One of the hardest things a survivor of narcissistic abuse can go through is watching their abuser move on so quickly. As with most aspects of narcissistic relationships, the complexity behind a narcissist’s ability to move on so quickly stems from their insecure need to always fit in and look good to the world. Before we answer, “How can a narcissist move on so quickly?”, we are going to break down the reasons a narcissist would seek out different intimate relationships to help clarify our reasoning behind how a narcissist can move on so quickly.
Why Do Narcissists Get Married?
While narcissists do have an insecure need to fit in and look good to the world, they also have a fear of abandonment. Marriage protects both of these vulnerabilities for two reasons. As of right now, marriage is a cultural expectation. Society has created an environment where people are expected to get married and embrace everything that comes with that. Controlled by their insecure need to fit in, narcissists have been known to get married to fulfill society’s expectations.
Due to the fact that marriage symbolizes a lifelong commitment, it’s very possible that a narcissist would want to get married to minimize their fear of abandonment. Narcissistic behavior circulates around a narcissist’s need to hide their insecurities and vulnerabilities. The way they target and manipulate other human beings is almost as if they’re trying to live through another individual. They feed off the happiness of others, but one can only give so much which is why narcissists tend to be novelty seekers, people who always need the next best thing. With their obscured understanding of the consequences of their behavior, a narcissist could very well be in a marriage because of what it symbolizes and fulfilling their desire of having a lifelong narcissistic supply. They don’t fear losing their victim, they fear losing their narcissistic supply.
Another element to narcissistic marriages is confusion. Obvious examples of confusion are individuals wondering how a narcissist can move on so quickly or survivors trying to understand the depths of narcissism. However, an overlooked element of confusion within narcissistic marriages is actually within the narcissist. A majority of narcissistic behavior is instinctual, they can’t explain why they do what they do, they just do it. It’s very unlikely for a narcissist to be able to identify their insecure need to fit in or their irrational fear of abandonment.
So, if you combine this with common narcissistic traits like an overwhelming lack of empathy it becomes clear that a narcissist may not understand the significance of getting into a marriage but because of what marriage symbolizes they naturally gravitate towards it because in a way, it protects the fragile ego.
What Does a Narcissist Want From a Relationship?
The information provided in this section is universal within the narcissistic realm, meaning that it doesn’t matter if it’s an intimate relationship, professional relationship, or within a family, the information will still be relevant.
One of the best ways for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse to begin to understand what has happened to them is to define narcissism as a projection of one’s own emotional instability onto another. In theory this definition creates absolutes for the victim, it doesn’t leave them any room to rationalize or justify the narcissist’s behavior. This is very common among victims and survivors of narcissism because of how malicious a narcissist’s manipulation can be, sometimes it seems like blaming themselves is the only logical answer.
So, what does a narcissist want from a relationship?
Narcissists are some of the most self-loathing individuals on the planet and they attempt to hide their hatred of themselves through their manipulative tendencies. So, because narcissists are incapable of handling their emotions in a responsible way, they direct their anger towards the people they interact with.
Everyone is probably familiar with what happens when you put Mentos into a carbonated drink, it explodes. There’s two ways you can do this… you could drop the Mentos in and run away which will make the carbonated drink shoot out the opening into the air or you can drop the Mentos, twist the cap on, and run away, which will most likely cause a bottle to explode.
Now imagine that the narcissist is the bottle, and their emotions are the Mentos. Narcissists have an insecure desire to be seen as perfect so they wouldn’t want to be destroyed. The only way to prevent themselves from being destroyed would be to go through life without a cap. Relationships are the hands that takeoff the narcissist cap, without them, they would be forced to direct their anger at themselves, and inevitably explode.
How Can a Narcissist Move On So Quickly?
For narcissists, relationships are tools that they use to mask their vulnerabilities. So, moving on quickly is instinctual for them. They need to have another source of narcissistic supply quickly in order to function. Being replaced so quickly, especially after being dragged through the mud for months, years, or even decades, can be extremely hurtful for survivors of narcissistic abuse.
In “Why Does Your Partner Constantly Cheat?”, written by Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D. she suggests that narcissists are chronic cheaters. This inspired us to conduct our own study with the 67 participants we work with. We asked them the following:
“Did your narcissistic ex cheat on you?”
“How long was it before they had found a new source of narcissistic supply?”
Out of 67 participants 49 of them answered yes to the first question, and the average amount of time among the 67 participants was just under 30 days for question number two.
We created a follow up question for the 18 participants who answered no to question number one and found that the average time it took for their narcissistic ex to find a new source of narcissistic supply was 12 days.
