Carole: “It just doesn’t feel like me. I would be more comfortable in lower heels and the dress that I picked out.”
Narcissistic One-Mindedness and Lack of Empathy: Now they have their first real fight because Jim cannot believe that preppy, conservative Carole does not want to be the sexiest woman at the party. This is an example of Narcissistic “One-Mindedness”—the inability to understand that viewpoints other than their own can also be valid.
“Narcissists will destroy your life, erode your self-esteem, and do it with such stealth as to make you feel that you are the one that’s letting them down.”
Jim’s behavior also demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for how Carole is feeling. A lack of empathy is a hallmark of narcissistic disorders. Jim and Carole actually never do get to the party. It is more important to Jim that he goes there with his vision of the perfect woman on his arm than simply go and have a good time with Carole. If he cannot be the envy of every man there, “What’s the point in going?” he thinks.
Stage 3 – Devaluation & Object Constancy
If you resist being made over to suit your man’s ideas and insist on being yourself, he will first be puzzled and then he will start to devalue you. Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from narcissistic disorders do not have “object constancy.” Object constancy is the psychological term for the ability to maintain your positive feelings for someone while you feel hurt, disappointed, frustrated, or angry with the person. It is usually developed during childhood, but it requires that the parents who are raising the child have that ability themselves.
Object constancy is the glue that keeps relationships together. Everyone has disagreements, but if you can remember that you love the person while you are fighting with him, it limits how much damage you are likely to do to the relationship and each other.
If Carole, in the above example, had gone along with Jim’s desire and been persuaded to put on sexier clothing, Jim would have been satisfied. The romantic glow would have returned and his hurt, anger, and disappointment would have vanished because she had changed to fit his “Love Script.”
But because Carole refused, the whatever little amount of object constancy that he possessed has now disappeared and along with it, Jim’s positive feelings for Carole. Now that Carole is off her pedestal, no longer perfect, and not amenable to persuasion, the devaluing begins.
The purpose of the devaluing is two-fold: Part of it is simply an attempt to change Carole so that she will fit into Jim’s “Love Script” and the other part punishes her for not giving him what he wants. If being nice has not gotten Jim what he wants, he is quite willing to be nasty. After all, without empathy or object constancy, there are no negative emotional consequences for him. His capacity for real interpersonal intimacy with a woman is quite underdeveloped. Devaluing Carole is just another tool to get what he wants.
Jim: “I don’t understand how you can be so stupid. Why would you pick a fight with me over something like clothing?” (And now he has reframed the fight as all her fault). “You dress like a lawyer, not a beautiful woman who wants to be attractive to men. Don’t you even care how I feel?” (Again, he is reframing the situation with him as the victim, not Carole).
Drawing a Boundary: This is the time to either leave the relationship or draw a clear boundary that says that you will not accept being spoken to like that. If you do not, he will take it as permission to continue to devalue you whenever he feels annoyed. The good times will gradually diminish, and the bad times will increase.
Many women try and ignore the devaluing in the hope that it will go away on its own and the lovely “Love Bombing” will return. Unfortunately, it will not return because he no longer sees you as the perfect embodiment of all his relationship fantasies. You are off your pedestal.