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If you haven’t been exposed to a toxic relationship with a Narcissist or Sociopath then you probably have no interest in learning about the conscience deficient 4 percent of the population (Stout), but if you haven’t learned to spot the early warning signs, red flags and the 3 distinct stages of a toxic relationship, then you might be at risk of falling into one of these loveless torture traps. According to Martha Stout, clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, 4% of the population are have narcissistic personality disorder or sociopathic traits what I like to refer to as narcopaths (Narcissist + Sociopath = Narcopath). That may not sound like much, but using the world’s population for example, that is approximately 385 million people. Unless, people learn how to spot these “wolves in sheep clothing”,  people will continue to fall prey to the emotional, psychological, spiritual and sometimes financial destruction they cause. Narcopathic abuse does not usually include forms of physical abuse with physical signs like bruises. The signs of Narcopathic abuse are invisible, which makes it much harder to identify. Narcopathic abuse is more ambiguous and difficult to prove, but it is no less damaging because it’s a form of spiritual rape. Over time, the abuse chips away at the target’s self-confidence and self-esteem. The target isn’t even aware it’s happening until the damage has been done. The abuse is always about control for the Narcopath. The Narcopath sees the target as a means to an end and will seek to control the target and drain them dry emotionally, financially and every which other way they can. The Narcopath gains the targets trust and love and then extracts all their good qualities with professions of ideal and everlasting love with absolutely no intention of loving in return.

Since the abuse is covert, very few outsiders understand and as a result are not able to offer support or empathy. Even many therapists aren’t adequately trained or knowledgeable in dealing with the damage and the post-traumatic stress often experienced by Narcopath abuse survivors. This is why is it is so important to find out about the early warning signs that you might be dating a Narcopath and learn about the 3 distinct stages of a toxic relationship cycle.

Stage 1: The Idealization

“If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck. But if it walks like a duck and talks like a swan, it’s a Narcopath”.

In this stage, the Narcopath pours on the charm to lure their target to emotionally gain his or her trust. The Narcopath becomes the ideal partner and portrays themselves as generous, loving, caring, empathetic and romantic individuals. They will be doting and say and do anything all the right things to trick their target into falling madly in love with them. They all without exception use a technique called “love bombing” to some degree or another.

This technique is called love bombing because they will literally bombard their targets with tons of romantic gestures. Such as; adoring texts, phone calls and Facebook posts professing their love and admiration.

Within the first few weeks or month, they will often claim that no one has ever made them feel this way before and that their target is the “ONE” for them. It can be quite flattering for the target because the Narcopath morphs into the target’s “ideal” love partner, saying all the things the target has ever longed to hear. The Narcopath will also claim to share the same interests, values and dreams as their targets.

The Narcopath will quickly declare their target their “soulmate” and since the target feels like they have finally met their perfect match, it feels true.

But the intoxication from the love bombing is just a ploy. Just as people who drink too much alcohol become intoxicated and lack good judgment, the intoxication of the love bombing also serves to impair the target’s judgment and hook them into letting their guard down and the Narcopath in.

The Narcopath is very intense and will romance their target like no other. The honeymoon phase of the relationship will be like a scene from a romantic drama movie, because that is just what it is, it’s all an act. They will move the relationship at lightning fast speed and use another tactic called “future faking” where they will talk about future plans such as moving in together, marriage, children or vacation plans etc….very early on in the relationship.

One of the reasons the Narcopath moves the relationship so quickly is because it’s quite difficult to keep up the façade of being a loving, giving, sensitive, kind and caring individual when they are really not.

Frankly, it’s a lot of work! And the Narcopath is selfish and doesn’t like to give. Also, by moving the relationship very rapidly, the target is kept off guard and does not have the time to learn the truth about the Narcopath’s history. By the time the target does get a clue about the numerous short-lived, intense past romantic relationships with previous “soulmates” or finds out the real reason the Narcopath is staying on his/her friend’s couch and doesn’t have his/her own place, or starts to wonder why the Narcopath seems to have a ton of acquaintances but no real close friends, it’s too late, the target has already fallen deeply in love with the Narcopath.

Stage 2: The Devaluation

The once Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde who quickly changes the atmosphere to one of panic, worry, uncertainty, and total confusion to the relationship. The change can be swift and potent or slow and treacherous.

Once the Narcopath is aware of just how much the target has fallen for him/her, they will become their true selves and the roller coaster ride will begin.

The Narcopath who once loved and admired everything about the target and showered the target with love, adoration and attention will begin to criticize and nitpick (a form of abuse much like brow beating) just about everything the target does. The displays of love and affection will fade and the Narcopath will demand more and more from the target while giving less and less.

