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Narcissistic Relationship Pattern: The 7 Stages You Have to Face

The narcissistic relationship pattern is something to be aware of. That way, you can break out of the narcissistic relationship cycle to emotional safety. 

Narcissistic Relationship Pattern

It’s easy to fall for charm. We’ve all done it before. It can be overwhelming and extremely flattering, but appearances are rarely all they appear to be. You may think you’ve found the perfect match, be it a lover or a friend. But what you don’t realize is that you’ve just stepped into the first stage of a narcissistic relationship pattern.

And you’re only going to bind yourself more firmly in their web of games and deceit.

If you’ve ever been attracted to a narcissist, the chances are that you had no clue they were a narcissist when they first took your eye.

They probably bombarded you with attention and made you feel like the center of the universe. Then, they probably decided to suddenly leave you hanging and not really knowing which way was up or down.

The narcissistic relationship cycle is a typical one, and the pattern is all too predictable. But no matter how it starts, it rarely ends well.

[Read: Do narcissists know they are narcissists? Do they lie to themselves?]

A lack of empathy is at the heart of the narcissistic relationship cycle

Of course, we should judge every single person on their own merits, and realize that not everyone is going to behave in the same way.

But, the biggest trait of a narcissist is that they lack empathy.

When you lack such a key attribute, you don’t love or feel in the same way as other “normal” people. This makes it easy for a narcissist to detach and play games, manipulate and cause someone to feel pain, without it upsetting the narcissist at all.

[Read: How to tell if someone is a narcissist and recognize them instantly]

The other main traits of a narcissist are:

1. An inflated sense of self and very egotistical

2. Illusions of grandeur

3. They believe their opinion is always right and yours is totally wrong

4. Very manipulative [Read: Psychological manipulation – 16 signs and tactics real manipulators use]

5. Will belittle and even bully other people to get whatever they want

6. Always have to have the best of the best, be it material things or people

7. Very materialistic in general

8. A constant need for validation

9. The ability to turn the charm on whenever they need to – they have two faces [Read: 20 signs you’re wasting your time in a one-sided relationship]

It’s not a good picture, is it?

My advice to you is this – if you are connected to a narcissist and you’re either very aware of it or you suspect it, break free now. You can’t save them. It’s true that you can’t change them either.

They’re never going to suddenly stop their manipulative ways. For a narcissist, this is simply how it is.

To help you understand whether this is your reality, we need to explore the typical narcissistic relationship pattern in greater detail.

Read this with an open mind and then, at the end, be honest with yourself about the situation you’re perhaps in. [Read: What causes narcissism? The facts and theories to understand a narcissist]

The 7 stages of a typical narcissistic pattern

The stages we’re going to talk about can be in a different order occasionally, but for the most part, they will follow this very typical route.

Stage 1. The charm offensive

At this point, it’s very likely that you will be made to feel like the most special person in the world. This is the most addictive stage of the game and it’s powerful. When you feel amazing, when someone is giving you attention and charming the life out of you, nothing else matters. The problem? That’s their aim.

The more charm they throw your way at this point in the narcissistic relationship pattern, the more unlikely you are to leave.

Why? Because they will drag you back to this part whenever you think about leaving. When things get tough, they’ll remind you of their charm offensive and start acting in this way again. It’s powerful and it’s super-manipulative. [Read: What it really means to fall in love with a narcissist]

It’s also very likely that they will confide in you about something or make you feel sorry for them in some way. Again, this is a method of using your emotions against you and manipulating your reactions at some point in the future.

Stage 2. The subtle put-downs begin

At the heart of every narcissist is a lack of self-confidence. You see, a narcissist always has to be the best and have the best. And they might seem super-confident on the outside, but deep down they’re terrified you’re going to leave. So, in order to stop you from doing this, they start with small jibes at your expense, usually in public.

Counterproductive? Not really. The more they put you down and then continue charming you, the more you’re likely to become reliant upon them for the feel-good factor their charm brings you.

When someone tells you something bad about yourself, you feel down, right? Then, when they follow it up a short while later with compliments and generally acting like the most adorable person on the planet, you suddenly start to feel better again.

That adrenaline rush of pain and relief is addictive and it keeps you hooked by their side. It also makes you crave their charm, and you start to do everything you possibly can to make them happy. [Read: Narcissistic supply – How to stop giving them the attention they crave]

Stage 3. Slowly isolating you from family and friends

The next stage of the narcissistic relationship pattern is slow isolation from those closest to you. When you’re totally charmed by a narcissist, you’re likely to ignore the red flags, or not see them at all.

This is one of the vital parts of the narcissistic relationship cycle because it removes your support system. You’re alone after that, with only the narcissist to rely upon. That’s exactly what they want.

