Selling The Fairy Tale: Stage 1 Narcissistic Abuse

Once upon a time

Traditional fairy tales start with a damsel in distress. A beautiful maiden has been ignored, mistreated, forced to serve others, and locked away by people who claim to love her.  As she wonders why she’s so unworthy of love, Prince Charming swoops in and rescues her. 

His undeniable good looks are only part of his charm, as he showers his soon to be Princess with romance beyond her wildest dreams.  He places her on his white horse and they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after, or at least that’s what we think because that’s where the Disney stories end. 

I survived the fairy tale  

My Prince was just as handsome and charming as Walt could have designed.  He swooped in after my 11 year relationship/marriage traumatically ended, as if on cue. I was feeling unloved, unwanted, and tired of being strong. 

He held me in his big, strong arms and made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. By day, he held my face gently in his hands and kissed me every chance he got, while at night he passionately worshipped every inch of my neglected body. I woke up to him singing me sweet love songs as we planned our next adventure together.  

My perfect man, showered me with roses by the dozen and delivered coffee to my bedside in the morning.  He cooked me dinners, mowed my lawn and helped with chores around the house, anything to make my life easier.  I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, demonstrative father figure for my girls. 

He screamed out his love for me every chance he got, convincing everyone that he was sent from the heavens to give me the love story I deserved.  2 years later, we had a gorgeous wedding day, surrounded by God, family, and our girls. We literally danced off into the sunset and I was completely whisked away by his love.

4 years after our wedding day, Prince Charming left us to rescue another woman and I watched as he lit up her world, as he did mine, with his GIANT sized love and affection.  He worked his magic just as fast and within months of leaving his wife and kids, he was having baby and married to her.  Same Prince, different Princess.  

How could I be so stupid? Was it all even real?  Desperate to find answers, I started therapy and read everything I could about addiction, family trauma, and codependency.  A year later I was still searching to understand why I still felt so connected to him. 

My friend put me on to a social media page about surviving narcissistic abuse, but I wasn’t into it. I didn’t want to look at myself as a victim and I didn’t want to label him a narcissist. After all, isn’t a narcissist is a selfish person? My Prince was actually very loving, all the way up to the day he left.  After sharing these concerns with my friend, she said, “Lisa, I know what you went through, not just because I watched it as your friend, but because I went through it too. Watch it!”  So, I did.

Whoa!  A new world of understanding opened up for me when she described the 3 stages of Narcissistic Abuse.  This was the last piece I needed in my recovery process… 18 months later.  It was the realization I needed to accept my “too good to be true” fairy tale experience and move on from “Prince Charming” for good.  

Over the next week, I’ll be sharing what I learned from reading and watching countless professional resources on narcissistic abuse so that it may help some of you identify the signs and recover as well.  

Phase 1: Idealization “Love Bombing”

What it is:  Love bombing is the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction. Narcissists are skilled at putting on the mask that their target will find most attractive.

How they do it:

  1. Quick commitments (moving in right away, engagement, baby, marriage)
  2. Undevoted time (as if they didn’t have a life before you) 
  3. Over the top compliments (you’re the best, only one they’ve ever loved) 
  4. Changing their interests to match yours
  5. Changing their beliefs to reflect yours
  6. Convincing you they are your soul mate, one of a kind connection early on

The love bombing phase is where the addiction sets in.  You become addicted to feeling that extreme love and adoration from him. When Stage 2, devaluation sets in, maintaining this addiction will be stronger than just about any awful thing he says or does to you. In fact, you’ll make excuses for him and work hard to make him feel good, losing yourself in the process.

Why they do it: 

  • They find validation in attaining your trust, undevoted love, attention & adoration  
  • They use your genuine, authentic self to fill their emptiness  
  • They seek happiness they can’t find within themselves so your happiness toward them becomes their temporary fix
  • They see something they want in your life and seek to present that image too
  • Ultimately, they want to hide their damaged sense of self with your admirable qualities

During the love bomb phase, the narcissist will quickly reveal upsetting parts of their past, in an attempt to draw you in closer. If you find yourself being more drawn to them for this reason and yearn to help them, you’re a good target.  In healthy relationships we support each other, we don’t try to rescue or save one another.

I think it’s important to end with saying that you can be a strong, intelligent person and experience emotional manipulation. In fact, that can actually make you a target because you have the traits they desire.  

I also believe that many narcissists are completely unaware of their actions.  But, that is no excuse.  If we deeply hurt those we love, we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to look inward and get the help we need to break toxic patterns.

Next stages and blog posts:

Click below to read more about the next stages of Narcissistic Abuse

  • Phase 2: Devaluation
    • Since this is an act, and they have no true sense of self, their mask will start to crack. They will lie, cheat and gaslight you in order to conceal their true identity. You will start to question everything, especially yourself.  
  • Phase 3: Detachment
    •  As their true self is revealed, they will realize they can’t play this role perfectly forever and must find a way to exit the relationship. They will abandon “the one” they vowed to love forever, especially if they have already found someone else to fill their supply.  

 

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