Red Flag of a Narcissist #15: Insults and Put Downs
There is a very set cycle of a Narcissistic relationship, and that cycle consists of three phases: Idealize, Devalue, Discard.
There are many elements at play in a “devalue” stage. Some of them are:
During the devalue stage, many people experience their partner’s “mask” slipping for the first time. When their mask slips, the victim sees a side of their partner that they may have never seen before. The longer they stay, the more they become subjected to a slow but steady decline in their partners behavior.
This decline in behavior often starts off with the Narcissist insulting their partner, or by being rough with them. Usually this bad behavior comes on out of the blue, and the victim is confused by what they are experiencing. They often don’t know what to think about what happened, and generally accepts the Narcissist’s excuse (generally not an apology) for why they did what they did (Narcissists rarely apologize, and there’s a solid chance that the Narcissist blamed their bad behavior on the victim.)
The Narcissist’s bad behavior starts happening more and more frequently, and again, at random times. And again, they often blame their bad behavior on their partner (this is the common, “Look at what you made me do” speak that abusive people are known for giving their partner). Their partner is often confused as to what happened to their nice, normal, rational partner, and often accept their partner’s excuse that their bad behavior is somehow their fault–as whatelse could it be?
The partner starts “walking on eggshells”, trying to control their partner’s behavior with their actions. This walking on eggshells is often crazy-making and anxiety inducing, as no matter what the victim says or does, their partner has the potential to unleash his/her fury on them, which often includes name calling, put downs, strange accusations (accusing you of cheating, when you haven’t), playing like they are the victim of you, and/or physical abuse which can include anything from punching, hitting, kicking, pinching, biting, rape, or even death.
If the victim does bring up issues he/she has with her partner’s behavior, an argument most likely breaks out, and the victim is then accused of all kinds of random behavior, or bad behavior that the victim had in the past is then brought up and used against him/her. The Narcissist effectively deflects any accountability for their actions, and now the victim is left defending their behavior.
By the end of the fight, nothing is resolved–as the victim’s original issue was never addressed, and the victim is often left feeling ground down, confused as to what just happened, and exhausted by the whole thing.
To add insult to injury, a Narcissist will often follow a nonsensical argument like this up with a long bout of the silent treatment, that can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The victim is so eager to get them to talk to them again, that they can’t stand it, and again, the focus is taken off of the Narcissists behavior. The result of this fight with a Narcissist the victim has learned a couple of things: they will never win a fight with this person, and if they bring up any issues they may have, they will be insulted and ground down, and in effect, to not bring up any issues they may have with their partner or with their relationship.
The longer the partner stays in this relationship, the more the Narcissist gets away with, and the lower their expectations of their relationship drop. This is called “Managing Down of Expectations.” This managing down of expectations isn’t noticed by the partner, but is by everyone who knows the partner well. Over time, the Narcissist’s behavior becomes more and more outrageous, and yet, because the victim has already tolerated so much from them, they don’t view the bad behavior as extreme and abusive as it is, as 95% of the behavior they are experiencing this time around, and they’ve experienced before, and still stayed, so odds are they’ll continue to stay, because I think on some level they have a hard time justifying why they’d leave now, when they’ve stayed before.
The Narcissist often also does a great job of deflecting, denying, minimizing, and lying about their behavior. If the Narcissist is cheating during this time, then odds are they are blaming their behavior on the other person or on their partner. Again, accountability has been deflected off of the Narcissist, and more often than not the victim is now angry at the person the Narcissist cheated on them with, and the two partners are engaged in a battle over the Narcissist. This is a form of triangulation, where there are three people involved in what should be a two person situation, as well as Narcissistic Supply, where the Narcissist is getting their ego fed off of two people fighting over him/her.
Many victims don’t know what to make of the verbal or physical abuse. They hang on to the hope that their partner will change back into the person that they used to be.
The devalue stage can last a few weeks, or it can go on for years before the relationship moves to the discard stage (either by the victim or the Narcissist). (The discard stage, if done by the Narcissist, is often sudden and without warning. The victim doesn’t realize there is a problem in their relationship, let alone a problem that is so bad that their partner would want to leave. They are often shocked and devastated, and have a hard time picking up the pieces and moving on.)
But what isn’t often mentioned is that while all Narcissistic relationships run the patter of idealize, devalue, discard, different people experience the “Devalue” stage, well, differently.
For example, I had two serious relationships with two different covert Narcissists, and both of those relationships had no obvious devalue stage–these men were Prince Charming up until I found out about their double lives.
With covert Narcissist #1 (Jack), my guess is I didn’t experience an obvious devalue stage because he needed me, and my good credit to get the necessary financing for a business that we were trying to get up and running. And I’m sure he knew that the way to do that was to be really good to me (which he was). Perhaps things would have changed between us once the business was financed, and I’d served my purpose. And most likely he talked a lot of trash behind my back that I never knew about.
With covert Narcissist #2 (Steve), I also didn’t experience an obvious devalue stage, and was surprised to learn that his sudden discard wasn’t due to wanting to be near his son, or to take care of his exwife he claimed had cancer. In fact, my guess as to his motivations for upping and leaving me, has nothing to do with him loving his wife, or missing his son, and everything to do with the fact that he couldn’t get a decent job where we’d just moved to–and that he’d have to start out at the bottom of the totem pole like everyone else. He moved back to New Mexico, and back in with his wife (turns out his divorce never went through). Once his wife and I found out about each other, we began forwarding all of the texts and emails he was sending both of us to each other. They all said basically the same thing–that he promised he change, he knew he did wrong, he needed help, blah, blah, blah.
She’d also sent me texts that he’d sent her where he described his time in Michigan with me as a “living hell”, and reassured her that I meant nothing to him, and that the only reason he got involved with me was because I “threw myself at him”. Which, of course, was quite the shock to me since he’d told me his marriage had been over for years, but he had a hard time moving out since she was so manipulative, and kept claiming that she had cancer. After we moved to Michigan, we were spending time on a lake almost everyday, and had just had a wonderful weekend exploring Western Michigan just days before he left.
At the end of the day, if you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, you will have nothing but a lifetime of hurt and heartache if you stay. They do not change, and often just get worse with therapy. …If you are finding yourself in a relationship with someone where you are either being devalued in anyway, it’s time to examine both your standards for the way you expect to be treated by other people, as well as your boundaries for how long (and to what capacity) you let disrespectful people stay in your life.
This “Red Flag of a Narcissist” series is not designed to diagnose anyone with a personality disorder. It is designed to present a broad brush look at behaviors that most (if not all) manipulative people tend to have (not just Narcissists). Not all of these red flags are a signal to run for the hills, and a person doesn’t need to have ALL of these flags present to be dangerous or destructive.
These red flags also occur on a spectrum, meaning that they will be more obvious and troublesome in some people, and not so much in others.
At the same time, keep in mind that EVERYONE has some of these red flags—however, manipulative people tend to have them to a more troubling degree than normal, non-manipulative people. Keep in mind that Narcissists and Antisocial Personality Disordered people’s red flag behavior is more driven by their lack empathy and remorse, desire to manipulate and exploit other people for their personal gain, which is often not the case with those without these disorders. So don’t panic if you see some of your behavior in these red flags, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a Narcissist, or have a personality disorder.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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- Episode 55: How Do I Stop My Addiction to the Narcissist? - August 23, 2017
- Episode 53: Strategies to Help Prevent Your Child from Being Manipulated by a Narcissistic Parent - August 21, 2017
- Episode 54: How can we handle victim blaming and revictimization? - August 18, 2017