This important question came from our community: “How does narcissistic abuse impact our future relationships?” I did some research. Here’s what I ended up with.

Narcissistic abuse can have a negative impact on your future relationships because it can cause you to develop trust issues, seek validation from others, have difficulties with setting boundaries, be hyper-vigilant, fear emotional intimacy, and value your independence to an extreme.

In this article, I will explain each of these to help you understand how experiencing narcissistic abuse can hurt your future relationships.

1.) It Makes It Hard to Trust Other People

It is common to develop trust issues because of narcissistic abuse.1

The abuse and manipulation you faced can leave you wary of people’s intentions, fearing that they might also try to take advantage of you.

For example, imagine you’re starting a new relationship. 

In the past, the narcissist in your life often made promises they didn’t keep and lied about things both big and small. 

Now, when the new person in your life says they will call you at a specific time or promises to do something for you, you feel anxious and skeptical. 

A woman feeling anxious when being asked a question.

This confuses you because the new person in your life has never given you a reason to doubt them.

But here’s the deal: your experience with narcissistic abuse causes you to fear that they might betray your trust the same way the narcissist.

This fear can make it difficult to take their words at face value and prevent you from fully opening up and connecting with this new person.

2.) It Causes You to Seek Validation from Others

Narcissistic abuse often involves constant criticism and devaluation, which can leave you with a damaged sense of self-worth. 

Because of this, you might find yourself constantly seeking validation from others in your future relationships or going out of your way to please them, even at the expense of your own needs and happiness.2

For instance, let’s say in the past, the narcissist in your life frequently criticized you and made you feel like you were never good enough. 

Because of this, in future relationships, you might be overly concerned about whether or not you’re being a good partner, friend, coworker, etc., to the point where you’re always making compromises for others. 

What do I mean?

Well, let’s imagine this future relationship is a romantic one.

Your tendency to compromise could manifest in allowing your partner to always choose the movie or restaurant or even making significant decisions about how you spend your time together.


You’re afraid of being criticized, rejected, humiliated, manipulated, etc., because of your experiences with narcissistic abuse.

Addressing this behavior is crucial because it can create a one-sided relationship in which your needs and desires are consistently overlooked.

Meaning that your new relationship is essentially replicating a dynamic similar to the one you experienced with the narcissist.

3.) It Makes Setting Boundaries Difficult

Experiencing narcissistic abuse can make it challenging for you to set healthy boundaries in future relationships. 

Generally speaking, this is because narcissists often punish the people they abuse for even thinking about setting boundaries with them.3

Over time, this punishment can cause a person to develop a belief that they shouldn’t or aren’t allowed to have boundaries with others.

Let’s take a look at an example of this playing out.

Suppose in the past, every time you tried to set a boundary, like asking for some alone time or declining to share passwords, the narcissist became emotionally abusive, accusing you of not trusting or loving them.

A man getting yelled at.

Experiencing this could make you hesitant to set boundaries in future relationships for fear of conflict or upsetting the new person in your life.

In fact, you might find yourself agreeing to things you’re uncomfortable with, like lending money or committing to plans that don’t fit your schedule, because you’re afraid saying “no” will push them away.

This fear can create a relationship in which your needs are sidelined simply because you don’t feel you have the right to express them.

4.) It Makes You Hyper-Vigilant with Others

It is important to spend some time educating yourself about narcissistic abuse so that you can be aware of the red flags you should look out for.

However, sometimes, survivors of narcissistic abuse become overly vigilant or sensitive to potential signs of narcissism in future relationships.4 

This hyper-vigilance can, and often does, lead to misinterpretations of benign behaviors, causing anxiety and tension in new relationships.

For example, say you come from a narcissistic family of origin where you were constantly controlled, belittled, and manipulated by the narcissist.

Now, you’re an adult and have distanced yourself from your family, but you are extremely alert to any behavior that could indicate narcissism.

If your new partner wants to spend a lot of time together, you might immediately worry they’re trying to control you, just like the narcissist did. 

Or if they receive a lot of attention on social media, you might suspect they’re seeking admiration from others, another trait of narcissism. 

This state of high alert can make it difficult for you to relax and enjoy the relationship. 

As a result, you might find yourself analyzing every little thing your partner does, which can create distance between the two of you and prevent the development of a healthy, trusting relationship.

5.) It Causes You to Fear Emotional Intimacy

If you experience narcissistic abuse, you might develop a fear of intimacy.

This fear typically stems from associating intimacy with vulnerability and, ultimately, pain, as opening up in the past led to abuse and manipulation.5

For example, let’s say in the past, the narcissist in your life used every single piece of information you gave them about yourself to humiliate you.

A narcissist sharing someone's secrets at a party.

Fast forward a couple of years… 

Now, when a new partner seeks a deeper emotional connection or wants to discuss future plans and feelings, you might instinctively pull back. 


You fear that revealing your innermost thoughts could give them ammunition to hurt you, just like the narcissist from your past did. 

This can lead to surface-level relationships in which you hold back a significant part of who you are, preventing you and the new people in your life from truly connecting on a deeper, more meaningful level.

6.) It Makes You Value Your Independence to an Extreme

The controlling nature of narcissistic abuse can cause you to swing to the opposite end of the spectrum, valuing your independence to an extreme. 

While independence is healthy, overemphasizing it can create barriers to forming healthy relationships in the future, especially romantic ones.6

For example, say the narcissist dictated everything from what you wore to who you spent time with, leaving little room for your autonomy. 

To reclaim your sense of self, you now fiercely guard your independence, making decisions without consulting your partner or insisting on keeping most aspects of your life separate from the relationships. 

You avoid sharing personal struggles, making plans together, or even integrating your partner into your circle of friends. 

While this may protect you from feeling controlled, it can also prevent the development of a supportive, unified partnership where both parties contribute to decision-making and face life’s challenges together.

For more helpful information like this, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

A big part of the healing process is understanding the effect the abuse has on you.

When it comes to future relationships, narcissistic abuse tends to have a harmful effect for the following reasons:

  • It prevents you from trusting other people.
  • It causes you to seek validation from others.
  • It makes setting boundaries extremely difficult.
  • It makes you hyper-vigilant with others.
  • It causes you to fear emotional intimacy.
  • It makes you value your independence to an extreme.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article!

If you have something to say, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I’d love to engage with you and hear your thoughts.

Our Latest Articles

About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Arlin Cuncic. (2023. November, 6). Effects of Narcissistic Abuse. Verywell Mind. ↩︎
  2. Kaytee Gillis. (2023. June, 14). 16 Signs of Narcissistic Abuse & Victim Syndrome. Choosing Therapy. ↩︎
  3. Crystal Raypole. (2023. June, 6). 12 Signs You’ve Experienced Narcissistic Abuse (Plus How to Get Help). Healthline. ↩︎
  4. Shahida Arabi. (2017. August, 21). 11 Signs Youre the Victim of Narcissistic Abuse. Psych Central. ↩︎
  5. Rachael Pace. (2023. December, 4). How to Have a Healthy Relationship After Emotional Abuse. ↩︎
  6. Sylvia Smith. (2023. July, 28). How Being Too Independent Can Destroy Your Relationship. ↩︎

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.