Can a narcissist love?

Anyone who has ever loved a narcissist wonders, “Does he really love me?” “Does she appreciate me?” They are torn between their love and their pain, between staying or leaving, but it seems they can’t do it either. Some swear they are loved; others are convinced that they are not. It is confusing, because sometimes they experience the caring person they love, whose company is a pleasure, only to be followed by behavior that makes them feel unimportant or inappropriate. Narcissists claim to love their family and partners, but do they?

How a narcissist loves

Narcissists can show passion in the early stages of dating. But that kind of passion, according to Jungian analyst Robert Johnson, “is always directed at our own projections, our own expectations, our own fantasies … It is a love not from someone else, but from ourselves.” Such relationships provide positive attention and sexual satisfaction to support a narcissist’s ego and self-esteem. For most narcissists, their relationships are transactional. Your goal is to enjoy pleasure without compromise. (Campbell, et al.) They are playing and the goal is to win. They are attractive, energetic and possess emotional intelligence that helps them perceive, express, understand and manage emotions. (Dellic, et al., 2011) This helps them manipulate people to win their love and admiration. They boast of being respected, loved, and rewarded. Also, their good social skills allow them to make a good first impression. They can show a keen interest in romantic prospects and seduce with generosity, expressions of love, flattery, sex, romance, and promises of engagement. Loving narcissists (Don Juan and Mata Hari type) are adept and persuasive lovers and may have many conquests, but remain single. Some narcissists lie and / or practice love bombardment overwhelming their prey with verbal, physical and material expressions of love.

Narcissists lose interest as the expectation of intimacy increases or when they have won at their game. Many have trouble maintaining a relationship for more than six months to a few years. They prioritize power over intimacy and detest vulnerability, which they consider weak. To maintain control, they avoid closeness and prefer dominance and superiority over others. Thus, the game strikes the perfect balance to meet your needs and keep your options for flirting or dating multiple partners open.

A sudden breakup can be traumatic for your ex, who is baffled by your unexpected change of mind – proposing one minute, then dating the next. They feel confused, crushed, discarded, and betrayed. Had the relationship continued, they would eventually have seen through the narcissist’s seductive appearance.

Some narcissists are pragmatic in their approach to relationships, focusing on their goals. They can also develop positive feelings towards their partner, but more based on friendship and shared interests. If they marry, they lack the motivation to maintain their romantic facade and employ defenses to avoid closeness. They become cold, critical, and angry, especially when challenged or not getting their way. They are likely to support their spouse’s needs and wants only when it is inconvenient and their ego is satisfied. After devaluing their partner, they need to look elsewhere to shore up their inflated ego.

The challenges for a narcissist

Real love is not romance and it is not codependency. For Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas, it is “desiring the good of another.” In The Psychology of Romantic Love, Nathaniel Branden states that “To love a human being is to know and love his person. (1980, p. 50) It is a union of two individuals, which requires that we see the other person as separate from Furthermore, in The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm (1945) emphasizes that love implies an effort to develop knowledge, responsibility and commitment. We must be motivated to know the wishes, needs and feelings of others and to provide encouragement and support. their happiness and try not to hurt them.

When we love, we show an active concern for his life and growth. We try to understand your experience and your view of the world, although it may differ from ours. Caring involves offering care, respect, support, compassion, and acceptance. We must dedicate the necessary time and discipline. Romantic love can turn into love, but narcissists are not motivated to really know and understand others. (Ritter et al.)

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, narcissists lack empathy. They are not “willing to acknowledge or identify with the feelings and needs of others.” (APA, 2013) Research shows they have structural abnormalities in brain regions associated with emotional empathy. (Schulze, et al. 2013) Therefore, their ability to respond emotionally appropriately and express care and concern is significantly impaired.

Narcissists have various obstacles to love. First, they don’t see themselves or others clearly. First, they experience people as extensions of themselves, rather than separate individuals with different needs, wants, and feelings. Second, they overestimate their own emotional empathy (Ritter, et al). Third, your defenses distort your perceptions and interactions with others. They boast and withdraw to control closeness and vulnerability, project onto other unwanted negative aspects of themselves, and use denial, entitlement, and narcissistic abuse, including blame, contempt, criticism, and aggression, to ward off embarrassment. Perfectionist narcissists cruelly belittle others and may attempt to destroy adversaries to maintain their illusion of perfection. All of these issues miss the ability of narcissists to accurately assimilate another person’s reality, including that person’s love for them. In fact, the emotional intelligence of narcissists helps them manipulate and exploit others to get what they want, while their impaired emotional empathy desensitizes them to the pain they inflict.

Can we measure love?

Love is difficult to measure, but research shows that people feel love expressed by: 1) words of affirmation, 2) spending quality time, 3) giving gifts, 4) acts of service, and 5) physical contact.. (Goff, et al. 2007) Another study revealed that participants also felt loved by a partner who: 1) showed interest in their affairs; 2) provided them with emotional and moral support; (3) revealed intimate facts; 4) expressed feelings for them, such as “I am happier when I am around you”; and 5) tolerated their demands and shortcomings to maintain the relationship. (Swenson, 1992, p. 92)


People who love narcissists are starving for many of these expressions of love. Sometimes narcissists are remote, dismissive, or aggressive; other times, they show care and concern and are helpful. It’s not that narcissists are incapable of feeling or even understanding someone’s feelings intellectually. The problem appears to be rooted in childhood trauma and physiological deficits that affect emotional evaluation, reflection, and appropriate empathic expression. (Unconscious or unexpressed: “I love you, but”); Expressed: “I am too busy to go to the hospital”, it sounds cold enough, but it may not reflect the love of the narcissist for the hospitalized person. When the importance of a visit is explained to them, they can go on the journey.

They can show love when they are motivated. Their love is conditional, depending on the impact on the narcissist. Narcissism exists on a continuum from mild to malignant, when it is severe, selfishness and the inability to express love become more apparent when greater demands are placed on a narcissist. Dating or long distance relationships that have lower expectations are easier.

Bottom line Wondering if a narcissist loves you is the wrong question. Although it is wise to understand the mind of a narcissist, like Echo in the Narcissus myth, the partners focus too much on the narcissist to their detriment. Instead, ask yourself if you feel valued, respected, and loved. Is it meeting your needs? If not, how does that affect you and your self-esteem and what can you do about it?

© DarleneLancer 2018

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