21 Stages Of A Narcissistic Relationship
The tumultuous waters of a narcissistic relationship can be a complex and confusing journey. They are characterized by an endless cycle of idealization, manipulation, and devaluation that leave victims wrestling with their feelings of self-worth and morality.
In this thorough guide, we’ll go into the 21 phases typical of the narcissistic bond and shed some light on the emotional rollercoaster survivors suffer. Understanding these stages isn’t only essential for recognizing the patterns and starting a journey toward healing, growth, and empowerment.
In revealing the complexities of each stage, we’ll provide you with the knowledge that will allow you to break free from the cycle, build the life you live, and eventually succeed beyond the confines the narcissistic relationships.
What is a Narcissist?
A narcissist is a person who exhibits a constant style of grandeur and a constant desire for approval, and a lack of compassion for other people. The word “narcissism” derives from the old Greek mythology of Narcissus, who was in love with his reflection, symbolizing self-love and self-absorption.
In terms of psychology, the term “narcissism” refers to the personality traits or disorders referred to in the field of Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Key Traits and Characteristics of Narcissism:
- They are prone to an overinflated belief in their self-worth. They exaggerate their accomplishments and skills and believe they will be regarded as superior, despite having the corresponding actions.
- A lack of empathy One of the most defining characteristics of narcissism is the inability to fully comprehend or feel other people’s emotions. Narcissists tend to ignore the feelings and desires of those around them.
- Need for Appreciation Need for Attention to be admired, praised, and admired. They are seeking external validation to keep their self-esteem, which is fragile.
- The Sense of Equality Narcissists believe that they are entitled to certain privileges and treatment but not necessarily being able to earn them. They can use others to meet their wants.
- Narcissists are known to take advantage of others to gain personal advantage, whether emotional, financial, or social.
- The underlying causes of jealousy and envy are hidden behind the façade of self-assurance Narcissists frequently experience jealousy and envy towards others who appear to have greater or superior things.
How can you identify the signs of a narcissist?
You can identify a Narcissist by watching them closely. Narcissists are a bundle of characteristics that cause their companions to feel uneasy. These traits include:
- They believe they are entitled to special treatment
- Always looking to be the focal point
- The belief that one is more valuable than other people
- Doing nothing to affect the feelings of others
- Be sneaky and controllable
- Utilizing others to obtain what they desire
- I’m not feeling too regretful for the things they do
If these characteristics sound familiar, it could be that you are in a relationship with a narcissistic person.
21 Stages Of A Narcissistic Relationship
These are 21 phases of a Narcissistic relationship.
Stage 1: Idealization
At the beginning of a relationship that is narcissistic, the Narcissist showers their lover with seemingly endless love and admiration. Every interaction was an epic fairytale because the Narcissist created an image of their ideal partner. The praises flowed freely, and love gestures were plentiful.
However, the excessive praise was used to build an emotional connection on the victim’s part. One example would be someone who keeps telling their spouse that they’re the most gorgeous and special person they’ve ever seen, making them feel extremely appreciated and loved.
Stage 2: Seduction
Based on idealization, the Narcissist moves into the seduction stage. Their charisma and charm are displayed as they win their partner’s attention and imagination. Exciting dates, lavish gestures, and the creation of shared goals characterize this stage.
The person in love may feel that they’ve met their soulmate, feeling emotions they’ve never experienced before. A good example is a selfish partner who plans elaborate surprise parties, takes their partner on romantic trips, and indulges in lavish gifts to induce a feeling of joy.
Stage 3: Devaluation Begins
As time passes, the Narcissist’s attitude slowly shifts from admiration to criticism. In this phase, they see flaws in their partner while subtly diminishing their self-esteem. The once endless praise has been replaced by subtle insults and negative remarks.
The victim may be confused by the sudden shift in behavior, pondering the reason to justify such negative comments. A typical scenario could involve a partner with a narcissistic personality noting flaws in their appearance, intellect, or even their nature, which can trigger instances of self-doubt and anxiety.
Stage 4: Gaslighting
When the devaluation increases, the Narcissist will employ a highly effective manipulative tactic called gaslighting. This devious tactic involves distorting the perception of reality of the victim, which causes the victim to question their personal memory, thoughts, emotions, and even their thoughts.
