From ‘soul mate’ to worthless: What’s behind the narcissist’s 180?

6 minute read

How on earth is it possible to go from soul mate to worthless for no apparent reason? How can anyone in a relationship make such a dramatic 180?

If you’ve clicked on this post, then you are probably feeling extremely confused, lost, and heartbroken. You may also be feeling unsure of yourself, down and anxious, and possibly even like you have no worth or value.

You may be trying to understand why things have changed so dramatically with your partner, when you believed you had found the love of your life. The person you love and who used to worship you so completely, seems to have turned into someone else entirely. The once perfect soul mate, now appears to almost despise you, endlessly criticizing, mocking, threatening, controlling, and abusing you for little or no reason whatsoever.

From soul mate to worthless

Every now and then you briefly glimpse the one you miss, so you come to believe that your soul mate is still there, somewhere. You ask yourself, what do I need to do to get that person back? Sadly, you are also most likely trying to make sense of what you have done wrong, and what you need to do to fix things to make your partner kind and loving once more.

Does this sound familiar?

Here’s the thing. It is not you. There is nothing you can do to ‘fix’ things to bring your loved one back. That person doesn’t exist. The one that does exist, who is painfully real, is the monster before you, an abusive narcissist.

The person you fell in love with was merely a carefully constructed charade. The person behind the façade is the one who has constructed, and can only ever offer you, the hell you’re in right now.

You are not worthless. Your value is endless. Hell is not right for you. Time to find some peace and freedom. Let’s start getting you to that place by answering your question: how is it possible that in the eyes of your partner you have shifted so dramatically from being their soul mate to someone worthless?

How the narcissist relates

There are predictable phases to the abusive narcissists’ relationships. These are idealize, devalue, discard. These labels accurately reflect the core purpose of each stage, with the abusive narcissist treating you ultimately as an object.

The inevitable narcissistic relationship cycle adopts the following patterns:

  1. Idealization is all about worship, adoration, and making you feel like no one can love you like they can. You are “love bombed” receiving incredibly fast declarations of undying love, constant contact reminding you of the unparalleled love shared, and intense focus on you and meeting your needs.
  2. This is starkly contrasted with devaluation where the abusive narcissist does a 180 and deliberately undertakes to convey contempt for you, keep you insecure about the relationship, and dismantle your sense of self and power. The focus is to debase and diminish you.
  3. Discard delivers on the threats embedded in devaluation. You are rejected and abandoned with brutality, disposed of like an inconvenient thing, at times this is done with less energy invested than one would in actually taking out the trash.

Time to break the cycle of ‘what can I do to fix this, be good enough, be worthy once more…etc.’. Time to break the cycle of abuse. Time to reclaim your power and your true self.

To achieve this you must understand what motivates the abusive narcissist in each stage, that moving through each of these is unavoidable, and that your gorgeous self has absolutely nothing to do with why you are receiving the abuse.

To recap… you CANNOT fix this. Walking away is the fix.

From soul mate to worthless – why the 180?

‘Splitting’ is a fundamental component of the psychological make-up of the abusive narcissist. The Narcissistic Personality Disodered (NPD) individual is incapable of accepting both the positive and negative aspects that are the hallmarks of being human, and of integrating these into one whole (Vitek, 2000).

Not only does this apply to others, but also within themselves. This means that those with NPD view themselves and others in extremes. One is either ‘all good’, or ‘all bad’, there is no balanced position or in between (Zosky, 2001).

You can do no wrong

The ‘love bombing’ that creates enmeshed attachments during idealization feels like worship, because this is, in essence, what it is. Here you are viewed as ‘all good’, your strengths are amplified, and you are told you are incomparable amongst others.

You are rhapsodized at every turn for your greatness. Not only are your own traits magnified, but the narcissist also bestows upon you the traits they desire of their mates, as well as those that they believe they possess in themselves (Hinrichs, 2016; Mahoney, Rickspoone, & Hull, 2016).

This is the start-up of projection, when you suddenly acquire characteristics that don’t really ring true for you, because they are not really reflective of who you know yourself to be. For example, you might be questioning whether some of the devotions are somewhat over-the-top however much you’d like to accept them. Still, aversion to lavish praise and adulation is not commonly something we object to! Being seen as ‘all good’ is generally, ‘all good’, so we happily roll with it.

You can do no right

the switch, the narc's 180Splitting and its slave, projection, become less welcome once devaluation hits. Particularly when contrasted so starkly with the adoration that was heaped upon you in the first weeks (or few months if you were lucky). The 180 is that you are now, suddenly and jarringly, ‘all bad’.

Once the shift starts, so does your self-questioning and search for answers about what the hell is going on? This is what is going on: you are being punished by the narcissist. There are three key reasons for this, none of which have ANYTHING to do with you, and are entirely due to what festers behind the mask of the abusive narcissist.

