monkey branching

Monkey Branching: Why Narcissists Are Always in New Relationships

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When you’re involved with a narcissist, you cycle through intense emotions regularly. Fear, insecurity, dread, sadness, shame, anticipation- these are just some of the familiar feelings you might encounter during the day. 

Life often feels chaotic and nonsensical. One moment, they promise you the world, telling you they’d do anything to make you happy. The next, they act like you are complete garbage, and it’s as if you’re the worst person they’ve ever met.

Then, they oscillate between being entirely committed to the relationship and straying to a new partner. 

Narcissists use manipulation tactics to get what they want, and monkey branching is one method they use to maintain their narcissistic supply. But what is this toxic phenomenon, and what signs do you need to know?

What Is Monkey Branching?

Think of how monkeys swing from branch to branch. They move swiftly and confidently, their feet never touching the ground, their eyes laser-focused on their next move. And yet, they’re calculated and efficient; they don’t release one branch until they’ve secured their hand around another one. 

When it comes to humans, monkey branchers perpetually prepare themselves for the next best thing. They have their eyes peeled on a new person or relationship even when they appear to be committed to you. As a result, they swing from tree to tree, hopping onto whatever next thing looks exciting, and their moves are intentional and rehearsed. 

A monkey brancher prepares themselves for an optimal exit strategy in case the relationship fails. They never completely surrender to their partner. Subsequently, they cannot fully settle or commit, and no matter how ‘in love’ they might claim to be, they still aim to keep their options open.

Of course, many monkey branchers are actively cheating on their partners. They freely swing from tree to tree, not caring about the consequences. Others just get close to infidelity, and their actions are highly disrespectful and manipulative.  

Why Do Narcissists Monkey Branch?

At the core of it, narcissists monkey branch because they get the best of both worlds. They have a committed, dedicated partner (you) while still feeling free to explore their other options.

Narcissists are never happy with what they have- at least not for very long. They always want more, more, more. At first, this may seem paradoxical, especially if the relationship is new. In the beginning, the supply you offer them feels complete (that’s where the constant love bombing comes in). But time always reveals their true motives- the more attached you become to them, the more they start devaluing you. 

At the same time, they usually pinpoint at least one person they can rebound with if the relationship fails. This provides them with a viable backup plan. This explains why many narcissists move onto new relationships so quickly- they already had someone else lined up. 

(Temporarily) Satisfying the Inflated Ego 

Narcissists have inflated egos and an unrealistic sense of entitlement. If they want something, their mind automatically justifies why they deserve to have it. 

However, the inflated ego is as fragile as it is large- the moment the narcissist doesn’t get what they want, they overreact. This is known as ego threat, and it’s one reason they struggle with emotional regulation. 

They rationalize monkey branching behavior in response to an ego threat. They often assume they deserve better in the relationship, and flirting with someone else can temporarily satisfy their insatiable need to feel important and unique.  

Maintaining or Refueling the Narcissistic Supply

You already know that narcissists require ongoing validation and recognition to feel important in their lives. Because they cannot give themselves self-love, they rely on external sources to provide affection. 

The narcissist refuels their supply in numerous ways: using people, accumulating material goods, achieving a desirable status, obsessing over their appearance, or engaging in compulsive behaviors. They may alternate between these methods frequently. 

Many narcissists start monkey branching once they feel the relationship no longer serves their needs. This can happen at any point, but it’s relatively common after you start standing up for yourself or implement boundaries. It can also occur when you start experiencing some of your own successes- they can’t tolerate you being “better” than them, so they aim to find other ways to refuel their supply.


Narcissists hate losing. If they feel threatened in the relationship, it triggers their narcissistic rage

As a result, they might start monkey branching to restore a sense of “winning the game.” With this strategy, they can feel more powerful and important.

They might also flirt or cheat to hurt you. If they believe you have wronged them (even if it’s completely untrue), the monkey branching “levels” their distorted playing field.

Unfortunately, they would instead harm you first than be caught off-guard.

Common Signs of Monkey Branching

How do you know if the narcissist is guilty of this dirty habit? Here are some of the key signs.

Extremely Flirtatious

Do you feel a knot of dread every time you’re out with the narcissist because you know they’re going to say something inappropriate? Has a friend ever suggested that your partner made them feel uncomfortable?

 If you confront them on this behavior, do they get extremely defensive and insist they’re just friends, or that the other person is flirting with them?

Chronic flirting means that your partner doesn’t respect your boundaries or the sanctity of your relationship. Unfortunately, if they know they can get away with it, they don’t have any incentive to stop. 

Private with Technology

They password-protect their phone. When you ask about it, they insist it’s just for safety. But if you ask to borrow their phone to make a call or look up something, they become skittish and uncomfortable.