The Narcissist may deny prior incidents or claims, which makes the victim doubt their credibility. For instance, if the victim brings up a sexist statement by the Narcissist earlier, they may respond with, “I never said that; you must be imagining things.” The constant denial of the victim’s perception leaves the victim feeling confused, insecure, and reliant on the narrative of the Narcissist’s things.
Stage 5: Isolation
If confidence is lost to the victim and their confidence shattered, the Narcissist will often try to cut them off from their social circle. They may attack the victim’s family and friends and present them as the sole source of understanding and care. Gradually the victim’s social ties diminish, making them more dependent on the Narcissist’s help.
The Narcissist could be able to say, “Your friends don’t really understand you as I do,” or “Your family is holding you back from your true potential.”
Stage 6: Intermittent Reinforcement
In this phase, the Narcissist utilizes an approach derived from behavioral psychology. It is known as intermittent reinforcement. They shift between negative and positive behavior, which creates a sense of uncertainty. When the victim doubts their relationships, the narcissistic person might surprise them with love and kindness, instilling hope that things will improve.
In the case of an extended period of criticism and inattention, the Narcissist could surprise the victim with a thoughtful gesture that causes them to reconsider whether they are in the right relationship.
Stage 7: Triangulation
Triangulation is a technique used by narcissists to create the feeling of jealousy and rivalry, typically using a third party. The Narcissist could speak of an ex-partner, flirt with others in front of their victim or say that someone else might be interested in them.
In introducing this aspect that is jealousy, the person seeks to make the target out of the balance. For example, the person who is a narcissist may casually mention an event in which the person was interested in the victim, which can trigger feelings of fear and anxiety regarding the connection.
Stage 8: Silent Treatment
The silence treatment is an instrument in the arsenal of a narcissist in which they renounce any emotional or social contact. Emotional isolation and neglect can last for a few hours, days, or weeks. The victim may feel unloved and begging for attention from the Narcissist.
The Narcissist could use this strategy to punish victims for their perceived infractions or assert their control. For instance, an individual may abruptly cease answering calls or messages, leaving the victim nervous, confused, and searching for any indication of connections.
Stage 9: Discard
As the cycle continues, the Narcissist will abruptly and without hesitation end the relationship. The “discard” phase often surprises the victim, leaving them feeling unloved and devastated emotionally. The Narcissist could justify their behavior by accusing the victim or pointing out flaws that justify the separation.
For example, a self-deprecating narcissist could claim, “I can’t be with someone who’s so insecure and needy,” leaving the victim feeling insecure and disoriented.
Stage 10: Hoovering
After discarding his victim, the person with narcissism might try to “hoover” them back into the relationship. This involves a variety of manipulative techniques designed to revive the love of the victim. The Narcissist could communicate remorseful messages and promise to make a change or even appear vulnerable.
One example is the Narcissist telling his victim, “I’ve realized how much I love you and can’t live without you. I’ll do anything to make things right,” tugging into the victim’s heartstrings while engaging in their desire for a positive solution.
Stage 11: Idealization Redux
At this point, the Narcissist is back to their earlier idealization techniques and rekindles the cycle. They lavish the victim with love, affection, and lavish gestures, causing a feeling of euphoria that is reminiscent of the beginning of the relationship.
This stage creates a sense of control and dependence over the victim. For example, the Narcissist may organize surprises for dates, write heartfelt letters, and declare a strong desire to get things done.
Stage 12: Empowerment and Awareness
After experiencing a series of devaluation, idealization, abandonment, and devaluation, the victim could be able to recognize the pattern. They might seek information on narcissism, manipulation, and unhealthy relationship dynamics.
This awareness is the turning point when the victim begins to regain their identity and rethink the negative narrative that the Narcissist has created. They could seek help from therapy groups, support groups, or family members for help and encouragement.
Stage 13: Detachment
With increasing awareness, the victim goes through an emotional distance from the person who is a narcissist. They begin to see past the mask and realize that the idealized portrayal of the Narcissist was a technique for manipulation.
Although detachment can be empowering, it can also be emotionally draining when the victim struggles in the aftermath of losing the dream they believed in. They may experience moments of sadness, anger, or sadness over a relationship that never really existed.
