The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde poster. Converted losslessly from .tif to .png by uploader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you have been in a relationship with a pathological individual, then you may recognize the three distinct phases of idealization, devaluation and discarding.
Twice, I have been involved with my ex husband who has Narcissistic and Anti Social Personality disorders. The first time was when we were young adults. The second time was twenty years later. Both times, he ran my heart through the wringer of all three phases.
During the first phase of idealization, your lover will shower you with more attention, gifts and flattery than you ever believed possible. He will place you on an altar and worship you night and day. It will feel as if all your dreams have come true. He will convince you that he is your soul mate. You will be filled happiness and joy by his adoration.
Conversely, during the phase of discarding, you will feel as if your lover has dumped you into the trash. Perhaps he has already replaced you with another lover before ‘getting rid’ of you. If so, then he was ‘trying out’ the new lover before ending it with you. (He needed to make sure in advance that the new woman would ‘work out’ for him.) After having been discarded you will eventually come to realize that none of what happened during the idealization phase was real. This realization is incredibly painful and difficult to recover from.
Today, I would like to discuss the middle phase, devaluing. In my most recent involvement with my ex husband, the devaluing phase was the most confusing and, after the relationship collapsed, it was the most painful of the three phases to examine retroactively. However, it was through a close examination of all three phases that I was able to recover and move on.
During the moments of his devaluation, I was so confused. All of a sudden, he would say something strange and almost insulting to me which seemed to be completely out of his character. For example, one day, he mentioned something about my clothes which made me realize that he was unhappy about how I dressed. Another day, he mentioned that I had picked out the wrong glasses because they didn’t ‘frame’ my face ‘the right way.’ This behavior on his part was entirely new. During the first eighteen to twenty months of our relationship, he’d convinced me that I was the most beautiful woman in the world. All of a sudden, he was pointing out my ‘flaws’. I was shocked and hurt. In consequence, I became more careful of how I dressed around him and I got new glasses, which he approved of. I did not know that he was most likely comparing me in appearance to his other girlfriend.
During the devaluation phase, your lover may begin to flare out in a ‘narcissistic rage.’ A narcissistic rage is notable for its sudden appearance and just as sudden disappearance. For no apparent reason at all, your lover flares out in irritation at you over something trivial. I experienced my ex’s narcissistic rage one early spring morning, about seven months before our relationship ended.
We were sitting outside on a sunny day outside his house. Usually, we held hands when we sat outside, or had some type of physical contact. Our chairs were several feet apart and I went to move mine closer to his and he reared back in disgust, pulling his chair further away, and roared at me, “I’m RIGHT HERE!”
I was completely shocked. It was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moment, which is a classic description for the onset of narcissistic rage. One moment, your lover is calm and gentle and the next he is flipping out and then it’s over in a moment and he is back to himself.
After the breakup, I combed through all these moment of being devalued. It was traumatic to look back at them and to remember how I felt. When these moments were happening, I felt as if the ground beneath me were splitting open and there was suddenly no safe place to stand. I could not make sense of his behavior, or his rage. I could sense that something in him had changed, but I didn’t know what or why. And then he’d be back to his charismatic, friendly self and so I’d gloss over the moments of being devalued. As most of the time he was not in a narcissistic rage, I began to discount those moments as not being real. However, I was wrong. The narcissistic rage represented the crack in his mask showing me his true self inside.
In reality, I was not spending a sunny afternoon during a weekend visit with my devoted lover. I was spending the weekend with a man who liked many aspects of being with me, including our active sex life, but who had been secretly sleeping with another woman for nearly a year and who was beginning to prefer that woman’s company to mine. The narcissistic rage, his intense and sudden irritation with me wanting to be close to him, revealed his true underlying feelings. Although he didn’t object to spending time in bed with me when I came to visit him, he was beginning to resent having to pay attention to me outside of bed.
Other incidents of devaluing occurred in the few months before we broke up, however this incident is the one that sticks out in my memory. I remember how hurt I was. I remember thinking, “What is going on? We’ve been in bed for two hours. Does he really object to holding my hand now?” My conscious mind was aware that his behavior was a serious red flag, but my emotional self shushed my mind as soon as he returned to ‘normal’ behavior.
Remembering it makes me feel warped, used and yucky. I feel very sorry for the woman who was me, being fooled and tricked by the man who had convinced her that he was her soul mate. I feel sorry for the time she wasted driving down to see him. I empathize with the time that she has spent recovering from this man’s betrayal.
I am glad that I am not that woman anymore, being used and lied to. I applaud myself for getting out of that situation. I applaud all of you who have also rescued yourselves from similar situations.
Overall, devaluing sucks, but, if you can shut off your emotions (good luck) and let your mind see it as a red flag, it can be a good sign that it might be time to get out of a relationship that’s going downhill.