Gas Lighting & Other Love Bombs
By: Kayla Tricaso, Office Manager
Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone who falls on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) spectrum knows how painful, stressful, and confusing the relationship can be. Dating someone with NPD can feel like a rollercoaster; one second you’re on cloud nine and the next it can feel like you’re plummeting from a thousand feet. A person with NPD traits will be on their best behavior in the beginning and their partners often feel as if it’s the most passionate and intense love they’ve ever experienced. Unfortunately, when the mask comes off, a different side of the NPD partner comes out. The tactics that people with NPD employ are often so covert that they can be difficult to recognize, especially if they are meeting an unmet need.
When in relationships with those with traits of NPD, partners often describe their dynamic as amazing highs and debilitating lows. They may not be aware that there is a method to the madness in the form of a narcissistic cycle. This unconscious cycle consists of three phases: idealization, devaluation, and discard. In the idealization phase, the person with narcissistic tendencies makes their partner feel absolutely adored. This is the stage where love bombing occurs, a term that describes the way a person with narcissistic tendencies is able to influence their partner with grandiose displays of love and affection. They may shower their partner with admiration and grand gestures, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. The partner may feel intoxicated with all the adoration they are receiving, but unfortunately, the romantic bliss is fleeting, and is usurped by the devaluation phase.
During the devaluation phase, the euphoric love and affection once dished out so readily is replaced with rage and hostility. Kind words turn into to nasty insults and affection morphs into the silent treatment or passive aggressive behavior. During this stage, the person with narcissistic tendencies may start fights, ignore, blame, and demean their partner. They also may use gaslighting, a manipulation tactic that can cause a person to question their reality and sanity, to exploit their partner. When the narcissistically inclined partner has had enough with the mind games or simply becomes bored, they discard their partner as a final blow. By the time the relationships reaches this discard phase, their partner may feel emotionally drained, unworthy, at fault for the toxicity in the relationship, and have an overall shattered self-image. Sometimes, a person with narcissistic tendencies will leave their partner for a new “supply,” but often, they will keep coming back to their partner with promises of changing and treating them better. These promises are a form of hoovering, a term that refers to a person who sucks their partner back into a relationship, like a vacuum, with manipulation and false promises.
Because of the stealthy way a narcissistically aligned person can disguise their true colors and the insidious nature of the abuse, people may spend years with someone with narcissistic traits, sometimes without knowing their partner is on the NPD spectrum. This is especially true when the person with narcissistic tendencies has experienced trauma, which partners may employ as an excuse for their partner’s toxic behavior. The best way to discover if a partner has narcissistic traits or to protect oneself from unhealthy relationships is to know the signs. There is power in education and knowing the red flags can save people a lot of pain, trauma, and confusion.