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Are you familiar with the parable of the boiling frog? The premise asserts that a frog submerged in boiling water will instinctively leap out, but if placed in tepid water that is gradually heated, the frog will be unable to discern the danger, resulting in it being cooked to death.

Metaphorically speaking, this story is cited to remind individuals that they need to be cognizant of gradual change as well as sudden change. Being unaware of, or brushing off, small changes in personalities or relationships that occur over time hinders instinctual wisdom. If one isn’t paying close attention, these changes are often only perceptible when piecing together clues that have occurred for a long period of time. Usually this realization comes very late, often when lives have been altered in extremely negative and damaging ways.

The anecdote of the boiling frog is the perfect depiction of how victims of narcissistic covert abuse don’t recognize that they are being abused until severe damage has been done to them.

For the sake of narrative flow, I’ve written this article about Narcissistic Covert Abuse and the deceptive tactics of the Devaluation Stage from the perspective of the female. Of course, males also can be victims of narcissistic abuse and this parable can serve as a cautionary tale to them as well.

Before I describe the deceptive tactics of the Devaluation stage, let’s start from the very beginning: I’m sure you are familiar with the fairy tale where the girl kisses the frog and turns him into a prince, right?

 

THE TWISTED TRUTH

Once a upon a time, before you met the narcissist, you had probably kissed more than your fair share of frogs. Finally, akin to a romantic fairy tale, you met your Prince Charming. In reality, this is a happily-never-after fairytale that is as twisted as a narcissist’s rendition of the truth.

In the beginning, known as the Idealization Stage in a narcissistic abusive relationship, showered with attention and flattery, you believe that you’ve found your ideal partner. Prince Charming will be sure to utilize every trick in his toolbox to blind you to the control and manipulation that he is about to assert over you.

He will use flattery and you’ll bask in his constant attention. There will be promises of ever-lasting and eternal love. You’ll be declared his “soulmate” and told that he’s never met anyone as perfect for him as you.

Public declarations of his love will be constant. He will claim to share the same dreams, aspirations and viewpoints as you. Progressing at a whirlwind pace, soon you’ll be making plans to move in together and considering marriage, children; the entire modern-day fairy tale.

Filled with surging love and breathless from the rapid pace of the relationship, scarcely a moment is available to think rationally. Caution will be thrown to the wind because he seems so perfect and you feel as though you have a deeper connection with him than anyone you had ever met before, or could ever meet again.

Unbeknownst to you during the magical Idealization Stage is that he has said and done all the same things with all of his former “soul mates.” With every new victim, his predatory skills were sharpened and he became craftier at luring his targets to the metaphorical stove with the giant pot of water.

The public declarations on social media that you were the love of his life and your reciprocal loving comments were merely calculated maneuvers to ensure that you could be perceived a liar or just plain foolish if you contradict the narrative that he’s been weaving.

When your Prince starts to reveal his true self, no one would construe that you are speaking the truth if you speak negatively about him following those grand, affectionate public displays; probably not even yourself.

He’s convinced everyone you know, along with your help, how perfectly wonderful he is. Like an astute chef, he tenderized, marinated and basted you in idealization, priming you for the devaluation to come as he slowly began to warm the water.

Assured that you’d fallen in love with him, the Devaluation Phase begins. Despite his constant affection, in reality he had been preparing you for devaluation and emotional deprivation from the moment you met. Dishing out doses of devaluation slowly, careful consideration was placed on how you’d react. When you felt the temperature rising and sensed the instinctual urge to leap out of the pot, he quickly stirred in just enough crumbs of the Idealization Stage to keep you captive and confused.

 

THE NEED FOR CONTROL AND PRESERVATION OF THE FALSE SELF

Narcissists are all about control. Everything they do stems from a need to control others. Without someone to control, the narcissist feels empty, unworthy and void of self-esteem. He requires supply the same way humans require oxygen to survive. His partner’s role is to sustain the narcissist’s self-inflated view of himself and meet his need to feel superior.

There is no such thing as reciprocity or love in a narcissistic relationship. The more control his partner relinquishes, the more loved and superior the narcissist feels. This is why narcissists detest boundaries and will take extreme measures to trample any and all boundaries you try to erect. To a narcissist, boundaries are blockades to control and barriers to supply. When his supply is cut off, the narcissist feels as though his life is in peril.

 

WHY NARCISSISTS ARE DRIVEN TO DEVALUE

The narcissist views his partner as an extension of himself, except his partner is an inanimate object, not a living creature in his eyes. The narcissist needs his partner to provide a regular flow of supply to feel worthy, superior and good about himself. The slightest disagreement, criticism or difference of opinion is perceived as an assault on the existence of a narcissist. Differences of opinion are viewed as an outright attack on the false persona he has carefully created.

