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Do You Love a Narcissist?

It’s easy to fall in love with narcissists. Their charm, talent, success, beauty, and charisma cast a spell, along with compliments, scintillating conversation, and even apparent interest in you. Perhaps you were embarrassed when your mate cut in front of the line or shuddered at the dismissive way he or she treated a waitress. Once hooked, you have to contend with their demands, criticisms, and self-centeredness. The relationship revolves around them, and you’re expected to meet their needs when needed, and are dismissed when not.

What it’s Like. In the beginning, you were delighted to be in the narcissist’s aura. Now you’re tense and drained from unpredictable tantrums, attacks, and unjustified indignation at imaginary slights. You begin to doubt yourself, worry what he or she will think, and become as pre-occupied with the narcissist, as he or she is with him or herself.

After a while, you start to lose self-confidence. Your self-esteem may have been intact when you met, but your partner finds you coming up short, and doesn’t fail to point it out. Most narcissists are perfectionists, and nothing you or others do is right or appreciated. Talking about your disappointment or hurt gets turned into your fault or another opportunity to put you down. They can dish it, but not take it, being highly sensitive to any perceived judgment.

Narcissists have no boundaries and see you as an extension of themselves, requiring that you’re on call to meet their needs – regardless of whether you’re ill or in pain. You might get caught-up in trying to please them. This is like trying to fill a bottomless pit. Their needs, whether for admiration, service, love, or purchases, are endless. You might go out of your way to fill their request only to have your efforts devalued because you didn’t read their mind. They expect you to know without having to ask. You end up in a double-blind – damned if you displease them and damned when you do. Narcissists don’t like to hear “No.” Setting boundaries threatens them. They’ll manipulate to get their way make sure you feel guilty if you’re bold enough to risk turning them down. You become afraid that if you don’t please them, you risk an onslaught of blame and punishment, love being withheld, and a rupture in the relationship. All too possible, because the narcissist’s relationship is with him or herself. You just have to fit in. Nevertheless, you stay in the relationship, because periodically the charm, excitement, and loving gestures that first enchanted you return.

Do Narcissists love? In public, narcissists switch on the charm that first drew you in. People gravitate towards them and are enlivened by their energy. You’re proud to bask in their glow, but at home, they’re totally different. They may privately denigrate the person they were just entertaining. You begin to wonder if they have an outward “as if” personality. Maybe you’re reassured of their love when they bestow complimentary and caring words and gestures, are madly possessive, or buy you expensive gifts, then doubt their sincerity and question whether they’re being manipulative or saying what’s appropriate.

Sometimes, you might think they love only themselves. That’s a common misconception. Actually, they dislike themselves immensely. Their inflated self-flattery, perfectionism, and arrogance are merely covers for the self-loathing they don’t admit – usually even to themselves. Instead, it’s projected outwards in their disdain for and criticism of others. This is why they don’t want to look at themselves. They’re too afraid, because they believe that the truth would be devastating. Actually, they don’t have much of a Self at all. Emotionally, they’re dead inside. (See Self-Love.)

Early Beginnings. It’s hard to be empathic with narcissists, but they didn’t choose to be that way. Their natural development was arrested as a toddler due to faulty, early parenting, usually by the mother who didn’t provide sufficient nurturing and opportunity for idealization. They’re left with an unrealistic view of themselves, and at time make you experience what it was like having had to feed the needs of a cold, invasive, or unavailable narcissistic parent. Anne Rice’s vampire Lestat had such an emotionally empty mother, who devotedly bonded with him to survive. The deprivation of real nurturing and lack of boundaries make narcissists dependent on others to feed their insatiable need for validation. Like the mythological Narcissus, they don’t know themselves, but only can love themselves as a reflection in the eyes of others. Poor Narcissus. The gods sentenced him to a life without human love. He fell in love with his reflection by a pool, and died by the water, hungering for a response from his reflection.