They also might be spending much more time online- whether that’s scrolling through social media, sending emails, or interacting on message boards. If you casually ask what they’re doing, they might respond defensively or vaguely.

Dating Apps

There is no reason a committed partner needs to have dating apps on their phone. Don’t fall for the line that they haven’t gotten around to “deleting it” or that they’re using it to “find friends.” 99% of the time, that is a bald-faced lie. 

Many monkey branchers use these apps to ‘see what’s out there.’ Or, they might take it a step further and connect to interact with others.

Spending More Time Outside the Home

Suddenly, they’re going to the gym every morning before work. Or, they want another weekend out with the boys. They went out for a quick grocery errand, but it’s been three hours. What’s going on?

Spending more time outside the home could mean anything, but it can certainly represent a monkey branching red flag.

Accusing You of Cheating (Or Expressing Their Fear About It)

Narcissists love to deflect their behavior onto someone else, particularly when they know they’re doing something suspicious. Therefore, they will project their actions onto you. 

They might try to reinforce how much they ‘need’ you with emotionally charged statements like, I don’t know what I’d ever do if you cheated on me. I’d be completely devastated.

Or, they might try to convince you that you’re doing something wrong. I know you’re just trying to be friendly, but any guy is going to assume you’re flirting with him if you keep acting that way. 

Make no mistake- these lofty admissions aren’t about proclaiming their love. It’s a form of emotional abuse designed to keep you feeling controlled.

Very Little Time Spent Single

If your partner has dozens of ex-partners, this is probably a red flag. Healthy dating requires time in between relationships. This time allows people to process and heal from the breakup properly. It also allows them to work on themselves and reflect on what they want in their next relationship.

If your partner hopped around from relationship to relationship, it’s a telltale sign they’re a serial monkey brancher. The moment things started looking bad, they were already emotionally or physically out the door.

What Should You Do If Your Partner Is Monkey Branching?

It’s painful to feel like you aren’t a significant priority in your partner’s life. First, it’s important to remember that their behavior isn’t a reflection of you or your character. Furthermore, this is not your fault, even if the narcissist tries to pin the blame onto you.

Monkey branching is self-centered and harmful. It’s a selfish way for narcissists to meet their needs, and many people get hurt in the eventual crossfire. 

Avoid Questioning 

It isn’t worth bombarding them with questions. Even if you want a meaningful explanation, a narcissist can’t give you one. They will either deny or downplay the behavior. Or, they will turn it onto you by accusing you of being controlling, paranoid, or insecure.

Narcissists often know exactly what they’re doing– they just don’t care.  

Consider Your Intentions

Why are you still in the relationship? If you feel trapped, it’s time to look inwards and consider your options. What next step can you take to maintain your self-worth and honor your well-being? 

End the Behavior

Maybe this sounds familiar…

You recently settled into a vague sense of security after the narcissist swore on their mother’s grave that they wouldn’t (insert relationship crime) again, yet you discovered they broke their “sacred” promise.  Perhaps they…

  • Swore they’d stop cheating, but you discovered they not only cheated again, they never stopped
  • Swore they’d try to be a better partner, spouse, friend, or parent, but after a short period of charades, they went back to the same ole, same ole
  • Swore they’d stop being insensitive, stop raging, stop lying, but you realized it was all just more lies

Consequently, you not only loathe the narcissist, but you also loathe yourself for falling for their lies once more.  You feel the punch of indignation in your gut and your fight-or-flight reaction kicks into overdrive.

I know this feeling and there’s almost nothing worse than the ice that runs through your veins after discovering the narcissist has been chatting it up with other people behind your back…or even in bed beside you while you’re asleep.

You may try to help them understand what they’re doing, trying to convert them to become faithful. You may blame yourself for their behavior. The relationship appears to have positive qualities, which confuses the picture. But it’s important to keep in mind that the “nice times” are an integrated part of the abuse. 

When you stop making positive choices for yourself (and any minor children you may have), the negative outweighs the positive, and the relationship has become deeply destructive.

Over time, this pattern becomes exhausting! You will spend more time doing detective work than you will enjoying the actual relationship. 

Being cheated on is harmful and psychologically damaging. Making the choice to do something different and empowering gives you the freedom to pursue your own interests, passions, and relationships- without worrying about someone else sabotaging them. 

Get Started On The Stages of Healing After Narcissistic Monkey Branching

Do you ever feel like you’re about to snap?

Are you guilty of sucking it up and saying, “I just need to work harder?”

This place is familiar to me. I get it. You don’t want to start a process that could take a long time. You’re also not sure if you can trust yourself to not give into hoovering attempts by the toxic person in your life.

I also understand that you’re probably ready to try anything.

