If you’re about to enter a relationship with a person who has narcissistic personality disorder, the first phase you have to go through is idealization. In other words; ‘love bombardment’. This is something quite different from the regular attraction phase of a healthy relationship.
In this phase, the narcissistic person may claim that you’re the most beautiful/handsome person they’ve ever seen, they’ve never met someone like you and that they realized you were special the moment they set their eyes on you.
At the beginning of the relationship, they’re likely to call you and text you all the time as well as constantly checking your social media accounts. This situation may be overwhelming and perhaps even annoying. All the endless praise may seem insincere, but eventually you can still get too used to the compliments and adoration without even realizing.
Especially if we have certain problems in our lives at the time, or if we’re going through a phase where we’re feeling lonely and worthless, we’re likely to allow and encourage this adoration.
The narcissistic person will sweet talk you, they will give you expensive gifts and arrange special events for you. They will also tell you important details about themselves. Such as the problems in their past relationships, how horrible their previous partner was, traumatic childhood memories or dark family secrets. Hearing about these bad experiences may cause you to sympathize with them.
Most of the time, it’s not only sympathy and compassion. You start turning a blind eye to certain things about them. For instance; when they start getting jealous and possessive over you for no reason, you take it as their lack of trust in people because they’ve been cheated on by a previous partner. When they start neglecting you, you attribute it to the fact they’ve been neglected by their own parents so they don’t know any better. When they start drifting away all of a sudden, you believe that they have more important things to deal with. Bit by bit, you start ignoring their insecurity, jealousy and immature behavior and justify them with understandable reasons.
Perhaps you were encouraged by their openness and sincerity and ended up telling them about your own dark secrets, insecurities and weaknesses. There’s almost nothing as painful as having those stories (which you shared with someone who listened with utmost care and sympathy) used against you.
During the idealization phase, they may try to control and manipulate you in a passive-aggressive way. For instance, telling you things like their previous partner was extremely jealous and that they’re glad ‘you’re not jealous like them’. Or something about how neglectful their family is and how much they appreciate your ‘helpful and compassionate’ side.
The idealization phase, depending on the dynamics of the relationship; may take weeks, months and sometimes years. But it never lasts forever. Eventually, things start to change.
The attention and compliments either start to decrease or come to an abrupt halt. When someone who used to be so interested in you starts losing this interest without an apparent reason, you begin to wonder: Is there something wrong with me? Have I started to change just like they claimed? Am I not who I used to be? Do I not love and care for them enough? Am I not trying hard enough?
Now your relationship is filled with nothing but futile attempts at trying to go back to the good old days. You will start trying harder to make that person happy. But despite that, the said person will only drift further away. Though only when you two are alone. When surrounded by other people, they’ll pretend to look attentive and then continue neglecting you when there’s no one else to witness it. If you try to talk to your friends about it, telling them that they are not what they seem to be; they probably won’t believe you. Your friends will minimize your ordeal by trying to remind you of how nice they are to you, what a good person they are and that all relationships can have such ups and downs. This emotional abuse will only make you feel more drained, insecure and lonely.
Now the question you’ve been asking to yourself finally has a clear answer: So it really is my fault!
If you met someone and within a few weeks you already started to feel like you were meant to be (making future plans together, thinking that they’re the best thing that ever happened to you…) you better be careful. In healthy relationships, mutual trust and love develop step by step. You’re not supposed to find yourself drowning in a flood of emotions all of a sudden.
You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
Psychology Today. “Idealization and Contempt”. (2017) https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/life-after-50/201702/idealization-and-contempt .
Good Therapy. “Idealize, Devalue, Discard: The Dizzying Cycle of Narcissism”. (2015). https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/idealize-devalue-discard-the-dizzying-cycle-of-narcissism-0325154 .