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.


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:

Phase 2:

Delivering a Nightmare: Stage 2 Narcissistic Abuse

Mission accomplished  

Prince Charming has successfully love bombed the hell out of you making you feel worshipped and adored beyond your wildest dreams.  You’ll do anything for him and he starts demanding it from you.  As the idealization buzz wears off, you discover another side to this person you’re now fully invested in.  His “dark side” is addicted to filling his own endless supply, whether it be through drugs, alcohol, sex, or attention from external sources.  You have entered the second phase of Narcissistic Abuse.

Stage 2: Devaluation

To conceal their perceived “badness”, narcissists have an insatiable appetite for positive attention and are always on the hunt for external things to fill this supply.  In the beginning, it’s you.  Your adoration for him was well earned through the love bombing phase and you pour it out for him every chance you get. But as the relationship naturally progresses and you become complacent, he sees it as rejection. While emotionally healthy people know that  this is a natural part of any relationship, Narcs need that constant supply and start looking in other places to find it.  

You cannot fulfill your independent needs, or maintain healthy boundaries if you are constantly filling their supply, but he will push you to keep trying, and you will… until you break.

My Breaking PoiNT

I remember laying next to him in bed one night, thinking, it’s got to be either him or me… and I’ll never choose me as long as I’m with him.   I knew nothing about Narcissism back then, but two years into my marriage, this is what I wrote:

There is another side to my husband.  A side that he embraced before I came along.  A side that is over indulgent and compulsive.  From sex to substances, it’s as if he can never get enough.  He tells me I’m enough but we continue to argue over my boundaries.  Over time, drunken nights have corroded our relationship.  He’s shown this side to some of his friends and family who have voiced concerns, but I’m the only one who has seen the truly dark side.  This side of my husband comes out when he is blacked out drunk and he never remembers it.  This side seems to have an extreme hatred and it began to turn on me.  

Not only do I not know how to love both sides of my husband, I’m losing myself once again in trying.  Each time, I offer solutions and I trust that it won’t happen again, that things will change, it happens again.  Each time worse than the last.  I start to blame myself.  Have I been too cold?  Too controlling? Not enough?  This unconscious side of him seems to be getting back at me.  When this happens it destroys me for days, sometimes weeks.  It impacts my job, my role as a mom, friend, daughter.  It has infected me and I don’t know how to be his wife in the good times while waiting in fear for it to happen again, worst than the last.                             12/6/2016

No Escape

When I tried to communicate my feelings, he’d give a sincere apology and say he just wanted me to be happy.  The love bombing would once again commence and I’d feel guilty for not being happy in my marriage.  Behind the scenes, he continued the behavior that was tearing us apart.  I never knew when the next bomb would drop and therefore, no longer felt in control of my own life.  I quit my job, went on Xanex, and continued to try to make him happy. 

destroying the dream

  1. Narcissists build who they are based on who you are, while making you feel bad for the same qualities they seek to possess.

They desire the genuine qualities you possess, such as empathy, responsibility, stability, and want to project that to others. The outside image of who they are, is actually a mirror image of yourself.  Since this is not who they truly are, their mask starts to crack, revealing emptiness and deep unhappiness within themselves.  When this happens, they will work tirelessly to make you feel like the unhappy, desperate one and you will start to believe it.

2. Narcissits blame and deflect their negative qualities onto you as they fight to conceal their perceived badness.

They might lie to you, cheat on you, steal from people, and then label you crazy or controlling for having a reaction to it.  They’ll call you needy as they withdraw their time as they search for other means to fill their supply. They’ll break major promises and then claim your expectations were too high.  They continuously hurt you and violate your trust, then blame you for being unhappy. They demand loyalty, but give none in return. Their love for you, which once felt bullet proof, will now be the bullets that destroy you. 

3. Finally, the Narcissist will demand more of you, yet never feel fulfilled as you empty yourself to try to meet their endless needs.

This intolerable mix of extremes is impossible for most of us to process, but this chaos brings comfort to the narcissist.  He baits you with his words; apologies and promises that keep you feeling loved.  Then, he destroys you over and over again with his actions. You’ll make excuses for why he does it. You’ll decide you’re the only one who truly understands him.  You’re the only one who can help them.  You’ll try to rescue someone who doesn’t want to be saved, instead of saving yourself.  Your needs no longer become important. Your boundaries are ignored.  He controls everything in your life, to the point where you change to meet his needs, sacrificing everything, all the way down to who you are.

The Beginning of the End

By the devaluation phase, the narcissist has already mentally moved on.  You’ve exposed them, and they don’t want to live in that negative world.  They want to live in a plastic world where they look like a hero and someone is always filling their supply.  They don’t want to face their true self because they’re scared of that person… they hate that person.

Since he can’t discard himself, he’ll discard the person that made him feel exposed, you.

Read Phase III: Discard:

If you missed Phase I:

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.