Loving a narcissist is a major challenge. Relationships require expert navigation to succeed and loving a narcissist requires strong will and self-awareness to survive.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder where a person has an inflated sense of their own importance as well as a strong need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. However behind the facade of confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
“But enough about me, how do you feel about me?” would typically be what a narcissist would think or say! It’s all about them. If your partner always wants attention and admiration, he or she may be a narcissist. If someone is easily slighted or over-reactive to criticism, they may also be a narcissist. If they feel they are always right, that they know more, or that they have to be the best, etc., these, too, are signs of narcissism. Narcissistic individuals may only appear to care about you when you are fulfilling their needs or serving a purpose that helps them. A narcissistic relationship can lead to a lot of emotional distress.
Around 1% of the population suffers from narcissistic personality disorder.
Common traits of narcissists:
- Sense of entitlement or superiority
- Lack of empathy
- Manipulative or controlling behavior
- Strong need for admiration
- Focus on getting one’s own needs met, often ignoring the needs of others
- Higher levels of aggression
- Difficulty taking feedback about their behaviour
How does a narcissistic partner negatively impact a relationship?
Narcissistic relationships tend to be very challenging due to the fact that narcissistic partners usually have difficulty really loving someone else, because they don’t truly love themselves. They tend to only see the partner in terms of how they fill their needs (or fail to meet their needs). Their friends and children are only valued in terms of their ability to meet these needs. Narcissistic partners often lack the ability to have empathy with their partners’ feelings. This lack of empathy leads to resentment over time.
Yet many people are drawn to narcissistic relationships. Narcissistic partners can be very captivating, especially at the beginning. They tend to have a “big” personality. They are the life of the party. They can make you feel that you too must be great for them to choose you. However, in time, they can be too controlling in relationships. They may feel jealous or easily hurt. They are also highly likely to be controlling. When narcissistic injuries occur, they often lash out and can be cutting. Their reactions are dramatic and attention-seeking and the initial rush of excitement is not sustainable. Narcissists are prone to falling madly in love quickly and are quick to commit and draw the other person in. They are intense but the flame soon goes out and the controlling, self-absorbed and self-serving tendencies follow.
When you are in a narcissistic relationship, you may feel very lonely. You might feel like you are just an accessory and your needs and wants are unimportant. Narcissistic partners act as if they are always right, that they know better and that their partner is wrong or incompetent. This often leaves the other person in the relationship either angry and trying to defend themselves or identifying with this negative self-image and feeling bad about themselves. Being in a relationship with a narcissist leaves a person with self-doubt. Narcissists cleverly twist the facts and can make a person feel as if they are going crazy. they may use gas-lighting as another way to keep you under their control. Gas-lighting is where a narcissist denies the truth. For example – they may swear they told you about something when they didn’t. They leave you doubting your own sanity.
Learning to develop your own confidence and sense of self-love and value is important in counteracting the negative effects of being in a relationship with a narcissist.
Fostering self-compassion is important too in minimising the damaging effects of loving a narcissist. Being kind to oneself can lead to a lower tolerance of abusive behaviour from a narcissist.
For there to be any hope of maintaining a good relationship from a narcissistic relationship, the narcissist must overcome their self-centered and negative traits. They need to challenge their self-feeding habits and pseudo-independent stance. They need to focus on developing their capacity for empathy and respect for others. Lastly, they need to develop goals that don’t only include their own interests, to care about and invest in others’ well-being. Being generous and giving to others are examples of behaviors that would be corrective, building real self-esteem, and practicing focusing outside of oneself.