(This article is from Kathleen’s stories on Medium.)
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but here goes…
You get into a relationship with someone who tells you the most wonderful things. They press all the right buttons: Mentally, emotionally and physically. They tell you that it was fate and destiny that brought you together, that you’re their one true love, and that you’ll “be together ’til the twelfth of never.”
You believe that you’ve hit the jackpot.
This must be your soulmate, right? After all, they said so, and it certainly feels euphoric; to the point where you’ll do anything for them.
“Want me to buy that for you? You got it. Want me to take you on vacation? Anything for you, dear. You’re the best.”
But then the cracks start to show. For some bizarre reason, now you’re certainly not the greatest person in their eyes. In fact, you’ll need to be torn down. They’ll hurl insults until you get angry, and then they’ll tell you that YOU have an anger problem.
And after all of the push-pull of being nice enough to keep you around by throwing an occasional bone your way, they’ll wear you out; to the point that you don’t know who you are anymore.
And as you get to where you’re mentally, emotionally and financially drained, they’ll line up the next relationship, so they can seamlessly begin the process again; without missing a beat.
What’s going on here?
This is a person who has NPD (narcissistic personality disorder). This is someone who actually feels so badly about themselves, that they’re constantly grasping for ways to feel better.
1. Their relationship pattern starts with the Idealization phase. In order to feel good about themselves, they build up the other person. Because if the other person is great, then they must be pretty cool too. (And going after married people is an extra bonus: “If I can take them away from a committed relationship, then I’m even more awesome”.) It’s a chronic pattern.
2. The Devaluation phase happens when the person realizes that you’re not so perfect after all. (In other words, you’re human.) This is a real problem for them because it’s not feeding their internal emptiness. So, they tear you down. It’s a twisted way of building themselves up.
3. But now that you’re getting worn down and tired from the emotional roller coaster, the party’s over. They need to find a replacement. (And they can sniff out a person who is ripe for the taking.) So the Discard phase happens when they’ve lined up someone else while they’re still with you, while convincing the other person that they’re awesome and you’re the bad guy.
It’s time to jump ship, and they even manage to convince some mutual friends that you’ve somehow done them wrong in spite of their lies and cheating, which pours salt into an already deep wound of mental and emotional abuse.
The end result is pure exhaustion on every level, because you’ve been their energy supply. At the same time, the person with NPD puts on a good show of their grand new life, with the new person who is unaware of the trap they’ve fallen into (and they wouldn’t believe it if you tried to tell them); because now they’re being told that they are the one true love.
As for you, it takes awhile to find healing amidst the trauma.
If you’ve been drawn into phase one, be wary of a relationship that seems too good to be true, and love yourself enough so that you don’t fall into a relationship with someone who is artificially filling the void for you.
If you’re in phase two, you’ll want to get out before it goes from bad to worse. The challenge is letting go of how great things were and the belief system that you were meant for each other, because it was never really true love in the first place, and the Cinderella phase will never come back.
If you’ve been discarded, know that you’re not alone and that it isn’t you. This is the time when the truth bombs fall as the PTSD sets in. You’re shell-shocked from a relationship with a master manipulator.
Others may come forward to tell you about cheating incidences that occurred during the relationship, or the raw truth behind lies that were told, as you become familiar with terms such as “gaslighting”, “gotcha games” and “flying monkeys”.
Reality hits hard at the very end, like being hit by the proverbial two-by-four.
People will tell you to “just forget about it”, but the truth is that the memory of the trauma, lies and betrayal will always be there; tucked away as a reminder of this obscene covert behavior that actually exists in the world. (Your naïveté is a thing of the past.)
For those who’ve survived all three phases, one can only look at the strength that they’ve gained, the lessons that they’ve learned, and the appreciation for what they now have; knowing that they won’t allow it to ever happen again. (Professional therapy can be very helpful for narcissistic abuse survivors.)
This is the biggest time for self care.
Ultimately, those that know what it is can see through an individual with this behavior, and they mutually avoid each other. Those that haven’t a clue what the truth is or refuse to see it, will be wearing rose colored glasses; unable to see what’s right in front of them.
Take care my friend, and remember to love yourself first.