The Narcissistic Love Script

The Narcissistic Love Script

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Wedding of Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, and Daniel Westling; Cortège at Slottsbacken Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0)

Source: Wedding of Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, and Daniel Westling; Cortège at Slottsbacken Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0)

“The Narcissistic Love Script” is the term that I recently invented to describe the very detailed and highly specific fantasy that many Narcissistic men construct about their perfect romantic relationship. Instead of expecting to co-create a relationship with their new lover, they expect her to seamlessly fit into their pre-existing relationship script. Her role is to embody all of his fantasies about his ideal woman, including how she should look, dress, and behave in public. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that any real woman will perfectly fit into the role he has assigned her. As a result, these relationships are usually doomed from the start.  If you have ever been in a romantic relationship where you started out being told that you were “the most wonderful woman in the world” and then found yourself devalued and dumped, you have probably been a victim of a “Narcissistic Love Script.”

After hearing dozens of women discuss very similar painful experiences with what turn out to be highly Narcissistic men, I began to realize that all of their relationships went through virtually the same five stages. I have named them:  (1) Courtship, (2) Persuasion, (3) Devaluation, (4) Control, and (5) Discard.

Stage 1—Courtship: “Love Bombing”

Many of my clients have used the term “Love Bombing” to describe how blissful and well-loved they felt during the “Courtship Stage” of their relationship.  They were told, “You are the most wonderful woman in the world. You are perfect.  Even your flaws are  adorable!”  They were taken to wonderful restaurants, showered with thoughtful gifts, and received daily texts telling them how they were perfect and special. At this stage, the man may even talk about marriage and want to plan a summer vacation together.

What is going on: Although some Narcissistic men are players and are not sincerely expecting to spend the rest of their life with you, many are perfectly sincere when they tell you how perfect you are.  Unfortunately, they are not actually seeing you at all, only the role in their “Love Script” that they have projected onto you. You have value in their eyes because they believe that they are finally going to get everything that they want in a mate. It is all about them, not you.

If you would like to better understand why someone would ever construct a “Love Script,” you might want to consider how many times you have listened to your girlfriends discuss their perfect wedding: the details of their dress, what the bridesmaids will wear, and whether the affair will be rustic or formal.  In its own way, the “Wedding Script” is a shortened version of the “Love Script.” The main difference being that she is only planning a day around her desires, while he is planning a lifetime—and, of course, most women would not give up the man they love simply because he is not willing to perfectly fulfill her wedding fantasy. The person is more important to her than the “picture.”

Stage 2—Persuasion

As the two of you get to know each other better, your Narcissistic beau begins to notice the ways that you do not fit into his “Love Script.”  The romantic fantasy is still intact because he believes that you are still potentially perfect, just in need of a bit of guidance.  As he has spent his life playing a role and pretending to himself and everyone else that he is perfect, special, omnipotent, and entitled; he does not see anything odd in asking you to play a role as well.  He will begin to make suggestions on how you might improve yourself—translation: how to fit his script better.

Example: Jim and Carole

Jim: “I want every man at the party to see how beautiful you are.  Please, take off that outfit and put on the one I picked out for you.  You are so incredibly sexy in that short red dress and heels.”

Carole: “It just doesn’t feel like me.  I would be more comfortable in lower heels and the dress that I picked out.”

Narcissistic One-Mindedness and Lack of Empathy: Now they have their first real fight because Jim cannot believe that preppy, conservative Carole does not want to be the sexiest woman at the party. This is an example of Narcissistic “One-Mindedness”—the inability to understand that viewpoints other than their own can also be valid.  Jim’s behavior also demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for how Carole is feeling.  A lack of empathy is a hallmark of Narcissistic disorders.  Jim and Carole actually never do get to the party. It is more important to Jim that he go there with his vision of the perfect woman on his arm, than simply go and have a good time with Carole. If he cannot be the envy of every man there, “What’s the point in going?” he thinks.