The first reason relates to the inability to accept that they themselves are flawed. They develop a false self to manage and to preserve their conviction that they are ‘all good’. This results in using defence mechanisms of grandiosity, superiority, inability to accept criticism, and constant need for adoration. The imperfections must however be dealt with, and these are denied as being aspects of the narcissist and are projected onto you (Vitek, 2000; Zosky, 2001).

The second reason is that it is fair to say that you as a normal human being (albeit a gorgeous one!), will have moments of imperfection. Devaluation will also be precipitated when the narcissist comes to this realisation.

The narcissist incapable of accepting flaws in you, and now incompatible with being ‘all good’, will reclassify you as ‘all bad’ in keeping with their black and white thinking. The abuse that ensues is driven by contempt and the need to punish, control and manipulate you for being ‘less than’ their superior selves and the image of perfection they previously idealized you as being (Keller, Blincoe, Gilbert, Dewall, Haak, & Widiger, 2014).

The third reason is that dependency and attachment are reviled by the abusive narcissist. These evoke hate, frustration, envy, and unbearable vulnerability which are emotions that challenge the omnipotence and control held so dear by the monster. Your reclassification as ‘all bad’ in the devalue and discard phases are also defences against these intolerable emotions (Vitek, 2000; Zosky, 2001).

So here are your reasons. The abusive narcissist is only capable of existing within relationships where the other party is either worshiped or reviled. Once the pendulum has swung towards realisation that you are a perfect imperfect human being, it does not swing back the other way. Ghosts of your ‘soul mate’ make fleeting appearances only for the purpose of maintaining power over you. There is no recapturing what once was. Walk away now and reclaim your power.

walk away from the narc's 180

DO NOT for a second think you can change any of these aspects of the abusive narcissist. You cannot. These cognitive classifications are hard wired into the NPD’d individual (for more on the narc’s capacity to change read Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change).

Even if you could, not for one millisecond would the monster choose to be any other way than who and what they are. They are ‘all good’, remember? To their way of thinking, why would they elect to be any other way?

Maggie x


Hungry for more?

Psychopath Free by Jackson Mackenzie is super helpful as an intro as to how all cluster B disorders destroy those they are in relationships with. Mackenzie walks through the emotional process of waking up to abuse, and what to expect through recovery.

This is a fairly typical book outline for this topic. Mackenzie’s book has extra specialness. A clear mission surfaces about celebrating the empath, the dreamer, and the gifts these offer the world. Sadly, these are the very qualities often targeted by narcs. So I just know that this book will speak to many of you out there and remind you to protect and treasure what makes you so very wonderful.

Also, Mackenzie at times writes like a poet (a humorous one!) which makes reading this challenging topic for victims a softer experience than the more common clinical/dry style found in similar titles. Loved it.

(Note – if using link/s provided to purchase, you’ll receive free shipping and title heavily discounted. You’ll also be supporting my work in providing you free resources on this site, by earning a very small commission, at no extra cost to you – thank you 😊)


  • Hinrichs, J. (2016). Inpatient therapeutic assessment with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Journal of Personality Assessment, 98(2), 111-123.
  • Keller, P.S., Blincoe, S., Gilbert, L.R., Dewall, C.N., Haak, E.A., & Widiger, T. (2014). Narcissism in romantic relationships: A dyadic perspective. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33(1), 25-50.
  • Mahoney, D.M., Rickspoone, L., & Hull, J.C. (2016). Narcissism, parenting, complex trauma: The emotional consequences created for children by narcissistic parents. Journal of Counselling & Professional Psychology, 5(1), 45-59.
  • Vitek, J.A. (2000). Aggression and differentiation of self in narcissistic subtypes (Doctoral dissertation). The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 9970787)
  • Zosky, D. M. (2001). The role of projective identification with domestically violent males (Doctoral dissertation). Loyola University Chicago. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 3001640)

20 thoughts

    1. Thanks Rachel. Scary stuff really. I’m sorry to hear you’ve experienced it first hand. I will definitely check out your blog, good for you sharing what you’ve gone through, I’m a firm believer in the power of sharing to help others! Maggie

  1. Thank you Maggie for sharing your story. I am an adult daughter of narcissistic mother, and my mother was very clever my whole life. Gaslightingvwas the norm, and i never even knew of the word until 2011…
    Thats when i spoke my truth and set boundaries….needless to say…all doors slammed shut. Not one conversation, no explanations,.,just thrown away….i was 56 at the time, and had just lost my career due to the economy….seemingly at my lowest….
    The lowest was still to come though…
    Thank you again for this space..