A fresh perspective. A different pathway. A new YOU.

Clarity & Encouragement Sessions

As an intuitive coach with 13+ years of experience, I offer a compassionate hand to guide you through the challenges that have arisen in your relationship(s) with toxic individuals. These sessions help you gain clarity, reach a decision that you need help with, and are a gentle container free from judgement. Or I can simply hold space for you while you process your emotions. 

Click here to view availability and secure your spot.

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M says May 14, 2024

Also, I just saw April’s comment and I agree with her! Narcs often believe that they are above others.
Mine told me that he couldn’t be seen with me at events because his clients are the “most elite in the world”.
So with that statement, he implied that I wasn’t good enough to be in the company of such people (but he is).
He has said that I look frumpy, my clothes are old, and that I’m basically not accomplished enough to be in the presence of these “elite” people.

Furthermore, I was also moved by Diane’s comment about her partner, where she said that she could tell he had new supply.
Me too! Mine has been doing the silent treatment, acting distant, being annoyed at me, etc.
I feel that there is somebody else and he has been hiding this person for a long time. I’ve tried to find out who it is. I plan to find out so I can confront her…mainly to learn more about how long this has been happening, and then I can go from there.

And yes, we can always tell when something isn’t right. Their behavior gives them away.

M says April 20, 2024

More (possible) evidence of monkey branching…if they hide you or your relationship status, online and sometimes in real life.

So this could be like refusing to post pictures of you, downplaying your relationship or your role in their life, or (in some cases) telling others that you are just a “friend” instead of their spouse/partner.
Also if others meet you and act confused…because the narc has told people they are single, or they have been spotted with somebody else at one time.

With this type of monkey branching, they often compartmentalize. So they will have a relationship with you…but they will also have other secret relationships at work, online, etc.
I had a friend whose boyfriend did not even acknowledge dating her. He told people she was crazy, they never dated, etc.
All of this was a complete lie and she was so hurt when she found out. She was gorgeous and a sweet person, so it’s not like there was anything to hide. He was just a cheater.

And in my case, my husband started acting weird when it came to us taking a picture, and he avoided taking me to anything where we might see people he knew.
I caught on quick and demanded to know what the deal was. He continued to lie, but I could just feel it in my bones.
I still feel that it’s somebody at his workplace or connected to his workplace somehow. With monkey branching, there will be excuses that don’t make sense (which means they are lying to you).
Telling you they are working all the time but the financial situation indicates otherwise…keeping you out of the loop on important matters…not allowing you to attend certain events or meet certain people.

I think if they act shady with social media and the other things I mentioned, you might be dealing with a “monkey brancher”.
They want to have you in their life but still seem single or available to others.

April says September 28, 2022

Agreed. This is because they think they are better than everyone else. They feel others are less than them. They feel they deserve whatever it is they want; entitled.

They sit high on their imaginary throne above everyone. They believe they can outsmart anyone because they are smarter than everyone. Their outsmart tactics are to manipulate. They lack empathy , compassion, concern , regard or love for any one but themselves albeit self love is not actually love its pride; an evil self loathing, spiteful , arrogant selfish hateful contempt for all others but one self .
As the ‘Biblical Perspectives of Narcisism’ blogger likes to say and I agree, Its a ‘heart condition’

I think most would also agree

I love and appreciate this so much Kim. Keep up the good work. You are such a blessing to all who find you here!

jp says December 6, 2021

Exactly on the technology part. Once my ex was driving and his phone in the center console rang. I went to pick it up for him and he slapped it out of my hand so fast I was injured. I wasn’t even planning on looking at the stupid thing. And his computers – locked up tighter than national security. Of course over the years, I learned about all his activities. Now I would NEVER trust someone who is extra secretive and protective of their tech. I like privacy too but I wouldn’t go insane if someone handed me a phone or asked to use my computer for a quick need.

Olivia says December 6, 2021

This would also work with narcissists you aren’t in a romantic relationship with e.g. why do they have constant new groups of friends? My mum constantly has a new group of friends, then they magically disappear, to be replaced by another new group of friends. In a cycle.

    jp says December 6, 2021

    Yep. My narcissist mother doesn’t do what you do but she maintains a large circle of family and friends and swings from each monkey branch (except for her precious golden children) wildly. If you are young, get away if you are being hurt and never look back. Don’t let her steal your life as my mother did mine. Pre-internet days – bad timing for me as no info on narcs back then….

      jp says December 6, 2021

      oops typo above and I can’t edit – I meant to say “what your mother does”

