Every relationship has a natural progression that often falls into identifiable “stages.” Just as this is true in healthy relationships, it’s also true with unhealthy ones. Dating a narcissist is a particularly destructive relationship type to become involved in. It can becom0e addictive and demolish the partner’s sense of worth (Read ‘Why Women Date Narcissistic Men’ . Since 75% of narcissists are men, it’s far more common for women to become a narcissist’s victim. The beginning stages of a relationship with a narcissist are wonderful, and many women are fooled into a relationship before they know what they’re really getting into. Understanding the phases of a narcissistic relationship can help you identify whether you’re dating a narcissist.
Phase 1: Living on a Pedestal In phase 1, the narcissist selects his target: an attractive, accomplished, impressive woman who he estimates will fill the void he feels inside. Narcissists become very single-mindedly focused and hyper vigilant in their pursuit. In other words, he will stop at nothing to sweep his target off her feet, securing her affection and his source of ego.
Women in this position find themselves the center of the narcissist’s universe, living on a pedestal where they are idolized and adored. It’s a very flattering emotional high, and this is what many women become addicted to [note: link here to ‘Why Women Date Narcissistic Men’ article]. A woman in this phase will think she has found the man of her dreams, falling head over heels in love with him.
The narcissistic man will often talk about how superior his new girl is to any of his exes, speaking very negatively of those other women, calling them “crazy” and defaming their character.
Phase 2: The Mask Comes Off At some point, weeks or months down the road, the façade begins to fade. The woman in the relationship starts to notice things. Usually, warning signs include an inability to accept any criticism, a tendency to become overly defensive, a lack of support for his partner when she needs him, and disinterestedness toward any subject of conversation other than himself. She might begin to notice how he seems to have no real relationships, and constantly talks bad about his family and past friends.
The narcissist in this phase will play the victim extremely well, punishing his partner in a very passive-aggressive manner for any perceived slight. Tactics used for punishment include silent treatments, verbal belittling, emotional manipulation, withholding intimacy, and sexual withdrawal.
The shift can take place over time, although more often than not it seems to happen overnight. The narcissist has ridden out the “high” of phase 1, and is again feeling the emptiness inside. They begin to withdraw from the relationship, leaving their partner to wonder what went wrong. Often, they will play a very intentional game of “I love you, I love you not.”
This game might be started when a woman tries to confront her man about some of his narcissistic behavior, only to have him respond with one of his passive-aggressive punishing tactics. He withdraws, she waits for him to come back to her. Eventually he does, but only for his own interests. He will never apologize. Their relationship resumes “back to normal,” until the cycle repeats itself. This can become a years-long holding pattern.
Phases of a Narcissistic Relationship
Phase 3: Cut Off If the narcissistic partner is the one to end the relationship, it will be completely severed. His significant other will be completely discarded and traded in for the latest, greatest “next best thing.” She is erased from his life, almost as if the relationship had never happened – except that he will now view her as his mortal enemy, and she will become one of the “crazy exes” he talks about in phase 1 with his new target. The former target will be left emotionally devastated, and will often have a long road ahead of her rebuilding her confidence and self-worth.
For women, it’s incredibly difficult to accept they are in a relationship with a narcissist, and it can take a long time for them do anything about it. But when they do choose to act and end the cycle, things can get ugly fast. The best way to successfully get out of the relationship is by not rewarding the narcissist with drama, and convincing him he no longer exists in your world.
Dating a narcissist is a rollercoaster ride not worth paying the price for. Staying in the relationship will leave a woman unfulfilled and unhappy until her narcissistic partner eventually discards her, leaving her very broken and emotionally devastated. It’s important for women to exit out of the crazy cycle of a relationship with a narcissistic man as soon as they identify it so they can move on to a healthier, more stable partner.
Phases of a Narcissistic Relationship – whatever phase you are in a narcissistic relationship – exit! It will never get better and you will find yourself feeling worse. You deserve better.