Any suggestion, belief or opinion that contradicts his false-self is not tolerable and the narcissist will do anything to defend his points of view and demonize yours. His manufactured false image is dependent upon his partner to sustain. He’s driven to devalue his partner because he despises his dependence on her as much as he is dependent on her. Devaluing his partner is the only way to disavow the unwanted dependent feelings while maintaining his sense of superiority and control.

 

HAPPILY NEVER AFTER

Back to the fairy tale of the prince and the frog. Your relationship with your Prince has progressed into a steady rhythm. As time passed, you may have noticed that his attentiveness had waned a little, or perhaps his desire to impress you decreased. You wrote it off as a normal transitionary stage that all relationships go through.

ALERT: Remember the cautions that are exemplified in the tale of the boiling frog. Even gradual change can harken disastrous ramifications.

Since you were purposely blinded by your narcissist, you didn’t pay heed the subtle but very drastic deviations in your prince’s behavior. The temperature in the pot got a little warmer, but overall you felt pretty good and continued to wander along the path of your fairytale. Gradually, more dramatic changes in your Prince’s behavior will begin to manifest, completely contradicting the personality of the person that you fell in love with.

Slowly, he will begin to subtly and covertly devalue you. Where you once could do no wrong, fault will be found. The devaluation may take various forms, including nit-picking, gas-lighting, withholding physical intimacy, blaming you for everything, needing to always be “right,” projecting his feelings on to you, playing the victim, triangulation, constant criticisms of minor and trivial things disguised in form of just “trying to be helpful” and domineering behaviors that started small in the beginning, but eventually permeated until every aspect of your life is under his control.

You may start to notice cockiness and arrogance in his statements, where he was once modest. He may start saying things like, “I am better at my job than all my co-workers” or “I am just good at everything I do.” Though a bit taken back at first, you still believe your Prince is wonderful, and that a little bragging here and there isn’t so bad.

Soon he will start to direct his grandiosity toward you. Since he is always right, he always has a better way to do things. If you don’t agree, his anger flares and you find yourself subjected to various forms of abuse. You and your prince begin to argue over the most trivial things. A key narrative in these arguments is that you have failed to meet his expectations of a loving and nurturing relationship.

He started to expect you to read his mind. He told you that if you really loved him, you would be more tuned into his needs. If you try to get him to see your point of view and your needs, you’ll be assured that everything could go back to the way it was in the beginning, “if only you would…(insert a demand here).”

As you sense the heat continuing to rise, he recognizes that you are becoming irritated and are contemplating jumping out of the pot of water. He will always quickly add a dash of little reminders of the Idealization Stage. Assuring you of his ever-lasting love, he again becomes more attentive. He will stir in a bit of “future faking” with promises of marriage and a happily ever after.

Watching the achievement of an excellent actor, you will be moved by the performance of your narcissist as he swears with tears in his eyes that he can’t wait to grow old with you and make a future with you. You become convinced that he is all you could ever need. You decide to stay in the pot, as his WORDS soothed you and calmed your doubts. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that his actions only fuel the voice in your head hinting that something is amiss.

Desperately wanting everything to go back to the way it was in the beginning, you will attempt everything in your power to please your prince. You’ll put things in places where he believes they belong. You’ll change your habits, because he insisted his ways were better.

It will became easier not to have long circular arguments over what appear to be the most minor issues. For instance, if he liked the dishes organized a certain way, it was really not all that important to you, so you just acquiesced and relinquished more and more control.

Your energy will become sapped as you work harder and harder to try to meet his incessant need for nurturing and attention, even though you’ve been providing the same amount that you did in the beginning and it once satisfied him. Despite your faithful attempts to keep him happy, for reasons that you cannot understand, what you have to offer is no longer enough.

The more you give, the less he gives in return. If you confront him about the lack of reciprocity in the relationship, he will resort to gas-lighting and outright deny the truth, despite copious amounts of evidence to the contrary. He will shift the blame back to you and his behavior will somehow be your fault.

You start to feel like nothing you do or say is ever good enough. You knew you had not changed since the two of you met, yet he started to find fault in you at a rapid and unrelenting pace. Soon you will be uncomfortable and uncertain of yourself in nearly every aspect of your life.