Diagnosis. All personality traits, including narcissism, exist on a continuum from mild to severe. Narcissism ranges from self-centeredness and some narcissistic traits to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (“NPD”). NPD wasn’t categorized as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association until 1987, because it was felt that too many people shared some of the traits and it was difficult to diagnose. The summarized diagnosis is controversial and undergoing further change:
Someone with NPD is grandiose (sometimes only in fantasy), lacks empathy, and needs admiration from others, as indicated by five of these characteristics:

1. A grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerates achievements and talents
2. Dreams of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3. Lacks empathy for the feelings and needs of others
4. Requires excessive admiration
5. Believes he or she is special and unique, and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or of high-status people (or institutions)
6. Unreasonably expects special, favorable treatment or compliance with his or her wishes
7. Exploits and takes advantage of others to achieve personal ends
8. Envies others or believes they’re envious of him or her
9. Has “an attitude” of arrogance or acts that way

Of all the narcissists, beware of malignant narcissists, who are the most pernicious, hostile, and destructive. They take traits 6 & 7 to an extreme, and are vindictive and malicious. Avoid them before they destroy you.

Codependency. People with codependency lack a core Self, and define themselves based on others. This is true for all narcissists, whose Self is so weak and insecure, they need constant validation. Stereotypically, they’re not interested in taking care of others – but some narcissists are caretakers. Many narcissistic men do this with money, because it boosts their self-esteem.

When two narcissists get together, they’re miserable needing each other, yet fighting over whose needs come first and pushing away. On the other hand, it can be a perfect fit, albeit painful, for ordinary codependents, because their low self-esteem, is boosted by the narcissist’s attributes and aura of success. It also allows them to tolerate the narcissist’s emotional abuse. They feel needless and guilty asserting their needs and caring for a narcissist makes them feel valued. Because they feel undeserving of receiving love, they don’t expect to be loved for who they are – only for what they give or do.

Treatment. Narcissists don’t usually seek help unless a major loss shatters their illusions. But both narcissism and codependency can be healed with courage, time, and a commitment to yourself. Recovery entails improving boundaries and self-acceptance based upon real self-knowledge. Psychotherapy and joining a 12-Step program are beneficial ways to start.
© Darlene Lancer, 2011
For a free PDF on “How to Be Assertive,” see www.darlenelancer.com.

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By: admin

  1. I would like more information. I am married to one. I have filed for divorce, a restraining order and charges of assault. I have had enough!

    Comment by Catherine Knox — August 20, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

  2. There are many books and professional articles on narcissism you might research online and via Google Scholar. Note that the illness spans a continuum from mild to “malignant” narcissism, which is close to sociopathy. Try to get some support and spend your energy healing yourself. Often codependents get involved with narcissists. See my articles on Divorce, Verbal Abuse, and Domestic Violence. Best wishes to you during this trying times.

    Comment by admin — August 20, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  3. Wow…ive been lookin for answers to understand my ex….thank you very much!

    Comment by max — November 26, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

  4. 21 YEARS of thinking I was mad…I LOVED this man with ALL my heart, I never understood his ODD behaviour UNTIL now, thanks to google and reading all these blogs…..Its NOT me who is mad…….I cant believe I discovered this “mental illness” BEFORE he destroyed me, emotionally, mentally and financially!!!!! I am devastated how I “allowed” this man to “chew me up, and spit me out” I have been through such DEVASTATING things over the years, I truly could write an A-Z book of experiences that he put me and my 3 devastated children through……I am getting stronger, well trying, by the day, after discovering he had been having an affair for over 1 year with an older,disgusting married old baggy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He left us……We are distraught!!!!!!!!!!!! I found all this out recently, I wish I had the courage to tell this awful womans husband, Im not sure if he knows, she has 4 children, they are not together, I BELIEVE he ended it recently!!!!! I have been through bailiffs chasing us, rape allegations, bankruptcy, repossessions of cars, shops, houses ALL through this “mans” greed, ignorance and gambling addiction….I “put up” with lots for the sake of my children to have a “father”…………GOD if only I KNEW then what I KNOW now I would have ran years ago with my babies…..BEFORE he has turned me into this skinny, very unwell ‘wreck’ that I have now become……I wish he would run back to his own country BUT sadly (that is why I believe I cant move forward) is because just down the road!!!!!!!!!!!!! IF you are with one……PLEASE….RUN…RUN…RUN….They NEVER EVER change……..TWENTY ONE years I tried, I never understood, I thought it was me…..Its THEM with a problem…..ACCEPT that and GET OUT…..BEFORE you end up like me, 3 stone lighter, devasted, on anti depressants, suffering with panic & anxiety attacks, a single mum, etc WHILST HE is still out EVERY weekend having fun……heartless, uncaring, no empathy, empty people!!!!!!!!!!! :-(

