The Three Phases of A Narcissistic Relationship Cycle: Over-Evaluation, Devaluation, Discard

A relationship with a Narcissist has been compared to being on a roller coaster, with immense highs and immense lows. They have been described as the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde, one way one minute, another the next.

People usually get into relationships for love and the need to connect and bond with another. Narcissists get into relationships for entirely different reasons. They do not feel love and they lack the ability to connect and form normal attachment bonds with others.

Narcissists need people more than anyone. Because their entire sense of self-esteem and self-worth is dependent on the admiration of others, their emotions are a precarious balance of needing others and needing to be left alone.

Narcissists feel an enormous void inside of them. This void is ever present and the only thing that fills it, is the love and esteem of another. The fix is always temporary though. A Narcissist describes it this way, “It’s like my brain is constantly seeking something. It’s like I’m always chasing a carrot at the end of a stick. Nothing I do satisfies me, at least not for long. I feel like I only do things because I’m supposed to, because society does it. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere or with anyone.”

Narcissists are completely self-absorbed and are oblivious to the wants and needs of others. They enter into relationships in an attempt to fill this void and to make sure that they have someone who is always available for sex, an ego stroke or whatever need they may have. A relationship with a Narcissist always follows three phases, the over-evaluations phase, the devaluation phase and the discard phase.

The Over-evaluation Phase

A Narcissist is very careful when choosing a target. Typically, they will choose a victim based on their status. They must be attractive, popular, rich or extremely gifted in some area. The greater the status, the higher the value the Narcissist places on the Supply derived.

Once a target has been chosen, it’s almost like the Narcissist gets tunnel vision. They are hyper-vigilant in their pursuit and will project the perfect image that their victim wants them to be. They are excessively caring, loving and attentive at this stage. They shower their targets with attention, compliments and literally sweep them off their feet.

They place their target on a pedestal, idolize and worship them. Their target is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here the Narcissist is ecstatic, full of hopes and dreams. They will talk and think about them constantly, they are euphoric. This is as close as a Narcissist will ever get to feeling love. This kind of idolization is what others would call infatuation.

The victim is likely so caught up in all the attention and is usually thinking at this point, that they have found their soul-mate. Their pursuer is exactly what they want in a partner (because the Narcissist is mirroring what they have learned appeals to their target) and they can’t believe how lucky they are and that this catch is still single.

What they don’t know, or could ever be prepared for, is what comes next.

The Devaluation Stage

The Over-Evaluation phase, if you’re dealing with a Somatic Narcissist, usually lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months, just long enough for the Narcissist to be confident that they have secured their target’s love and devotion. Unbeknownst to the target, what they were witnessing in the early phase was the Narcissist’s false self. In this second phase, the mask comes off and the Narcissist starts to reveal their true colours.

The shift could be gradual or almost seemingly overnight. Suddenly the attention they so lavishly gave you is gone and replace by indifference and silence. Days or weeks could go by and you won’t hear from them. They don’t return your phone calls, they don’t keep a single promise and you’re starting to suspect that they might be involved with someone else. The target is left baffled and confused and wondering what they did wrong to cause such an abrupt turnaround.

Narcissists become bored easily and what usually starts happening in their heads at this stage, is that the void begins to emerge again. The high they were feeding off of is waning and they begin to question your worthiness, that perhaps you weren’t so special after all, because if you were then the void wouldn’t still be there.

They become moody and agitated easily, blaming you for even the slightest transgression. They start to disappear more frequently and they give you the silent treatment in an attempt to create distance. As the Narcissist withdraws, the target starts to cling and your demands for his attention and your need to understand what’s happening, grate on his nerves. The harder you cling the more the Narcissist pulls away. They start to blame and criticize the target for everything, treating them like an emotional punching bag.

At this point the target is an emotional wreck. The Narcissist has left without any explanation and they can’t figure out how one minute they were put on a pedestal and now it’s like they doesn’t even exist. The Narcissist is a projector and they are projecting their emotional turmoil onto you. They feed off of other people’s misery (as long as it’s caused by them) just as much as they feeds off of your admiration, either way it makes no difference to them.

It is this person, this cruel, indifferent, unfeeling, sadist that is the behind the mask. Most targets desperately try to find the one they fell in love with. What they don’t realize is that that person never existed. They were a facade an act put on by the Narcissist to secure their Supply.

The Narcissist will take no responsibility for their actions, because they simply don’t care how they’ve treated you or how you are feeling.
Narcissists are not capable of forming normal healthy attachments to people. Those that aren’t familiar with the disorder are completely at a loss to understand how unnecessarily cruel their behavior can be. The target was never more than an object to the Narcissist, whose usefulness is on the decline.

The Narcissist isn’t one to throw away a potential piece of supply though. They will keep up this I love you, I love you not charade going for as long as it suits them or as long as you allow it. They will breeze in and out of your life as if nothing ever happened, completely oblivious and indifferent to your suffering.

This mind fuck is deliberate and they will keep feeding you crumbs of attention, just enough to keep you emotionally invested and available to cater to their every need.

