So you thought you’d finally met the woman or man of your dreams. Sure, they came on a little strong at first. The compliments seemed a bit excessive and even premature. Ignoring that nagging voice in your head, the relationship developed at a fast pace, faster than most of your other relationships and friendships.

At some point, perhaps you questioned their sincerity and insta-adoration? Maybe you even had doubts about them such as, “Is this person psycho or is it love at first sight?” After all, how can someone really know you well enough after just a few weeks (or a few days) to see all of your admirable qualities in such technicolor magnificence? How can someone who barely knows you seriously love you in such a short amount of time and be willing to commit to you so quickly?

The answers are they don’t and they can’t. You were being drugged with flattery, or love bombed.

A client once asked, “Well come on, what guy wouldn’t fall for a beautiful woman who says you’re the most amazing man she’s ever known and best sex she’s ever had?” Actually, quite a lot of men and women don’t fall for it. In fact, they become skeptical and concerned especially if the compliments are way over the top and they’re being pressured to make a fast commitment (e.g., going engagement ring shopping after only a week or wanting to move in together right away).

Relationships with narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, sociopaths — whatever the DSM classification may be — begin in reverse. Meaning the relationship starts with a really intense, decadent dessert, and by the relationship’s end you’re dumpster diving for the measliest scraps of sustenance. A relationship between two emotionally mature individuals with boundaries and healthy senses of self develops steadily over time and builds up to dessert after pesky little things like friendship, intimacy and trust have been established.

Not so with narcissists and other emotional predators and con artists. They’re like the stereotypical used car salesmen or saleswomen of relationships. For example:

Well hello there, Carl/Connie Codependent, do I have a deal for you today! Only someone as smart, savvy, sophisticated, cultured, traveled, intuitive, honest, loving, handsome, beautiful, sexy, talented, blah, blah, blah as you can see what a GREAT opportunity this is. And because you’re soooooo special to me, I’m going to offer this deal to you and only you (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Your life will never be the same if you hitch your wagon to my star. Together we’ll create crazy works of genius! What do you mean it sounds too good to be true? I thought you were more intelligent than that? It’s okay, I forgive you for doubting my motives. Now, I’ll just need you to sign here, here and here. Don’t worry about that, it’s just the fine print. Yes, and the devil is in the details.

Now, if an unscrupulous salesperson slithered up to you at the local used car lot and laid it on nice and thick like that, wouldn’t you reflexively raise an eyebrow to their patter? You’d wonder, and rightly so, if the salesperson was trying to unload shoddy goods for their own personal gain at significant cost to you. No matter how shiny and attractively presented a narcissist might appear to be at first glance, under the hood they’re all lemons. And not the plump, juicy ripe lemons from which you can make lemonade. They’re the hard kind that only yield a few drops of juice even when using an industrial grade juicer.

It’s a painful thing to accept once your narcissist reveals who they truly are. Seeing behind the mask may cause you to go into extreme denial. How else could you stay after that, right? If you don’t understand the dynamics at play, it’s difficult to comprehend how things deteriorated from the initial intense love fest you shared with your narcissist to being vilified and tossed away onto the scrap heap. It’s actually pretty easy to grasp once you know how relationships with narcissists and borderlines begin, develop and devolve. Abusive personalities repeat these patterns over and over again with each new target and relationship.

The Stages Of A Relationship With A Narcissist

There are three predictable relationship stages with most narcissists, borderlines, histrionics or sociopaths: Idealize, Devalue and Discard. Eleanor Payson describes this extremely well in The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists. First, there is the idealization stage in which you can do no wrong. You’re unlike any other man or woman they’ve ever known. You’re better, kinder, smarter, more talented and more loving. Only you can truly understand the narcissist’s pain and see into their misunderstood little black heart. You’re her hero or his angel — not like all those past lovers who were so nasty and abusive to the perennial victim, Ms. or Mr. Narczilla.

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