Can a narcissist love

Can Narcissists Love? | Psych Central

Many people who have had a relationship with someone with narcissistic traits come away with the question: Can a narcissist really love you?

A hasty answer would be “No.” However, there is a distinct difference between someone who is diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder and a person who has narcissistic traits.

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have traits that are in opposition with the ability to love another person, at least in the way that people without NPD understand love. These traits include a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, and a tendency to exploit others for personal gain.

However, NPD exists in just a small number of people — an estimated 0.5%–5% of adults in the United States. People with narcissistic traits but not NPD, on the other hand, likely experience love in the same way as others without NPD.

NPD is a mental health condition characterized by pathological personality traits of grandiosity (an inflated sense of self), attention-seeking behaviors, and lack of empathy.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) criteria for diagnosing NPD, an individual must have five or more of the following features:

  • inflated sense of self-importance, or grandiosity
  • arrogant behaviors and attitudes
  • envious toward others
  • lack of empathy
  • exploits others for their own advantages
  • an excessive need for admiration
  • preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, intelligence, or beauty
  • sense of entitlement

If someone in a relationship has NPD — be it a family, friend, or romantic relationship — symptoms can cause significant challenges.

Someone who is diagnosed with NPD does not really possess the ability to love another person in the way most people understand love. It may sound harsh, but many of the features of NPD are antithetical to love.

Narcissists may show you love and act in loving ways, but this tends to be conditional, in that displays of love depend on what you can give them in return. For people with NPD, relationships tend to be transactional.

Love is not self-serving, proud, boastful, exploitative, or envious. A relationship — whether romantic or platonic — with someone who is diagnosed with NPD can be toxic, drama-filled, and in some cases, traumatic.

An individual may find themselves being gaslit, “love bombed,” and manipulated.

It’s important to establish and maintain healthy boundaries when in a relationship with someone who’s diagnosed with NPD. This is a serious mental health disorder and treatment for the disorder is strongly encouraged.

However, setting boundaries may not be enough to keep you safe. If you think there are elements of abuse in your relationship, it’s important to talk with someone who can help.

Find help for domestic abuse

If you think you may be experiencing domestic abuse, support is available:

  • You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for free, confidential, 24/7 care and support.
  • You can contact by calling 866-331-9474 or texting LOVEIS to 22522 for support if you think you could be in an abusive relationship.

You can also visit The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a domestic violence prevention advocacy group with a list of resources for relationship abuse help.

Someone can have narcissistic traits without meeting the criteria for an NPD diagnosis. Many people act in narcissistic ways at some point in their lives.

Too often, people refer to someone as being a “narcissist” because of behaviors or attitudes that resemble the features of NPD. It’s important to understand that having narcissistic traits does not mean a person is not able to love someone.

The way that features impair functioning in multiple areas — identity, self-direction, empathy, and intimacy — of a person’s life is the difference between an NPD diagnosis and having narcissistic traits.

Both past and current life circumstances can evoke multiple features, but may not necessarily be an ingrained part of who someone is (their personality).

A broad, general example of this would be someone who experiences a season of financial hardship after years of financial wealth. They may be preoccupied with fantasies of the wealth and power they used to have. They may also feel superior to others, become envious of those who are wealthy, and tend to gravitate toward people who make them feel important.

This individual may present with features of NPD, but these features are connected to their circumstances and not necessarily their personality.

In other words, just because a person may possess features of NPD, does not mean they don’t have the ability to love. However, it is quite possible that their capacity to love may be limited.

Any relationship with someone with features of NPD can be frustrating and difficult. When you love someone, it’s hard to walk away from them despite their imperfections. So, when you find yourself loving a narcissist, leaving may not be an easy task.

Therapy is strongly encouraged to assist with navigating relationship challenges.

Relationships with someone who has narcissistic traits can involve abuse, which could be emotional, physical, or sexual. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, you can find yourself out of it, too — there is lots of help and hope available as you navigate your way.

