Falling in love with a narcissist is easy. This is because narcissists are liars. They are skilled actors who make us believe they have our best interests in mind and are simply everything we’ve been looking for in a partner. These individuals will project themselves as charming, charismatic, outgoing, easy-going and likable.

The initial stage in a relationship with a subclinical narcissist is called the idealized stage. This is because the narcissist seems like one’s ideal partner in every way. They are charismatic and successful, confident and capable. And they are likely to have plenty of supporting evidence to back up their qualifications, such as a reputable job, a leadership position at church, an affiliation with a social club, or a successful creative venture. They have all of the accolades of someone who has simply made the right decisions in life and is, more or less, you’d imagine, living the dream.

Only, it’s all a facade. And, this facade quickly wears off once the narcissist has succeeded in trapping his victim and gives way to something more sinister. With a ring on your finger, your clothes in his dresser and your bank accounts combined, suddenly the perfect partner you felt lucky to meet begins to fade. The debonair demeanor begins to show cracks, then strips away entirely and one realizes that the projected perfection was really nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Now enter the devalue stage. Compliments are replaced with degrading comments. Hugs and kisses give way to shoulder shrugs and silent treatments. You can’t do anything right, say anything right. While you once felt you were part of the plan, now you feel like nothing more than an afterthought. And even though you still remember that positive first start, the details are dissipating amid an overwhelming amount of disdain.

You remain stuck here for some time. Stagnating. Unable to go back, but unwilling to move forward and break free from toxicity. You take the terrible slights and brush off all the times you’re brushed aside. What’s more, every so often, a glimpse of the beginning returns as the narcissist throws in a compliment or two. Sure, it may be a bit backhanded but at least it’s an attempt, right? These moments make you feel noticed again, worthwhile, and help you to push through.

And these moments are very purposeful. Narcissists love to gaslight and confuse their victims into believing they are still that perfect mate and the victim should feel lucky to be in the partnership. They say and do just enough to maintain the victim’s mind-numbing stage of mental fog, so they cannot think clearly enough to pack their bags.

Some victims find their way through the fog, though and it’s these who experience the full wrath of the third and final stage of a narcissistic relationship— discard. At this stage, the monster behind the mask is revealed in full and the truth becomes evident. The victim knows she needs to leave, whether she feels she has the ability to do so or not. She may start to plan an escape but if the narcissist catches wind of this, it’s game over.

So, it’s important to take a clue from the narcissist himself and keep your intentions just below the radar. It’s essential to plan carefully and cover all bases as much as possible. This may mean confiding in close friends or family members, calling shelters, or leaving bags packed in a predetermined location and carrying an extra set of car keys at all times.

And if a victim is successful in initially escaping, it’s especially pertinent that she never looks back, no matter what the narcissist says or does at this stage. This is because narcissists become especially determined to destroy their victims in discard, particularly if they feel the victim left before they could perform a full discard.

Oftentimes, victims are persuaded by the lies and manipulation of the narcissistic partner to return, only to be grossly destroyed. The narcissist will attempt to ruin everything important in the victim’s life and this may not be enough. Victims who return to narcissistic partners after experiencing the full cycle of this toxic relationship often never make it back out.

Knowledge is power. Know the cycle and know the consequences of continuing it.

Loving a Narcissist is Easy... At First