Writings from Christine

Stopping the Honeymoon Phase of Narcissistic Abuse

by on January 15, 2018

Sam saw a pattern. After her narcissistic husband would explode combining verbal assaults with mental and emotional abuse, he seemed calmer for several weeks. Then, as if there was a timer set on his frustration tolerance, one minute comment could spark the abusive rage again. The rages were awful. He would call her names, twist the truth, throw things at her, exaggerate her intentions, guilt-trip her into believing this rage was her fault, and even physically block her so she couldn’t leave the room.

Unlike other non-narcissistic abusive people, her husband would not take any responsibility for his actions. He refused to apologize and instead made a game out of getting her to apologize for his poor behavior. Sam accepted the guilt just to keep the peace and it would work for about six weeks. During this time, he was charming, pleasant, and would give her material gifts almost as if this was the only way he could say sorry. But then the pattern would repeat.

Honeymoon abuser phase. The period of calm after an abusive event is called the honeymoon phase. For the narcissist, the release of emotional energy during a rant is therapeutic. Sometimes, they are even completely unaware of what they have said. They have the ability to work themselves into a type of angry dissociative state in which they discharge their negativity. More often than not, the things said are about themselves and not the person they project onto. Worse yet, because they dissociate, they don’t remember what was said.

Once the narcissist has removed this toxic energy, they feel great. They might act as if they are floating on cloud nine and everything is awesome again. It is a type of manic euphoria where life is perfect and they are the stars of the show. The last thing the narcissist wants in this moment is to be confronted with their previously poor and abusive behavior. Any bursting of their mania bubble can incite an even more intensely abusive reaction.

Honeymoon victim phase. By contrast, the person on the receiving end of a narcissistic rage, the victim, is traumatized. Their “I’m afraid for my life,” survival instincts kick into overdrive and causes them to become more aware of their surroundings and the words that are being said. This hypervigilance in the middle of an abusive event is designed to help the victim know when they need to freeze, fight, and/or flee. Within seconds of entering this survival mode, the victim’s body is flooded with adrenaline and others hormones designed to take the necessary next steps. The executive functioning of the brain is diminished so the body can take action. This is why most people have a hard time verbally responding during an attack.

The problem is that it takes 36 to 72 hours after the last survival hormonal release for the body to fully reset. Many victims feel like everything is foggy as they are still in a state of shock. When the narcissist’s manic phase is combined with the victim’s obscure phase, there is great confusion. The narcissist, having no empathy for the victim, doesn’t understand why the victim is acting so sour. The victim, having too many mental replays of the event, doesn’t understand why the narcissist is acting like nothing significant happened.

After the victim’s hormonal balance has been restored to normal levels, things settle down. During this calm before the storm, the victim deludes themselves into thinking that the abusive behavior won’t return. This is often reinforced by the narcissist’s gift giving, their elated mood, and their minimization of the intensity of the abuse. The honeymoon phase lures the victim into a place of acceptance and tolerance for the narcissist’s behavior. They think, “It really wasn’t that bad,” “I can do this,” or “they didn’t mean what they said.” And so they stay in the relationship.

Stop the honeymoon cycle. Sam realized that her husband’s behavior was causing her psychological damage. She began to believe some of the lies he said about her. She devalued her worth becoming a shell of her former self. During his last abusive episode, her survival instincts did not kick in and as a result she silently and numbly absorbed the abuse and gave into his demands. She hated who she became. Somewhere buried deep inside of Sam a spark of light reminded her that that the only way out of this dark place was to get out. So she used the last ounce of strength she had and left.

But leaving brought its own insecurities. “He really isn’t that bad,” or “Maybe I am just a weak person,” she would ponder. At the encouragement of her counselor, Sam made a list of the terrible things her husband said and all of his abusive acts. The list was far longer than she realized. When she felt weak and was tempted to return to her abusive narcissist, she would review the list as a reminder of how he treated her. This helped to ground her.

Sam also used the list to work through forgiving him, at her own pace, so his behavior would no longer control her future reactions. Through time and significant effort, Sam’s sense of identity returned and she no longer accepted the lies of her narcissistic husband. She began to realize that no one deserves to be treated so poorly and she no longer tolerated his rages.

Because the honeymoon phase can be so enjoyable, many victims sadly remain in a destructive relationship. While on paper the hour rage in comparison to a couple of weeks of peace may seem like a reasonable trade off, the emotional toll is far greater. Remember, it is never too late to get out.

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Posted under: abuse Narcissism Writings from Christine

7 comment on Stopping the Honeymoon Phase of Narcissistic Abuse

  1.  

    Hi, I am married to a narcissist for47 years! and being abuse mental and emotional through out all these years. He cheated on me and is when I saw the real him. My question is that I am 70 years old and he has alliniated my family agains me. What should I do now? Is it better to pretend that I believe him and give the admiration that he craves in other to keep the family but at the same time knowing how he is and use it for my own benefit?? Please I would like to know what to do in my situation. Thank you so much

    •  

      The only one who can make that decision is you because you will have to live with the consequences either way.

  2.  

    As I read this, my heart started to beat faster, my chest got tighter, and by the end I was crying. It seem as if my brain recognized all of what was described, and my body was reacting to it because it was describing my life.

    I have been separated from my husband for 8 months now. It is so true about the confusion and that fogginess, repeated play of the scene compared to his innocence to his own eyes, blaming and projecting, without me recognizing exactly how and when, things has been turned around and it would become completely about me. And because of that huge gap, the self doubt would start and wonder if I have gone crazy. Maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe it is only happening in my head like he says. I took everything he said to heart and believed I was the root cause of everything. “Go get help or you’ll have no one” he would say.

    My body started to shut down and I was no longer functioning. I decided to do what my husband said and reached out for help. (Of course he was angry to find out that I actually got help and disqualified anyone I have reached out to. It didn’t matter what qualification they had). As I started to hear words like “abuse” “narcissistic” expressed from others, at first I was in huge denial but as I started to think about it, and wonder if this is what was happening to me, it was like my husband knew. He would send me a link about female narccisitic sociopath. He would tell me how abusive I am. So again I would turn inward wondering if I was a sociopath. And as redicilous as it sounds, I would truly consider the possibility and obsessively worry about it.

    It took every strength I had left to leave. Abuse cycle seemed to continue from the distance but the distance helps.

    I am not sure if my husband is narcissistic or not. When I listened to your podcast about narcissistic abuse cycle, it seems to describe everything that was happening in my life to a tee. I know the impact it had on me and it wasn’t good.

    Everything is so overwhelming and because I have a child with him, I’m exposed to him even though I’m separated.

    Is it possible for me to change the way I deal with him without costing my sanity? Without costing myself? Without chipping way some pieces of me? I feel like am slowly healing but not quite there yet as Sam you described. I haven’t thought of divorce. I am not there. I just know I can’t live with him now even though I feel a strong pull during honeymoon period. You miss good times although you’re not sure if that was even real. It is such a strange period because I don’t even really enjoy it because I know it’s short lived and I know what’s coming next.

    Even if I never go back, I have long years of coparenting left with him. I need to learn.

    •  

      I’m so sorry that you have been going through all of this. Yes, you can change your approach in a way that is consistent with your personality without losing your sanity. Keep reading and stay strong.

  3.  

    Does it ever work to confront a narcissist with their behavior in writing or recording? Or is it better to just leave ? My spouse seems truly sorry but still doesn’t understand why I can’t forget the horrible name calling and how he keeps repeating the cycle

    •  

      Sometimes to all of the options. The real question is what would make you feel better? You should strive to do things that are consistent with your personality, not the narcissist’s.

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