However, what if you’re in love with someone who has narcissistic character traits, but not narcissistic personality disorder? In these cases, you may want to try some of the following:

  • Seek counseling or therapy: Therapy can provide a safe space for you to process your feelings and explore your thoughts about your relationship. Engaging in therapy helps you understand yourself, identify your triggers, and develop coping skills.
  • Practice self-care: It’s important to not lose yourself in the relationship. Taking time out for yourself allows you to reset and refocus on what is most important to you.
  • Education: Educating yourself on NPD and narcissism can help you understand your significant other. In addition, the more you’re educated about the topic, the more equipped you will be to address problems and issues that arise in your relationship.

Whether it’s describing a partner in a failed relationship or an A-list celebrity, narcissism appears to be the new buzzword for describing individuals who are perceived to be selfish or self-centered.

According to a 2018 paper, “Conceptual confusion in defining NPD may render this disorder particularly prone to being attributed to individuals, especially those in public limelight, without taking a full history and examination, failing to confirm functional impairment, or diagnosing on the basis of a single trait.”

Therefore, it’s important to note that only a licensed mental health clinician can diagnose someone with NPD.

If you or someone you love is suspected to have NPD, it’s important to be evaluated. Help is obtainable and treatment options are available.

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5 Harsh Truths About Narcissistic Love

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I am often asked some version of the following question: “Why did my narcissistic partner stop loving me?” Then I would hear a very similar sad story about the relationship's trajectory that I have heard many times before from many different people.

They treated me so well in the beginning. They told me that everything about me was perfect, that they would love me forever. We even made plans to go away together this summer. Then everything seemed to go downhill. They started finding fault with me, and then they started ignoring me. Now they have left me, and I feel broken and disappointed. Did I do something wrong?

Unfortunately, the answer is always the same. When narcissists say, “I love you," they do not mean the same thing as most people when they say those words. Here are what I call “The five harsh truths about narcissistic love.” What I am saying applies to both men and women with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Note: I am using the terms narcissist, narcissistic, and NPD as shorthand ways to describe someone who meets the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder.

Truth 1: Narcissists fall in love with their fantasy of you.

The unfortunate truth is that narcissists do not really fall in love with people. They fall in love with their projections of whomever they currently idealize as the perfect mate. They can sound convincingly in love, but that is because they temporarily believe in the fantasy version of you created in their mind.

The reality is that narcissistic love is quite shallow and ultimately depends on how perfectly you embody their fantasies and how well you are meeting their needs. It is all about them and not about you.

Truth 2: Narcissists will be disappointed with the “real you.”

Unfortunately, you are likely to mistake their initial infatuation and the over-the-top idealization that goes with it for something more enduring. It cannot last because it is based on a fantasy. Once narcissists stop trying to impress you long enough to get to know you, they eventually become disappointed because you are a real person. Real people have flaws. They are not perfect Disney Princes or Princesses.

Truth 3: Narcissists will want you to change.

When your narcissistic lover discovers that you do not perfectly embody everything that he or she ever wanted in a partner, the construction project begins. Your lover starts to suggest ways that you should change to become “better.

If you resist making the suggested “improvements,” your narcissistic partner is likely to stop being kind and start to be mean to you. As a result, the two of you will start to fight a lot and the good times diminish.

Truth 4: Narcissists will devalue you.

As your narcissistic lover becomes more comfortable with you and increasingly unhappy about your flaws, inevitably the compliments will vanish, and the devaluing will begin.

Suddenly, you have somehow become stupid, uglier, and less desirable—and the narcissist in your life lets you know it!

You will hear things like:

  • Why are you wearing that to the party?
  • Don’t you think you should lose a few pounds?
  • Maybe you should consider getting a personal trainer.
  • And the ever popular: How could you be so stupid?

By the way, even if you tried to make all the changes your partner suggests, it would never be enough. Narcissists are perfectionists and nothing is ever as perfect as it could be in their mind. If you give them what they want, they will just move the goal posts further away.

