Of the four primary phases comprising the Cycle of Abuse when loving a narcissist, the devaluation phase is probably the most destructive. In this phase, the narcissist has no qualms in sharing just how deeply disappointed they are in you and how vehemently they despise you. But here’s the thing: sometimes it’s overt, brutally honest contempt, and other times the narcissist so sweetly shares what it is about us they can’t stand, we almost feel sorry for them having to put up with us. No matter which approach the narcissist uses, the end result is always the same – we strive to be the one who changes when there’s actually nothing wrong with us.
In a nutshell, the devaluation phase is the process of making us feel small so our narcissist can feel big. It’s the narcissist’s favorite drug: our pain = their joy. Don’t believe they could be so cruel? Let me ask you something, have you ever noticed how you always fall just shy of your narcissist’s lofty and unreasonable expectations? No matter how hard you try, no matter what you “fix” about yourself that your narcissist doesn’t like, it’s simply never enough, is it? Whether it’s to dress better or more (or less) sexy/provocatively, to be quieter and more reserved or perhaps more extroverted, or funnier, or to simply be more spontaneous and adventurous albeit in or out of the bedroom, there’s always something about you that falls short of your narcissist’s ideas of the ideal you in your relationship, isn’t there?
So, if the narcissist is so displeased with us, why did they get involved with us in the first place? Why undertake the monumental task of changing someone so disappointing and displeasing? I asked that question of Julia, my narcissist, several times. The problem is, I never got a straight answer. And I never could figure out why she got involved with me to only try and change so fundamentally much of me. When I first met Julia, she loved the way I loved her, or so she said. Not just physically or sexually, that was exceptional, yes. What she said she loved more than anything was the depth and breadth of how I loved her. In an email dated just a few weeks after we’d begun dating, she wrote, “I know you’re only human, but your love is the closest to God’s love I’ve ever felt.” Granted, this was still the initial love bombing phase and I’d like to believe what she said was true. But was it? As with the cornucopia of lingering unanswered questions I can still sometimes see skulking about in the darkest and farthest recesses of my mind’s eye, this will simply be yet another question that will most likely forever go unanswered. And I think that was the hardest part of saying goodbye, at least for me – the not-knowing.
You see, I’m an inquisitive person by nature. I don’t like to just accept that something is the way it is simply because. I like to know the why‘s and the how‘s – the inner workings, as it were. And not just what comprises the inner workings, but how they all function in unison to give something life or even take that life away; what makes it tick. So I can handle that Julia moved on. I can accept that she got married to someone whom she professed was just a friend, even if those nuptials were a scant three months after our last night together. I can even make peace with the fact that she’ll never be in my life again. But what made it so hard for me to initially move on was all those unanswered questions. Why wasn’t I enough? Why did she leave? Why couldn’t she have just loved me the way I loved her? Why did she stop trying? Why couldn’t I have been the one she married? Sound familiar?
The nice thing about being on the other side of hurting, being healed, is those questions no longer vex me as they once did. But that doesn’t mean that I still wouldn’t like to know their answers. However, the difference betwixt now and then is I simply don’t care. If I somehow, one day, finally get my answers, lovely. If not, there’s more in life to be upset about than fixating on why an untrustworthy and unfaithful person failed to see my value. Besides, one thing we must keep in mind, even if we did manage to receive an answer from our narcissist, it is highly unlikely it would be an honest answer. So, if our narcissist won’t be honest with us, let’s be honest with ourselves. The concept of virtue and our narcissist are two dynamics that have never been too intimately familiar with each other, have they? And that’s what we have to keep in mind. So much of what our narcissist told us was not true. In fact, a solid 90-95%, if not more, was an outright lie. And that’s where we keep forgetting that we were looking at our narcissist and our relationship with them from the perspective of an emotionally healthy person who is in love. Not from their perspective of what can I get from this person if I fabricate an intricately woven tapestry of lies and call it love?
And, you see, that’s the problem. We put so much of our genuine self into our relationship with our narcissist, it’s simply beyond our comprehension that they couldn’t (read wouldn’t) love us just as deeply as we love(ed) them. “But they said they did! So why don’t they?” We put so much of our heart into what we shared with them, so much so that the love came to define not just the relationship, but us as individuals. And in the end, when they no longer wanted us, when they cast us aside, what value did we really have if someone we loved so fervently and passionately, so purely, didn’t love us back just as wholeheartedly? That’s a great question. And here’s your answer. Just because someone didn’t see our value, does not mean that we don’t have worth. Just because someone didn’t see us as irreplaceable, doesn’t mean that we are disposable. You can choose to waste your life being with someone who sees you as worthless. Or, you can choose to be with someone who sees you as priceless. The choice is yours, now, just as it has always been.