    Comment by BELIEVE&PRAY — December 7, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

  5. Sounds like you’re pretty traumatized by your husband. Unfortunately, the truth is that it takes two to be a victim. So you have some work cut out for you to heal from the trauma and your own self-worth. People with healthy self-esteem want to be loved in a mutually giving relationship – not with a self-centered narcissist. Changing someone else is impossible. You can only work on raising your own self-esteem and confidence. I recommend my books, which are designed to do that and wish you well on your journey of recovery. Darlene

    Comment by admin — December 8, 2012 @ 2:39 am

  6. You have no idea how much this information has helped me. Thank you! I’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist for 2 years and have beaten myself up thinking that I was to blame. Do you have any additional info on co-dependency? I’m starting to think that I fit into that category for allowing myself to continually be emotionally abused by my ex. I just need somewhere to turn. Thank you again!

    Comment by Andrea — December 30, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

  7. Thank you for your comment on my blog about narcissism. I encourage you to read my books, links below. Codependency for Dummies is the most comprehensive book on the subject with a self-help recovery plan you can start immediately. You’re correct that the first step is more information and then perhaps getting outside help. More information about the book is at http://www.whatiscodependency.com/my-books and also via the links on my website, http://www.whatiscodependency.com

    Comment by admin — January 1, 2013 @ 12:59 am

  8. I have know this man for almost 4 years, charmed me, helped me move so I was so happy he helped. We started seeing each other, he didn’t want me to come over to his home, he had four children and so did I, said he kept his private life separate from his family. Found out he was seeing two different women same time he was seeing me. I was vulnerable, just went through divorce, he knew it. We had a pleasing sexual relationship at first, and I wanted to be reassured I was more important than just sex, he was never intimate unless he was drunk and when we went out always sat at the bar never a table. I spent a lot of money traveling to see him, only to get blown off time and time again when he decided I’m sure on seeking someone else out. Not that this is important because I truly loved him at one time, he’s not even handsome and I am reminded from family and friends what I see in him and I don’t even know, it started out as fun and now is horrible. What’s worse I told him I don’t want anything to do with him and now he’s stalking me. He won’t let anyone near his phone or computer, sends pictures of his privates to women and I recently found out took pictures of me without me knowing. How could I of stayed with a man like this and do I have something to worry about now?

    Comment by Karen Robert — January 9, 2013 @ 8:48 am

  9. WOW. I’ve been in a “relationship” with a narcissist for about six months now. He approached me so suave-like, we talked for hours, he cooked wonderful meals for me, the sex was (and still is) so damn good; but the bad part of it is that I know what he is. How can I just let go of him? I feel i want to “heal” himbut maybe it is not my call? it hurts me sometimes to think that I he would not be in my life forever like he told me we would be.

    Comment by Tonya G — January 17, 2013 @ 3:16 am

  10. True, narcissists can be very seductive. See my post on Emotional Unavailability. You haven’t said why you’d want to let him go. Maybe the good outweighs the pain of it. Narcissists rarely get help, and there’s no way that you can help him. Denying your needs is part of your problem. It’s a paramount symptom of codependency. Start healing yourself – that’s a big enough task in itself. If he wants help, he can seek a professional. Do the exercises in Codependency for Dummies will start you on the road to recovery. See http://www.WhatisCodependency.com

    Comment by admin — January 17, 2013 @ 6:14 am

  11. Wow wonderful article. I just figured out today ,after knowing my male friend for 7years, that he is one! I am so drained. Worst part is my husband is one too! Both are a bit different but similar. I thought my friend was perfectist ,,but he definitely have some N going on. As far as my husband,I put him in his place,I shoved articles about his NPd to his face. The fact he knows I know. My husband told he has no time to empathize. He does not bother me anymore.
    Divorce is down the road….I wonder if these people are attracted to me or am I attracting them.

