Re-post from reader....
This is a listing of the 15 distinctive phases that I have identified in a typical NS abusive relationship. Please feel free to comment if you think there are others I might have missed. The changes we go through while being brainwashed and abused take us from one high stress period to another. We should be proud that we have survived the turmoil...and if we can retain our empathy and caring for others.....we MUST be wonderful, valuable people indeed!
1. Honeymoon period
The target is basking in the attention of, what they believe to be, the most wonderful relationship they have ever known. Head over heals in love and feeling VERY lucky. Often, the target feels as though they "must be dreaming" or "they do not deserve such a wonderful partner". The target lets down ALL BOUNDARIES and shares their innermost secrets and feelings with the abuser. They BELIEVE that the abuser is, likewise, being open and sharing truths about themselves as well.
2. Idolization Period #1
The target is still on their best behavior and gives, without limit, of themselves and of their possessions. By the end of this period, the abuser has AL needed information to begin to control the target and the target has nearly NO FACTUAL information about the abuser. The target is likely to neglect everyone else in their life and focus ONLY on the abuser. The abuser seems to be doing this as well. The abuser pushes the relationship into very high gear and things progress quickly into a "serious" relationship.The target truly believes that they have found the perfect partner. They have seen few, if any, "chinks" in the armor.
3. The Questioning
Time spent together brings to light some "chinks" in the armor. The target may begin seeing some things that concern them. Usually, these are minor annoyances but even fairly significant things can be ignored based on the overall "perfection" of the abuser. The target may actually begin to question some of the habits or actions of the abuser. This questioning often results in the abuser reacting in anger and using veiled threats of ending the relationship "if the target is so unhappy". This usually results in the target being forced to weight good against bad attributes and trying to hold only the relationship.
4. Re-evaluation and Idolization Period #2
The target now realizes that the abuser is NOT PERFECT, and there are some things that keep cropping up in the relationship, but they are still firmly convinced that the abuser is FAR superior to any other partner they are likely to attract. Even after re-evaluating the abuser and the relationship, the target determines that the relationship is worth salvaging.
5. Self-QuestioningThe target/victim usually begins to sense a change in the attitude of the abuser. The victim begins to question whether they are being unreasonable and too difficult to please. This frequent self-examination in the light of being downgraded by the abuser, usually results in the target feeling as though they may, indeed, be to blame for the small issues that arise. The target is often receiving feedback from their support system about how much the abuser loves them and how lucky they are. The discrepancy between what the target is feeling and what the support system is stating causes further self-examination by the target/victim. The behavior of the abuser when other people are present is still, usually, loving and sweet. The treatment of the target/victim in private begins to deteriorate.
6. The Cover-Up
Once the target/victim has advised the support system of how WONDERFUL the abuser is, it is very difficult to admit that they may have made an error. Everyone wants their support system to think that everything is going well in their lives...and the constant insinuation that any problems that DO EXIST are the fault of the target/victim, makes it even harder to be real with people and verbalize your concerns. For these reasons, and many others, the target/victim often continues to reign perfection in the relationship and the abuser, long after cracks begin to appear. This may be particularly true if the beginning of the relationship including the abuser walking out on, or leaving, a marriage or long term partner. It seems OK that another relationship was "destroyed" when the new relationship was "in the stars" or "meant to be", but admitting that this may not be the case leaves the victim/target open to criticism (from others and by self) regarding the way the relationship started out. Since so MANY of these relationships begin when a prior victim is "discarded", the feelings of guilt associated with this can keep a victim professing perfection in the abuser for an extended time.
7. Brainwashing Complete
After a period of continued manipulation, the victim is now well aware of the faults of the abuser. The victim, however, is usually NOT AWARE of the true mental illness of the abuser, or of the fact that the abuser is UNABLE and UNWILLING to ever change. The victim is full of self-doubt and is convinced that the good things in the relationship still outweigh the bad. The victim has started to question their own sanity and reality and has fully begun to adopt the reality as given by the abuser.
The victim has now come to the conclusion that "it is the abusers way or the highway". They are aware that the relationship is more important to them than to the abuser and, often, the victim simply decides to take a back seat and allow the abuser to steer the relationship and daily life decisions. Often, the abuser determines how all money is spent, even if they are not bringing in much money. Daily decisions, big and small, are made by the abuser. While this frustrates and angers the victim, the only other option is the loss of the relationship and that is not tolerable.