The problem is, your friends and family will see them very clearly and try to warn you off. Unfortunately, you’re not going to do anything about it at this stage because you’re totally hooked on your narcissist.

Simultaneously, the narcissist is going to panic that you will leave because of the warnings from your loved ones. As a result, they don’t want you associating with these people and they’ll slowly start to try and pull you away from them, using a range of different tactics.

It’s not unusual for a victim of narcissistic abuse to literally spend next to zero time with friends and family by the end of the narcissistic relationship cycle. [Read: The narcissistic victim syndrome and how to find your way out of this mess]

Stage 4. A few signs start to materialize

At some point during the narcissistic relationship pattern, you’ll start to see a few red flags yourself. You ignored them before, but the put-downs and the gaslighting to try and get you to doubt yourself click into place. You realize that something isn’t quite right.

At this point, you might start pulling back, perhaps going out on your own a little, maybe starting to see friends a bit more, or doing something for yourself.

Your narcissistic partner or friend will notice this and panic. You’ll then find that they go back to the charm offensive, trying to get you to remember why you started seeing them in the first place.

The likelihood is that this will be enough to remind you of the good times and, as a result, you’ll stay. [Read: What is hoovering? The games narcissists play to suck you back in]

Stage 5. Gaslighting techniques worsen

Your narcissist had a close shave there and had to revert back to charm offensive 101 to keep you from leaving. Now they need to step up the manipulation and gaslighting, to stop you from getting to that point again.

Gaslighting basically means making you question yourself or even doubt your own sanity. Perhaps they’ll deny knowledge of having said something or having planned to meet you, when you know they arranged it or said it before. Then, you’ll start to wonder whether you made it all up in your head.

Over time, gaslighting can cause severe emotional and mental trauma. Those who have been subjected to a long history of gaslighting won’t trust themselves anymore and will need a lot of help and support to build themselves back up again. [Read: How to spot gaslighting in a relationship and shut it down for good]

Stage 6. They start to pull away, leaving you unsure of where you stand

When your narcissist is sure they’ve hooked you deeply and got you right where they want you, they’ll start to pull away. Perhaps they’ll start by using passive-aggressive behavior or simply not calling you for a few days.

You’ll have no idea why they’ve suddenly gone cold and it will affect you more deeply than you realize. The reason is that you’ve become very dependent upon your narcissist, and that’s exactly what they wanted. They wanted total control over you. [Read: Blowing hot and cold – The 3 stages to explain why someone does this]

Stage 7. They leave or you eventually leave

The final stage in the narcissistic relationship pattern is that your narcissist leaves you, or you leave them. There really isn’t much hope for a happy ending here, we’re sorry to say.

Nobody deserves to stay in a relationship that causes them emotional pain and anguish, and you should never ever attempt to do so. [Read: How to know if a narcissist is finished with you and is bored already]

The narcissist is less likely to leave as long as they’re able to use you, and it’s normally the victim who learns to leave after a really hard struggle.

However, it takes a lot of strength and bravery to extract yourself from this type of relationship and actually stay away. The thing is, once you make the decision, you have to go through with it and stick to it. They might try the charm offensive once more, but do not listen to it! [Read: How do narcissists end a relationship? Can you predict the end]

Is it possible to leave a narcissistic relationship pattern for good?

Yes, but it’s not easy.

A person who has been in a relationship with a narcissist will probably be feeling emotionally scarred. There are varying degrees of pain, betrayal and confusion, but even those who haven’t been with their narcissist for too long will still have effects lingering in the back of their mind. That’s what causes the doubts.

You start to question whether you can actually do this and whether you can survive on your own. [Read: How to leave a narcissist and free yourself from their web of control]

The truth is that you can 100% survive, thrive, and do ten times better on your own.

The issue is that your support system, your friends and family, have been alienated. So, you don’t have those people around you to try and push you toward the right route. The good news? They’ll never have gone far and they will just be waiting for the word from you. They know what’s going on, that’s why the narcissist decided to extract them from your life.

Make your decision and stick to it.

Delete all contact with your narcissist and do not listen to anything they say. Tell yourself that they’re only saying these things to get you back. They don’t mean them. Rely upon your friends and family and give yourself time. [Read: How to handle a narcissist without falling apart and losing yourself]

You won’t feel great for a while, but know that over time, things will start to improve. If anything, getting anyway from a narcissistic relationship will turn out to be the best thing you ever did. 

[Read: How to make a narcissist regret ever leaving you]

These 7 stages of the narcissistic relationship pattern show just how hopeless this type of relationship can be. It also doesn’t even touch the iceberg on how painful it can be in terms of the abuse, manipulation, and comments which will be thrown your way. Our advice to you? Recognize it and get out of there, before you reach the point where you’re emotionally scarred for life.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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