You become so focused on your prince and his wants and needs, you start to lose yourself and your identity. Your needs take a backseat to his. No matter how hard you try to get him to see your viewpoint, it is always a vain attempt. Since you aren’t viewed as important, a narcissist will never believe that your opinions or beliefs should be considered. To consider another persons feelings, that person must believe that other individuals are worthy of consideration. That will never happen in your relationship with a narcissist; he is the only person that matters to himself.

The temperature having risen so hot that it nearly paralyzes you, you are rendered too lethargic and depressed to leap out of the pot. You sure as hell contemplated it, but find that all of your energy has simply been drained. You begin to drown in your own confusion and despair.

Just in the nick of time, your prince gallops in, rescuing you as he pulls your head above the water. While holding you in one arm, he carefully stirs in more specks of the Idealization Stage with the other, adding just enough to keep you afloat and extract more supply.

Despite giving your Prince more of you than you had given to anyone in the past, he accuses you of being selfish and not loving enough. He would never admit, nor consider, fault. He would never agree to compromise. In the same breath that breathes your demise, he will proclaim his love for you and desire to make the relationship work. His actions will never change, no matter how convincing his words sound.

He held you to very high expectations of love and nurturing, but didn’t hold himself to the same high standards. His hypocrisy becomes glaringly apparent. No matter your continual efforts, nothing will seem to satisfy him anymore, on any front. You went from being his soulmate and the best partner he had ever met to someone who couldn’t even perform the most mundane of tasks like draining spaghetti or filling up the dog’s bowls with water the correct way.

Your self-esteem eroding, you will begin to feel emotionally depleted. You will be stunned to find one day that you barely recognize yourself. Even worse, you will begin to lose respect for yourself.

You’ve been nearly boiled to death. To add insult to injury, you were blamed for it too.

 

THE OUTCOME IS INEVITABLE

The narcissist is no prince. He is a parasite; a vampire; a soulless creature that masquerades as your Prince Charming.

Even if you muster the energy to attempt to challenge the chaos and duplicity that he has brought into your life, it only accelerates the end of the relationship. A narcissist has no use for anyone he can’t control, and since he never valued you, he thinks nothing of tossing you aside as he begins to search for his next victim.

He is a slave to his need for supply and must devalue the very thing that he needs to exist, or be forced to confront his feelings of inferiority, dependence and self-loathing. Confronting those feelings requires a level of self-awareness and empathy that a narcissist could never possess.

There is nothing you could have done to change the ending of this story. The outcome was inevitable. A parasite is a parasite, no matter how much love you give it. It’s time for you to consider the wisdom of another parable by Ilse Lehiste: “No matter how much you feed the wolf, he keeps looking at the forest.” You will never be able to offer him anything that can quench his insatiable desire for the unattainable.

You were targeted because you are emotionally generous, forgiving and compassionate. These are qualities that the narcissist never possessed, despite his uncanny ability to feign those characteristics. Those aspects of your personality are incredibly important to the narcissist because they know that they can prey upon them, using your own goodness against you as they continue to bleed you emotionally, financially, spiritually and physically.

The ending of this happily never after fairytale was written before the story ever began.  Don’t second-guess yourself or wonder what you could have done differently. Close the book and never re-read it. There are so many other books with worthwhile stories and better endings.

Just be sure that once you’ve set the book of your narcissist aside that you recall the tale of the boiling frog that was found on the pages and take heed of gradual change in the future.

breeheadshot1Bree 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 the book, I Am Free.

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Copyright © 2015 Bree Bonchay.  All Rights Reserved.

 

If you would like to learn more about narcissistic triangulation tactics, read my article, The 4 Most Common Narc-Sadistic Triangulation Tactics

If you would to learn some tips about how to recover from narcissistic abuse, read my article, The Chemistry of Love & Narcissism

Join my Facebook online Narcissistic Abuse and Toxic Relationship Recovery Forum by clicking the link.

 

 

31 thoughts on “Happily Never After: Decoding Narcissistic Devaluation and Deceptive Abuse

  1. Another great post. It makes me wonder though if there are some differences in the experiences of men and women. In my case I was the pursuer. After an initial uncertain period in which I closed down the little voice inside me I pursued my N like nobody before or since. In fact manic would be an appropriate way to describe my state of mind. She seemed so perfect I couldn’t imagine ever breaking up. We ended up signing a lease together much too fast. It was then that the criticism started and the things that made no sense. Walking on eggshells was exactly what I was doing. It was when my daughter said to me that when she saw us together my N just always seemed pissed off and that I never laughed and had the same nervous giggle that my Father did that I realized that I was reliving his life. It was one of the things that made me reach up and at least grab the edge of the pot of boiling water.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment. You raise an interesting question. Since most N’s are male, gender may change up the dynamic a bit in the beginning, but you said she seemed so perfect, which a is classic narc tactic, as they morph into your ideal partner to draw you in.