9. Seeing the Light
After a long period, the victim begins to see the self-serving nature and selfish behavior of the abuser. Often, there is infidelity and any questioning about it results in the victim being blamed for being crazy and jealous. The unfair nature of the relationship is very apparent to the victim although, to the outside world, it appears to be practically perfect. They see the absolute control of the abuser as agreement of the two parties or as "compatibility". They are unaware that this "compatibility" requires that the victim SUBMIT their will to the abuser in EVERYTHING. This begins to wear on the victim. The victim may begin to see the TRUE PATHOLOGY of the abuser, but there is no one who will listen or believe. As the victim begins to see this pathology, there is also a great deal of fear around leaving the relationship as the victim now has an idea of what awaits them in terms of punishment or retribution.
10. Sensing the trap
Around this time, the victim may begin reaching out to members of the support system...only to find that they are squarely in the camp of the abuser. While the victim has been silent, the abuser has been busy assassinating their character to the support system who, often, no longer believe a word the victim is saying. They are often condescending and attempt to keep the victim in the relationship which they see as "superior" and with the abuser who is seen as being "so supportive and loving" The victim suddenly realizes that they are seen as unstable and/or, completely self-centered by their own support system. There is a sudden realization that there is no one to turn to because, no matter what the victim says NOW, the support system is convinced of the lie that has been told for so long, both by the victim and by the abuser. The victim will sometimes attempt to communicate the issues to the abuser who will not discuss anything about it and usually admits no error or wrongdoing. Ending the relationship not only leaves the victim without the relationship but may cost the victim friends and family as well. The victim is trapped and knows it.
11. The Walking Dead
After living under the stress of the abuse and lies for an extended period, the victim usually begins to display PTSD symptoms and symptoms of major depression. These symptoms only further cement the story being told by the abuser. With no where to turn, the victim soon becomes "the walking dead"...going through the motions of life with little meaning, no enjoyment and no hope for the future/
12. The Oath Keeper
The victim now knows EXACTLY what the abuser is and what they are capable of. They are aware that nothing is going to improve and that the future holds only more of the same, or worse, abuse. They no longer feel "romantic love" for the abuser in many cases and sexual desire for the person who torments you daily is, obviously, lacking. Often, the victim is aware of the vows they took and promises they have made and use this as an excuse (to themselves) for why they stay in an, obviously, ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP.
13. ResignationThe victim basically gives up and decides that they are destined to continue to live the life they are living. Often, they cease to provide the praise and narcissistic supply and the abuser, sensing this, begins to seek out new supply. A period of relative calm ensues as the abusers attention is turned elsewhere and the couple live in the same house but have no real relationship any longer
14. Shock and Fear
No matter how mentally ill the victim feels the abuser is, the "dead eye" and cold-hearted discard of the sociopath is heartbreaking. While the victim has mixed feelings about the partner in this long term relationship...the abuser treats the victim like a torn sock that is being thrown away. There is no emotion, no caring, no anger, nothing. The abuser is completely devoid of any emotion as they walk away. This results in a very deep shock and the victim truly begins to question their own sanity. There is also a great fear over the retribution that will be coming. Having a clear picture of the abuser, the victim is aware of the lengths the abuser is willing to go to to PUNISH the ENEMY. The victim realizes that they are NOW "The enemy to be destroyed".
15. Terror and disbelief
The victim finally begins to realize that the entire relationship, the person they thought they knew, never existed. This has all been a process of manipulation. This is difficult to come to terms with and especially when your support system is of the belief that this is "just a divorce" and cannot begin to understand the depth of the victims damage. The victim mourns the relationship they THOUGHT they had and the person they THOUGHT they knew. This is difficult when that person is doing everything they can to destroy you. The support system is fragmented and, often, no support system remains. The sociopath abuses the victim mentally, financially and will often attempt to take any minor children away from the victim as a form of retaliation for the victims failure to "respect and appreciate how wonderful they are". This is extremely stressful for the victim and, without support, there is the very real possibility of a mental break or suicide attempt.
The good news is that this fear leads to reaching out for support by others who have had the same experiences...and this is the beginning of the healing process!