The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle | The 4 Stages of Abuse

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The relationship with a narcissist is never an easy one. People with a narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic traits have exaggerated feelings of self-worth and superiority. Your narcissistic partner needs to always be in charge and commonly display manipulative and self-centered behavior. Narcissists typically lack empathy and still blame others for their own failures.  Also, your narcissistic partner may be controlling and abusive. Narcissistic abuse typically follows a pattern; in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, the narcissistic abuse cycle repeats numerous times, draining you mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

Recognize the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

Do you always feel guilty and struggle with low self-esteem? Does your partner show a lack of understanding of your feelings and needs while demanding admiration and attention and acting like a victim? These may be the red flags that you are in a toxic relationship with a narcissist.  Narcissists are generally self-centered and unwilling to admit fault. They will turn the back end of the cycle playing the victim, so it is usually the victim who feels guilty and desperately tries for reconciliation.  Unfortunately, this pattern of behavior further underpins the narcissistic cycle of abuse.

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The Stages of Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

The cycle of abuse from a narcissist generally involves four stages:

  1. Your narcissist partner feels threatened
  2. He or she abuses you
  3. Your narcissist partner becomes a victim
  4. He or she feels empowered

Your Narcissistic Partner Feels Threatened

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A narcissist feels threatened every time he or she thinks that something poses a threat to their ego. For example, if you reject to fulfill some of your partner’s demands, the narcissist may feel disrespected or neglected and therefore threatened.  Soon enough, you begin to sense that something is about to happen. It ‘s that familiar feeling of “walking on eggshells” that people who live with narcissistic abusers experience. Your narcissistic partner obsesses over the threat (real or imagined) repeatedly, and the cycle of abuse begins. 

The Narcissist Engages in Abusive Behaviors

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When they feel threatened, the narcissists typically engage in abusive behavior that can include anything from psychological to financial abuse.  In some cases, the abuse may start with verbal or emotional abuse; your partner may be demeaning, intimidating, and humiliating, which sometimes escalates into physical violence. This abusive behavior may last for a few minutes or several hours. Left with no other choice than to defend yourself, you usually decide to fight back.

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The Narcissist Becomes a Victim

And then the twist happens and your narcissistic partner your behavior defensive behavior to prove that they are the ones being abused. Your partner may act as if you initiated the abuse, causing you to feel guilty, accept the responsibility, and reconcile under the narcissist’s conditions. 

The Narcissist Feels Empowered

Once you have given up and decided to go along with the narcissist’s distorted perception of reality, your partner receives the validation of their superiority and power. By accepting to play along with this pattern of abusive behavior, you feed the narcissist’s ego, and the peace in your relationship is restored. Nevertheless, when they sense the slightest threat to their ego, your narcissist partner will start the cycle of abuse again.

Recognizing and understanding the narcissistic cycle of abuse can help you establish boundaries, stop the abuse cycle, and seek help. When you have decided it is time to heal from this cycle and are ready to move forward, book a time to chat.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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