Anonymous says August 23, 2021

It has been 4 months since I left my narcissists ex,he says I “ran away” from him and our relationship,but I had to get away from him before he completly destroyed me.he tried to commit suicide back in January,he waited for me to go to work and sent an sms saying ‘saying b thanks for the pills babe,and that i would have a surprise waiting for him in the bed when I returned home something I always wanted.he called his ex and told her that he was going to end it with me,because he told her he “thought” I was cheating on him which was total not true.she helped him to beleive that I was with fake text messages sent to him from other guys that she set up to say they had been with me.he attempted suicide by talking a whole bottle of pills and driving his car to a special spot of yours to gas himself in his car.his ex called 000 and saved his life,while I was ablivious to it all while at work.i was told by his ex and his daughter not to visit him in the hospital because it was my fault in was in I never visited.2 days later he sent me a text messages telling my I was a cold heartless b%$&h and how could I not be at his bedside.he was cheating on my through our whole relationship with so many women and prostitutes,and was in a relationship with a married women who I think was the reason he attempted to commit suicide because she would”nt leave her husband for him.he wanted me to suffer and used all the tactics with his monkey branching right through the relationship.i still can not get over him blaming me for him trying to end his life and somehow I feel like I must be a really nasty person,for someone to end their life over,when all I ever did was love him unconditionally and put up with his lies and deceit and cheating and disrespect for so long.i feel as though I don”t deserve to be on this earth if I can make someone that hurts to know that he is happy in a relationship straight after he disguarded me,with the married women who left her husband to be with him,and is so happy and in love.congratulations to them both,especially her because she better buckle up and hang on tight cause she is in for one” hell of a ride”.

    Karen says September 10, 2021

    Anonymous you have described my childhood my father he did this to me and my mum when I was five months pregnant with my first child. I finely got my mum to understand after years of my father being unfaithful to divorce him. My mum was a door mat and put him first always before me. Sadly my mum straight into the arms of another after just three months who was a gambler . Some people you can’t help but I hope you have a happy life. Love to youx.

Karen says August 21, 2021

My take is you don’t fit their profile then they move on. You become inconvenient that you do not match up. You are an item on their shopping list to be used then discarded when you don’t fit the picture. They see nothing wrong in this in their mind doing this . You are an item the same as a product on the shelf you are of practical use to them.

Indyanonymous says July 24, 2021

Going through this now after 20 years of in and out, all my fault, not quite good enough for him, he had someone on the line before he left- just friends- less than 4 months later they are with each other’s families vacationing .He pulls me in and pushes me back, I love him, always have. But know he never will be able to give himself fully and it will always be him first. Yet I just want the Us I know happened at times back.

Anonymous says July 9, 2021

This is so much true whyyyyyyy these kind of disorders occur in peopleeeeee ??

Diane Murillo says July 7, 2021

How can I stop crying and wanting this mean horrible disrespectful man.

Diane Murillo says July 7, 2021

Oh my god yes . I’ve been addicted you’re right.
I don’t want to be addicted to him hes been giving me the silent treatment for reason again.
And he’s being irritated like everything is wrong can’t talk to him just so disrespectful with me. I feel it in my gut . He has a new Supply. After 7 years waiting
For the wonderful good in him. That i love in him. But never stays
Every thing is negative. Just keeping me sad most of the time.

    Kim Saeed says August 16, 2021

    I am so sorry for what you’re going through, Diane, and I can relate totally. If you’re feeling discouraged, I really want to recommend the Break Free Bootcamp to you. Because this will start helping you unpack everything, giving you your life and your soul back. You can review it here:

    Either way, I truly hope you find a way to escape the madness and get your life back ♡´・ᴗ・`♡

    Kim Xo

Krishna says June 17, 2021

Thank you, Kim, so very much, for your articles, your insight and for sharing your experiences and the lessons learned. I might have lost my mind or taken my own life had I not been directed your way. My narcissist is my husband, and I was so pain-trained by him over the course of the 15 years of marriage, I didn’t even recognize myself anymore, nor could I hear my own voice. I’m truly thankful. I’m waking up now, finding inner strength from you and other survivors. Just realizing that this is really a ‘thing’, that it’s real, and that I am not alone has been a life changer for me! At this point, he controls the money for the most part, I’m on disability, so I only get the one check at the beginning of the month, but by the time bills are paid, mine is pretty much tapped out, however, he gets weekly check from his Pastor-ing at the Church, so he has a continual supply, which he has started diverting and withholding for his own purposes. I am working on an exit strategy, because he knows that I’m different with him now, the blinders are off and I am not a great pretender. This is getting to be more than a comment, huh? Just wanted to thank you for saving my life, literally.

    Kim Saeed says August 16, 2021

    Thank you, Krishna, for letting me know that my work has helped you. It means more than you know. Sending love and hope for continued healing for you ♥(ˆ⌣ˆԅ)

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