Setting You Free: Stage 3 Narcissistic Abuse

So he left, now what?

The Discard Phase feels like the most painful while you’re going through it.  You’ll wonder how he could suddenly leave and hurt you in such a destructive way after it seemed he was so deeply in love with you.  But once you get through it, and you will because he chose you for your emotional strength, you’ll realize this is the phase where he set you free.

I don’t know how to write about this phase without sharing my personal story. I still find myself shocked over the suddenness and cruel nature of my husband’s departure from our vows, our girls, and our home.  He had a beautiful life and threw it all away… To make it worse, he left on our anniversary week, just before Christmas and our family vacation.  He left directly into the arms of another woman.  How could he be so cruel?  How did this happen?

The Beginning of The End

Sometimes a narcissist will ghost you, soon after the love bombing phase is over. Depending on how long you’ve been together, he may not need to strategize an exit plan that involves devaluing you to family and friends. He will just stop answering calls or texts and leave. If you allow it, he will come and go as he pleases which is why the professionals recommend “no contact” after a narcissist leaves your life.  While this is extremely painful because of how fast he made you fall for him, consider yourself lucky that it didn’t go any further.

For those of us who have been in a long term relationship with a narcissist, the Discard phase is a much longer process. In these cases, it’s likely he has been strategically preparing his departure for a long time.  Since he has to maintain a caring/rescuing outer shell, he will take advantage of every opportunity to destroy your character to his family and friends. 

“She’s so controlling”

Being in a relationship with a Narcissist is like being caught in a storm with no control of the outcome. He is the storm, and you are the collateral damage.  One minute his love is showering you like a warm summer rain, and the next he’s recklessly tearing through your heart.  No matter how many precautions you take, you cannot control the storm, and he knows it.  

“He’s the most generous, caring man I’ve ever known, but when he drinks, he becomes rude, belligerent, sloppy, mean… He completely changes.  I have spent the last few years trying to keep him safe, but I’m failing.  I’m trying to keep him from turning into this other person and from hurting himself.  He’s been hiding pills, steroids, chewing tobacco, alcohol consumption and he is having major health problems as a result. I don’t want to lose him and will do anything to save him.”

No matter how hard you try, you will never control the storm and he will destroy you for trying.

“She’s never happy”  

The narcissist will use the “Prince Charming” image you created of him during the love bombing phase to destroy you to his friends and family.  

“All most people see is what he does for the girls and I so they don’t understand why I can’t just be happy with him. Most of the time, he is a good man.  Other times, he says and does terrible things to me.  People who have seen him do this have justified it, telling me he loves me, which only makes me feel worse for acknowledging this other side of him.  One time, he raged at a football game throwing things, flipping tables, and screaming in my face in front of his dad. Another time, he dragged me down a hallway in front of his best friend.  Both times they told me to let it pass and reminded me how much he loved me. While his friends and family excused it, mine knew nothing about the abuse.  I was not only unhappy, but alone.

He will tell others how unhappy you are, while projecting a perfect image, and they will believe him.

“She doesn’t love me”

He targeted you because you have an abundance of love for others and you have poured out everything you have in order to fill his tank… yet, he’s still empty and he blames you.

“There must have been a hundred times where I kept my mouth shut and succeeded in getting my husband home safely.  While drunk, he’d sling insults and berate me, sometimes for hours at a time, and most of the time, I’d take it.  I’d cry silently into my pillow as he touched me, making sure I wouldn’t leave.  If I did, I’d feel the wrath of all 6’4” 275lbs.  He’d corner me, poking my forehead as he’d yell in my face. He’d slam doors, throw things, punch holes in the wall, and repeatedly say I don’t love him and am ungrateful for all he does for me.  I’d wonder if I was making him feel loved enough and try harder.”

By the end of this relationship, you will stop loving yourself, not him.

“She’s abusive”

After you have endured more abuse than you ever thought you could, he will turn the tables making you look like the abusive one to his close family and friends.  

“One drunken night after repeatedly asking him to leave the bar, he proceeded to drink.  Knowing where this was going, I told him I was leaving and went to the car.  Not wanting to leave him there, I waited, crying and praying I could get him home safely. When he finally came out, 45 minutes later, he was so angry he ripped me out of the car, emptied my entire purse taking everything, my ID, credit cards, phone, and left me alone in the parking lot at 2am.  The next day, he attended a friend’s birthday party without me, showing off the scratches on his arm that resulted in the struggle of pulling me out of the car and taking away everything I needed to get back home.”

Months later, and numerous drunken nights in between, I caught him in a sexual act with one of my best friends in our home. I was so angry, I threw a cologne bottle at him, chipping his tooth. My reaction to his cheating was all he needed to paint me as an abuser.”

