In this article, I will go over the different stages that are typically involved in the cycle of narcissistic abuse. Before we delve in, I would like to point out that this article is not meant to serve as a diagnostic tool to diagnose any person with narcissistic personality disorder. If you are in a similar kind of relationship, or are a survivor of narcissistic abuse, you may want to consider getting in touch with a professional who can support you with processing your experience of being involved in this type of relationship.
So, you think you have met your prince charming. The one. The centre of your universe. You met this wonderful person who will not stop showering you with compliments, gifts, love, attention and affection. It feels amazing, and you have never experienced a love like this before. The relationship is a few weeks or a couple of months old, and the person tells you that you are the love of their life, their soulmate, and that they have never met anyone like you before! Maybe it all sounds too good to be true. Well, perhaps it is. A person with narcissistic tendencies will typically start their cycle of abuse with a stage known as love-bombing. It feels so good to the person receiving it – who doesn’t like feeling wanted and appreciated, after all?
After a few months, or in some cases, around a year after the start of the relationship, the narcissist will initiate what is referred to as the devaluation stage. During this stage, the person may start to withhold love and attention to manipulate you. They may subtly start lying, cheating, or ghosting you, and then using tactics such as gaslighting or projecting to shift the blame onto you. You may start questioning what happened to the person you fell so deeply in love with. Where did that loving, caring and amazing partner go? You may also start wondering what you can try to do to salvage the relationship, and go back to a time where everything was so tender and blissful between the two of you. You start feeling anxious, and you walk on eggshells so as not to disappoint your partner in any way. You are well aware of the red flags that have surfaced in the relationship, and want to stand up for yourself by putting up boundaries in order to protect yourself.
And then it happens. The final stage; the discard. The narcissist realizes that you are no longer a good source of narcissistic supply, and discards you as if you were nothing. Or perhaps you figured that you have had enough of the abuse, and you decide to end the relationship yourself. Either way, the discard stage of a narcissistically abusive relationship is extremely painful. It is important to note that this cycle of love-bombing, devaluation and discard may happen several times before the relationship ends for good. Survivors of this kind of relationship are typically in shock as to how someone they once loved so dearly could inflict this level of pain onto them. If you have experienced this type of relationship and survived it, you are not a victim. You are a survivor! Seeking professional help from a therapist can support you to make meaning out of your experience and heal from the trauma of emotional abuse. Understanding what happened and learning from it can help you to move forward and create relationships with others that are healthy and mutually supportive.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Pamela Borg is a counsellor who enjoys working therapeutically with adults experiencing various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing, gender, sexuality, relationship issues.
Hope, J. (2020). How Narcissists Hook Their Prey in Three Easy Steps: Love Bombing, Devaluation, Discard. Retrieved from: https://centerforhopewny.org/blog/how-narcissists-hook-their-prey-in-three-steps-love-bombing-devaluation-discard/
Miller, C. (2021). Love Bombing – The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle. Retrieved from: https://thebetteryouinstitute.com/2021/04/01/love-bombing-the-narcissistic-abuse-cycle/
Schneider, A. (2015). Idealize, Devalue, Discard: The Dizzying Cycle of Narcissism. Retrieved from: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/idealize-devalue-discard-the-dizzying-cycle-of-narcissism-0325154