As a relationship coach, I have seen many couples struggle with various issues in their relationships. Many of these issues stem from personality disorders such as narcissism.
A narcissistic relationship can cause extensive harm and emotional toxicity for the partner involved. If you are in a relationship with someone who exhibits signs of narcissism or if you have been through a narcissistic relationship before, you may benefit from a comprehensive guide on the “21 Stages of a Narcissistic Relationship”. This guide provides insight into the behavior patterns exhibited by a narcissist.
Here are the three best books to read if you suspect you’re in a narcistical relationship
Why men leave “perfect” women: what EVERY woman needs to know. His Secret Obsession.
- Healing from Hidden Abuse: by Shannon Thomas LCSW
- Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse: by Anna Wiley
- The Myth of Normal: Trauma by Gabor Maté
You can find them on Amazon here.
Stage 1: Idealization
The first stage of any romantic relationship is always magical and idealized. However, in a narcissistic relationship, it’s often heightened beyond that; it’s not just love at first sight but an instant obsession with every tiny detail about you that makes you perfect to them.
They’ll shower you with compliments like “you’re unlike anyone else they’ve ever met” and tell friends/family how lucky they are to be dating YOU.
Solution: Keep your feet grounded during this time—trust takes time to build—and when dealing with someone who may have control tendencies over your mind (narcissists) even more so.
Stage 2: Devaluation
Inevitably, after idealization comes devaluation. Suddenly, everything about you loses its shine overnight, without any warning or explanation.
All those little qualities that made him/her fall for you are now useless. Those things that mattered so much before are no longer important.
They have simply stopped adhering importance to the same traits that won him/her over initially. You are no longer special at all!
Solution: Emphasize tasks/qualities separate from what drew them to start the connection—for instance, focus on being great career driven rather than relying entirely on charm/personality—to remind your partner that there are numerous valuable aspects making up personhood.
Stage 3: Discarding
In the final phase of breaking up/moving away occurs when he/she realizes there’s no material use derived from being together anymore—even if picking fights to display a lack of interest had little effect at the start.
It may take some time for it to finally occur but one day they’ll just wake up saying no reason why things fell apart but simply that YOUR presence is unappreciated.
Solution: The best thing one can do is anticipate failing from the start, because when something “failed” you’re already prepared mentally/emotionally/physically helping alleviate the shock factor and severity of depression post-breakup or move away.
Stage 4: Hoovering
After leaving, narcissists find an excuse as to why they still need/want access into their partner’s life—in other words: attempting contact with recipient who’s rejected them/the relationship repeatedly before.
This actually proves how valuable THEY are rather than being afraid or ashamed. Once again, adoration could return large enough so that you’ll have everything you ever wanted in earlier days…but don’t let these tricks fool you.
Solution: Remember once someone hurt & left feelings without explanation—it wasn’t fair nor reasonable—they’re not worth welcoming back under any circumstances; if even tempted weigh reality versus perception carefully; doing actions based on studies logic will likely dissuade misleading emotions tied under surface level manipulation efforts.
Stage 5: Triangulation
In cases where disengagement does stick however this merely incites frustrated anger throughout your Narcissistic ex-spouse-boyfriend-girlfriend-new love’s system which makes little sense given that most Narcissistic individuals by nature have accessible options and plenty of self-assurance.
The new tempting target always appears around quickly after initial rejection—but instead want exclusivity…or possession, almost like a child doesn’t like sharing his toys/pets etc…
Solution: Stay wary about chances rekindling partnership while remembering disappointments from past –the hurtful incident(s)–to help steer clear even further from potential danger should offer prime opportunity for healing growth intimately/personally overall happiness in future.
Stage 6: Smear Campaigns
Should they happen to find happiness elsewhere and finally move on, Narcissists will inevitably start spinning stories/lying about their time with/circumstances regarding ex-partners who left earlier or were thrown out for self-maintenance purposes.
Essentially if a situation doesn’t go well in person then others receive same helpful treatment so even into next relationships following this one putting old feelings at rest isn’t enough—the manipulation keeps playing out repeatedly given excuse by exploitation tactics used which aren’t meant to aid ANYONE involved either anyway possible.