No matter how much you try, he will always make his actions, your fault.

It’s Not Your Fault

Whatever your personal story of abuse is, you will probably come out of it feeling responsible.  If you just said less. Controlled less.  Cared less.  Tried harder.  

It’s not your fault.  

A Narcissit’s goal is to make you feel this way about yourself so their actions are justified.  They have already successfully completed the devaluation phase, making you feel like you are the one to blame for their actions, behavior and “unmet needs”.  You will feel like the empty shell that is them, because in showing them unconditional love, they have drained you of your love for yourself.

The END

Over time, some of his friends and family started to distance themselves and I couldn’t understand why.  I’d ask and he’d blame them, saying they were selfish or pointed out their poor life choices. He made it an “us against the world” type of scenario and would remind me often that I was “the best” and how much he loved me. I didn’t realize that he was manipulating us and that it would eventually be his ticket out the door.   

A narcissist will discard you when he feels he can still maintain his outward image, after successfully destroying yours. 

He left suddenly and without concern for anyone else’s feelings. He said he cared, but his actions after leaving were cruel and unusual.  He not only left me, but the girls and never came back for them.  He asked for divorce via text a week after leaving and a day after our wedding anniversary.  He sold our boat to pay his attorney and demanded I not only pay all our bills, but alimony.  He immediately started another relationship, declaring his love for her 2 months after leaving his marriage.  He was a 33 year old man, who went from living in a big, beautiful home with 3 kids, and a devoted wife, to sleeping on an air mattress in his girlfriend’s mother’s home.  

“Choose Me”

When you’re so used to living in chaos, peace doesn’t feel right. I was addicted to his love, that even after everything he did, I tried to get him to come back.  

He gave me hope by “hoovering”, a common narcissist act of saying things that keep you on the line, while doing the complete opposite.  He’d send texts saying things like, “I’ll always love you.  You’ll always be the one.  My life is a mess right now.  I miss you.”  He belittled the new girl by calling her “trash”, “crazy”, “disloyal.”  Finally, I asked him to “choose me” and he did.  He came home and we spent the weekend reconnecting with each other. When he left for football camp, I felt like I had betrayed myself. I had not spent 8 months regaining my sense of safety, security and sanity just to let him take it with him again. 

Setting You Free

After 8 months of peace, I learned that I was not mourning him, I was mourning the dream that he sold me. My Prince was only armor, underneath was an empty, lost soul and there was nothing I could do to fix that. There was no fairy tale.  Only a survival story that started with him and ended with me taking my life back.  

He returned to her and within a month they were pregnant.  I’m sure she’s head over heals in love with him, as I was.   I learned so much about my experience with him, by watching him love bomb and devalue someone else.  It was so painful, but necessary in my healing process.  I am 19 months past the day he discarded me, and thankful now that he set me free. 

  

If you think you are suffering from trauma caused by Narcissistic Abuse, one-on-one therapy is best.  Although shared stories and books help, nothing helped me more than those biweekly appointments which gave me a safe space to share, listen, explore, and heal.  If you can’t get help right away, here are some resources to get you on the road to freedom:

__________________________________________________________________________

If you missed the first two post read them here:

Phase 1: https://expertlyflawed.com/2020/07/selling-fairy-tale-narcissistic-abuse/

Phase 2: https://expertlyflawed.com/2020/07/delivering-nightmare-stage-2-narcissism-abuse/

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.  

 

5 Ways My Husband Sets The Standard For How A Woman Should Be Treated

Sometimes I look at my husband and think, how did I get so lucky?  Other times I want to tear his lips off because his loud, wet, open mouthed chews classify him as a full neanderthal.  

Sometimes, at night I find myself counting his flaws like sheep while I lay awake listening to his deep, guttural snores.  He’s obsessed with the gym, extremely impulsive, loves food, craft beer, sex, cut-off shirts, the beach, and just about anything that takes him away from having to do yard work on the weekends.  

Neither of us are perfect (I’ll get to some of my flaws later), and our relationship began at a time when our flaws were probably most visible.  I had just ended a terrible marriage and he had just stopped dating his on again, off again high school sweetheart. Normally this would be a no fly zone, and we definitely didn’t entertain the idea of anything serious for a while.  

I’m not sure my husband knows how infectious his love is.  I’m certain there were girls before me that fell hard for him, and he didn’t really know why.  I know this because loving other people is just part of his nature, it’s not an act or something he forces himself to do in order to make others happy, he just does.  As time went on, I saw his unconscious love as a son, friend, brother, and eventually as a husband and step dad.

