By Dana Morningstar
This is a term used to describe an over-the-top ending of a relationship with a narcissist which is often characterized by an extreme amount of drama, chaos, lies, and overall outrageous, soap-opera type of behavior. Their behavior can be so extreme that it can quickly become dangerous—even deadly. The target of any abusive person needs to use extreme caution when leaving the relationship, even if the narcissist has never shown any signs of violent behavior before, because once the narcissist realizes they’ve lost power and control over their target, they begin to scramble and say or do anything that they can in order to get that power back. It’s around this time that the narcissist’s mask either slips or is taken off completely, and the target is shocked by what they see. They may be shocked by the level of contempt the narcissist has for them and realize that the narcissist does not love them or even like them. This can be a hard reality to accept and leaves many targets feeling numb, devastated, and angry once they realize the narcissist is nothing more than an emotional con artist—and someone they don’t even know (because they don’t), and feeling used, abused, and exploited (because they were).
Example: Shannon and Mark had been married for ten years. During these ten years Shannon continually felt frustrated and outraged with Mark’s financial irresponsibility, his addiction to porn and frequent trips to strip clubs, his chronic lying, his put-downs, and his continual indifference about his behavior and its impact on her. She recently found out that he had been flirting with a woman through text messages. When Shannon confronted him about this and asked him if he was cheating, Mark denied it and told her that he couldn’t take these wild accusations. He insisted that he had female friends and that’s all this other woman was. Then the other woman, Rachel, contacted Shannon, and it turned out that Rachel was pregnant. Confronted with Rachel’s pregnancy, Mark said that they’d only had sex once, and it was during a time that he and Shannon had been fighting. He claimed that Rachel meant nothing to him and that he would do anything to save their marriage, begging Shannon to give him another chance and for them to get into couple’s counseling. Mark seemed to say all the right things, and even the counselor thought they were making progress. Shannon’s best friend wasn’t buying it and encouraged Shannon to talk to Rachel, to get her side of the story. Shannon told Mark that she wanted to meet with Rachel, and after many fights about it, Mark reluctantly agreed. Then he came home and said that Rachel was too embarrassed and ashamed to meet with Shannon, but that she’d be okay with texting. Mark gave Shannon Rachel’s number, and they began texting. Sure enough, Rachel confirmed everything in Mark’s story. Rachel even said that Mark had told her how much he loved Shannon and that she was a lucky woman. Shannon believed the texts, until one night when she sent Rachel a text while Mark was in the bathroom. She heard a strange sound in Mark’s jacket. It was a text notification, but not his normal one. She sent a few more texts, and sure enough his phone kept chiming. She went into his jacket and saw that he’d bought a cheap phone, and that she’d never been texting Rachel—she’d been texting Mark all along!
That was the final straw for Shannon. She moved out that night. Over the next few months, she found out who the real Rachel was, and the two of them began to uncover lie after lie that Mark had told each of them. The more of the truth that came out, the more ridiculous the situation became. She found out about hidden bank accounts, other women, and debt she never knew about. She learned of lies he’d told other people, including that she’d had cancer and that’s why he’d stayed with her, and that he had tried to leave her before, but she continually manipulated him into coming back, claiming she needed him because of her illness. Rachel even showed Shannon a text saying that he thought his son with Shannon wasn’t really his! Rachel told her that Mark had vigorously pursued her, and that the only reason he was pretending to work things out with Shannon was so that he could divorce her and not get screwed over financially. Shannon could hardly believe that this was her life, or that Mark could have been capable of so many lies and such a jaw-dropping level of deceit, disrespect, and disregard for her and their marriage. Mark’s behavior was so outrageous that Shannon felt like she was living a soap opera!
Dana Morningstar is a former psychiatric nurse turned domestic violence educator who specializes in abuse awareness and prevention. Her passion is working with survivors of abuse to reclaim and rebuild their self-esteem, boundaries, confidence, and identity. She is an author of multiple books on the subject, and also has a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, as well as several online support groups, all of which you can find under the name “Thrive After Abuse.”