Solution: Be honest transparent as possible when giving new love interest details about past including what emotional effect trauma had one u overall mental health moving forward; keeping matters open alleviate anxiety that is derived from being unsure of where stand among sea inaccuracies established post-rejection period harassment campaigns it’s perfectly okay not wanting any toxic remnants around after everything said and done.
Stage 7: Narcissistic Rages
Rages emerge when things don’t go according to plan—like end up needing help completing usual tasks/stuff he/she could once do alone—or maybe throwing tantrums onset out feeling like neglected undervalued undesired during moments generally causing irreparable damage.
Solution: Steer clear of situations that incite temper tantrums firsthand—especially circumstances previously confirmed cause violent mood swings—when present be ready devise exit strategies in beforehand spotting signs imminent danger (or look up professional counseling).
Remembering only offer kindness/report positive instances concerns should come first instead yielding control over victimization misguided aggression fits thinly concealed efforts towards personal gain.
Stage 8: Gaslighting
Receiving constant criticism and character assassination causes a continued false sense of guilt, leading us to unfairly blame ourselves. This experience makes us feel like prey, suffering from the mental and relationship affects directed towards us.
Even the littlest infractions can act as a catalyst, forcing us to believe that the points being made are valid before receiving proper action.
However, admitting fault when we were wrong at the right moment is simply enough, and we ask why there is a need to continuously punish and demean us, instilling new hardships within us.
Solution: Familiarize yourself more closely with characteristics Narcissistic individuals projecting mentality indirectly/inconspicuously deteriorate mental stability which enforces their personal objectives thus leading ultimately self-loathing cycles ineffectiveness therefore self-sabotage.
Stage 9: Silent Treatment
When you voice an opinion expressing your thoughts and feelings, a narcissist is often unwilling to listen because it seems contrary to what they want. So instead of acknowledging what was said – they favor the “silent treatment” game:
Pretending like you don’t exist, or contentedly acting like everything’s back at normal following getting things / mind set straight but still not wanting intimacy so frequently approach in past steps forward reversed backwards—this type of behavior bred purely within egocentric attitudes affects mood/personality even long after contact stops occurring.
Solution: It’s okay for some space on occasion but disregard completely whether outcome positive negative overall health relationship coming out only surrounded anxiety stress potential mistreatment degrading confidence worthiness progressing into future scenarios ahead.
Stage 10: Flattery
During periods marked intense charm surprisingly genuine displays affection compliments made ever ability blend together flawlessly; however done only meant satisfy immediate desires gain benefit person seeking means without thought..
Solution: Be mindful certain words phrases being spoken during thank quality communicate effectively keeping line discernment available resource ensuring good collaborations yield helpful results always questioning intent why doing so.
Stage 11: Guilt-tripping
Narcissists are experts at making others feel shame about behavior earlier established based upon facts/truth just when one thinks resolve achieved here comes old prior haunting actions repeatedly brought up in replayed moments causing anguish for inflicted damage wrought by individualization alone… This scenario usually repeated long – term couple/a work environment where ridicule dished out suffered silently.
Solution: Seek outside help immediately informing close family/friends/colleagues receive empathetic support going against manipulation; establish own self-value finding reasons why worthy. There’s only so much gaslighting one person can take before they stop breathing their truth.
Stage 12: Blame-Shifting
This tactic is closely related to guilt-tripping except for in reverse; rather than feeling guilty about a conflict or issue between partners, they place the blame on everyone else but themselves: family history past lovers’ lack lust relationship etc… although there may always small tidbits of truth added into stories won’t be enough recognize patterns.
Solution: Be confident by pointing out specifics refuting untruths lies positioned against since doing mentally breaks down blockade constructed initially healing improve overall happiness when dealing Toxic relationships is necessary fact moving forward.
