A narcissist doesn’t move on to someone better…

blog header a narcissist doesn't move on to someone better Leeds and online trauma therapist

…they move on to someone who hasn’t figured out their bullshit yet.

Narcissistic abusers use a cycle of idealisation, devaluation, discard and hoovering. In a romantic relationship, this can be done concurrently with more than one partner, moving onto their next target starting with the idealisation phase whilst keeping their discarded partner at arm’s length but easy to hoover back when needed. This ensures that they have a constant supply of attention, money and a place to live.

Idealisation phase

This is the love-bombing phase of the cycle. You are their shiny new plaything, they make you feel amazing with compliments, mirroring your best qualities, making grand promises, making even grander plans that will never come to fruition, but these moments are what you keep striving to get back to.

You are put on a pedestal, revered for the kind, loving, shining beacon of loveliness that you are. You are what the narcissist wishes they were, what they wish they had, and they are insanely jealous of your best qualities.

Devaluation phase

The narcissist’s mask begins to slip. They criticise, invalidate, dehumanise and act as though you are an object unworthy of love from anyone, least of all from them. During this phase, a narcissist will isolate you from friends and family by lying about the behaviour of others (e.g. “your Mum doesn’t like me, I don’t like her visiting”), by making your home uncomfortable with their own behaviour so friends and family stop coming round and by taking up so much of your time that you don’t find time to go and see family and friends.

This puts you in the position of accepting the abuse and reinforcing the trauma bonds. You are tired, isolated and confused, always trying to do better, be better and striving for the love that they once showed you if you could just keep trying to make them happy. Intermittent reward such as them being loving and attentive in front of people outside of the home reinforce the trauma bonds even further and make you question if the devaluation is, in fact, all in your head.

Discard phase

This does what it says on the tin. They discard you. You are not worthy of their love, so they withdraw their love and affection. You are treated as an inconvenience and often they end the relationship abruptly leaving you to deal with the fallout alone. You will be blamed for the end of the relationship, you’re not the person you were when they met you, you have withdrawn physical intimacy, you don’t keep up with the house, you are a terrible parent and they will gladly tell anyone who will listen, and probably have been for some time before the final discard.


After discarding you they will often attempt to re-engage, they use the love-bombing again, they give you seemingly sincere apologies, they want to move back home and for a short time they are the person you first met. And you allow it because you are trauma-bonded. You are relieved that the pain of the devaluation and discard is over, they are attentive again, they help around the house and pay for things again, and they re-engage with the children. This reinforces the trauma bonds, that intermittent reward is back stronger than ever.

The cycle begins again. It becomes chronic. It can take place over months, even decades and it leaves those they abuse as shadows of their former selves. Hypervigilant, feeling broken, feeling worthless, exhausted mentally and physically and not trusting themselves or anyone else. There is often financial and sexual abuse woven throughout this too.

The narcissistic abuse cycle is damaging beyond anything you can imagine, it literally changes your brain chemistry, how you interact with the world, and how you see yourself and leaves you in a state of trauma that is difficult to get out of alone.

Crossing the line

Often, the emotional abuse is excused because it is not tangible and there are rarely witnesses. People in emotionally abusive relationships do not necessarily see that they are being abused. Sometimes there is an awakening, sometimes there is a witness and sometimes a line is crossed that is more tangible and it is most often when the abuse turns physical and/or sexual. It takes, on average, 7 times to leave an abusive relationship for good. You are not alone.

There is hope

If you think you are being emotionally, physically, or sexually abused in a romantic relationship (or in a family relationship), even if it is only a gut feeling – speak to someone you trust. Often, having your experiences validated by a trusted person is enough to see that what you are suffering is abuse or coercive control.

If you don’t have a trusted person to share with then reach out to The National Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge on 0808 2000 247. Because emotional abuse is domestic abuse and you do not have to wait until crisis point to reach out. You do not have to be raped or beaten to seek help.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, and anyone can be a perpetrator. You do not have to suffer alone in silence.

If you are in, or have been in an abusive relationship, and want to work through the feelings of trauma-bonding, shame, guilt and helplessness then I can help support you with your feelings and healing as a registered trauma therapist. I see you because I have been you and I can use my training and lived experience to empathise with your experience. If you are looking to heal from trauma or abuse, get in touch for empathic and non-judgemental counselling support on your healing journey. I work online with people across the UK as well as from a counselling space in LS27, Leeds, West Yorkshire.

~ Lisa

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© Lisa Furnish

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