It’s been a year since the abusive relationship I was in ended. It ended because he could not handle the fact that I was standing up for myself and he could no longer control or manipulate me. He ended it, as with most narcissists, after he found my replacement – which was the last communication I had with him. He proclaimed that the universe finally brought him someone deserving of his love and affection. Poor, poor
The shame of being in an abusive relationship has diminished and I no longer fear speaking up about it. That shame comes from being a fiercely independent, self-reliant, take-no-shit woman, so how I ended up in an abusive relationship still baffles me. But narcissists are masters at deception and having never encountered someone so evil, I never expected I could potentially be anyone’s victim.
Stages of Narcissistic Abuse
Idealize - Stage 1 of Narcissistic Abuse – about 4 months
Typically, abusers target kind, caring, sensitive people. During the initial period of love-bombing, they mirror the victim’s personality, their hopes and dreams. They present themselves as the perfect partner and they wear this mask beautifully. When they know they have you right where they want you, they slowly test controls.
Devalue - Stage 2 of Narcissistic Abuse – about 5 months
He starts with small controls, like nit-picking about the correct size baggie to use when storing food, or an overly strong opinion about you wearing sweat pants (don’t ever wear them), or they follow you throughout the day to point out your forgetfulness or laziness. An example of what my ex-abuser would do is to go into the bathroom after I left it only to come out and remind me that I, again, did not close the toilet seat lid. Or into the bedroom after I walked out to tell me how I forgot, again, to turn the light off, or turn off the Bluetooth speaker, or that I left my shoes in the wrong place. This happens more and more frequently until you start to get anxious at every turn. The control and manipulation slowly starts to increase. You will likely be on the receiving end of rage episodes for unknown reasons which will undoubtedly be your fault because you did something so egregious that caused the rage. He will spew his venom and insist that you deserved the verbal assault. This will cause quite a bit of confusion for you because the abuser will tell you he loves you, but you need to improve some things to avoid it happening again. And you start to experience cognitive dissonance. The inability to reconcile words and actions. You walk on eggs shells for fear of breaking rules you did not know were rules until you broke them. The abuser has started to try to isolate you from friends and family by finding fault in them and will put you in situations where you must choose between him and friends and family. You start the balancing act of hiding the abuse and shame from friends and family and trying to appease your abuser and you find yourself second guessing everything you do and say.
You try to change and adapt to not only please your abuser but to avoid the verbal abuse, the gut-wrenching silent treatment that can last for days, the gaslighting and the rages. And you do this in silence. You remind yourself that you fell in love with a wonderful man and that it must be you that is causing him to behave this way because it’s not the way he behaved when you fell in love. The abuser will tell you horrific stories about their ex’s and will make them out to be pyscho’s. This too will be how they describe you one day. Well-meaning friends will try to point out that he is not good for you and you will defend him while you will own the issues as being your fault. During this turmoil, there will be times when you push back and you try to stand your ground. But the narcopath will brilliantly twist your words and gaslight you and scramble the truth that leaves you exhausted. So, you relent and give in just to get past this issue. He could start self-harming/cutting to appeal to your innate goodness to want to help. My ex started cutting and blamed me for causing him such pain that it caused him to self-harm.
Discard - Stage 3 of Narcissistic Abuse – about 2 months
But one day…. He will push his abuse just a bit further. This is how he will keep you down and under his control – always seeking more fuel until you are a shell of the person you were. But he has pushed too far. You simply cannot let him continue and you will stand up. You will stand tall and firm in your knowing that this time, you will not accept the blame for his behavior. For me, it took 3 months from a horrific abusive episode to say “NO MORE!”. During those 3 months after I stood up, he tried very hard to get me back into a submissive and compliant position. But I would not go. I still had hope that he would come around and own his part in our broken relationship, but he did not. In hindsight, I know that he is incapable of seeing any wrongdoing on his part. It’s the nature of the psychopath. If they had the ability to evaluate their behaviors, then they wouldn’t be psychopaths. Narcopaths are the one of the most dangerous types of people. They live off the chaos they create. They thrive on the hurt they cause, it is their fuel. They are incapable of genuine human emotion or being in touch with their own but they are masters as the con game, manipulation and control.
Healing - Stage 4 - forever
There are still triggers that bring me back to the abuse and the familiar anxiety and panic starts to fill me and I freeze. I fear that I have allowed myself to be put back in the same situation. I question my own judgement of people, because I was so wrong before. And instead of being berated for those feelings, I am reassured, and I am comforted, and I am wrapped up in love. I breathe easier, I relax, and I remind myself that although evil exists, so does love.
Not all emotional abusers are narcissists but all narcissists are abusers. I will continue to speak out so others in a similar situation know they are not alone. I write this too for my abuser’s current girlfriend or girlfriends as is likely the case. Although she has undoubtedly heard terrible things about me, as I did about his ex-wife, she will have a feeling that in all of my blog posts and IG posts that this is the truth. And she knows it is, because she has also experienced her own hell. To her I say, you are not crazy, it is not your fault and you do not have to hide in shame.
I thank my abusers ex-wife, Debbie, for the posts she made on her IG account that I was able to relate to after I started to suffer from his abuse. She now knows that her posts about domestic violence helped me to see I too was suffering for his insidious abuse. She has been gracious enough to forgive my behaviors during the time I was with him and she has been a great support when I need someone to understand the hell and to let me get it out. I hope I too have been a shoulder when she needed it and a sister standing tall with her.
To those that have been my support throughout the relationship and this past year, you are my heroes. Being fiercely independent and having never been one to ask for help, you rescued me and came to my side when I most needed it.
Links to references below for anyone who may need more information: