Narcissistic Idealization

Narcissistic Idealization

| What is Narcissistic Idealization? |

Narcissistic personality disorder is generally characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration or attention (sometimes negative attention will do) and a lack of empathy. Narcissists are preoccupied with their own achievements and their perceived superiority, which often leads them to exploit others for their own benefit. Narcissistic idealization is part of the strategy (whether conscious or unconscious) employed by narcissists to secure the supply of attention and ego-boosting they need to function.

When it comes to romantic relationships, narcissists tend to idealize their new partners in the early stages of the relationship, before eventually devaluing and discarding them. But, why?

The idealization phase is the first essential part of the narcissistic relationship cycle. During this phase, narcissists view their partners as perfect, and they often use flattery, gifts, and other forms of affection to create a false sense of intimacy. This phase is also known as the love-bombing stage, where the narcissist showers a partner with attention and affection.

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During the idealization stage, narcissists tend to perceive and proclaim their new partners as ideal and perfect. This stage is frequently characterized by intense feelings of infatuation and excitement, which may be expressed through romantic gestures, lavish gifts, and excessive flattery. The narcissist may idealize a partner’s physical appearance, intelligence, personality, accomplishments or just about anything he or she first perceives as an attractive quality. The narcissist will also seem blinded by the perceived attractive quality or qualities to a point they initially don’t seem to notice any negative or less desirable traits that will eventually – with certainty – become reasons to devalue the partner. They may also project their own positive qualities onto their partner (which can make the partner feel incredibly special and valued) and may simultaneously mirror or “ape” their partners’ superficial personality, including likes and dislikes.

Narcissists may also use the idealization stage as a way to control their partner. By making their partner feel special and loved, the narcissist can quickly create a sense of trust and loyalty. This can be particularly effective if the partner has low self-esteem, has codependent tendencies or has been in previous relationships where they felt neglected or undervalued.

The Psychology Behind Narcissistic Idealization

There are several reasons why narcissists idealize their new partners. One of the main reasons is that narcissists have a deep-seated fear of rejection and abandonment. Idealizing a partner is one strategy to attempt to ensure that the partner will not leave them. By creating a false sense of intimacy and dependency, the narcissist can ensure that their partner will stay with them, even if the relationship is not healthy or fulfilling.

Another reason why narcissists idealize their partners is that they need to feel superior and in control. By projecting their own perceived positive qualities onto their partner, the narcissist can feel better about themselves. A narcissist may also see his partner as an extension of himself, and thus take credit for his partner’s accomplishments.

Finally, the idealization stage may also be a way for the narcissist to escape their own feelings of emptiness and insecurity. By focusing on their partner’s positive qualities, the narcissist can avoid dealing with their own issues and problems. This can be particularly true if the narcissist has a history of trauma or abuse.

The Consequences of Idealization

Although the idealization stage may seem positive and loving, it can have serious consequences for the partner involved. One of the main consequences is that the partner may feel like they have been put up on a pedestal, and that they must maintain their perfect image in order to keep the narcissist’s affection. This can create a lot of pressure and anxiety, and can lead to the partner feeling like they are walking on eggshells around the narcissist. Victims often report having felt afraid to disappoint their narcissistic partners and working extra hard to live up to their idealized image. Of course, that serves a narcissist’s interests!

Another consequence of idealization is that after setting very high expectations for the relationship and elevating a victim to such a lofty height, when the narcissist eventually devalues their partner, that unsuspecting partner tends to fall especially hard. They raise their victims up and then abruptly knock them down. A devalued partner probably won’t be able to fathom why the relationship changed so suddenly. This can lead to intense confusion, second-guessing, rumination, feelings of betrayal, damaged self-esteem and a severe inability to trust in future relationships.

Finally, idealization can prevent the partner from seeing the narcissist’s negative qualities. While a victim is being idealized, he or she may overlook or dismiss red flags and warning signs that the narcissist may exhibit. This can be particularly dangerous if the narcissist engages in abusive or manipulative behavior. The partner may not realize how toxic the relationship is until it is too late.

How to Recognize Idealization

Recognizing the idealization stage in a relationship can be difficult, especially if you are the partner involved. However, there are some signs to look out for that may indicate that your partner is idealizing you in a potentially unhealthy or exaggerated way.

One of the main signs is that your partner may seem too good to be true. They may shower you with compliments, gifts, and attention, and may seem completely infatuated with you. While it is normal to feel excited and happy in a new relationship, if your partner seems overly obsessed with you, this may be a warning sign. Remember the old and simple adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Another sign of narcissistic idealization is that your partner sees you as “all good.” They may see you as perfect and flawless, overlooking any faults or imperfections that you have. They may be astoundingly quick to forgive what you may yourself perceive as egregious missteps on your part.

While it is important to have a positive view of your partner, if they seem to be ignoring or dismissing any negative qualities you have, this may be a sign of unrealistic and unhealthy idealization.

Run Away!

Protect yourself! In a healthy relationship, one should set boundaries. Let your partner know that you are your own person, with your own interests and desires, and that you need space to pursue these things. Take it as a warning sign if your partner is unwilling or unable to respect your boundaries.

Pay attention to the red flags or warning signs that your partner may exhibit. Hindsight is 20/20 and victims of narcissistic abuse will ruminate on all the numerous danger signs they consciously ignored, once the relationship is over. Of course, you’re better off if you trust those instincts when the red flags first surface, instead of ignoring them only to regret it later! If your partner seems to be overly obsessed with you, or if they seem to be ignoring any negative qualities you have, this may be a sign of idealization. Pay attention to these warning signs, and do not ignore them!


The idealization stage is an essential part of the abusive narcissistic relationship cycle. During this stage, the narcissist sees (or at least describes) their partner as perfect and flawless, and uses flattery and other forms of affection to create an intense but entirely artificial sense of intimacy. Serious consequences may soon follow for the partner involved, including setting up unrealistic expectations and preventing the partner from seeing the narcissist’s negative qualities.

If you recognize the signs of idealization, set boundaries, and take care of yourself. Excessive idealization and flattery may be the first signs of danger and if you do identify your partner as a narcissist, it’s best to make haste to escape and avoid falling prey to the narcissistic cycle of idealization, devaluation, and discard.

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