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“Masks were made for masquerades, the Opera, and plays. Please leave yours at the door.” ~ Ulenda Myburgh
This is not a fairy tale.
There is no Prince Charming or Cinderella waiting to walk you into your happy ending.
It is a full-blown nightmare that invites you to give yourself the happy ending you deserve.
Once upon a time, his devotion plugged into your soul and had you sink into a feeling of safety. You were a character every woman wanted to play, and his supporting role gave you the liveliness to do it. You accepted an invitation to a ball, soon to find yourself running from what was actually hell.
As the music plays and you’re swaying in his arms, his mask will drop. And little do you know that his real face is made of nightmares and goblins—the kind only told in storybooks.
Caught in his charm, you find yourself fast adjusting to his rhythm. You keep up, and he continues to test the limits of your boundaries, all to render you powerless. When you are fully comfortable and have sipped enough elixir from his poisonous cup, that is when the dismantling and corrosion of your self-esteem begins. That is when you have unknowingly formed a contract of insanity and gradual deterioration of everything you once knew.
He gives you a peek into his vulnerability, a prelude to disarm you, and opens up even more of your weaknesses to use against you later.
What a standing ovation, he thinks, and imagines the loud applause of a crowd that lives in his head. See, this is a game, and the one with more ammunition wins.
This is not a ball, you soon begin to realize. It’s a battlefield, and you are unarmed and unprepared for what’s coming.
He has just set the tone for his next destruction: you. The scene is well laid out. You played the part as well as he’d hoped. And now you’re going to play your best role ever. That of survival.
In walks the first blow.
As I write this, the wounds are all too fresh. The scars are still etched where he sewed them. I suspect they will haunt me for a long time, but in time all wounds will heal.
Emotional abuse is no joke.
I’m here because losing my sanity wasn’t an option. I’m here because there was no longer space for me in the relationship. My essence was forced to disappear into a deep abyss. While gaslighting became the theme of the day, crazy became my new norm. It caused me to question everything.
The unseen abuse that leaves no physical trace is not something someone should ever have to sign up for. Sometimes you have to choose yourself, especially when it means letting go of a “love” that has stopped making sense.
I have found that once you equip yourself, it becomes easier to spot a narcissist and lessen your chances of falling prey.
There are three main stages of a narcissistic relationship. It is their lifelong theme, and they repeat this pattern indefinitely.
It goes like this: first they idealize you, then they devalue you. And finally, a rapid discard.
1. Stage One: The Idealization
Walk in Prince Charming.
You don’t know how you got so lucky, but this person ticks all or at least most of your boxes. At the beginning of this relationship, your partner will be your perfect match. Their pseudo-empathy, charm, and utter commitment to you will leave you feeling as though you’ve finally won the lottery.
During this stage, the narcissist will lay the groundwork for their well-thought-out plan. They will shower you with adoration, spend all their time with you, go at a fast pace.
This love bombing stage is like a ride you can’t get off, and you will have to keep up. You won’t want to come down from the high that’s become your new stable. After all, you’ve found your imperfect perfect. He showers you with attention, can’t get enough of you, and constantly texts or calls. You are his everything, and he’s never been so happy until now.
This is when he tells you that you are nothing like his ex and may even point out the trauma she put him through. At this point, you will feel a deep sympathy for the way he’s been mistreated in his last relationship.
Pay attention to what he is saying about his ex. You will most likely hear stories that she was crazy, didn’t appreciate him, ignored or neglected him, or told him he was too needy. Pay attention to the “needy.”
This will cement in the depth of his vulnerability, and you will want to protect him from ever feeling that way again. For how can someone do something like that to someone so loving and wonderful?
It feels like the honeymoon will last forever and you can be yourself around him. You have found someone who will never judge you and finally understands and accepts you.
2. Stage Two: The Devaluation
This stage follows the initial glamorizing, idealizing phase, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t last. I wish there was an easy way to realize this—something that doesn’t feel like an eternity of shockwaves coursing through you, causing your world to crash.
At this stage, confusion starts to set in. He becomes complacent and starts to relax around you. You start to realize there are things you have overlooked because he seemed so committed. But if you look close enough, the picture has an irrefutable amount of cracks.
You’ve met someone devoted to loving you, yet you can’t understand why he’s beginning to demand more of you while giving less of himself. He starts to become secretive, telling you things on a need-to-know basis, sometimes even ignoring you. The silent treatment becomes the theme of the day, and your tears are just a “plea for attention.”
All the things he loved about you initially are things he starts to tear apart. The way he speaks to you changes, and word-dropping becomes a daily pursuit. It’s all happening too fast, like a plane crashing from the sky and you can’t stop it. The more you put the pieces together, the less they make sense. Sarcasm is his playground, and soon you will be dizzy from the spell. His actions don’t seem to match his words, and he begins to belittle and project his issues onto you.
This is where the gaslighting should become obvious. In the beginning, you were too trusting to see that it was happening. In all the confusion, you wonder how you got to Crazy Town without purchasing a ticket.
None of this is your fault. Narcs are simply very clever chameleons. They mirror their environment to suit their current goal. And when that goal is you, they mirror your feelings, ideals, interests, and values, all to make you feel they’re your dream mate.
