We got a great question from the community: “What happens during the devaluation phase?” I checked out some credible sources. Here’s what I figured out.

During the devaluation phase, a narcissist will subject you to criticism, belittlement, gaslighting, triangulation, public humiliation, isolation, and many other forms of abuse and manipulation to maintain power and control over you.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the most common abusive/manipulative tactics narcissists use to help you understand what happens during the devaluation phase.

1.) They Criticize and Belittle You

When a narcissist starts to devalue you, their once complimentary or neutral comments turn into frequent criticisms and belittlement.1 

No matter how hard you try, it seems impossible to meet their standards. 

These criticisms and belittlments can range from your appearance to your professional achievements.

And they are often delivered in a way that’s both cutting and dismissive.

For example, imagine you’ve spent hours preparing a special dinner, hoping to impress. Instead of appreciation, the narcissist comments:

“This is what you chose to make? It’s edible, I suppose, but hardly what I’d call a feast. You might want to take some cooking classes.” 

A narcissist criticizing his wife's cooking.

Remarks like this are common during the devaluation phase and diminish your effort and skill, making you feel inadequate and undervalued.

2.) They Gaslight You

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by narcissists to make you question your reality, memory, or perceptions.2

If you aren’t aware it is happening, it can create tremendous confusion and cause you to lose confidence or trust in yourself and your abilities.

Here’s an example: Say you’re sure the narcissist agreed to something important to you, but when you bring it up, they deny it ever happened. 

They do this by saying, “You’re imagining things. I never agreed to that. Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you? You should go see a doctor.” 

Or another example, suppose there’s a misunderstanding between you and the narcissist in your life. 

Instead of discussing it calmly, they explode in anger, blaming you for the entire situation: 

“If you hadn’t been so careless, none of this would have happened!”

Despite your best efforts to explain, you’re left feeling guilty and responsible for their anger.

These are examples of gaslighting (psst… the second example is also a form of blame-shifting and narcissistic rage).

Over time, having interactions like the ones above can leave you questioning your reality, memory, perceptions, and sanity.

Related: How to Stop a Narcissist from Gaslighting You (3 Steps)

3.) They Give You Less Affection and Attention

A hallmark of devaluation is the sudden withdrawal of affection and attention that you once received. 

This can feel especially jarring because it often follows a period of intense admiration, known as the love-bombing phase.3 

The shift can be both confusing and painful, as the warmth and connection you once felt seem to disappear overnight.

For example, let’s say that at the beginning of your relationship, the narcissist showered you with messages, compliments, and declarations of love. 

A narcissist love bombing before the devaluation phase.

Now, a few months later, they seem cold and detached, barely acknowledging your presence or contribution to their life. 

When you try to address the change, they accuse you of being needy or overly sensitive, further exacerbating your feelings of isolation.

This is an example of a narcissist using the withdrawal of attention and affection as a manipulation tactic during the devaluation phase.

4.) They Compare You Unfavorably to Others

During the devaluation phase, narcissists often use a tactic called triangulation as a tool to devalue you. 

This is when someone turns a one-on-one situation into a two-on-one situation by involving a third party, typically through negative comparisons.4

By unfavorably comparing you to other people, they diminish your self-esteem and create a sense of competition for their approval and affection.

For instance, suppose the narcissist in your life casually mentions how competent, attractive, or successful a colleague or friend is, emphasizing qualities you supposedly lack. 

“Why can’t you be more like Alex? They’re really going places, unlike some people I unfortunately know and have to put up with.” 

This negative comparison is a form of triangulation, and it is designed to make you feel inferior and erode your sense of self-worth.

Related: What Does Triangulation Look Like? (5 Signs)

5.) They Disregard Your Needs and Feelings 

When a narcissist starts devaluing you, one of the first things you might notice is their sudden indifference to your needs and feelings. 

For example, imagine you’re going through a tough time at work and need someone to talk to. 

You turn to the narcissist in your life, expecting the support you once received, only to find them disinterested. 

They glance at their phone while you’re speaking, interrupt you to talk about something unrelated, or even outright say things like:

“I don’t see why you’re making such a big deal out of this.” 

A narcissist showing her lack of empathy.

This behavior is a hallmark of the devaluation phase.

And it can leave you feeling alone, unsupported, and questioning the validity of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.

6.) They Humiliate You In Public

Another tactic a narcissist might employ during the devaluation phase is public humiliation.

This is when someone intentionally humiliates another person in a public setting. 

It could be subtle, like making a condescending comment about your intelligence in front of friends.

Or it could be more overt, like outright mocking your achievements during a social gathering.

For example, you’re at a dinner party with friends and share a story about a recent success at work. 

Instead of celebrating your achievement, the narcissist interjects with: 

“Well, it’s not like it was that big of a deal. Anyone could have done it. Let’s not bore everyone with the details.” 

This public put-down not only diminishes your accomplishment but also aims to lower your status in the eyes of others, making you feel small and exposed.

7.) They Isolate You from Your Friends and Family

Sadly, isolation is a powerful tool narcissists use to maintain power and control of the relationship, especially during the devaluation phase.

What do I mean?

Well, they may start to criticize the people you’re close to, suggest you spend less time with them or even openly forbid you from seeing certain friends or family members.

For example, say you’ve always been close to your sibling, but the narcissist starts to make derogatory comments about them.

They suggest they’re a bad influence or don’t care about you. 

The narcissist’s goal here is to erode your support network so that they can make you more dependent on them and more susceptible to their manipulation.

Related: 5 Ways That Narcissists Isolate You

For more helpful information like this, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

During the devaluation phase, a narcissist will subject you to various forms of abuse and manipulation to maintain power and control over you.

I’m thankful you took the time to read my article!

If it left you with questions or you want to share your take, the comments are open. Let’s get a conversation going—I’m excited to speak with you.

And if you’re interested in diving deeper into narcissism and narcissistic abuse, our latest articles are just what you need. They’re full of valuable insights about this topic.

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Sanjana Gupta. (2022. August, 15). What Is the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/narcissistic-abuse-cycle-stages-impact-and-coping-6363187 ↩︎
  2. WebMD. (2024, February, 25). What Is Gaslighting in Relationships? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-gaslighting-in-relationships ↩︎
  3. Silvi Saxena. (2023. August, 18). What Is a Narcissistic Abuse Cycle & How Does It Work? Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissistic-abuse-cycle/ ↩︎
  4. Darius Cikanavicius. (2019. October, 20). Triangulation: The Narcissists Best Play. PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/blog/psychology-self/2019/10/triangulation-and-narcissism#1 ↩︎

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