DARVO: A Common Narcissistic Technique

If you suspect you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you may have encountered something called the DARVO technique. This is a form of manipulation and is incredibly toxic in any relationship. Take a break from shopping for a new brow pen from Bowler Esthetics, and let’s get into what DARVO looks like.




The first role of a DARVO tactic is to deny. The narcissist will immediately get defensive and say things like, “that’s not true” or “I didn’t do anything wrong.” They get defensive from the get-go and deny what you’ve accused them of relentlessly. This could happen if you have tangible evidence of something or simply express how they’ve made you feel. In either case, it’s a toxic form of manipulation used by narcissists.




The next stage of DARVO is to attack. Attack can take many forms. Either the narcissist can attack what you originally brought up or something unrelated to the issue at hand. They are turning the situation around on you. Instead of addressing your complaint, they resist it and attack you.




Reverse is the third stage of DARVO. This will immediately follow the attack. They now turn the situation around to you. “You did this wrong,” or “you have problems, you need to look at yourself in this situation,” are common statements during the reverse phase. Again, they are accepting no blame and instead, upset that you accused them of something, attempt to make you feel unworthy or bad for bringing it up in the first place.




Once they’ve denied, attacked, and reversed – the narcissist takes on the role of victim. They attempt to make you feel bad for causing them pain or anguish. This involves making comments like, “I can’t believe you’d do this to me,” and “you’re always trying to make me feel bad.” This behavior is incredibly toxic and designed to make you feel bad for them. It makes you question if you did something wrong by bringing up the incident. (Side note: bringing up how you feel about something is never wrong.)




By making them the victim, they in turn make you feel like you’re the offender. They try to make you feel terrible about yourself and sympathize with them. This tactic is used to gain control over you and make you question your role in the relationship. It could turn to you questioning your reality, which is precisely what the narcissist wants. In their eyes, they can do no wrong. They want you to accept this disillusionment, and if you don’t – they attempt to use manipulation to get you to do so.


The Bottom Line


Relationships with a narcissist are toxic. Yet, people often find it challenging to leave relationships even though they are unhealthy. DARVO techniques cause us to question our reality and become confused about the reality of this situation. The more informed you get about how your narcissist partner is trying to manipulate you, the closer you can get to breaking free.


Many narcissistic relationships turn abusive. If you feel you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s best to seek professional help to get out of it.


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