If I could pick one sentence that I believe to be the most manipulative and dangerous it would be one that fell upon my ears when I was young, vulnerable, and completely unaware that I was dealing with a covert narcissist.
“I have been waiting for you my entire life… you’re my soulmate.”
Those words seemed to set off something within me that had been locked up for a lifetime. At that moment I believed that I was experiencing something special, and sacred.
Instead, it turns out that I was experiencing a very common, in fact, a critical part of the manipulative cycle of a narcissist. Although it has been years since my experience I am constantly reminded of the “soulmate effect” by the victims I work with who fell for the act.
A narcissist creating the illusion that you have met your soulmate is not a mistake on their part or something done without consideration. Their words are an easy and effective way of trapping you in an unhealthy/abusive relationship and here are the reasons why.
#1. It’s a beautiful declaration that we subconsciously want to hear
In a world where movies end in happy endings and beautiful romances are constructed under the premise of love at first sight… we have been subconsciously conditioned to yearn for those words.
Recently I was talking to a client that said she had never felt as seen as she did with the Narcissist in her life… in the beginning.
He spoke beautiful words to her that no one had ever even come close to, including her ex-husband of twenty years. At first, it felt like she was living out a romantic movie.
Then things shifted and she couldn’t understand why things had changed from the beautiful beginning she had experienced, nor why it felt impossible to get back to that place.
I reminded her that is important to recognize that the declarations and sweet words from the narcissist are simply part of the love-bombing phase. The narcissist does not see you as a soul mate because they don’t even know you. They simply know what you can provide them and they know the effect their words will have on you.
#2. They know that it will break down your walls
You can be guarded, and have boundaries in place but a manipulative/narcissist individual will immediately begin work at tearing them away. They are masters at figuring out how to get under your skin in order to figure out the information that will benefit them later in the relationship.
By removing boundaries, this facilitates the introduction of more overt abuse during devaluation. For this process to work, the narc knows that simultaneously your trust must be secured via the soul mate effect to disarm you (Hayase, 2016).
Time and time again I talk to victims who can’t wrap their heads around the fact that they were “fooled” by a narcissist because they had been strong and independent beforehand.
The reality is that someone telling us that we are their soulmate can often tear away any boundary in place because it is such a vulnerable and heartwarming statement to hear.
#3. The rush from their words is as addictive as a drug
It’s important to remember that when you are experiencing attention, flattery, gifts, and beautiful words, it will most likely release dopamine in your brain especially in the first stages of attraction/a relationship.
What’s frightening is that a toxic relationship actually creates dopamine that is more addictive than in a healthy relationship.
“Dopamine flows more readily in the brain when there is a “intermittent reinforcement” schedule of rewards rather than a consistent schedule. The inability of a toxic partner to give us what we need leaves us pining for the good times and continuing to invest in the relationship, much like a gambler at a slot machine who hopes for a perceived gain despite the inevitable losses of such a risky investment.” -Thought Catalog
After experiencing this kind of “intermittent reinforcement” it can be very difficult to go back to a healthy relationship because it feels “boring” after the roller-coaster and we become addicted to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
#4. They know that you will stay through their mistreatment
Eventually, whether it is after a few months or a few years the narcissist will start to devalue you. Yet even as things get worse and worse you will look back at the amazing memories during the beginning of the relationship and because those memories and the feelings attached to them will be so powerful… you will most likely stay.
The narcissist knows that you will stay because they have done this before. This was part of their plan all along, enticing you with words of flattery and adoration and making you feel like you were on top of the world just to eventually let you shatter.
Many victims of love-bombing and the “soulmate effect” feel trapped because they believe they can get back to the beginning of the relationship again if they just try a little harder.
There may be breadcrumbs of the fabricated affection that was shown before but it is only to give the victim a tiny bit of hope that is enough to make them stay.
Hope is incredibly powerful. It can be such an amazing thing to hold close in dark or trying times.
But there is another side to hope as it can blind us to reality and cause us to hold on to people or situations that are detrimental to our future.
The narcissist was not your soulmate. They may have caused you to believe that they were your soulmate, and you may have wanted them to be your soulmate, but they were not.
A soulmate would not devalue their other half. They would not manipulate them, verbally abuse them, and cause them to question their own self-worth.
Remember, actions speak volumes louder than any romantic words someone tries to whisper in your ear.