This strongly implies that the narcissist had been involved with their new source of supply prior to the end of their relationships with our participants.
What Else Can You Expect After a Narcissistic Relationship Has Ended?
As mentioned before, narcissists have an extremely insecure need to fit in and look good to the world. They constantly need validation and reassurance so when a narcissistic relationship ends, they are extremely vulnerable and prone to lashing out. This is called narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury is when the narcissist’s fragile ego gets damaged because they’ve felt something along the lines of being rejected, insulted, criticized and so on. Narcissistic injuries are extremely deep psychological wounds which is why it’s so hard for them to just let things go.
Narcissistic rage is a product of a narcissist’s inability to control their own emotions. It is terrifying for victims because of how quickly it can occur. The rage is so sporadic that many of our victims mistakenly identified narcissistic rage as a borderline personality disorder.
“Oh, I thought he had a mental illness because I couldn’t figure out why he would be so mean and then so kind. So, for a long time I thought he had borderline personality disorder or bipolar” Brie Robertson
There isn’t a limit on how far a narcissist will go during a rage phase. It could be something along the lines of yelling or toppling over furniture or could be extremely dangerous like physical violence.
Flying monkeys are the ace of spades when it comes to isolation we’ve covered this form of manipulation in depth in one of our previous articles called, The Best Way to Disarm Flying Monkeys: 431 Survivors’ Advice. Flying monkeys are people who the narcissist has turned against the victim. More often than not these tend to be people close to both the victim of narcissistic abuse and the narcissist like friends and family. Narcissists are extremely superficial and charming so, oftentimes the victims of narcissistic abuse are the only ones who truly know what the narcissist is really like. Therefore, narcissist use this tactic to prevent being exposed as an abuser.
To create flying monkeys the narcissist will spread lies about the victim to devalue their voice. This is a very strategic process because the narcissist will start with the type of gossip that leaves people wanting to hear more. Then they will gradually increase the wow factor until they’re spewing elaborate lies that turn others against the victim.
Robert is a manager at XYZ and has been verbally abusive to the new employee for a few months now. One day Robert finds out that the new employee is planning on reporting him to the owners, so he starts to enlist flying monkeys.
“I don’t know how long the new employee is going to last here because apparently the owner called his old boss and she said he was a drug addict…”
“Have you noticed how much the new employee goes to the bathroom during his shift?”
“I saw the new guy this weekend passed out in the alley…”
“I went to the bathroom the other night and saw him snorting something off the counter…”
Robert is protecting himself by using strategic lies to betray the new employee as a drug addict. So, when the owners come in asking the employees questions about Robert’s behavior towards a new employee, they’re not going to mention the narcissistic abuse, they’re going to mention the new employee’s “drug problem.”
This process of strategically telling lies to the people around the victim in an attempt to devalue their voice and or image is very common in narcissism. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to happen in every single narcissistic relationship.
The vengefulness of a narcissist is not to be underestimated. When they’re fragile ego is bruised, they become some of the most malicious people on the planet. It is very rare that narcissistic divorces can be finalized through mediation. More often than not narcissistic divorces require attorneys because after narcissistic injury, it’s very possible for narcissist to develop almost like a single-minded commitment to destroy their victim.
They will fight tooth and nail to the very end… and then some…
Here are a few forms of financial abuse that one of our participants is currently going through
- He wouldn’t even talk about a separation unless I had a lawyer.
- He had our joint savings in his name and spent it all.
- I got a letter for EVERYTHING. Every time I get a letter it costs me (and him) money.
- I didn’t drop a game boy (or switch) off once and I got about half a dozen letters.
- He refused to pay for daycare and extra activities.
- He pays child support on half of his income.
- Doesn’t help with clothes or back to school.
- He intimidated me out of the house and tried to get me to be responsible for the bills.
- He wants me to pay for the garbage bin he rented to throw out items from the house.
- He’s going after my pension.
Having to watch a narcissistic partner move on is very similar to the grief and relief pattern we outlined in Why Do I Keep Thinking About My Narcissistic Ex? and Can You Get Closure From a Narcissist?.
On one hand the victim could feel very angry about the abuse that they had to endure and to see the narcissist move on like nothing ever happened is extremely painful.
And on the other hand the victim could feel anxious or even terrified that the narcissist will be better for the other person which is very common to see and completely understandable.
Just because a narcissist has moved on doesn’t mean they’ve really moved on, and as hard as it is to let go of the wish for things to be different the path to a brighter future begins with acknowledging that the narcissist is never going to change.
All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.
Interviewing Unfilteredd’s 67 participants who have survived narcissistic relationships
Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist by Ramani Durvasula