly wreak havoc on your emotional state. Therefore, it can be quite easy to fall into depression and a state of hopelessness.

19.) You will downplay your own achievements. Eventually you’ll grow tired of never being acknowledged when you accomplish something significant. Narcissists don’t like to give others praise because it takes the focus off them. In addition, they’d rather not offer you a compliment or any other form of praise because they’d simply rather not help you feel good about yourself.

20.) The ability to love innocently in future relationships becomes challenging. Unfortunately, if you ever gain the courage to leave a narcissist, it may be difficult to trust others again. The trust you freely gave away in the past is now something that must be earned. Future significant others will have to work extremely hard to win your trust.

21.) You may become co-dependent. Codependency typically involves excessive focus on the needs of others, while suppressing your own. This overall mentality may spill over into other relationships and friendships in cases of long-term narcissistic abuse.

Recommended Reading: 10 Steps to Overcome Codependence

11 Effective Ways to Regain Control of Your Life and Happiness

Woman standing with her arms stretched out in nature

So, how do you actually regain control of your life and happiness once you’ve realized how dating a narcissist changes you (if at all possible)? Quite honestly, sometimes the best decision will be to leave the relationship altogether.

If you feel you are at the point of no return, I highly suggest setting a plan in place to ensure success. Check out The Breakup Recovery Plan by Donna Barnes. She lays out a step-by-step process to assist in your journey to recovery from your relationship. Her recovery plan includes a series of quizzes, workbooks, checklists and over 80 coaching videos. She will be your biggest cheerleader. 

However, for those that aren’t able to immediately abandon the relationship, here are a few suggestions:

1.) Thoroughly educate yourself on the signs of Narcissism. There are a number of free online resources available that do a wonderful job of explaining narcissistic abuse. Utilize as many credible resources as possible and become familiar with the signs of narcissism.

2.) Set boundaries in your relationship. When dating a narcissist, you must learn to set clear boundaries. The earlier the better. Make it well known that you are aware of their manipulative strategies and will not tolerate it.

3.) Learn to communicate your wants and needs without being afraid of the outcome. If you decide to remain in a relationship with a narcissist, you will have to master the art of firm communication. Be bold and say exactly what you mean and mean what you say.

4.) Realize that you are not the source of the problem. Narcissists are infamous for making you feel as if you are the problem. But don’t fall into this trap.

5.) Seek professional therapy or outside help from a third party. Therapists and other trained professional are very familiar with narcissistic abuse. They can offer great support and can assist you with making the best decisions for your life.

Psychotherapists Kim and Steve Cooper specialize in narcissistic abuse in relationships and have dedicated their careers to helping others handle conflict. They’ve personally experienced the devastating effects of narcissism within their own marriage and have thrived in spite of experts telling them to get a divorce. I highly recommend checking out their resources here.

6.) Read encouraging self-help books to remind you of your worth. Self-help books will always be a wonderful resource to assist in dealing with narcissism.

You Deserve the World is an inspirational self-help book that encourages women never to give up hope in their quest for true love. All women deserve to be respected, loved, and cherished. You Deserve the World is a gentle reminder for ladies to continue on in their journey towards finding the right one with God leading them along the way!

7.) Join support groups for victims of narcissistic abuse (i.e. Facebook groups). You are never alone. There are tons of support groups for individuals dealing with narcissistic abuse. Here are a few of our favorites:

8.) Tune into spiritual guidance (i.e. prayer, meditation, fasting, spend time in nature). Daily devotionals are a great way to include daily spiritual inspiration into your routine, especially if you’re short on time. Rainbows and Strawberries: 100 Devotions for the Brighter Side of Life is a collection of inspirational writings written to encourage the discouraged from giving up hope.

9.) Start a journal to record your experiences. Keeping a journal not only helps with releasing emotions, but it also assists with keeping record of your experiences. Narcissists love to tell you your memory is foggy. But if you write it down it’ll further help to reinforce your truth.

10.) Return to old passions/start doing things you love again. The sooner you go back to doing the things that make you happy, the better off you’ll be. Don’t allow the narcissist to remove enjoyable activities from your life.

11.) Exercise regularly. The benefits of regular exercise are endless. Not only are the physical effects beneficial, but mentally too. The endorphins released during exercise help to reduce anxiety and calm nerves.

How Dating a Narcissist Changes You into a Better Person – Signs You’ve Overcome Narcissistic Abuse

White woman in field smiling remembering how dating a narcissist changes you but she is no longer a victim

You’ll know when you’ve successfully conquered the ability to deal with a narcissist when you are able to do the following things:

1.) Communicating your needs becomes easier to do. You will no longer be afraid to confront the narcissist and tell them exactly how you feel. Being sucked into their manipulative triangle will no longer be possible because you will recognize their sneaky tactics immediately.

2.) Gaslighting will no longer cause self-doubt. Once you’ve educated yourself on the signs of gaslighting, you will gain more confidence during your conversations with the narcissist. He or she will no longer be able to make you doubt your reality.

3.) Feeling guilty for not catering to the abuser’s needs will no longer haunt you. Guilt trips will not affect you. You will be able to successfully block feelings of guilt in situations where there’s no need to feel guilty.

4.) Neglecting relationship needs becomes a thing of the past. Downplaying your needs from your partner will no longer occur. You will be bold enough to state your desires without hesitation.

5.) Mental peace becomes a top priority. Once you’ve decided you will no longer be a victim of narcissistic abuse, your perspective changes and you realize what’s most important. Protecting your peace will be your number one goal.

So that’s it! You’ve officially learned how dating a narcissist changes you. In addition, you’ve also discovered various ways to deal with narcissistic abuse in relationships. Always remember that you matter and to guard your heart. Allow no human to control you. You are in charge of your life, your future, and your destiny.

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You might also like:

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Lauren Sanders

Lauren Sanders is a professional matchmaker and dating coach. She helps singles find love and find themselves. She is passionate about teaching self-worth, learning from past mistakes, and inner healing.
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