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  2. I am completely gobsmacked by this article I am living this life, it just all makes so much sense, Now that I know what I am dealing with, I have to make some very serious decisions. I am not the person I was before I met him, I am so depressed so time to start making plans.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This article is so spot on! My son is married to a N, and although they have separated numerous times, he continues to get sucked back in by her fake tears. The last break-up he sought help to resist taking her back but the minute she found out that he was seeing a therapist, she turned up her pity party to get him back. He’s not allowed to associate with his friends or family because she cannot control us. I am in a constant state of worry because she is now becoming physically abusive & I fear for my son’s life. All I do is sit and wait for the next blow-up so that I can see and talk to my child. Thank you for posting.

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  4. Thank you for this Happily Never After, it helps to read my experience written so good by another!!
    I managed to jump out sometimes, because it was real hurtful – but his wonderful words and the sudden ice-cold silent treatments – made me almost beg to be boiled some more😦 ..Then that too was in the game – I should blame myself it was a little warmer now, after all it was me that left, of course the water didn’t stop boiling …it was all along preparing tor the return!
    It took time before I surprisingly at the couples therapy – felt the therapists hand smack me out of the casserole.
    So I jumped away, very scared of everything suddenly, no skin, been in the water too long, no sleep, very sad, sick and in need of understanding everything again, like a new born suddenly – relearning absolutely everything about the world😦

    No contact with the boiler … my love….. my lesson… No more benefit of the doubt. And listen to your intuition, when it gets warmer – get out.

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  5. this article was so right on with me. every time there is a disagreement it is blown up and it turns to insults then silent treatment usually for 3-5 days. then a call, no apology. I need to talk to a psychologist who is aware of NPD and get some help in permanently breaking away. any advice on how to find someone?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda, you are already on the right track. If you have health insurance ….or if you don’t you can go to your local county mental health clinic. Either way interview several therapists on the phone and ask them what they specialize in. Choose a therapist that specializes with personality disorders and post traumatic stress disorder over one that is a ” jack of all trades”. If you have a few sessions, and you don’t feel the therapist is a good fit, just be honest and find another one . Therapists understand that a good fit is essential to the therapeutic process. Good luck and I wish you the best and peace & happiness.

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  6. Excellent explanation of the insidious behavior of my (soon to be ex) Narcissist husband. It’s such a difficult experience to describe to my family, friends, counselor and lawyer. What saved me was my anger. I finally got deeply angry at how my husband treated me, and told him to either get counseling or move out.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is the story of my marriage (which ended 2 years ago after 20 years together .) Hindsight is truly 20/20. This is some crazy-making shit! Fortunately, this frog got out!

    Love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My situation was not with a spouse but with my late mother. I was too young to know what NPD was. So, it’s true to the words “Till death do us apart”. I hope you will write more on NPD in other types of relationships. Just my 2 cents…One thing I find common is when a spouse, a parent, anyone who would sneak into searching your drawers, computers, house, etc without your permission but fault you later in an argument, what he/she found in your stuff. It’s a very common thing apparently and it’s very telling of an NPD who seeks control. They would never apologise for going into your stuff, violating your privacy but focus the conversation on what they found that they don’t like instead. I know people’s spouses, my own mother, other’s bosses, etc….who committed this and the victim couldn’t wrap their heads around who was really the perpetrator.
    Please keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cynthia, thank you for bringing up the important trait of narc snooping and invasion of privacy. It’s so true that a closed bathroom door means nothing to them. Your computer search history is fair game and even your journal. Nothing is off limits and they never apologize because they feel entitled to trample the rights of people that they see as objects and then punish for whatever they might have found.
      I’m definitely planning to write more about parental NPD. Thank you for commenting. Xx~Bree

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  9. GREAT ARTICLE! This was my story, the only difference being that the N I was married to never attempted to hoover me. He discarded me quickly after I finally set a rather firm boundary with him. I believe he is getting better and better at perfecting his facade (learning from his mistakes with me and others) and has the ability to far too easily find a new victim, which explains why he doesn’t hoover. Why hoover when there is someone else he can start fresh with and fool a little more carefully, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah, yes, you unmasked him. Your boundary made him realize he couldn’t control you and at that point you were no longer a good source of supply. It sent him searching for supply he could fool and reflect back the image he wants. Good for you!