    Comment by Renee — January 23, 2013 @ 4:27 am

  12. That’s a very astute question. There’s a reason why people are attracted to narcissists’ charm, power, energy. It compliments parts of themselves that aren’t as confident, which is also why they’re will to give more than they get and even accept abuse or very little love – they don’t feel truly deserving. The narcissist doesn’t have good self-worth either, but needs constant validation from others. So, you see the narcissist and his/her mate complement each other – but both suffer from underlying feelings of unworthiness.

    Comment by admin — March 6, 2013 @ 5:45 am

  13. Thanks for the article. This help me figure out a lot. I don’t really know how I feel writing this but I will. I have been married to my wife for 29 years been together for 34. I have been the primary care taker in our family. I cook, clean even braided my daughters hair and pay all the bills never been unemployed. My problem is that I am a caregiver, a nurturer and yes I am 100 percent man. I love my family. I pay for my daughters college and take of all my sons needs.
    Everything about loving a narcissist I am experiencing and it hurts to the core to have been emotionally abandoned and manipulated. My problem is how to move on. I have reached my limit, but I feel helpless because I know if I do that the behavior would shift to my son who is a very responsible a respectful kid. I dont want to burden him with it, but I lost and need help.

    Comment by Rio — March 18, 2013 @ 7:05 am

  14. I can appreciate the pain and fear that accompany such insight. I posted a blog on Codependent Men. I refer you to my sister-site, http://www.whatiscodependency.com for more information, and recommend my Dummies book as a place to start along with therapy to support you in making changes.

    Comment by admin — March 18, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

  15. You have made people who suffer from this out as monsters. From what I am learning it’s not there fault. I love my wife and my children with all my heart. I can’t seem to get along with anyone in my life. I have been highly successful in my chosen career and have fallen due to my lack of relationship skills. I do not understand why people are always attacking me and always trying to take advantage of me. I do t understand why my wife doest love me enough… These are my daily thoughts…. I hate myself yet coming here basically gives me zero hope.. These women and people talk about there ex husbands as monsters not as someone who needed help! I need help, I am not a monster. I do not want to be a monster. I want to be loved I want to be accepted. I want friends….

    I read the symptoms and yes that’s me almost to the letter… But I care how my wife and kids feel… I don’t understand why I can’t make her happy… And i dont understand why she doesnt care about how i feel! I think it’s very unfair to be characterized as a monster… I didn’t choose nor do I like being this way.

    Comment by Mike — April 18, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

  16. Thank you so much for your post on my blog on narcissism. I believe I said that narcissists didn’t choose to be that way and that symptoms vary on a continuum. Some are very committed husbands, wives, and parents. The fact that you are seeking help is admirable and rare for most narcissists, who don’t want help. Yes, underneath the pride are feelings of inadequacy and unlovability. With your attitude, you can change. Additionally, it’s unclear what role your wife plays. It’s not unusual for two narcissists to marry and there’s a lot of conflict with both not feeling like they get their needs met. This article was addressing those loving narcissists, but there is great possibility for change by healing the shame that narcissists usually hide. I suggest my blogs on self-love and shame, and ebook,“10 Steps to Self-Esteem” to get started. There’s more on my other website, http://www.whatiscodependency.com.

    Comment by admin — April 22, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

  17. I have just left a relationship of seven years. My partner constantly rejected my opinions and desires and while the sex was amazing right from the start she constantly belittled me in many other areas of my life. She constantly told me that that I misunderstood things or that she had something I knew she had said the way she had said it. There was only ever one outcome on a decision that she had already decided and that was her decision, whether it took her days, weeks or months to talke me round.

