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The 4 Phases Of The Narcissist Abuse Cycle

Author: Florida Women's Law Group
Date: Feb 17 2022

The 4 Phases of the Narcissist Abuse Cycle

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist or have been in one, you probably experience a lot of highs and lows.  Of course, every relationship has ups and downs, but one with a narcissist is marked by extreme changes that come and go quickly.  They all have a cycle of abuse that just repeats over and over and over again.  It is how they ensnare their victims, manipulate them, and keep a constant state of confusion to continue to fuel their ego supply.

The four phases are idealization, devaluation, discard and hoovering.  There is no set amount of time that each phase lasts, it could be weeks or months.  The narcissist moves quickly through the cycle to catch their victims off-guard and keep them so beaten down that they feel they have no option but to stay in this abusive merry-go-round.


The first phase, idealization, is in the beginning of the relationship and is the magical phase.  They shower you with love, attention and adoration making you feel as if you are the most special person in the world.  They tell you they love you and that you are their soulmate and they have never been with anyone that makes them feel this way.  This all happens very quickly but you are so enamored with them, thinking you have found your perfect mate that you look past how fast it is moving.  They will give you gifts, flowers and fancy trips to show how much they care about you.  You likely will get lots of attention from them too.  Lots of texts, calls, showing up at your work or home to surprise you.  It gets to a point where it becomes overwhelming, but you are so caught up that you ignore it because they make you feel so good.

This is the most dangerous stage because they are manipulating you from the very first interaction.  They use this time to discover your strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  The narcissist is extremely clever and has mastered the art of mirroring what they think you want them to be.  As a result of all their loving attention, you let your guard down and tell them deep and personal things about yourself.  This is beneficial to them because they learn what kind of supply you will be able to provide them.  It also helps them learn what actions and behaviors you have tolerated before so they know how far they can go in the next phase.


Devaluation is the phase when the mask comes down and you see the real person.  Once they feel they have completely drawn you in and have you hooked they subtly begin to change and become emotionally and verbally abusive. 

It can start with trying to isolate you from family and friends, making you completely dependent on them.  Next, they will insult you, blame you, shame you, accuse you, threaten you and lay on guilt-trips.  They will twist your words around so that you are confused about your own reality.  They may have done something wrong but by the end of it you are apologizing and taking all the blame.  They make you feel like you’re crazy and you begin to doubt yourself and question what is real.

This is all part of their manipulation.  This phase is designed to lower your self-esteem and shatter your self-confidence.  It gives them power and control over you, which feeds their desperate need for ego supply.  Before you know it, you are accepting this abusive behavior and even making excuses for them.

It is very confusing because they were so sweet and good to you in the beginning, and you think that is the real person you love.  In reality, that persona was fake and what you are seeing now is their true identity.  However, their manipulation makes you doubt yourself and dismiss these red flags while looking for that person you met in the beginning.


The discard phase is the emotionally hardest because it usually comes out of nowhere.  You will think that everything is going along fine and then get a text or phone call ending the relationship in a cold and callous way.  To the narcissist, every person is an object that feeds their supply in some way.  To them it’s all about themselves and what’s in it for them.  Once they feel they have gotten all they can from you and have thoroughly beaten you down, they are finished and moving on to the next source of energy.

This is heartbreaking because it seemingly happens overnight with no real answers as to why or any closure.  One of their favorite forms of discard is the silent treatment.  You can go from their constant attention to nothing with no explanation.  It can last days, weeks or even months.


A narcissist is never really done with you.  After they discard you, don’t be surprised to see them pop back up to start the cycle all over again.  This is called hoovering and is when they suck you back in.  They will do whatever it takes to get you back into their orbit.  They will cry, tell you they love you, give you false promises and fake apologies.  Because they have performed such emotional warfare on you, you fall for it and the whole cycle starts anew.  They will never change no matter what they promise or say, they just continuously take and take and take.

The only way to end this narcissistic abuse cycle is to free yourself from them.  They will never truly end it.  They will come in and out of your life, playing victim and tricking you into accepting all the blame.  You need to set boundaries and remove yourself from their life to break their cycle of abuse.

There is a way to successfully get out of a marriage to a narcissist.  The most important step is to have a plan.  It is not easy to divorce a narcissist but with proper planning it can be done.  At Florida Women’s Law Group, we have experience dealing with narcissists and know how to beat them at their own game.  We can help you successfully get out of this relationship and start a healthier and happier life.

Florida Women’s Law Group