My mother always said that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately when it comes to all things love, many of us throw caution to the wind. Times that by 1000 if you consider yourself a romantic, a dreamer, or just someone who believes in love. Who doesn't?
Those of us who have the courage to put our hearts out there are sometimes harshly punished for it at a later date. This is unfortunately due to becoming romantically involved with someone who is either a narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath. Sometimes we blame ourselves, saying, "I ignored the red flags." Or, "I was in such a state of euphoria that though I noticed there seemed to be occasional red flags, the euphoria and perfectness of the relationship seemed to diminish everything else." The red flags were merely specs in our universe of joy.
But sooner or later, everything comes crashing down, and we are left wondering what the hell happened. Sometimes it's like our partner has flipped a switch, and all of a sudden they don't seem very interested in us anymore. Other times, it's a slow decline, where our partner slowly becomes less and less interested in us, less interested in spending time together, and less interested in the relationship in general.
They may become increasingly distant. Often they become irritated when we attempt to find out what is wrong. But most often, it's within a short period of time that things are great one day, but then all of a sudden seem to have drastically changed the next.
Desperate for answers, we cling tighter to our partner, analyze and overanalyze the relationship in our minds, and often begin to feel extremely insecure.
Irritated by our seeming insecurity and clinginess, our partners push us even farther away, complaining about how they need space, time alone, and they may even begin to hint at breaking up with us... though they most often will not actually break up with us, but instead will keep us on a string, never ending the relationship but instead emotionally torturing us until either we end the relationship, or they cheat and start up a relationship with another partner. (Triangulation)
What has happened here?
While you're going through it you usually will not realize what is actually happening because you are so stressed out, full of anxiety and desperate to restore your relationship back to how it was in the beginning.
If you're like I was, you're scouring the web, reading articles and message boards, desperately looking for answers and trying to put pieces together. It won't be until quite sometime later, after the relationship is over, that you will likely recognize the three stages of a relationship with a narcissist, sociopath or unmedicated bipolar partner: Inflate. Devalue. Discard.
Phase 1: Inflate
This is the fairytale beginning of the relationship. Your partner puts you on a pedestal and adores you. They will often tell you that you are their soulmate. Mine told me that. He also told me that he had never been in love with anyone the way he was in love with me. He said no love in his life could ever compare to the love that he and I had. The relationship seemed perfect. He would text me first thing every morning and say, "Good morning beautiful, I love you so much." His texts would continue throughout the day and end at bedtime with, "I'm so in love with you." I was in a constant state of euphoria and the happiest I had ever been in my entire life. We seemed to connect on every level possible: mentally, emotionally, intellectually, physically, sexually. He was everything I had ever hoped for in a partner. I had finally found the love of my life.
Phase 2: Devalue
This phase of the relationship often will begin as a slow trickle, so it's not immediately obvious. But one of the key characteristics is that there will be more space or distance between the partners. When at one time they used to spend much of their time with you, all of a sudden they have too much work to do and have to cancel plans with you - repeatedly. Maybe your long-standing Wednesdays that you always spent together are now canceled for one reason or another. Or the weekend comes along – times that you always spent together – but this weekend they have something pressing that they have to attend to whether it be work, or something as menial as cleaning their house… no matter what their excuse, you start to feel that your place on their priority list is slipping down down down. It is. They are devaluing you.
For me, it was about six months into our relationship when things started to change for the worse. His texts started to come less often. And although I still felt the same way about him as I had in the beginning of the relationship, it seemed like something changed for him, and he didn't care as much about me anymore. He became increasingly irritable for apparent no reason.
I started to worry. Not only did he start to put me off and spend less time with me, but I felt like the warm, loving person that I had fallen in love with was starting to disappear. Seemingly before my very eyes, my partner became less affectionate, more distant, less interested in me and in spending time with me, and sometimes he was outright cold.
During the times that we did spend together, he was becoming more physically distant and emotionally distant. He stopped initiating sex. This really surprised me, because our sex was always earth shattering for both of us. This was when I started to worry that he was interested in someone else. My senses became more keen as I watched for signs that he might be cheating.
He showed some signs of depression, so I thought maybe he was becoming depressed. Early on in our relationship he told me that he sometimes would get depressed and that he had some mental illness in his family. He said that some members and his family suffered from bipolar disorder and that he was pretty sure he had that too. I listened carefully and assured him that I supported him and loved him no matter what. I offered to go with him to a doctor if he wanted. He refused, saying he would be okay and that he was just going through a rough patch.