      Like

  10. Damn. U just described the last 10 years of my life. Like exactly. Like word for word, experience by experience….except I’d say Princess charming. ….thank you for the insight.

    Like

  11. wow–I’m devastated.
    I am a male with a femal N.

    The first stage is spot on.
    The second stage, I realized something on my own. At this point we had been together over a year. I noticed everything so I did notice the very subtle devaluation. One day I just told her wow you got some huge ego… Narcissist never crossed my mind. People throw it around casuasually like “Kanye West is a narcissist” didn’t know it was a real thing. I googled egomaniac and that’s when I was introduced to NPD.

    It seems I caught this at the beginning of stage 2. It was a bit of faith. I had gotten sick… More sick than I’ve ever been in my life. The N. is a nurse so she felt this was her opportunity to take over. None of what she did helped. I began to Google my symptoms and diagnose what was wrong with me and started telling her the things I needed. She barely complied and After she did she gave me the silent treatment.

    At this point I realized no matter all the things she said and did for me, there is no way she loved me if she would pull this crap at a time like this… What happened next left me at a loss of words. I ended having to go to the hospital. I had serious kidney issues and was on breathing tubes.

    I did not tell her I was going to hospital. She didn’t know till I had a bed I sent a text. She seemed somewhat surprised. She tried to called but I didn’t pick up because I was setting a trap. I basically told her she didn’t care about me and left me for dead.

    She played shocked and tried to call but I knew it was so she could do damage control so I didn’t pick up. Mind you I had not yet read about confronting a N. She showed to the hospital. After playing concerned she eventually switched the topic to the text. I told her I didn’t want to talk about it. That pissed her off.

    She persisted with how could I say what I said so I laid out facts that proved she didn’t care and she had no defense. She quickly tried to turn it on me and say that I’m selfish and ungrateful. My reply was “I figured you would say that to avoid taking responsibility but I’m done, conversation over”…. Well she went into a rage…. And she actually attacked me in my bed as I’m hooked to tubes.

    Im a very strong guy, and managed to push her back with a force that let her know I was sick, not dead I would knock her lights out if tried it again. She stormed out the room. Amazingly no one saw any part of the altercation because the door was closed…

    FF the story to present day. We still live together. Not married, her city, her name on the lease. I don’t have a lot a cash, we actually own a business together. I need her at the current moment because of that reason alone. From a legal standpoint everthing is in my name, but the clients we have could be jeopardized if I cut her out.

    Her attitude is back on silent. I’m mirroring her actions. I need to know if I should A. Remove any business sensitive things from the house. Then confront her with a business only relationship. Save some money and gtfo ASAP. Or just get out at all cost? Keep in mind I have 3 kids from a previous relationship and no friends in this city. What should I do and what is the N. next move?

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  12. I never comment but this article hit home 100% depicting what I went through. It’s been over a week not hearing from him and alas I’m reaching the point that I’m glad. Ugggh.

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  13. I was going to write a book about my horrid experience, but you’ve succinctly captured it in this amazingly insightful article! I commend you, it is spot on and accurate beyond words. I am so glad I found this. I have been racking my brain to assess what was going on in my declining 2-year relationship with a person whom I’ve learned is a definite narcissist. He claims to have ADHD but he has just put me through the most horrific emotional battery I have ever experienced. For almost two years, I have been on a pedestal during an extended and intense idealization phase. Constant and consistent praise, attention, gifts, flowers, vacations, attention to no end. And just overall generosity.We just bought a home together but after one intense argument where I questioned his emotional availability, he really started to withdraw emotionally and physically very rapidly. After a horrible two month period where he gaslighted me and made me feel like I was crazy, I began blaming myself and trying to seek solutions to fix our relationship and just make it like it was before. I desperately longed for that old feeling. He seemed to be disappearing frequently or “working late” very often. I spent agonizing hours researching what could possibly be wrong. I went down many rabbit holes, examining his claimed ADHD, or my HSP (highly sensitive person), codependency, etc. as possible culprits…..but then came the shocking grand finale. He told me and my 9-year old daughter to get out (move) as soon as possible. After a weekend of intense snooping, I mean “sleuthing”, I learned that he was feverishly pursuing a married coworker AND that they are moving in together and were planning to start a family!!! I could not comprehend this extremely cold-blooded treatment after trusting him completely and loving him so deeply. I am still reeling and have a lot of work ahead for healing. Not to mention concern for the impact on my little girl. I am going to need years of therapy on this one. Thank you for shedding some true light on this insidious and terrifying disorder!

    Like

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