" Targets of malignant narcissists sometimes don't know what's hit them until long after severe emotional abuse has occurred. The very nature of narcissistic abuse is insidious....it creeps up on someone, until they suddenly realize that the person they fell in love with is really just an illusion.
The malignant narcissist is a masterful actor/actress. The harsh realization that their knights in shining armor never really existed is a devastating blow to most targets. They did not fall in love with a real person. This traumatic reality is what makes it so hard for the target to leave the relationship. A trauma bond has formed.
The target fell in love with a mirage. A false person. So the target must grieve not only for the loss of the relationship, but also the loss of the person they were in love with."
By Andrea Schneider, MSW, LCSW
Soul Vampires: Reclaiming Your LIfeBlood After Narcissistic Abuse (2015)