Disclaimer: This story contains details of narcissistic abuse that may be triggering to some.
“I met this guy on Facebook and oh, did he seem so charming and he was pleasing to the eye. Immediately, there were fireworks! On our first date, he bought me the biggest bouquet of flowers I’ve ever had, we went to eat Thai food, followed up by milkshakes, and laughed the night away. Fast-forward to a 5-year restraining order later, I never thought this past year would nearly destroy my mental health and everything that I had going for me.
One of my friends, Kim, reached out during our first big breakup (one of many) that involved a big fight and my phone being thrown out of a car window. Never had I experienced this type of treatment before. She told me my boyfriend sounded much like a narcissist from the over-the-top love bombing she saw from him.
He was always commenting on my Facebook posts and hijacking other’s comments to make himself known. He would curse and scream at me while calling me names. She began to see a cycle of abuse that was unbeknownst to me. I started researching Narcissism and realized right away that I was in fact dealing with a narcissist.
Some symptoms of narcissism include:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Believes he or she is ‘special’ and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Requires excessive admiration
- A very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
It wasn’t until 4 months in that I started seeing and realizing what the cycle of abuse was. Yes, there is a pattern to the abuse they follow and almost every case is the same.
The cycles go through the following phases:
1. Idealization or ‘Honeymoon’ stage. This is the phase where love-bombing occurs. You meet whom you believe to be Mr. Right because you can relate to him on a deep level. He spends most of his free time messaging you, calling you, asking you what you are doing, sending you selfies, or asking to see you. You feel so valued and important to the narcissist! One thing you must realize is that they chose you because they saw something within you that they could use for their own needs such as your health, wealth, younger age, social status, etc. Narcissists want a piece of what you have.
2. Devalue stage. After a period of a few weeks or months, the narcissist will grow bored. He or she will begin to devalue you by a number of tactics. Victims of abuse are often unaware this stage has begun; their intuition is niggling them that something has changed and it’s often hard to put a finger on it. Narcissists play a public game and a private game which makes it harder to understand. Expressing your concerns suddenly turns you into the ‘jealous one’ and they make you doubt yourself. They become cold and uncaring almost overnight. This is when the ‘mask falls,’ and you see the real person. They make excuses, and if we don’t accept these excuses, then we are the ‘crazy’ one. They are managing down your expectations from constant contact to crickets. This verbal and emotional abuse hurts.
3. Discard stage. Many victims often say the ‘discard’ came out of the blue and that everything was fine, then they get a phone call, text, or Facebook message dismissing them in a cold and hurtful way. In the devalue stage the narcissist went hot and cold. The narcissist discards you when your usefulness has run out. There is only one reason you were ever in the narcissist’s life – which was to provide ‘attention.’ The energy allows the narcissist to self-regulate his or her fragile and precarious False Self. And if the ‘attention’ you are providing is not good enough quality for the narcissist anymore, or if you have threatened the False Self in such a way that undermines the narcissist’s fabricated image, he or she may cease all investment in you and begin the quest to secure another source of better grade narcissistic supply, aka looking for another person to date.
4. Hover stage. This stage happens and it happens more often than one might think. Narcissists almost always come back to their exes, mostly when there isn’t another person to take your place yet. They cannot be alone and they often jump from relationship to relationship without any warning or time elapsed. When they hover over you for days, weeks, and sometimes even years later, they will contact you as if nothing ever happened. They may text you and say they miss you or drive by your work in an attempt to run into you. The whole point of the hover stage is to draw you back in for more attention or supply. Then the cycle starts ALL over from here. Back to love-bombing and the eventual brutal discard.
During my year long relationship, we probably went through at least TEN discards or breakups, most of which were initiated by my narcissist. After the idealization phase ended, he started realizing I was human, and not this person he made up inside of his mind. He started complaining that I did not show him enough attention and that I did not post him enough on my social media. I started seeing how controlling he truly was during the many devalue stages that we had.
For example, I was not allowed to have any male friends and had to delete any male he felt threatened by on social media–all the while he was still friends with people whom he slept with and was cheating on me steadily throughout the entire relationship. Yes, most narcissists are prone to cheating because they need a constant supply of attention. I caught mine messaging not one, but two escorts on a work trip. He told me it was just for a sensual massage, but why would he give them a fake name if that were the case? But there were always two sets of rules–one I needed to follow and one he would follow. Things were never equal.
