When a person I love got into a relationship with a narcissist, none of us knew it. He seemed like a decent person. However, things changed. He became toxic, abusive and dangerous.

After all that has happened – and she has successfully separated from him – is when I realized that he was a narcissist all along, and not just a bad person. Although, I believe he’s both. 

I did a ton of research to better understand what’s happening to the person I love, and I found out about how narcissists work. 

To a narcissist, feelings become facts. And according to that, you can see three distinctive phases of a relationship – even if the narcissist is a parent and the relationship is the one with their child. 

So, let’s dissect them.

The First Stage, Idealization 

This stage happens when a narcissist first meets someone. So, for instance, when a narcissist mother first meets her baby and up until the child is old enough to resist their requirements. In a case of a romantic relationship, this could be called the Honeymoon Stage. 

The narcissist idealizes the person. They put them on a pedestal. To them, their new romantic partner is better than anyone else. So much so that they are willing to ignore the flaws they will later degrade. 

For example, a person close to me that was in a relationship with a narcissist, always loved to drink beer straight out of the bottle, she had a lot of guy friends and loved to go out. This, at first, didn’t bother the narcissist. In fact, he idealized her with these traits. 

The other part of this is that a narcissist also presents their best self. They want the other person to idealize them as well. They appear to have no major flaws and they are truly on their best behavior no matter what. 

The Second Stage, Devaluation

This happens when a narcissist realizes that their object of their affection isn’t perfect and doesn’t see them as perfect. Up to this point, the narcissist believes that the relationship is perfect, but now he realizes that it’s not. 

But, the most important aspect remains that the victim no longer sees the narcissist as flawless. This can happen if, for instance, a victim makes a funny joke at the narcissist’s expense – not meaning anything bad by it – or if the victim proves to be better at something than the narcissist. 

However, a narcissist will devalue the victim at this point, even if the victim is acting completely the same as before. 

They expect the victim to believe that they are a god that can’t do wrong. If at any point the victim disagrees, the narcissist believes that they don’t love them anymore. 

At that point, they start lashing out and punishing their victim. 

The Third Stage, Discarding 

After a prolonged period of abuse, where the narcissist punishes the victim for seeing them as flawed or imperfect, in comes the stage of discarding. Previous to this, the narcissist will use the intermittent reinforcement. This means that they will abuse and praise the victim intermittently. 

The victim, on the other hand, will still perceive the narcissist as someone who’s just strayed from a good path. They will believe that there’s a good person behind the evil one. 

This is where the narcissist gets off on power and can still manage to paint a flawless picture of their relationship and themselves, at least to the world. 

But as the facade begins to crack and the victim no longer cares about the narcissist or believes that they are good beneath it all, they want to leave that relationship behind and find a new victim. 

Hoovering 

If a victim leaves the abuser before they are ready to discard them, the narcissist will start to hoover. 

This means that they will revert to their idealistic self from the start of the relationship and behave like the best person they can be. This often involves doing whatever the victim requires to get back to them.

In some cases, it will be counseling, getting medications etc. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that the victim will always go through these three stages, no matter what. 

It doesn’t matter what the narcissist does or says, they will always devalue and discard the victim again.