Confused by the Narcopath’s sudden change in behavior, the target will instinctively work harder and harder to try to please the Narcopath and restore the relationship back to its once perfect beginnings. The Narcopath will delight and take satisfaction in seeing the once confident, happy, successful target slowly sinking into despair caused by the Narcopath’s intentionally created chaos and confusion. The Narcopath’s ability and desire to emotionally control others gives them great pleasure and reinforces the Narcopath’s need to feel superior and in control. This is a great source of narcissistic supply that the Narcopath craves the same way a drug addict craves drugs. Supply is collected from the target and it fills the Narcopath up like helium and helps sustain, albeit very temporarily, the Narcopath’s false sense of himself/herself. The Narcopath directs his/her whole behavior in the pursuit of extracting supply from others. It doesn’t matter if the supply is in the form of praise, adoration, attention or control, inflicting pain, or emotional distress. Supply is supply to the Narcopath.

During the devaluation stage, no matter how hard the target tries or what the target does to attempt to make the Narcopath happy, it will never be good enough and will not please the Narcopath for any length of time.

This is the hallmark of this stage. The Narcopath will run hot and cold and the target will feel like they are constantly walking on egg shells. The Narcopath intuitively knows when to provide glimpses and crumbs of the idealization stage, much like a slot machine, to keep the target hooked and chasing the proverbial carrot in hopes of recapturing the initial “love” the Narcopath once provided.

Stage 3: The Discard

Narcissist detach so easily because they were never attached in the first place. The discard is inevitable and will usually blind side the target. This is the Narcopath’s coup de grace.

They will discard their targets in the cruelest most heartless ways to inflict the greatest amount of suffering because the more the target suffers, the greater the narcissistic supply.

Often they will discard their targets before a holiday or coldly through email or text. The once professed “love of their life” will not even get the courtesy of a face to face break-up and some closure. Sometimes they will discard their target because their target may be getting wise to their games and challenging their control. Narcopaths will abandon whoever they can’t control. Or perhaps, the Narcopath may have extracted all they could from their target by draining their target emotionally, financially and spiritually. They will begin to despise the target for not being the positive and happy person they once were and consider the target useless. The target now completely pillaged will have nothing left for the Narcopath to extract and he or she will become just plain bored and move on to fresh supply.

The Narcopath will act as if you never existed or may attempt to twist the knife a little deeper by publicly flaunting their new “soulmate” within days or weeks of the break-up.

So many victims are left confused and suffer from extreme emotional pain and often descend into a major depression. Many well intentioned family members and friends may suggest the target “just move on” or treat the situation like a typical break-up and expect the target to just “get over it” which only further destroys the target’s sense of self-worth. Due to the seriousness of the emotional trauma caused by Narcopathic abuse, what is now termed Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NSV). NSV is recognized as an actual mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

If you recognize the early warning signs of “love bombing”, moving the relationship at a fast pace, “future faking”, or signs of the devaluation stage, the best remedy is to proceed with extreme caution or just stay single.

Copyright © 2015 Bree Bonchay. All Rights Reserved

Bree Bonchay

Bree Bonchay is a Los Angeles based Licensed Psychotherapist (LCSW) who believes “relationships are the currency of life”. She’s a relationship expert dedicated to helping people heal from break-ups, recover from toxic relationships with narcissists and sociopaths and to never settle for a life less than the one they dreamed of. She is a Blogger, Advocate, Facebook Toxic Relationship Recovery Forum Administrator, Radio Guest Expert and is the Author of her upcoming book, “I Am Free”.

Suffering from Narcissistic Abuse? Join Narcissistic Abuse & Toxic Relationship Recovery & Support Forum on Facebook by clicking the link.

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91 thoughts on “Warning Signs & Stages of a Toxic Relationship

  1. I am thankful to have stumbled upon this website. After a ten year marriage derailed (four years ago), I have just recently gotten my life back on track. I had no idea that true medical terms existed for people such as my ex-husband. I have said for years if there was a scrap yard for conscience free men, I’d be rich. I wasn’t crazy, I am worthy of being truly loved and no, he did not damage me permanently. I have journal after journal full of the many ways this man tortured me. It is only by the grace of God that I did not do the unthinkable. I forgave him about ten months ago, I just now forgave the other two. Dr. Bonchay, I am forever grateful to you and the answering of your calling. It is more than mind blowing how accurate these articles are in comparrison to my real life story of being traumatized and tortured. Thank you for putting words and definitions in the many blank spaces of my past. I literally feel free.

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