What Are the 4 Phases of a Narcissistic Relationship?

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Narcissistic relationships mirror other relationships, but they are carefully cultivated by the narcissist to hide the red flags that would otherwise send the partner running. In most cases, these relationships tend to go through the same cycle over and over again, making it difficult for the partner to realize what’s happening and be able to leave. Though there is help available, knowing the different phases of a narcissistic relationship is also crucial, as it helps show when to get help. 

Getting Help After a Narcissistic Relationship

When someone realizes they’re going through the following phases and that there are a lot of red flags in their relationship, it can be incredibly difficult to get out. Studies have shown that leaving is the most dangerous time in abusive relationships, which covers narcissistic relationships. Someone who is ready to leave will often benefit from working with a narcissistic abuse recovery coach. They can learn how to get away from the relationship and how to move forward with their life.  

Stage One: Idealize

The first stage is how the narcissist grabs the partner’s attention and gets them to be in a relationship. At this point, the narcissist showers their partner with attention. They may spend a lot of money, take time off to spend more time with their partner, and overall be as romantic and sweet as possible. The end result is the partner ends up falling for the narcissist and is hooked into the relationship. This stage is one that’s very difficult to detect because it can mimic new relationships very well. 

Stage Two: Devalue

Once the narcissist has hooked their partner into a relationship, the devalue stage begins. This is the stage where the narcissist starts making the partner feel like they’re not as valuable. The partner’s self-esteem is reduced, so they don’t feel like they could do better. During this stage, narcissists will use emotional abuse, including gaslighting and other manipulating techniques, to make the partner feel confused and like they’re now having to be careful to avoid further abuse. This is also the time when these relationships can become abusive. 

Stage Three: Discard

At some point, the narcissist will no longer be interested in the relationship. They’ve devalued the partner enough that the partner no longer provides what the narcissist needs. There’s no more chase, as they already have a partner who will do as they say. So, the narcissist will end the relationship or force the partner to end it. For those who are lucky, this is the last phase. Unfortunately, once the partner is gone, the narcissist needs to look for someone new. Many times, the narcissist will start chasing the former partner again. 

Stage Four: Lure Back

Like it’s a game, the narcissist may start chasing after the partner again. They need someone else to help them feel in control and powerful, and the other partner did provide that for a while. This stage, like the first one, usually includes love bombing and other techniques to convince the partner that staying in a relationship is a good idea. At this point, the relationship goes back to stage two and the cycle starts again. 

Getting out of a narcissistic relationship isn’t easy. In fact, it may be more difficult than most people realize. If you’re in a narcissistic relationship or have recently left one, take time to get professional help to learn how to move forward.