    1. Dear friend! Deb, I don’t know how this slipped through the cracks, I do apologise for not having found your message until now. How are you going? I’m sorry to hear that you had further challenges hit you following your tremendous courage in calling your narcissistic mother out. In my experience, and in hearing the same from many, when we see reality, and hear our truth which can no longer be stuffed under for the sake of others’ comfort, things get really tough. As you say, hitting low ground kinda just keeps bottoming out even when we think there is no way there is any further to fall. BUT, in speaking our truth and fully claiming our lives, what remains, and what we build from that point is nothing but soul food. The life we carve for ourselves no longer compromises the things that matter to us. Tough road, and hard won, but with juicy rewards. Message me if you’d like to chat – I’m truly sending you blessings that you have turned that corner on that dastardedly road – if not, you are not alone, reach out. You are well on your way regardless. Kudos to you Deb on your courage and spirit x

      1. Namaste’ Maggie and thank you for your kind response.
        The lowest came when too, my daughter…she was 38 at the time..stayed in the narcisistic prison of gaslighting and triangulation.
        She had also been a player through it all. How could I have been so believe there could be healing…
        That was 2011..
        Much has changed since that time. Healing has been established…acceptance is a mighty energy.
        LOVE and gratitude 😊💜

      2. Indeed it is, couldn’t agree with you more. Acceptance is mighty force. I am so pleased that healing is coming both your way and also your daughters way. You are blessed to have one another – there sounds like there is much love between you. My very best to you both Deb x

  2. Dear NarcWise,

    I’ve been reading and had tears going through what I read: my last gf was all you’ve written above. Sometimes I told her (during the 50 month relationship) that I could write a book, titled: “The 17 faces of my gf”. She could turn from white into black in a flipsecond… In these 4 years and several months, I’ve never seen her crying from pain or loss, always blaming others for loss of e.g. her own keys, telephone or other stuff. Never apologize for her mistakes… And always taking more than others. A bigger piece of apple pie (twice the size of mine) “cause she earned it more than I did”. Asking me for a higher salary than me (though my company) cause she had a lot of things to pay… Etc etc… Her explosions into cruelty were every day more painful for me… Every time I left to go to my house, I cried in my car “what did I do to her”. I’ve broken 12 times before I could do the final nr 13 at February 2 last. Before she came back to me… Wanted to make love with me and “all would be good again”. Time after time I stepped into the pile of shit… The periods between breakups became smaller and smaller every time… Apologies I had to make, she demanded from me. She, the Queen, never made mistakes… It seemed. I saw all puzzle pieces falling to it’s place: my family doctor told me to watch her: she might be a “somatic Narcist” (as she was screaming from all kinda “pain” trying to manipulate me) Once I saw the patterns(*)of her killing behaviour towards me… She knew the game was over: My family & friends tell me I’m more nice as before, I’m more quietly… I start loving myself again… Seeing the future bright again… Outta the trap I was living in… (Not been speaking about all the gaslighting she did..)

    I’m happy to be single now… I never ever wanna see her again… Though it feels like I’m the awful one in the Stockholm syndrome lookalike past period.
    Ps. (*) The patterns appeared due to my dairy I kept from late 2015 until early 2018. Her mental betrayal period of time.

    I AM FREE!! 🙂 <3


    1. Dear Jurgen,
      First and foremost CONGRATULATIONS!! I have no doubt this decision has been a monumental one for you. As you say, you are now free. Seriously, a huge well done to you. I feel your pain and the years of confusion in your words. You have clearly endured great heartache and at the same time suffered the attachment that narcissists are so good at creating, which makes the leaving so very difficult. But you have done it. I hope you are feeling huge pride in the strength you have found in making this decision for yourself.
      It’s wonderful and important that you are reconnecting with your family & friends at this time – keep it up. Make sure self-care and reclaiming you is your number one priority at this time as you begin your healing journey. I hope to hear from you again, and would warmly welcome any tips you would like to share with Narc Wise readers on what helped you to seize your freedom once more. Your story is inspiring! Best wishes to you Jurgen, Maggie x

  3. Dear Maggie, thank you. Your words have given me more insight than any I have read since this nightmare began. Thank you. More and more I have come to ACCEPT (not just realise) that I am a good human being and I am not to blame. The next step is for me to forgive her, I am trying really hard but at present it’s a step too far. I will recover and blossom into the person I am meant to be. I realise also that my inner child deserves better and that I am the one who can parent and protect him.thank you kind, wise lady, you have made difference. Thank you x

    1. Dear Pete, how wonderful is it to finally accept being a good person! Oh how my heart aches that so many have come to a place of questioning this from the harm caused by abusive narcissists. It sounds very much to me like you are well on your way to recovering and blossoming Pete – there is nothing but positivity and warmth in your words which is entirely remarkable after all you’ve been through. I wish for you every little thing you dream of Pete. And thank you for your very kind words, they are greatly appreciated. Maggie x

  4. Maggie,

    Fantastic article. I was in a 6 month online relationship with a narc. I thought the relationship was just settling in right around the time I was supposed to visit her for about a week. But it turns out that she was in the process of devaluing me. Told me she never loved me, among other things. Like an idiot, I offered to be friends, she didn’t want that and she completely went silent. However, she continued to follow me on social media…until I blocked her.