I want to clarify before I continue, that Brent’s love is not completely selfless.  He needs affection and love as much as he gives it… a lot!  I am not, and have never been, the most affectionate person in the world, so I have to make valiant efforts to reciprocate his affection on a regular basis.  Like all flaws, it’s a work in progress and I often find myself jealous of his effortless affection for others.

There is no perfect relationship, Brent and I have serious struggles when it comes to our flaws, but there is one thing we never struggle with, and that’s loving each other.  

Here are 5 ways my husband sets the standard for how a woman should be treated

 

  1. He never points out my flaws

standard for men

I think I might be a bad wife because I started this post by pointing out a few of his flaws, but we can’t talk about marriage like it’s always perfect.  He’s flawed, I’m flawed, you’re flawed, we’re all flawed, especially when it comes to relationships.  Blending two lives isn’t supposed to be easy.  

The first few years of our relationship people would ask what my quirks were and he’d say, “nothing, she’s perfect.”  I’d laugh inside my head and think, just wait, buddy.  I’m not always affectionate like him, I worry a lot (which could possibly come across as nagging), and I get annoyed at things like chewing and wearing cut off shirts outside of the gym, but he never points out my flaws.  Instead, after 5 years, he still treats me like I’m flawless.

  • (Me) “My ass is getting big”                           (Him) “No it’s not, it’s perfect.”
  • (Me) “Is my make up in the car?”                (Him) “You don’t need makeup.”
  • (Me) “I feel like the worst mother ever!”  (Him) “You’re the best mom in the world.”

No matter what I say, he comes back with a comment that makes me feel like I’m beautiful.  Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror after a really icky day and think why?  Then, he comes up behind me, puts me in his strong embrace and I suddenly feel like the sexist woman on the planet.

 

2.  He TELLS me he loves me

Some people think that their partner must know how much they love him/her because they married them after all.  This belief is not enough to sustain a healthy marriage.  We change, and our relationships change so much, that we need reminders of love often.  Here are some things Brent does to remind me he loves me everyday:

  • He sends me a text every morning to say I love you and good morning.  Sometimes he adds a little something extra in there 😉
  • He says I love you every time we hang up the phone.
  • He wakes up from a dead sleep and says, “I love you,” and then gets mad when I don’t say it back (okay, maybe that’s a little annoying).
  • He hugs me tight and says things like, “have I told you how much I love you today?”
  • He sings, terribly off key, love songs to me.

 

3.  He SHOWS me that he loves me

I thought constant affection wasn’t important, until I got it.  I’m not talking about the smothering kind.  Usually husbands and wives can’t smother each other because you barely have time to touch each other.  I’m talking about the kind of affection that reminds us why we’re married in the first place.  If there’s no affection, it’s just a roommate sitting next to you on the couch.

When it’s easier to tell someone you love them than show them, try Brent’s approach:

  • He hugs me everyday, as soon as he gets home.
  • He kisses me at least twice a day (more often if I let him, lol).
  • He always wants to sit next to me to hold my hand.
  • He brushes my hair and gives me massages because he knows how much I love it!
  • He chooses me – Affection isn’t always about touching, it can also be showing love in your choices.  Coming home on time (or even early), skipping an invite to spend time together, or choosing not to drink at a party and be the DD are all choices that SHOW your partner you love them.  When you’re married you always have to think about how your partner would feel about your actions.

The best part about all this, is this is who Brent is.  I don’t guilt him into doing these things, he just does.  When you’re shown this kind of love on a regular basis, it makes for a very “healthy” marriage!

4.  He’s a great dad

Brent didn’t just marry me, he became a father to my 3 girls.  It took me a while to introduce them (a year maybe), but when I did they bonded immediately.  I knew this would happen given Brent’s nature and I took so much time because I wanted to wait until we were in a serious, committed relationship.  

Of course, it wasn’t until they met that things truly got serious.  He was a natural dad, playing with them all the time, listening and taking part in all their daily routines.  He rearranged his work schedule to get them ready and take them to school in the mornings.  He was a natural at taking care of them, and making them feel loved.

He’s not their biological father but he sets the standard for what a dad should be.  Here are some things he does that makes me feel loved through his love and care of them:

  • He’s present; he’s not on his phone or working when he’s with us.  
  • He’s home on time to have dinner as a family every night.
  • He asks the kids about their day and listens.  He responds without criticism.
  • He helps with a little homework, especially math.
  • He knows what the kids like (food, movies, etc.) and surprises them often.
  • He has no problem getting the kids ready for school or to go out.
  • He helps with housework (most notably the dishes) so we can cuddle on the couch asap.