Stage 13: Stonewalling
Introduces lies and silent treatment with new twist known as stonewalling/despair: refusing all contact apathy manipulation used together heighten reaction received sensitivity escalation uprooting principles established earlier indicating troubles ignored real life combat techniques embedded deep within mind equally dividing relevance played outcome.
Solution: Once again lookout danger-zones detect anxious-filled situations crop up regularly prepping escape plan immediately stepping away virtually at strategic locations earmarked safely minimizing exposure possible victimization factors that aren’t worth extra pain—don’t allow even slightest chance escalate further leaving no loose ends forever cut toxicity present personal growth/overall happiness ahead.
Stage 14: Projection
Adopt someone Else’s behavior ingrained individuality without accepting responsibility faults perceived offering excuses flaws as being product unprecedented experience leading audience astray unfortunate cycle continues regardless motive powering through everything accumulated sufferings waste time reestablish old friendship unless changing his course
Solution: Try not focus feelings voice hesitations confusion aloud enables learn valuable skills communication opens eyes perspective towards how Narcissistic individuals function general mental health stability required successfully prosecute long-term bonds especially awareness projected personality development.
Stage 15: Control
Narcissists will go out of their way to control people close to them with constant need for attention, micromanagement of all aspects life including career paths often leading inability thrive professionally.
Personal lives also altered quite often causing detrimental effects overall mental/physical health.
Solution: To avoid falling victim advocating assertiveness confidence delegating responsibilities wherein may lead personal growth unfortunately same situation arises refrain permitting control overrides legitimate efforts; establish boundaries agreements early established upon unity through communication clarification limitations areas outweighed by fundamental universal human rights intrinsic motivations shared understanding mutual respect.
Stage 16: Neglect
Neglect is one of the most covert actions taken by narcissists. They will often ignore their partner’s emotional or physical needs, prioritize their own desires, and disregard any responsibilities they have towards the relationship.
Neglect can manifest itself in various ways – they may forget important dates or plans, avoid conversations about important topics, stop being physically intimate with you, and generally treat you as if you are invisible.
If your partner is neglecting you, it can be easy to internalize this behavior as a reflection of your worthlessness.
However, keep in mind that this neglect has nothing to do with who you are; it’s simply a tactic used by the narcissist to exert control over you emotionally and mentally. You deserve better than being neglected like that so start setting up personal boundaries while seeking support from reliable friends.
Stage 17: Isolation
A stage commonly observed among narcissists is isolation where he/she separates his/her partner from friends and family thus making it more difficult for them to realize what’s happening within their relationship.
They make sure that all interactions occur through themselves thus keeping an unobstructed view on everything going on around them. It ensures complete awareness at all times.
The solution here should involve learning how to identify toxic relationships early enough before things get worse so one doesn’t end up finding him/herself isolated unknowingly because soon once there are no close people left but only supporters identical beliefs slowly creeping into someone thinking becomes natural until such time when your views seem distorted not knowing these were manipulative tactics put forward earlier on.
Stage 18: Baiting and Switching:
This is whereby the present moment presents some sparkles of hope which then disappear shortly after causing confusion upon realization that those hopes were just baits set up earlier for manipulative purposes.
It could manifest itself through feign interest when company comes around only for immediate aloofness afterwards even without basis besides probably having lost sight of what exactly she/he wants or achieving what s/he was after from the situation.
The best solution here, while it may sound simple and mainstream, is to always ensure one’s words match their actions or promised underlying positive outcomes without any ulterior motives attached to their cause.
Ensure you hold your partner accountable each time they promise something so they eventually understand that making promises only for them not to keep up does more harm than good.
Stage 19: Love Bombing
This stage involves a flurry of love expression by showering oneself with material gifts – items like flowers, chocolates among other things.
The trait is mostly there in relationships dealing already with emotional instability because at such times victims are more willing to accept unwarranted attention then unknowingly settling into conditions where exploitation becomes normalized.
But once trust sets in and comfortability peaks this will cease on its own especially if active red flags are mentioned early on before affirmations tend to mislead someone’s judgment feeling obligated towards repaying back initial investment during courtship.
Stage 20: Hypercriticism
Hypercriticism happens when narcissists constantly scrutinize every little thing about their partners.
