3 Dead Giveaways Of How Narcissists Act In Romantic Relationships

Here's what a narcissist will be like in a relationship.

Woman sitting under a confused as the ground above her crumbles Karolina Grabowska via Canva | ClarkandCompany via Canva

By Jon Rhodes

Have you ever been in a relationship with a narcissist, and do you know how all narcissists act in romantic relationships? 

Narcissists have many predictable patterns, and their romantic relationships are no different. If you can learn their patterns, you can better protect yourself from them and their manipulation.

They usually follow a certain and predictable pattern throughout the course of any romantic relationship they are in.


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Here are 3 dead giveaways of how narcissists act in romantic relationships:

1. Love bombing

At the beginning of a relationship, narcissists often “love bomb.” This is where they shower excessive praise and attention on you.


During love bombing, the narcissist is funny, kind, considerate, and all the other things you look for in a partner. They frequently tell you how great you are and how you mean the world to them.

The narcissist contacts you all the time and spends most of their spare time with you. They seem to share many of your interests and have similar opinions to you. You begin to wonder if you’ve found, “The One.”

The narcissist is often quick to rush to the next stages of the relationship. They might suggest you live together, get married, have children, or all three!

If they’re wealthy, they might persuade you to quit your job. It can be quite a whirlwind romance.


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2. Devaluation

Once the narcissist feels they have you “hooked,” the devaluation phase begins. A narcissist may feel you’re hooked if you’re showing signs of emotional bonding with them. Or, you’re dependent on them, due to moving in with them, getting married, or having children.

See what they were doing in the “love bombing” stage?! They sink their claws into you, and then the games begin.

Narcissists often start with subtle put-downs. If challenged, they claim they were joking. They might even blame you for being too sensitive. This causes you to question yourself, and you let their snide comments slide. 


But, really, they’re gradually eroding your boundaries, like the sea relentlessly pounding at the rocks. They wear you down into accepting their negativity, and the comments grow nastier and more frequent.

The narcissist stops being interested in your “mutual” interests. They used to love hiking around the countryside. But now it’s the last thing on their mind.

They start to talk more and listen less and become more controlling. You may kick off at the bad treatment you are receiving, and either leave or threaten to leave.

Narcissists hate being single, so they act quickly and return to the “love bombing” phase. They make excuses for their behavior — stressed at work, depressed, frightened of losing you. And they start treating you nicely again. For now.


You naturally forgive them and enjoy being treated like royalty again. But you probably know where this is heading. Once they feel you’re “hooked” again, they gradually return back to the devaluation stage. And the put-downs and the insults recommence.

Your relationship flits between the love bombing phase and the devaluation phase, over and over again. And the more times this happens, the less time you spend in the love bombing phase, and the more time you spend in the devaluation stage.

This naturally strips you of your self-confidence, and depression and anxiety become a common thing. You begin to accept their bad behaviors, and cling to the “good times.” You may feel you don’t deserve any better. 

So, you become more accepting of their increasingly negative behaviors. And just when they’ve driven you to your lowest point.


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3. Discard phase

Out of the blue, the narcissist decides they don’t want to be in a relationship with you, except they won’t say it like this. They’ll blame you for why they’re ending it. You weren’t showing them enough love. You’ve become too “sensitive.” You’ve changed.

But the real reason is usually they’ve found someone else. Narcissists hate being single. So, they only end things when they’ve got someone else lined up.

They may or may not be cheating, but they usually have something in the pipeline. And their excuses usually involve you not doing enough for them. This is the clever part. They leave you thinking it was you, who was the bad partner.


Some people beg them to return and promise they’ll be better, while there are others who feel guilty for ruining the relationship. The narcissist rubs their hands and loves such a situation because they know they can extract more from you.

The narcissist runs off with their new supply, but their plan is to keep you on their back burner.

Narcissists can never have too many options. Remember, they hate being single. Should things not work out with their new supply, they know you’re only a call away. And because you feel guilty, you’re likely to take them back, and they know this very well.

If they grow bored with their new supply, they may call you, crying about how badly they’re being treated. They flatter you by saying what a mistake they made, and how much better you are.


Naturally, many are taken in, but the reality is that they’re just using you for a fling. Now, you’re in some sort of three-way relationship, which is known as “triangulation.” And the narcissist is in the box seat.

They play you both off against each other and sit back, basking in the glow of two people fighting for their attention. 

Over time, narcissists get away with treating you worse and worse. But it’s done in a subtle and manipulative way, over months or years, with them constantly flitting between the three stages.


They continue to triangulate you with others and just sit back and watch the fun. And because they pass the blame to you, you’re never quite sure who’s to blame. This keeps you confused and off-balance and always unsure of what’s going on.

Meanwhile, they get away with treating you progressively worse. It’s awful, but this is the common pattern of narcissists in relationships. 

They’re not happy when things are peaceful and in harmony. They are always looking to create drama and conflict, and always want to be in charge.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or log onto thehotline.org.


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Jon Rhodes is a writer, clinical hypnotherapist, mental health professional, and blogger.