3. Stage Three: The Discard
You can’t unsee what you’ve seen. You’ve been exposed and can’t go back.
This stage happens faster than a lightning bolt.
By this time, you should have come to realize that there is no space for your needs in the relationship and that your opinion does not matter nearly as much as his does. To a narcissist, seeing eye-to-eye means seeing things his way.
By now, you should have learnt that you are merely a vein that provides your narc with supply and that your sole purpose is to keep him nourished.
If you fight this, dear one, you will struggle. If you fight this, the narc will shut you up with control and manipulation tactics. And when he feels you’re no longer supporting his ideologies and selfishness, he will find his supply elsewhere, for you are no longer a high-grade source.
The narc will leave you in the worst possible way, insuring he has “won” the breakup. The discard will be a confusing mind trip that can leave you paralyzed and riddled with questions.
Again, I must stress, this happens swiftly. Don’t be surprised when he shows up with a new partner next week and flaunts it all over social media. Be prepared, too, for the smear campaign he will use to tarnish your name to make you look unstable.
As hard as this is, understand that it is his way of maintaining social status and not losing face. Whether you left or he did, you were to blame, and he’s so happy to have finally found someone amazing. Remember, he’s done this before. And, more important to remember, it’s not you, it really is him. The narc cannot take responsibility for anything. He will always be the victim for conditions he creates. This is his modus operandi.
What are some signs to look out for?
1. Lack of boundaries.
Narcs don’t see lines. They don’t know what “No” is and feel offended and hurt when we don’t give them what they want. They feel entitled and do not understand why we will not freely give when they ask, even when what they want is unreasonable. They will push and push until something of an argument forms or they eventually get their way.
Simply put, gaslighting is when someone makes you doubt your own reality. For example, when you are sure about something and they trick you into believing something else. Oftentimes, narcissists will try to cover their actions and, when caught, make you think you’re making the whole thing up and that they would “never do that to you.” You start doubting your intuition and what you’ve seen, because your partner could never do something like that to you. Why would they?
3. Shifting blame and lack of responsibility.
Narcs don’t take responsibility for anything they’ve done. They will make you feel that what they did was because of you. No matter what it is, you will be the reason for their bad behavior until you stand your ground and don’t accept it. But even then, the apology won’t be sincere. They will make sure to rush the conversation so that they don’t have to deal with the discomfort of the situation and sit in the “responsibility seat” for too long.
Look out for people who throw the blame on you. A rational person knows when they are wrong.
This method includes three people, usually your partner, yourself, and another person. Whether it be an ex, a parent, or a friend, the narcissist will come up with clever tactics to find himself stuck in the middle of you and someone in his life. This usually results in constant misunderstandings between you and that person. During this time, it will look like you are jealous or have a problem with this person, when in actual fact he loves the attention and doesn’t do anything but add fuel to the fire so that the drama continues to play out.
At first, this may come across as giving you all the attention and validation you want. But once you’ve looked closely enough and time has passed, it’s not about “having so much love to give.” This person is an emotional and soul vampire, and they need your attention and praise to breathe.
Narcissists need constant attention. It’s what fuels them. No matter how much you feed into their egos, it will never be enough. They always want more. And this is where your needs start to disappear.
This one can take years to figure out and can be easy to miss, especially if you’re dealing with a covert narc. However, once the floodgates are open, there’s no closing them. Look out for someone who is overly controlling. What you may often find is that you thought you made a decision, but the narcissist actually tricked you with his codependence and made it for you. A narc does not like to lose control of a situation or the players in his life.
7. Lack of empathy.
This one can be hard to spot at first too because of the initial love bombing stage. Narcs have a hard time forming deep connections with people and don’t understand how emotions work. Because their feelings come first, showing empathy is only possible if it’s in their best interest. Later, you’ll find yourself feeling less understood and seen by them though, and can often be accused of being too sensitive. Pay attention to moments when they lack empathy toward your experiences.
By the time you read this, it may already be happening. Perhaps it already did. You may be in tears, confusion, hurt, angry, and possibly inconsolable. Little do you know, the tears you’re crying now will soon be liberating. You’re likely to feel shame or regret and ask questions such as, “How could I not see the signs? I’m a smart person. How could I let this happen to me?”
Let me say that narcissists are masterminds at their craft. You could only pick at the pieces that revealed themselves in distinct moments. And sometimes, those many moments weren’t enough to gather a big enough picture. The narc is a genius at seducing us into dismissing our own intuition.
Now that you have an idea of some of the signs, you can begin to piece things together and prevent it from happening again. Beating ourselves up doesn’t do anyone any good. This is a time to be kind and loving with ourselves.
If you find yourself vacillating between the idea of staying and going, it does not get better. We only water it down.
Do research. Look out for the signs. There are thousands of stories out there that go in-depth on this subject.
I hope you come to realize that it’s lonely in his castle. The windows are closed shut, the sun doesn’t shine through long enough, and you will forever be its prisoner.
I hope you choose freedom. I hope you choose yourself.
Even though I use the term “he” for this article, it is not to say that narcs only appear in male form. Narcs can be female and any age or race.