At the same time, something odd started to occur. I noticed that he would occasionally name drop other women - old girlfriends or female acquaintances - into our conversations. He would say that so-and-so sent him an email asking how he had been and what he was up to. This information, coupled with his increasing distance and coldness and irritability towards me would put me on edge. I tried hard not to become unhinged.
I remember thinking in my mind that it almost felt like he would mention these women on purpose, to upset me. (I later figured out that I was right, he was doing it to upset me, and the term for it is Triangulation) I tried not to show any jealousy and I tried hard to keep my cool. I asked him casually and in the gentlest way, why this woman had contacted him. It's at this point, that he would become angry with me. How dare I ask, and he could talk to whoever the hell he wanted to… he would rage back at me. (Crazy making & Gaslighting) Wow. How his words stung. I thought I was the important woman in his life. What happened to the amazing, loving, affectionate man that I had fallen in love with? My anxiety was reaching a high point, yet when I tried to reconnect with him, talk with him, or ask him anything, he would become increasing irritated and say that my anxiety was making him insane. Little did I know at the time, that this was called crazy making. He was making me insane and then blaming me for my reactions to how he treated me. Yet another giant blazing red flag.
At this point in the relationship, nothing got better. No matter how quiet I became, no matter how loving I was toward him, no matter how much space I gave him, none of that mattered. Sadly, I still hung on. Even more sadly, he allowed me to.
There were some days that were good. But within a couple months the texts all but stopped. Then he stopped saying I love you. But he didn't break up with me. As a matter of fact he gave me just enough breadcrumbs to keep me coming back. He knew what he was doing.
All the while this was happening, during the entire time that he was becoming colder to me, I noticed that when we were in public he was so nice to everyone else. Don't think I didn't stand up for myself. I once asked him, why are you so kind to everyone else, but are being so cruel to me, when I'm the one you're in a love relationship with? His answer was something to the point of, well I don't see those people all the time - or something like that. In public, his mask was on. But with me in private, the mask was now off.
At this point, not only did he devalue me down to basically nothing, but by staying in the relationship and putting up with it, I was slowly devaluing me too. I was so determined that I just hung on. I remembered the things that he said to me in the beginning of the relationship, and I believed him. I believed all of his proclamations of love. After all, he had even talked about what he would have wanted it to be like if we were ever to get married (future faking).
I believed that the amazing, loving, passionate man that I met and fell in love with was still in there somewhere. I waited for him to return. He never did.
Phase 3: Discard
I once read a quote somewhere that said something to the point of, how a person ends a relationship shows their true character. I now know this to be the truth.
If someone really loves you and cares for your well-being, they don't put you through something like this. Someone who respects you will sit down with you and talk with you. Someone with courage and integrity who no longer wants to be in a relationship with you will tell you that they no longer can be in a relationship with you. Anything else, I now know, is emotional abuse.
I once read a quote somewhere that said something to the point of, how a person ends a relationship shows their true character.
I now know this to be the truth.
I literally felt like I had been thrown away. I had been. It was the worst experience of my entire life. There was a point toward the end of the relationship where I gathered my strength and integrity and said to him that the relationship was making me crazy and that we needed to take a break. He didn't say anything. I figured that in spending some time apart I would finally find out whether he still cared for me or not. Looking back at all this now, I was so weak. The stress of the relationship really wore me down, and what I should have done was just broke it off then and there, but I didn't because I loved him and was still so confused by what was going on. I figured that he loved me too or else he would've broken up with me, right?
I didn't speak to him for four weeks. Not once did he reach out to contact me, not even to see if I was okay. Those four weeks were extremely painful, and one of the lowest points of my life. It was like I didn't matter at all, I meant nothing.
I went from being his soulmate and the love of his life to someone who didn't even exist in his world. Due to his cruelty and indifference, my self-esteem took a complete nosedive. It took me months to recover. I had completely lost myself trying to put the pieces together and figure out what happened, how and why he had turned into a different person, but no matter how much I thought about it I never had any kind of answer or resolution.
I felt like I had been used and conned. In a way, I had been. He must've enjoyed the control he had over me. Even worse, he must have enjoyed watching me suffer, because he clearly knew that I was suffering. Someone who loves you, does not put you through that.
Facing the reality of him was a hard pill to swallow. But it wasn't my fault. I hadn't done anything wrong. My greatest fault was trying to maintain the relationship and staying longer than I should have, giving him the power of control over the relationship, and me.
I was inflated, then I was devalued, and then I was discarded.
The Three Stages Of A Relationship With A Narcissist: Inflate...Devalue...Discard