Idealization-Devaluation-Discard: The 3 Stages Of A Toxic Relationship With A Narcissist
The relationship with a narcissist can cause lasting damage. These relationships tend to be incredibly toxic and can include physical, emotional, financial, and other types of abuse. In general, the narcissist will end up going through three stages during the relationship, each of which can be repeated indefinitely until the relationship finally ends. It is important for anyone in this type of relationship to seek help and get out. Once out, the right assistance can help them heal and move forward.
How the Stages Work
During the course of the relationship, it will end up going through all three stages. Depending on the course of the relationship, it’s possible to go through all three stages multiple times. The amount of time each stage will last can vary depending on both people involved. When the relationship does finally end permanently, it doesn’t mean the impact goes away. It is important for those who are in a toxic relationship with a narcissist or those who have gotten out to speak with a narcissistic abuse recovery coach, as this will help teach them how to move forward and avoid the same issues in future relationships.
The initial stage is an idealization. During this stage, the narcissist treats the partner amazingly well. Many people feel like they’ve met their soulmate, that they’ve found the perfect person to be together with, and that they’re going to be with the other person forever. During this stage, the narcissist generally spends a lot of money on making their partner happy, plans the perfect vacations, and even starts talking about how they’ll have an amazing future together. This stage can last anywhere from weeks to a year or more, but it will come to an end at some point.
When the relationship tends to wind down and get a little more comfortable, the devaluing stage begins. This generally leads to the person starting to notice red flags about their partner, even if they don’t realize how hurtful they are at the time. During the devaluing stage, the narcissist will end up using techniques to devalue the partner, including gaslighting, withdrawing affection, disappearing from contact, or using projection to blame the partner for any shortcomings. All of these are intended to break down the partner so the narcissist is in complete control over the partner.
Eventually, the narcissist will determine the partner doesn’t provide value anymore and is no longer the perfect partner for them. This is when they’ll start the discarding stage, which can include disappearing or abandoning the partner. Often, there are signs this is going to occur, including changes to the routine, being far more detailed when telling stories, or being secret about phone conversations, emails, or social media. The narcissist may change their appearance or start acting differently during this time, as they’re interested in someone else and changing to be what that person may want. This can then lead to the end of the relationship or it can all restart again at the idealization stage if the narcissist cannot get the attention of someone new or renews their interest in their partner.
Toxic relationships with narcissists generally follow the same pattern, which can be repeated over and over throughout the relationship. Those who have been in a relationship like this will want to seek help in learning how to deal with the emotional damage resulting from the partnership once it ends.