    I finally picked up the coursage to leave her despite being hit and locked in the house on separate occasions and she continued to belittle me and belittle me to her friends, many of whom have launched their own personal attacks on me via, email, text, etc. Even then she kept pestering me telling me that nobody would never love me the way she did, nobody would ever understand me the way she did. There was no let up and I went back twice before finally realising I was never going to be happy, this was particularly emphasised by my being diagnosed with depression along the way. Even now though I have moved on, setup a new home and filed for divorce she is still pestering me refusing to accept any of my reasons for leaving as being valid. Yesterday she told me I was a narcissist, which completely through me. Reading through all the descriptons I have found it seems like her perfectly, refusing to listen to other’s opinions, wanting everything her own way, asking questions about presents but then getting me what she thinks I should want instead of asking. Similarly throughout our relationship asking my opinion on big decisions but then doing what she wants anyway. I am now completely lost about the situation and would be grateful for advice anyone could share. I am already in therapy.

    Comment by David — June 5, 2013 @ 8:42 am

  18. FYI, narcissists are experts at projection. It’s how they stay away from painful feelings and anything that might be considered a flaw. Underneath is depression, and living with one can add to depression. They can be exciting, charismatic, brilliant, and seductive and all that can lift one out of depression, as well as the drama of fighting. Glad you’re in therapy to recover.

    Comment by admin — June 5, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

  19. these sites are a great help in if only momentarily easing the guilt of leaving my ex who was an evil demon i thought would change and believed all he said. here’s a snippet. just over a year of being out of the tumultuous 7 year partnership 2 dvos later for my protection and this time its to be the last is my aim. I left with a broken nose a house in ruins and all pets neglected to death but one who is my miracle who also helped keep me alive with her instincts to warn me that i may need to flee. this time it was the last, many lessons learnt the difficult way. I am now in uni doing a nursing degree i put off for far too long, but was unable to do with such a needy partner to the extent that time packing my bag for the next day for work caused him to anger. over time his selfishness became every few minutes and such a tiring 7 years. He has a newborn now with one of his many others- he denied it everytime and angered when was brought up as with many other topics, he moved in with her and her 3 yr old from a father she doesn’t know on the weekend i left to ensure a roof over his head as alone he could not afford ours and he was being evicted due to his damages. he had so many addictions and his mum was just as bad- alcoholic, manipulative, abusive and she got in on the abuse when i left. I have supports from my friends i was unable to see, his step mum and his nan, they see him for who he is now as he has not been able to hide it behind me anymore. They keep encouraging me to not go back and that he has not changed at all. i struggle with the fact that this person i put so much energy into didn’t feel anything at all for me and was all false that whole time. the unanswered questions i have that cannot be answered are difficult but there is a much brighter future ahead without his selfish 2 year old tantrums that were very dangerous on a 25 year old strong male. the money not being wasted on replacing items he damaged and so much more that is not missed. my pet and i are happy, safe, free to do as we please, not without it’s struggles but of a very different kind than before. long road ahead to ease the traumas and thinking of reality helps to not go backwards, so glad to not be his puppet anymore. hopefully no more bad seeds in future. only positive people are around me and they are a blessing.

    Comment by ginjiri — June 23, 2013 @ 9:33 am

  20. I have been in a 33 year relationship with a narcissist Not until about a year ago did i know the name for this crazy roller coaster ride. Thats what it has felt like with all the ups and downs.We have moved on now to a new phase of the ride i havent found much information about. The silent and withdrawn phase.I have read its a form of punishment. It feels like it too. We havent slept in the same room for years. We have met on occasion for sex. ( No emotions attached of course lol ) I have to check myself often to see if i am crazy or if this suff is really happening. Not sure where this will all go. Its hard to walk away from 33 years even though i am TOTALY drained from this relationship.

    Comment by Lisa — July 2, 2013 @ 4:51 am

  21. A helpful book for anyone divorcing a narcissist:
    Divorcing A Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle by Tina Swithin. Find “One Moms Battle” as a blog or on Facebook.
    Marrying a narcissist is what you think is heaven, but you wake up in hell. And with kids going back and forth for visitation it’s like purgatory. ( in between), heaven ( with you) and hell (when narcissist has them!)