    Turns out that she was just using me for entertainment and once she got a new job she didn’t need me anymore. I also found out that she was married (which was probably one of the reasons why she didn’t want to see me) and was using sites to meet people to just give her attention. It was truly a mess. It’s great to read your positive words and get some closure.

    1. Dear Chuck, I’m so sorry you found yourself in this mess. It sounds like this person is quite the serial mess-maker. I hope that you are indeed finding for yourself the closure you need. This is one of the hardest things in healing from this kind of mess: no closure from the person who ripped open the wounds. It is a blessing that you are no longer in this person’s reach for more wound-ripping and mess-making. This may be small comfort now, but in time, it will be big comfort. Thank you for your kind words Chuck, they mean a great deal. Take care of you, light & love to you. Maggie x

  5. I’m digging through all your posts, thank you for your clarity and compassion on this awful subject! I was happy to see you recommend Jackson MacKenzie’s book, Psychopath Free. It was one of he first I’d read which brought the horror of what was happening to me after 26 years of living an idealized life. I went from hero to zero when I got very ill and the shock was off the charts, along with the abuse. I bought the book on audible to listen to when my cognitive dissonance would take over. The reader is AMAZING, and to have that soothing voice and validating message plugged into my head during long walks was very grounding.

    1. Dear Corinna, I’m with you! That Jackson MacKenzie has such insight, such wisdom. I’m so glad you found his work, particularly at a time that sounds monumentally difficult in several ways. I hope that you are now recovering from the ill health you mentioned, as well as the traumatic ill health that comes from living a life with an abusive narcissist. What a double whammy. Welcome to Narc Wise. Sending you much light and love. Maggie x

  6. How do i know if I’m the one that’s a narc person? Or is it him?
    Ive found myself insulting his character, calling him names. Etc. And he never calls me names. But he does punish me by ignoring me. There are lies. I have no self esteem. I don’t know thou. He can be such a good person. He loves me so good sometimes. And I’m the one that ends up all pyscho acting out. What does that mean? I know that I’m bi polar and have ptsd according to local mental health facility. I’m also an addict. As is he. How can i identify what the problems are? Or who? Should i walk away?

    1. I’m so in shock at the moment. I’m reading this stuff and it’s all so familiar to what’s happened to me. I just feel sick and keep crying. I still feel I would have him back which is ridiculous. I knew he was lying or gaslighting as it turns out saying things then changing the story. The whole amazing future he made out we would have was a lie. He started off so kind and amazing and I felt 10 feet high. Then when I tentatively challenged some of his stories or got upset he said I was erratic and aggressive. I did question myself too but I know my responses were justified. He accused me of still wanting my ex the father of my kids whom
      I’ve not been with for 10 years. Ridiculous. I sometimes had knots in my stomach wondering what he was going to be like. The whole relationship lasted 11 months. He asked me to marry him after 6 months at Christmas then bit by bit slight changes. Then he gave me a list in March of everything he had given me (a lot he was generous) all of which I’d never asked for. I went part time as he said I worked too hard and he would pay me the difference but before I was paid the first month he said I should go back full time. I knew them he was truly spiteful and that I was not being sensitive and paranoid. It finished two weeks ago and I told him to get out of my house. There is so much but it’s too long to write. Just so hurt and want to be proved wrong that he is not a narcissist. I tried call but he wo t speak so
      I messsged him to make it up with him and apologise but he just berated me vivaciously. It hurts. It feels like a physical pain.

      1. Dear Anonymous. It does. It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts. It IS physical pain. I’m so very sorry for what you have been through, and what you are going through. With pain this big, the natural inclination is to want it to go away. So we falsely think the only way for that to happen is to have them come back. But dear heart, on some level you know, or you will come to know, that this is perpetuating the pain. Not only extending it, but that decision will also amplify the pain. With each return (and goodness knows many of us have done so time & time again) the cycle gets shorter (the idealisation then the devaluation then the discard) & the abuse gets uglier. ALL of it escalates. As does your pain. And your desperation for it to stop. The ONLY way to make it stop, is for you to make it stop. To tell yourself, you CAN walk through the pain now. You CAN handle it. And you can. It may feel like it will kill you, but it won’t, if you decide to live. To keep breathing. To keep fighting. Keep pushing. You can do this gorgeous one. One second at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time, etc. You’ve got this dear Anonymous. You’ve GOT this. Sending you strength, courage, a fury to save yourself, and oodles of light & love. Maggie x

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