Anyone who knows anything about the phases of a relationship with a narcissistic individual understands, all too well, the dreaded “Discard” stage.
If you’re just learning about narcissistic traits, the ‘discard phase’ is where you seemingly fall from grace in the narcissist’s eyes and they begin telling you all that’s supposedly “wrong” with you, why you’re not good relationship material, and where they begin playing the field or returning to one of their Exes (sometimes both).
For someone who’s deeply in love with the narcissist by this point, the discard can feel utterly devastating. So much so that it often destroys lives, literally.
Many people who feel they’ve been discarded truly believe that the narcissist will never give them the time of day again…indeed, that the narcissist can barely stand to be in the same room with them or even the sight of them.
To add insult to injury, they believe they’ll never see the narcissist again.
And in some cases, the narcissist does leave…never to be heard from again.
But that’s not what usually happens. If you are in the process of a seeming discard, then follow closely, because the truth is, most discards are not what they initially seem.
The Truth behind Most Discards
1 – Most discards are the beginning of the triangulation phase
…and the narcissist isn’t really ‘done’ with you yet.
In your mind, everything was going along swimmingly when out of nowhere, the narcissist became disenchanted with the relationship.
Suddenly, all the little things they first loved about you became the bane of their existence.
Then, the narcissist started dropping hints about other people who were interested in them. Perhaps a co-worker, someone they met at an AA meeting, or even an Ex.
Before you knew it, the narcissist began ramping up their Silent Treatments or started showing complete indifference toward your relationship. Try as you did, you could not gain back the narcissist’s affections. You became “damaged goods”, completely unredeemable in their eyes.
This is one of the blueprint routines of narcissistic individuals. As personal as it seems to you, it really is just a page out of their playbook. It’s narc code 18.2-248: the only way they can make you understand what a good thing you’ve lost is to make you feel like a total dud. Discarded people who feel like duds will most likely try to win back the love of a former partner because bad love is better than no love, am I right?
Tip – There is nothing more empowering to an injured narcissist than to have two people vying for their affections. Not because the narcissist cares about either of them, but because it makes the narcissist feel commanding and elusive…a real catch.
2 – The seed of discards is the narcissist’s partners inevitably expressing disappointment or displeasure in something the narcissist does or says.
Maybe the narcissist started going dark on you, not answering your calls, and ignoring your text messages. Maybe you caught them cheating. Perhaps you grew tired of their ever-growing unemployment status.
Whatever it was, the narcissist couldn’t be bothered…and they needed to remind you of how valuable they are, especially since you pointed out one or more of their shortcomings.
Plus, they needed to remind themselves of how “valuable” they are, hence the newcomer in their lives. Someone who will give them unbridled attention, praise, and unsullied admiration.
But, don’t be fooled by appearances. The narcissist may be convincing, insisting that their new partner is all that you could never be, but the truth is, all the narcissist wants is someone who will fall for their fake charm while gaining a new (or recycled) admirer.
Since you know what the narcissist is really like, you no longer fall into that category – even if you want to.
But, to take advantage of your crushed heart, they will want to remain friends with you. This is so they can tell you all about their new “love”, make you pine for them, and fall at their ankles in exchange for a crumb of their attention. If you’re really lucky, you and the narcissist can cheat on the narcissist’s new partner together.
Tip – Don’t be shocked or confused by the narcissist acquiring a new partner and then wanting to see you on the side. This is not a deep mystery. There’s no possibility of the narcissist choosing one of you over the other. There won’t be any a-ha epiphanies. It’s simply a matter of triangulation.
3 – Narcissists don’t need people they can attach to or form strong, emotional bonds with.
What they need is constant, unswerving, unblemished validation. Preferably from someone whom the narcissist believes is intelligent, successful, and most of all…diplomatic.
But, don’t believe for a second that if you give these things to them, your relationship can be salvaged. The irony is if you give up your entire identity to placate the narcissist, they will become bored and repelled and seek new supply, anyway.
Tip – Do not believe that once they “discard” you, you’re no longer intelligent or successful. You might be distracted or unfocused due to emotional manipulation, but having been narcissistically abused is not a gauge for intelligence. It’s not a cognitive matter.
4 – By the time the discard happens, the narcissist has typically already groomed new supply.
The tiniest perceived insult drives the easily offended narcissist to seek out other supply who is naïve as a young lamb. Don’t try to make rhyme or reason of it.
A simple comment such as, “Whew, I can’t seem to get caught up with house cleaning, I think I’ll look into hiring someone a couple times a month” is interpreted by the narcissist as, “You’re a lazy good-for-nothing who never helps” (even if your comment was innocent, they know they’re a lazy good-for-nothing who never helps and took your comment as a direct verbal attack).
The other alternative is that they don’t want you to spend money on a cleaning person, they want you to continue doing all the work so they can spend that money on themselves – and they want you to keep quiet about it.
Either way, while you’re on Care.com seeking a qualified housekeeper, they’re on various dating sites lining up your replacement.
Tip – replacement ≠ true love or fairy tales for the narcissist. Replacement = unlimited supply in the form of admiration, money, sympathy, and oodles of second chances.
5 – The narcissist hasn’t had The Divine Epiphany after having been apart from you
Each of us who’ve been caught up in the vicious cycle of abuse has fallen for narcissist’s Divine Epiphany. You know, where the angels parted the clouds and instilled divine insight into the center of the narcissist’s brain that he or she is losing out on their only chance for true love.
And we fall for it…despite all the disastrous hoovering stints, the bait-and-switch games, and the failed attempts we’ve made at being a savior. We truly believe the narcissist has seen the light and has come back to us a completely changed person.
As good as it feels in the moment, it’s simply another page out of their playbook.
The Answer to Your Burning Question
…which is the same as everyone else’s who has been thrown out like yesterday’s meatloaf.
There is no way to know for sure. If the narcissist in question is a grudge-holder, then you probably won’t hear from them for a long time, if ever.
The grudge-holding, disappearing narcissist is not the most common scenario, though. And it’s hard to tell if your Ex falls into this category as they may fall off the grid for weeks, months, or even years, making it seem that the discard is permanent, and that’s why it’s so unpredictable.
The more common outcome is that the narcissist will triangulate, eventually want to be friends (with benefits), and offer a false confession that they’ve made the worst mistake of their lives.
And if you take them back, it will be the worst mistake of yours. Whether the discard is “permanent or temporary” should be up to you, not them. Their motives are intrinsically unstable. You need to determine if you are willing to be someone’s emotional punching bag and second choice for the rest of your life or if you believe you deserve better.
I hope it’s the latter.
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Kim Saeed is a narcissistic abuse recovery expert on a mission to help abuse survivors to heal, find purpose, and live joyfully after No Contact. She also hosts a podcast called Heal, Grow, Evolve, where she aims to help people create meaningful lives and relationships after emotional abuse. Listen and subscribe at www.healgrowevolvewithkim.com