    Comment by CC — December 19, 2013 @ 2:09 am

  22. I had an 11 year relationship with a man who I recently identified as a narcissist. I saw the behaviors but never put it all together until recently. He seems to be mildly affected compared to many of the Ns written about here. He was superficially confident but inwardly hated himself. He was never happy with any decision made by us as a couple or with friends,. He claimed that he was “controlled” by me but unless he dictated the decisions he pouted and withheld affection etc…This was in stark contrast to the beginning of the relationship when he sent cards, flowers, spent all of his free time with me, complimented me, and enjoyed anything we did as long as we were together. He began to withdraw more and more and was unduly attached to his mother. He had no control over his adult children and when he had a grandchild, he devoted all of is time and attention to him whenever possible. I believe this is because he got “fed” by the love of this child. It’s sad that he wouldn’t get help because he could be a wonderful partner, When we went to a counselor he went 3 times…once a get to know why we were there session…one a session to complete a personality profile (which I’m sure he manipulated)…and the 3rd time to get the basic results of the assessment, Before the 4th session when the therapist was going to address the issues directly he claimed that he didn’t like the therapist and that was the end of that. Very sad but I know now that there is NO help for him,

    Comment by Elizabeth — April 3, 2014 @ 2:51 am

  23. You very clearly describe your relationship an his behavior, and yes, narcissism does vary on a continuum. We all have some, and some is healthy – that’s different from a full-blown personality disorder. Your therapist sounds inexperienced. It’s unfortunate that he or she proceeded in that way. Narcissists do respond to treatment with the right therapist who knows how to approach them – if they’re willing to go. Since he’s willing, there is hope. See if he’s willing to go to someone of his choosing or if you can find someone who is trained in self-psychology. http://Www.psychologytoday.com has a search tool you can use for your area.

    Comment by admin — April 4, 2014 @ 10:57 pm

  24. Dear Darlene,

    Cant thank you enough for this fabulous piece on Narcs….you have indeed saved me from sinking and drowning. I have always been fairly confident and known how to keep men at bay…but this once I failed … Miserably. And your article served as a life jacket in the sea of despair and pain….Have pretty much reached the shore.

    I have a healthy life … been married for 12 years with a man who is simply the best and 2 wonderful children…he wooed me for 2 full years and has loved me completely , been totally dedicated and we share a very close bond – he is a fab companion. The only thing he lacks is my interest in books and the ability to express impressively and a few more inches (always wanted a tall man who could talk me into anything). This missing piece came along with a bang…. a man who made his presence felt through mails and got me to slowly open up. I was in awe of him and he was towering literally and figuratively….Have now discovered he is a complete Cerebral Narc.

    My problem is : his touch… Electric! I have never ever felt the emotions he could raise in me before. He knew exactly what to do , where to touch… all my desires (sexual) came true with him …he treated me to the most exhilarating intimate moments….cant get that out of my head…its creating havoc in my mind…although my husband does all he can to reach me to an orgasm – he just falls short! Is there a way out…there is no way I want the Narc around and really want to make it up to my hubby…What do I do….This is the hook ; the Narc may make an offer that wud be too hard to resist….PLEASE help

    Comment by wisernow — May 21, 2014 @ 5:23 am

  25. Interesting you refer to your friend as a “Narc,” since that’s exactly what he is – a drug. You may want to attend a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting (SLAA). Second, tell your husband exactly what to do in bed. Consider marital therapy with your husband, and discuss your sex and life. It’s also your choice whether to knowingly trade your marriage, family and children’s welfare for what may be a short-lived high.

    Comment by admin — May 21, 2014 @ 5:38 am

  26. Why won’t a narcissist bond with their significant other? What are they afraid of?

    Comment by Diane — July 21, 2014 @ 4:14 am

  27. The reason lies in their childhood and may be different with each individual. Generally speaking, though, they are afraid of being vulnerable or dependent. They usually are not in touch with those emotions and needs, which they attract in their partners. Some narcissists do bond very deeply, but often their partners aren’t sure that they are loved. I explain this in more detail and the bond with their partners in my book, Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You

    Comment by admin — July 24, 2014 @ 4:28 am

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