It’s possible to meet someone and feel like you’ve known them your whole life. Often, this just means you’re comfortable in each other’s company.
Sometimes, though, it can be a sign of something more sinister — particularly if someone you’re dating is professing their undying love for you when you’ve only known them for five minutes.
Narcissists sometimes engage in “love bombing” — pretending to be everything you’ve ever wanted, only to turn it back on you further down the line. It’s a manipulative tactic to reel in their targets. First, they shower them with affection and gifts. Then, they start gaslighting and abusing their victim, causing them to wonder what’s real. It’s all part of the plan to gain total control.
Although there’s no global summit for all dark triad people to get together and discuss their tactics, they do seem to operate in a similar way.
“It’s like they read from the same manual, even though nobody gives them that manual,” psychologist Perpetua Neo, who works with victims of narcissistic abuse, said. “They’re almost programmed in the same way.”
There are certain phrases narcissists use, and ways they express things, that are eerily familiar to anyone who has ever dealt with one.
Here are some of the most common things they might say, and in what stages of a relationship to expect them.
1. The idealization stage
Relationships with narcissists move very quickly. Neo said some people simply do mesh really well, because they have similar interests and complement each other’s differences.
“But anybody who tries to do it too quickly early on is basically accelerating intimacy, and that is bad news,” she said. “Anybody who has to do that suggests they are doing something a bit creepy.”
In the first few weeks narcissists will say things like:
“You’re my soul mate.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you before.”
“You understand me so much better than anyone else.”
“It’s fate that we met.”
“I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.”
“Am I your only friend? You’re my only friend.”
“We don’t need anyone else.”
“You’re so kind, creative, smart, beautiful, and perfect.”
“We’ll be together forever.”
2. The devaluation stage
Once a narcissist has hooked their victim, they start showing their true self. This is where the insults and put-downs start slipping into what they say. They suddenly criticize things about their partner that they once seemed to love — everything they say is part of their scheme to shatter their partner’s confidence.
But all the nastiness is intertwined with some affection, because the narcissist knows they have to keep up the illusion that the relationship is worth saving. By pretending they can still be loving, the narcissist makes their victim believe the insults are their own fault.
During this phrase narcissists may utter some of these things:
“You’re too sensitive.”
“No wonder nobody else likes you.”
“My friends hate you, but I always defend you and have your back.”
“You’re so insecure.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Aren’t I more important to you than your friends?”
“Your tears won’t work on me. Why are you crying?”
“You’re being so manipulative.”
They will also probably start explaining away their behavior if they are ever challenged on it, saying things like:
“I’m like this because my parents were so mean to me.”
“My ex cheated on me.”
“Love is just hard. We have to work on it.”
“Everyone abandons me, so you have to help me.”
“I’m acting this way because I’m scared to lose you.”
“I don’t do it on purpose; I have a problem.”
“Don’t you remember how good things were at the start?”
“You need to stop being so selfish/careless/busy with other people.”
“You can’t blame me, you know I have a problem.”
They’ll also try to devalue everything their victim loves, such as their interest and hobbies — even their family. They’ll insult everything they can, saying things such as:
“I don’t like your friends — they’re not good enough for you.”
“You like that? It’s terrible.”
“I can’t believe you enjoy doing this.”
“Your family doesn’t like me. You probably shouldn’t see them as much.”
“If you leave and see your friends, I’ll be angry.”
Narcissists also play to their advantages, especially if they are older than their victim or they did them a big favor, like bringing them over from a foreign country. Whatever they can play on for superiority they will leverage and use to subvert the other party.
They’ll assert their authority by saying:
“I’ve been through more relationships, so this is why I’m saying this.”
“You can’t wear that, because I said so.”
“That makes you look stupid.”
“Your dress is too short.”
“You know I’m smarter. You know I know more about this than you.”
“I’m the local here, I know better.”
If the victim dares to tell anyone about how they are being treated, the narcissist makes sure they are punished by making their life even more miserable. They say things like:
“Since somebody has found out, I’m going to get worse.”
“Because you broke my trust, you have to earn my trust back.”
3. The discard phase
When a narcissist has completely worn their victim down, they may tire of them. It might be because they’ve bled them dry of funds, or they’ve simply found someone new to abuse. Either way, at this stage their insults will reach the worst level, and they’ll find more ways to tear their partner down, ensuring they leave the relationship as the “winner.”
They’ll hurl poison at their victim, such as:
“Everybody hates you.”
“You’re a bad person.”
“Nobody else will ever love you.”
“I’m the best you’ll ever have.”
“Have fun being alone for the rest of your life.”
“You did this to yourself.”
It will only get worse
The only way to escape a narcissist’s insults and threats is to get away from them, and run fast and far, Neo said. They keep their victims in a constant state of stress, and they know exactly where to dig the knife in deeper.
“So you are just kept on your toes, and bending further backwards like a dancing monkey,” Neo said. “And nothing will ever change — things will just get worse.”