At some point one of two things will happen: either they will find a new target and begin phase one with them, thus ignoring you completely, or you will have had enough of his psychotic abuse and you will take control and put an end to it, thus ushering In phase three.

The Discard Phase

It is almost baffling to watch the ease at which a Narcissist can pull away from his partners. Many targets are left asking themselves, “Did he ever love me? Did I mean anything to him?” The simple answer is no. No one means anything to him. Women are only a means to an end – to obtain the much needed Narcissistic Supply. Once your usefulness has run its course, you will be discarded abruptly and cruelly, without warning.

Trying to get over a relationship with a Narcissist is extremely difficult. Once it is over the target is usually an emotional wreck, whose self-esteem has been annihilated by the persistent demeaning behavior, insults and cruelty of the Narcissist. Depending on when they were able to break free, the target maybe a shadow of their former self, with a lot of work ahead of them to rebuild their shattered self-image.

As a victim tries to pick up the pieces, What must be remembered is that you were deliberately targeted, lied to and manipulated by a skilled con-artist, for their own gain. There was nothing you could have done differently and none of this was your fault. The Narcissist will repeat this pattern with every person, every time, bar none.

All former targets must be vigilantly on guard, because a Narcissist always reserves the right to revisit a former source of supply, no matter how much time has passed or how badly they’ve behaved.

Once you have broken free you must close the door on any and all contact, because if you don’t you’re headed back to a watered down version of Phase One – over and over and over again.

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Study confirms that men are more narcissistic than women

                                                   Especially when it comes to entitlement.

With over three decades of data taken from 470,846 participants and 355 academic journal articles, dissertations, manuscripts and technical manuals, scientists have made a pretty good case for men of all ages being significantly more likely than women to exhibit narcissistic tendencies.

What does this mean? Well, it’s not all bad, especially if you’re an ambitious person, but narcissism isn’t particularly great either, because it can make things pretty unpleasant for those around you.

“Narcissism is associated with various interpersonal dysfunctions, including an inability to maintain healthy long-term relationships, unethical behaviour and aggression,” lead researcher Emily Grijalva, from the University at Buffalo School of Management in the US, said in a press release. “At the same time, narcissism is shown to boost self-esteem, emotional stability and the tendency to emerge as a leader. By examining gender differences in narcissism, we may be able to explain gender disparities in these important outcomes.”

Close-up portrait of threatening  man with beard wearing a hood against gray background

Close-up portrait of threatening man with beard wearing a hood against gray background

In their meta-analysis, Grijalva’s team looked at three different aspects of narcissism – leadership/authority, grandiose/exhibitionism and exploitative/entitlement – and studied the instances of these behaviours shown by the male and female participants across each one. They looked at US college student cohorts over time, from 1990 to 2013, and across different age groups.

Gender difference effect sizes for three facets of narcissism were calculated by subtracting the mean for men from the mean for women, and dividing that by the pooled standard deviation to come up with ‘d’ as the quantifier. Based in these calculations, they found that by far, the widest gap between men and women was a feeling of entitlement (d = 29), which I’m guessing comes as a surprise to no woman anywhere. “This result suggests that compared with women, men are more likely to exploit others and to believe that they themselves are special and therefore entitled to privileges,” the team wrote in the Psychological Bulletin.

The second largest gap between the sexes was in the leadership/authority aspect of narcissism, which scored a d = 20. This means that compared to women, men were more likely to exhibit assertiveness, the motivation to lead, and a desire for more power over others, the researchers report.

But when it came to grandiose/exhibitionism aspect of narcism, the team found almost no difference between the sexes – d = 4. “In other words, both genders were almost equally likely to endorse characteristics consistent with vanity, exhibitionism, and self-absorption,” the team writes.

Overall, they found a consistent gender difference in narcissism, with men scoring a quarter of a standard deviation higher in narcissism than the women (d = 26). They suggest that the differences between the behaviours displayed by the male and female participants could come from the way we tend to interpret gender stereotypes. “Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society’s expectations,”Grijalva said in the press release. “In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for women, more so than for men, to suppress displays of narcissistic behaviour.”

Interestingly, when the researchers looked separately at vulnerable narcissism, which is another, less-studied form of narcissism characterised by low self-esteem, neuroticism, and introversion, they found no difference between the instances of women and men exhibiting this trait.

Now, before everyone starts getting upset about what these results could be saying, the researchers are the first to point to that while their results are pretty clear, they’re not casting dispersions about every man, or every woman. They conclude in their paper:

“Narcissism is a trait with a relatively negative connotation. We must therefore emphasise that the gender differences referred to in this article do not apply to every individual within a group. Not all men are entitled or exploitative. Not all women are low in a sense of leadership and motivation for authority. 

The current results are consistent with the finding that within-group trait differences are generally larger than differences between gender groups. Although we are saying that the average man tends to be more narcissistic than the average woman, we are not making generalisations to specific individuals.”

The researchers say that across the 31 years they examined, neither sex showed any signs of becoming more or less narcissistic over time, which means, no, the selfie explosion doesn’t mean we’re now more narcissistic than our parents. But if you do post a lot of selfies, you might want to check out this separate study, published last year, which linked both narcism and psychopathy to males who post a lot of selfies online.