You love your partner, but you feel like something just isn’t right. You feel like you’re caught up in some cycle. You’ve heard of the narcissistic abandonment cycle, but you’re not sure if that describes your situation.
What is the Narcissistic Abandonment Cycle?
Someone with narcissistic personality disorder is driven to pursue wealth, power, and beauty. They want their partner to admire and look up to them. They crave being the center of attention, desire praise, and love.
They will tell you things like, “You are the one for me,” and “You are amazing, fantastic and the best.”
You will enjoy their love bombing, until they in return want an endless supply of positive feedback, admiration, and attention. The narcissist is a bottomless pit when it comes to being self-centered.
As soon as the narcissist feels the slightest bit of rejection (which they are highly sensitive to), then the narcissistic abandonment cycle begins. When this happens, you will feel blamed, shamed, and gaslit.
Signs of the narcissistic abandonment cycle.
Narcissists never admit that they are self-centered and egotistical, so you should know what signs to look for in this type of relationship. As a couple’s counselor for more than 10 years, clients ask very specific questions and use very similar examples to describe their relationship inside a narcissistic abandonment cycle.
If you say or think the following things, then your relationships may be embroiled in the narcissistic abandonment cycle.
7 Signs of the narcissistic abandonment cycle:
1. Is It Me?
You will ask yourself the question, “Is it me?” in a narcissistic abandonment cycle. The narcissist will twist the things you say, leaving you to wonder, “Am I the self-centered one or the problem in the relationship?”
2. Am I Going Crazy?
The narcissist will use your words against you and make you feel like you are going crazy. You sometimes might question your own memory of what happened because they are so good at convincing you that their memory is better than yours and they are right.
3. I Didn’t Say That.
The narcissist may deny saying something or tell you that you said something you never remember saying. Dr. Tatkin, founder of PACT, explains how memory is fallible and unreliable.
But with a narcissist, words are used as weapons to hurt you and put you down. It might feel like they recorded you because they are 100% sure what you and they said. They are very convincing and you may even start to doubt yourself.
4. I’m Wrong Again.
We all make mistakes in relationships and in secure relationships we need to apologize for our errors and miscommunications. But in narcissistic abandonment cycles, you will need to accept all of the blame and responsibility for the situation.
You will always be the spouse who is wrong and needs to apologize. The longer the cycle continues, you might feel like you have to grovel because your apology isn’t good enough.
5. Am I Really Jealous And Overly Sensitive?
The narcissist will tell you, “You are too sensitive,” “You are so jealous,” “We’re just friends. It’s your imagination.”
The narcissist will shift the blame, leaving you feeling like you have no reason to be suspicious. If you keep questioning them about the situation, they usually blow up and leave the setting.
You will not have your questions answered or have a sense of security in this relationship. Sometimes, you may feel secure until something happens again. It’s a false sense of security before the rug is pulled out from under you.
6. Do I Have Trust Issues?
Because the narcissist comes and goes in the relationship as they please, you will develop trust issues. You might not be sure when they ”had enough and will walk out again” or will tell you that you didn’t say something right again.
This narcissistic abandonment cycle may leave you feeling on edge. When you have to walk on eggshells and watch everything you say not to upset your spouse this creates a sense of insecurity and untrustworthiness. Remember they are the distrustful ones and are terrified of true connection.
7. Do You Feel Like Something Is Just Not Right?
You try so hard to say and do what your partner wants, but it’s never right. You’re exhausted from the mental gymnastics you have to perform to keep the narcissist happy.
Your feelings are valid and need to be explored. You may need to seek out counseling to sort things out. You need to figure out if there is a cycle of narcissistic abandonment or something else that’s causing these scenarios in the relationship.
RELATED: 9 Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse, Explained By A Therapist
Stages of the narcissistic abandonment cycle.
The narcissistic abandonment cycle occurs in 6 stages: shame, avoids and leaves, fears abandonment, returns and promises, spouse is hopeful, and then the pattern repeats itself.
The narcissist wants to be seen as unique and special. If you touch on any insecurity or vulnerability or they perceive that you are shaming them or not looking up to them in any way, they want to run away and avoid it or turn their shame around in the form of attacks against you.
This shame can occur in any area of their life, such as if you embarrassed them in front of others, you did not praise them and acknowledge how wonderful they are, you mentioned a mistake or error on their part, or suggested they aren’t perfect.
Then the narcissist moves into the next stage of the cycle, where narcissistic tendencies are to avoid and leave. They won’t discuss how they feel about the situation, instead they’ll avoid conflict altogether, even if it means avoiding you.
This could involve disappearing without telling their partner where they’re going, giving their partner the silent treatment, or going to a friend’s house for hours or even days.
Sometimes they’ll go to an ex’s house to be intentionally hurtful and make you regret “your behavior.”
Ultimately, they need to get their “fix,” which is the narcissistic supply of love, attention, control, and power.
Related Stories From YourTango:
As this pattern is a cycle, the narcissist is trying to avoid feeling “small” or rejected. They want to avoid any possibility of abandonment, so those feelings are quickly suppressed and instead turn into rage and anger.
The narcissist might return because they want and miss their supply of praise and attention.
When the narcissist does come back, you can expect no apologies or an explanation of their behavior. The narcissist will blame you for forcing them to leave. It will be all your fault.
The narcissist may even threaten you by saying that if you do X again, they will not return next time. They’ll leave you for good. You may feel manipulated, controlled, used, and powerless.
You may wonder when and how this narcissistic abandonment cycle started and developed.
Narcissistic personalities are usually very charismatic and charming and can make you feel happy in the moment. At first, you may not see the signs and know how to detect the lies because they are so manipulative, so you will allow them back into the relationship.
You may think this cycle won’t ever happen again until the pattern repeats itself.
The cycle also includes aspects of idealization, devaluation and rejection. If a narcissist perceives that you are devaluing or rejecting them, they want to avoid these feelings at all costs. The narcissist wants to be idealized. If that doesn’t happen they’ll abandon the relationship for someone else who will put them on a pedestal.
Ending the narcissistic abandonment cycle.
The stages of the narcissistic abandonment cycle are real and may be happening to you. The 7 signs that you may be asking or saying to yourself are explained to better understand relationships with narcissists. Without therapeutic help, this cycle will probably continue to repeat itself.
Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC, is a licensed counselor in the states of Maryland, Delaware, Florida, Vermont and Virginia. She is a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist and PACT Level 3. Lisa offers 20 minute free private consultations about narcissistic personality disorder and many other mental health concerns.