Stage 14: Setting Boundaries
During this time, the victim is taught to establish and set healthy boundaries. They realize their requirements and put their well-being first. The newfound confidence can cause disputes with the Narcissist, who is used to controlling the victim’s actions.
One example of boundary-setting might include the victim telling Narcissist, “I will not tolerate being spoken to disrespectfully. If you continue, I will end the conversation.”
Stage 15: Healing and Self-Care
When a victim continues the path of recovery, they place a high value on self-care and healing. They take part in activities that give them satisfaction, seek therapy to heal their emotional wounds, and engage in activities that support their physical and mental health. The healing process involves reclaiming one’s identity, gaining self-confidence, and learning the art of loving yourself once more.
Stage 16: No Contact
In recognition of the cycle that has been created, the victim makes the necessary step of adopting “no contact” with the Narcissist. This means severing any communication or interaction. The Narcissist could try to breach this boundary by various methods, including messages that convey guilt, manipulation, or anger. Being firm in enforcing the prohibition of contact is crucial to the recovery and healing of the victim.
Stage 17: Acceptance
When victims begin to distance themselves from their relationship, they slowly accept the real-life situation. Acceptance is the crucial stage when the victim takes that the idealized image of the Narcissist is just only a façade.
This is a difficult period, characterized by various emotions like anger, sadness, and relief. The person who suffers may be grieving over the end of the friendship they had hoped for but may also take comfort in the new clarity.
Stage 18: Rebuilding
Acceptance opens the door to rebuilding. The accepted person embarks on self-discovery, trying to find the parts of themselves that were buried or mistreated in the past relationship.
This involves discovering hobbies or passions as well as goals that provide fulfillment. Rebuilding can also mean re-establishing relationships with family and friends who might have been damaged due to the manipulation of the Narcissist.
Stage 19: Trust and Relationships
Finding healthy relationships following the trauma of a narcissistic incident isn’t easy. The victim might struggle over trust concerns and fear that people might have hidden motives. It is essential to realize that restoring trust is a process that takes time and transparent communication.
The ability to discern between toxic and healthy relationships becomes a significant concern. The suffering person may seek therapy to address concerns about trust and develop strategies for maintaining healthy relationships.
Stage 20: Continued Growth
Recovering from a narcissistic relationship is a continuous process of personal development. When the person who is being victimized remains committed to their well-being, they go through changes in their lives.
They gain mental and physical resilience and a greater awareness of their desires. The growth of their abilities helps them to face life with greater strength and understanding away from the traps of manipulation.
Stage 21: Thriving
The final phase marks the apex of empowerment and healing. Once they have emerged from the darkness of a narcissistic and thriving relationship, the person who has survived is. They develop a sense of self-worth that is not dependent on external confirmation.
They develop meaningful relationships and set goals with renewed enthusiasm. This is a triumphant affirmation that they have not only survived but thrived despite the difficulties they had to face.
A narcissist is a person who displays a variety of personality traits that are characterized by arrogance, a constant desire to be admired, and an absence of compassion. The complex personality traits may manifest differently, ranging from mild narcissistic traits to a more serious condition called Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The phrase “narcissism” draws from the Greek mythology of Narcissus, symbolizing self-absorption and a heightened sense of self-love.
Selfish people usually present themselves with a look of charisma and confidence. However, underneath lies an underlying pattern of behavior that can greatly impact their interactions with others and relationships.
The constant desire for attention and approval can result in manipulative strategies exploiting others and lacking emotional connection. Their struggle with empathy and accountability creates obstacles to communicating with them meaningfully.
Understanding the signs of narcissism is essential to maintaining healthy boundaries and staying clear of unhealthy relationships. If you find yourself in relationships with narcissistic people knowing the underlying dynamics could be a good first step in safeguarding their emotional well-being and obtaining the appropriate help.
It’s crucial to recognize that although some people may occasionally exhibit narcissistic characteristics, not all can be classified as having NPD. A qualified mental health professional can provide a precise diagnosis and help people through the challenges of dealing with narcissistic characteristics.
When navigating the complex world of narcissism, awareness, self-care, and seeking professional help are crucial. In understanding the causes of narcissism and its possible consequences, people can make informed decisions and establish healthy relationships that foster well-being and growth.