 

5.  He’s my biggest fan

Without his encouragement and support, I would be in a miserable job, but instead, when I reached the end of my rope, he gave me the freedom to let go.  

  • He trusted me enough to know the weight of my decision and didn’t parent me with all the possible negative outcomes.
  • He had faith in my new venture and encouraged me to go for it it in spite of our finances.  
  • He believed in me and bought me flowers when I launched.  
  • He never once said, you could fail.  
  • He never once made me feel guilty for my choice.
  • He doesn’t come home and ask what I did all day.  

Like love, trust and faith are also strong points for my husband. I know that as freely as he gives these things to me, I must treat them with extreme care.  If ever, any of those things were violated, he would be broken.  

There may have been some luck that brought Brent into my life, but keeping our marriage healthy has nothing to do with luck; it’s work, it’s compromise, it’s looking past the flaws and appreciating all the qualities that make your partner, and therefore your partnership, unique and amazing.  

I get to spend my forever with this man <3  


What makes your relationship unique?  How does your partner let you know how much he/she loves you?  Share your comments below.


 

The Slowest, Most Painful Way to End the World

The slowest, most painful way to end the world is to deprive people of the things that they love.  In my world, it’s the arts.  Art can come in many forms.  Art is music, literature, dance, and is even found in the human experience.  The beauty and breathe of our world, lies in art and the emotional connection it evokes.  I was lucky enough to have family and teachers who exposed me to art in many forms throughout my life.

My mom and grandmother taught me how to love unconditionally and fight for those who felt unloved.  My dad and grandfather exposed me to the sites of our beautiful nation and taught me to love my country, but it wasn’t until college that I understood why we should love others, and even how to love them.

 

College exposed me to black and white pages that revealed an entire society’s problems and helped me make sense of my own world.  College showed me beautiful works of art that were masterfully made in a way that made me lose myself inside the painting, much like I found myself doing in the lyrics of a song.  

My education in humanities taught me the importance of culture and how our human experiences shape our perception of the world; from Greek history to African American history to stories of our veterans and their personal struggles after war, I discovered that their experiences are woven into my life and color my world.  

Without art, music, literature, and human studies, I would live in a gray world of smog and industry.  If a degree in business, engineering, architecture, etc. focuses on the outside of structures and how they work, the arts focus on the inside.  The arts breathe life into a hollow hole.  As humans, and as an industrial nation, we can’t survive without them.

Our world was not created on the beliefs of industry and if we’re not careful, we can destroy it due to industry.  Just as we balance our personal lives when it comes to work and what we love (family, friends, etc), we must properly balance the love we have for one another and our planet, with the money and resources to protect it.

As more programs that are meant to help people are eliminated, we have more responsibility to one another than ever.  

  • If we can give our soldiers more weapons, we have to keep the programs that help them when they get home.
  • If we build walls out of fear, we have to create art out of love.
  • If we close libraries and cancel learning channels, we need to support more teachers and leaders to share stories that inspire.  
  • If we restrict agencies from protecting our environment we need to ask ourselves why it’s worth saving and start saving it one household at a time.
  • Finally, if we are going to call ourselves a Christian nation, as the new president declared, we have to follow the basic principles of faith; love one another as God has loved us and take care of the less fortunate.  Love and charity are, in fact, the foundation of all of the world’s major religions including Islam and Hinduism.  If we can’t, as a nation, take care of the poor and love more than we discriminate, then we can’t call ourselves a Christian nation.

We will all fall if we place our faith in the hands of fear.  

I’m a proud scholar of the arts, but I also respect the power and industry of our nation. Industry might make us #1 in the world but an athlete can’t compete without her heart.   

There is room in this world (and the budget) for both.  Just as we can make room in our lives for the love of family, and the work we must do to feed them and protect their future, we can find a balance that protects individuals AND our nation’s bottom line.  

If in the end, the value of art, music, literature, and humanities is removed from our nation’s priorities, then it’s up to us to save her heart.  Here are ways we can save the arts:

  • Share stories of artists, authors, musicians, and humanitarians that have made an impact on our world.
  • Share art that replaces dark, violent images with the colors of hope.
  • Share music with messages of love, inspiration, and overcoming challenges.
  • Share pictures of our beautiful land touched only by God.
  • Share the colors of our world and do everything in your power to protect it from becoming extinct.

 

*There are many programs that will be defunded if the new budget is passed.  A little bit of your time can make a big difference in someone else’s life.  If you’d like to get involved in a charitable organization in your area, read  http://expertlyflawed.com/2017/03/5-best-volunteer-organizations/