Stage 3—Devaluation & Object Constancy

If you resist being made over to suit your man’s ideas and insist on being yourself, he will first be puzzled and then he will start to devalue you.  Unfortunately, individuals who suffer from Narcissistic disorders do not have “object constancy.” Object constancy is the psychological term for the ability to maintain your positive feelings for someone while you feel hurt, disappointed, frustrated, or angry with the person.  It is usually developed during childhood, but it requires that the parents who are raising the child have that ability themselves. Object constancy is the glue that keeps relationships together. Everyone has disagreements, but if you can remember that you love the person while you are fighting with him, it limits how much damage you are likely to do to the relationship and each other.

If Carole, in the above example, had gone along with Jim’s desire and been persuaded to put on sexier clothing, Jim would have been satisfied. The romantic glow would have returned and his   hurt, anger, and disappointment would have vanished because she had changed to fit his “Love Script.”  But because Carole refused, whatever little amount of object constancy that he possessed has now disappeared and along with it, Jim’s positive feelings for Carole.  Now that Carole is off her pedestal, no longer perfect, and not amenable to persuasion, the devaluing begins. The purpose of the devaluing is two-fold: part of it is simply an attempt to change Carole so that she will fit into Jim’s “Love Script” and the other part punishes her for not giving him what he wants. If being nice has not gotten Jim what he wants, he is quite willing to be nasty.  After all, without empathy or object constancy, there are no negative emotional consequences for him.  His capacity for real interpersonal intimacy with a woman is quite underdeveloped.  Devaluing Carole is just another tool to get what he wants.

Jim: “I don’t understand how you can be so stupid.  Why would you pick a fight with me over something like clothing?” (And now he has reframed the fight as all her fault).  “You dress like a lawyer, not a beautiful woman who wants to be attractive to men.  Don’t you even care how I feel?” (Again, he is reframing the situation with him as the victim, not Carole).

Drawing a Boundary: This is the time to either leave the relationship or draw a clear boundary that says that you will not accept being spoken to like that.  If you do not, he will take it as permission to continue to devalue you whenever he feels annoyed.  The good times will gradually diminish, and the bad times will increase.  Many women try and ignore the devaluing in the hope that it will go away on its own and the lovely “Love Bombing” will return.  Unfortunately, it will not return because he no longer sees you as the perfect embodiment of all his relationship fantasies.  You are off your pedestal.

Stage 4—Control

Now that you have resisted your Narcissistic mate’s attempts to remake you to fit his “Love Script” and he has gotten used to devaluing you without significant consequences, he is likely to shift to attempting to control you.  Why, you might ask, does he not break up with you at this point and go find a different woman, if he is so unhappy? The answer is usually the following:

  • He would have to admit that he was wrong to choose you—and Narcissists cannot take the blame for anything without feeling deeply shamed.
  • He takes it as a personal attack on him when you refuse to go along with his plans.
  • Dominating you makes him feel powerful again.  When you said “no” to him, he saw your lack of submission to his wishes as you trying to dominate him—something he believes he simply cannot allow.

Jim: “We are not going out of the house with you looking like that.  You had better change or else.”

Carole: “But I like the way I look.”

Jim: “Too bad.  Everyone knows you have no taste.  Either change or we’re not going out.”

The attempts to control you are likely to escalate.  He may start treating you like a small child and review your every decision.

Jim: “I noticed you made plans to see your sister on Saturday.  Don’t you think you should have checked with me first?  Call her now and tell her you need to cancel.”

He may also start reading your emails and texts and comment on them.  When you tell him not to do this because you want some privacy, he makes it about you and not him: “What? Do you have something to hide?”

Stage 5—The Discard

If you stayed long enough to reach this stage, your self-esteem and sense of inner calm are likely to be in tatters.  If you are not living together or married, your Narcissistic man may pick one last angry fight, leave you in tears, and throw a final devaluing statement about you back over his shoulder as he stomps out the door.  Others simply disappear and will not reply to your texts or calls, leaving you without closure and forever puzzled about what happened.  You are actually quite lucky if any of the above occurs.  If you are living together or married, It is likely to get even uglier. He feels as if he is the aggrieved party and you have been nothing but a disappointment.  He once thought that you were his princess, but now he can clearly see that he has to take his glass slipper and look elsewhere.

[“Source-psychologytoday”]