He would get jealous of me hanging out with my friend and her husband and son. He felt I should put him above my children and would get jealous of them. Then all of this eventually escalated to many other types of abuse and silent treatments where I would be blocked for a few days at a time or until I was ‘sorry.’ According to him, I had to EARN him unblocking me from social–all the while he was grooming and speaking to his new girlfriend who he went Facebook official with 4 days after our breakup. See, they move on fast. Why? Because narcissists are not capable of being truly emotionally invested in someone.
When I reflect back on our relationship, I have major PTSD. I still have nightmares a month later. I have zero desire to date or to even try. Narcissists are soul suckers and they will drain you of your energy. I am not being dramatic; it is the actual truth. From the physical pain to emotional, it all hurts.
The best thing that came out of my narcissistic abusive relationship was meeting and becoming close to his ex-girlfriend who he deemed as ‘crazy.’ Turns out she was not crazy at all. None of his exes were. I now see him as the common denominator. Narcissists will guilt you into thinking it was your fault the relationship ended, but you should know better. My therapist told me to make a list of all the bad things about my narcissist partner and I honestly filled up the entire page and then some. I barely could count on one-hand of all the good things. When you come to terms that your relationship with the narcissist was not real and that it was fabricated, then you are much better off.
I want you to be careful. I want you to look for the red flags in your relationships. All too often, we are so blinded by ‘love’ that we don’t even care about what might seem off about a person. I only wasted a year of my life, but it could have easily been 5, 10, or 15 years. I have heard of many women who have stayed with abusive men and people on the outside never fully get it–unless they have been through it.
The reason why most victims stay in these cycles is due to a trauma bond. The cycle truly addicts you because it alternates between loving and fighting. If you’ve ever observed a relationship that made you question whether it was love or abuse, then you’ve witnessed the toxic power of a trauma bond. This unique form of manipulation is characterized by repetitive behaviors, in which the narcissist operates within a cycle of abuse, resulting in a trauma bond that is strengthened with every repeated misdeed.
A narcissist’s cycle is an addictive pattern that fuels a need for validation while conditioning their partner to believe toxic behaviors are normal. As the pattern repeats, a narcissist leverages inconsistent positive reinforcement to lure their partner back. Often, this cycle becomes an endless pursuit to win back the original love and admiration that was once abundant. By the time awareness kicks in, and it’s clear the relationship must end, victims often feel too trapped to leave.
Symptoms of a trauma bond:
- Walking on Eggshells. You find yourself trying to please your abuser who gives you little in return. You walk carefully around the narcissist in your life to avoid ‘making’ them upset or angry.
- Letting Go. Although you understand your partner is abusive, you cannot get yourself to let go of the relationship. Instead, you ruminate over their abusive behavior towards you and engage in blaming yourself for the wrongdoing of the narcissist in your life.
- Dependent. Your self-esteem and self-worth are dependent upon what the narcissist says of you and behaves toward you.
- You Change Your Behavior. You often change your behavior to give the abuser what they want, putting your own needs on the back burner. However, the narcissist does nothing to meet your needs.
- Addicted. You feel the need to have your partner validate and approve of everything you do. You continue to look toward the narcissist for comfort only to be met with more abuse. You are addicted to being poorly treated and playing the narcissist’s game.
- Defending the Abuser. You find yourself keeping the bad behavior of your narcissist secret and defending it to others. Even when family or friends try to warn you of what they see, you defend by claiming your relationship is a good one and that you are happy.
- Self-Sabotaging Behaviors. One might begin to engage in any of many self-harming behaviors, including substance abuse, cutting, or developing an eating disorder. You might also find yourself dissociating away from the pain and shame caused by the narcissist.
If you are reading these signs and resonate with any of them, I want you to know there is hope. I went through every type of abuse with my narcissist and I am still here standing-without him. Merely 3 days after our breakup, he was already cozying up to his new supply and honestly was already doing things with her prior to the breakup. It is hard, it’s like an addiction, but I promise you DO deserve better.
The narcissist will move on from partner to partner completing the SAME dangerous cycle that you were in with them. They will not change for a new partner. It is the same movie, but the characters have been swapped out. Consider your exit (or theirs) a blessing and learn from your abuse. This is something I am focusing on doing now. I am quick to see the red flags and turn the wrong people down.
I hope by sharing my story, some of you will be able to connect the dots and live a happier future, narc free.”
[If you are seeking help, please call the National Dating Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org to live chat with someone 24/7. Help is out there and you are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sia Cooper of Diary of a Fit Mommy. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Sia:
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‘I was afraid of having a girl because of my mother. Into my teens, she taunted me about my weight. I was terrified.’: Mom’s candid fear about having daughter after her mom caused childhood PTSD, eating disorder
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