Many of you have been baffled by the sudden devaluation you've experienced in your relationship with a narcissist. You had reason to believe you were important to them as they have been to you. You've been supportive, loving, taken the heat, hung in there--only to find yourself one day treated with inexplicable coldness, cruel disdain. What the hell happened?
It will be helpful to ask a narcissist what the deal is. Sam Vaknin can describe in almost clinical terms how this all works.
"The narcissist mistakenly interprets his narcissistic needs as emotions."
The absolute driving need for the narcissist is seeking sources of attention, i.e. narcissistic supply. What he said in the above sentence is important to remember because we all make the mistake of thinking the narcissist is motivated by what motivates us. For example, we pursue a relationship with a person of the opposite sex for many reasons. We're looking for shared dreams, companionship, love and passion, family, etc. While the narcissist appears to be pursuing these objectives, hopes and dreams along with us, they are actually motivated by something quite different. They are simply looking for a teat. A place to suckle on the milk of human kindness. You have been assessed to be a source of supply. That is your purpose and function. Period. They mistake their narcissistic drives to be emotions. And so do you. They dance the relationship dance with you which has all the appearance of being motivated with the same motives you have. They mouth words of love and fidelity which confirm to you that you both are on the same page. Meanwhile, they feel complete aversion to real intimacy. They are not truly connecting with you on an emotional level. You are not aware of this distance. Not yet. No, they are after something very different than what you're after.
They have this addictive need for supply, for a certain quality of attention that you've been determined by them to be a rich source of. They groom and pet you so you will continue to release the sweet nectar of life for them. Once you are hooked, then it is your job to groom and pet them. You are there for them to fall back on when the more important and impersonal sources of outside supply are in scant availability. You regurgitate all the past remembrances you have of their moments of glory. This will keep them going in those times of famine when the most delicious sources of supply are not forthcoming.
I find it interesting that Vaknin calls the grand outside sources of impersonal moments of glory as being Primary sources of supply, while the poor schlub back at home who kisses their ass and picks up after them is designated a Secondary source. Isn't that just like a narcissist? In Vaknin's classification of the quality of supply sources he puts us beneath the less available and less predictable sources of supply and gives us the role of second fiddle. The truth is, without these so-called secondary sources the narcissist would be in a fair fix most of the time. That observation aside, we'll operate from his paradigm for the length of this post so we can see how the narcissist views us rather than how it really is. Because in this context how the narcissist views us is really the point. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist you have entered the narcissist's "Pathological Space" and therefore his/her rules apply. In their space they are the ones defining reality for you.
"But then, often abruptly and inexplicably, it is all over. The narcissist is cold, uninterested and remote."
Vaknin then describes some of the reasons for the sudden devaluation of you. First of all, the qualities that made you attractive as a source of supply are also reasons for the narcissist to look down on you and see you as inferior. He lists some of the qualities the narcissist finds attractive in a supply source:
"...sufficiently intelligent, sufficiently gullible, submissive, reasonably (but not overly) inferior to the narcissist, in possession of a good memory (with which to regulate the flow of Narcissistic Supply), available but not imposing, not explicitly or overtly manipulative, undemanding, attractive (if the narcissist is somatic)."
Ahhh, but the cruel catch is that these qualities insure that the narcissist can perceive you as inferior to them; at some point, they will hate you for your inferiority.
This is also experienced by children of narcissists. The child will conform and strive to be as the parent demands. This requires submissiveness and fear. There will be times when the child is despised for the very fear and submissiveness that was demanded of them. Why? Oh, who the hell knows. From what I've seen it is because there are times when the fear and submission is inconvenient to the narcissist. Or they simply need an outlet for hate and they suddenly choose to see the child as a coward instead of a well-trained slave. The child is confused and despairing because the more they try to be what they thought was expected of them, the more they are devalued and despised. It is a horrifying experience for a child and probably has caused more than one suicide. You as an adult have been nearly shattered by your sudden devaluation; multiply your reaction ten fold to get a sense of the child's pain and confusion.
Vaknin gives a few more reasons for the sudden devaluation.
"...the narcissist resents his dependency. He realizes that he is hopelessly and helplessly addicted to Narcissistic Supply and is in hock to its sources."
"...the narcissist perceives intimacy and sex as a threat to his uniqueness. Everyone needs sex and intimacy - it is the great equaliser. The narcissist resents this commonness."
Last, and certainly not least:
"...narcissists simply get tired of their sources. They get bored. There is no mathematical formula which governs this. It depends on numerous variables. Usually, the relationship lasts until the narcissist "gets used" to the source and its stimulating effects wear off or until a better Source of Supply presents itself."
There ya have it. It hurts like hell to suddenly find yourself reduced to being shit on the bottom of some narcissist's shoe, but, if you can wrap your head around this, it's not personal.
Yeah, it was never, ever about you. It was always about them. All about their relentless and all-consuming pursuit of the nectar of supply. You simply made yourself available for feeding upon. You were an means to an end. Nothing more. Yeah, that smarts. Hopefully, though, you can force yourself to realize they didn't set out to hurt you. They don't see you. It's not about you. It will never be about you. You didn't exist for them as a fully feeling and sentient human being. They can not properly assess your value as a person. You are only as good as the nectar of attention you can give them. No matter how great the quality, at some point they get bored. All you'll get for thanks is a door in your face and a big kiss off. They are nothing more than big children who play with their toy for days, weeks, months. Then one day they lose all interest in the toy and kick it aside for another. Like the toys in Andy's room that sit in the toy box ignored and devalued by the newest toy...you've been drastically and catastrophically demoted. All in a moment, a twinkling of the narcissist's eye.
They've moved on to another source and leave you to the licking of your wounds. Lick your wounds, but don't work on that too long. You have reason to be thankful. You are no longer being used. You are no longer someone's sycophant, slave or fall-back supply source. Been dumped by a narcissist? Thank the God in Heaven for your new lease on life and resolve to not again be taken in by a parasitic narcissist. They are not worth the tears you're shedding for them. You are weeping over the relationship you thought you had, but never did.
Life is too short.
Quotes from Vaknin taken from here.