How they dress, talk or act-to constantly put down inferior traits which usually exist as imaginary faults until proven faultless against another person.
Who happens present themselves around them later thereby rejuvenating contempt towards someone never deserving such treatment throughout.
To prevent all these damage caused by hyper criticism- take note early enough; track changes concerning the reactions given out upon certain triggers seen through behaviors exhibited by him/her when communication occurs.
Once those signs appear frequently over time be honest about what’s happening within your relationship and voice concerns out appropriately decisively creating better grounds for working things out fairly enough expressing yourself assertively considering the needful done.
Stage 21: Co-dependency:
Lastly co-dependency: Co-dependent relationships observe emotional dependence between two people freeing up space used for appropriate personal growth induction.
It could come from either party whereby both individuals unconsciously become absorbed into only satisfying their partner’s needs, somehow not realizing that such a relationship causes greater harm than good to their mental well-being.
To avoid co-dependency in relationships it’s important for everyone to enforce and uphold individual boundaries between themselves making sure there is always room left out for personal development amidst all the uncertainties within any unsuccessful bond.
Respect your personal space as you try striking an optimal balance when interacting with each other in order to better your emotional stability by consistently promoting self-care among yourselves or together if possible.
Understanding the Patterns and Warning Signs of a Narcissistic Relationship:
Narcissistic relationships possess various patterns characterized by an excess display of entitlement towards another person who happens present while expecting imposing demands without considering necessary commitments involved.
Some warning signs fall under: lack of empathy, excessive attention seeking behavior included above which easily pass unnoticed until considerable damage has been done over time taking its toll on passive partners through ambiguous imaginations leading to eventual confusion after finding out he/she was only acting kind so they could manipulate you at will.
Healing from the Trauma of a Narcissistic Relationship:
Be honest about how much hurt you are experiencing once fresh into break up; Avoid being susceptible emotionally while cutting ties entirely distancing yourself away avoiding temptations towards influencing thoughts against one’s best interests creating low self-worth evaluation portraying levels way below average standards even post-breakups.
Taking Back Your Power: Refusing to Be Controlled by a Narcissist
Always express your opinion respectfully but assertively whenever changes need implementing. Take note early enough while identifying potential hazards beforehand giving ample grounds upon which negotiations can happen freely resulting in reaching optimal decisions free from manipulations.
It saves oneself valuable resources later used up mending damaged walls caused due imposed perceptions upon respective audiences already containing volatile emotions likely going rogue hence steer clear off defensive mechanisms fueling arguments arisen thereafter.
Understanding and Healing from the Stages of a Narcissistic Relationship
It’s important to note that the healing process will not be easy, but it’s essential for one to understand and recognize all the stages through which a narcissist takes their victim. This will help in acknowledging what we have been subjected to, thus taking steps towards recovery.
The Insatiable Demands of a Narcissist
In most cases, narcissists tend to impose emotional blackmail by using love as bait. The idealization stage is where they make us feel important with extensive attention showering your way while doing this keeps you hooked on them; however after some time has elapsed they start acting coldly leading into devaluation. As soon as something goes wrong or conflict arises causing exhaustion in our relationship issues arise resulting in endless drama marked with blame games often targeted at destroying self-esteem making it easier for you to fall under control.
Solution: Take your time getting involved with new people, don’t let attachment dramas trick you never rush connecting deeply until building enough trust slowly learning each other before diving headfirst into commitment
Moving On from a Narcissistic Relationship: (Patterns And Warning Signs To Look Out For)
Although recovering may be demanding, let’s always remember that it’s essential in promoting our personal growth and rebuilding the lives narcissists try to destroy. Being emotionally equipped, setting healthy boundaries for future relationships will be an excellent step towards moving on and leading a fulfilling life free from the grip of toxic relationships.
In conclusion, everyone should be empowered with knowledge aimed at avoiding corners liable to harm while providing suggestions capable of preserving what we hold very dear such as dignity love friendship making sure we are always free not only physically but mentally too.
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