Truth 5: Narcissists will abandon you.

This abandonment can be emotional or physical or both. In many ways emotional abandonment is worse. With emotional abandonment, your narcissistic partner does not physically leave you or formally break up with you. However, he or she makes it plain that you, your wishes, and your well-being are now matters of indifference.

At this point your narcissistic lover may already be flirting with other people in front of you or secretly cheating on you. Many narcissists do eventually physically leave, especially if they believe that they have better options available to them than you. You are like an old toy that they no longer find interesting enough to play with or cherish. They go off in search of someone new who has not yet become tarnished by reality.


Narcissists are bad at maintaining real relationships because they have difficulty caring about anyone but themselves. They may convincingly act the part of the besotted lover in the beginning of a relationship, but it cannot last. They are not in love with the real you. They have fallen in love with their own carefully constructed fantasy about you. When this fantasy falls apart, they become angry, bored, and nasty. They blame you for the relationship’s failures, not their own deficits or unrealistic standards.

Many narcissists will then abandon you to renew their search for the perfect partner who never disappoints them.

Adapted from a Quora post

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Human among humans

Narcissist + empath

Many articles have been written about how selfish narcissists love the company of kind and warm people. Their insatiable ego is "feeded" by care and compassion. There is a high probability of leaving such a relationship with a feeling of "used" - squeezed out and devastated.

“My ex-girlfriend is narcissistic, arrogant and selfish, she knew how to be charming and nice for her own benefit. People interested her for only two reasons. Or they could benefit her, and then she turned on her charm. nine0003

Or they could join her "retinue" - and then, it doesn't matter if they were friends or romantic, the scenario turned out the same. She showed interest, went for rapprochement and “conquered” a person, so that later she could play with him like a cat with a mouse, then shortening, then increasing the distance, ”says 38-year-old Denis.

Narcissist + Narcissist

What happens when a narcissist meets a narcissist? Is there an attraction between them, or, on the contrary, will they not tolerate a "twin" next to them? nine0003

“Once I saw her interacting with another narcissist, our friend's even more obnoxious and arrogant brother,” continues Denis. — We spent the weekend together in the country, and I watched them. It was like a dance of two cobras. They puffed out their hoods, showing their strengths, but also showing mutual respect. By the end of the weekend, they were completely enamored with each other. "

In 2016, researcher Alex Burton, together with John Milton Adams and colleagues in the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama, published the results of Project 1 under the odious title: "You remind me of someone delightful." The project helped to understand why and to what extent similar personalities can like each other.

"I love myself in you"

The study assessed the reactions of narcissistic people to actors exhibiting narcissistic or "anti-narcissistic" behavior. It turns out that like attracts like. And the sympathy of narcissists for similar people is due to their perceived similarity.

The “narcissistic tolerance theory,” psychologists say, explains why even the most intolerable, annoying narcissists can arouse sympathy in people with the same personality type. Those traits that they accept in themselves and consider their strengths, they like in others.

No self-criticism

Trial lawyer, criminologist, and author of How to Read People, Wendy Patrick, writes that these results confirm previous research findings that narcissists are more likely to relate to those with whom they show some degree of similarity. nine0003

It's worth noting, notes Wendy Patrick, a simple conclusion. Since narcissists like each other more because of their apparent similarity, it is unlikely that they feel hatred towards themselves, towards their narcissistic sides.

For other people, this means that you should not expect self-criticism from such people, it makes no sense to expect that a heart-to-heart talk “will open their eyes” to the negative aspects of their character. This should be taken into account so as not to waste time and resources. It is better to use them for your own recovery. nine0003

There is always a better option

If they like each other, does this mean that such unions will be strong? But no, psychologists say. Mutual sympathy does not guarantee tolerance and fidelity. Biologists Carrie Haslam and Tamara Monrose from Gloucestershire College (UK) conducted a study 2 that explains this pattern.

Inflated self-esteem of narcissists often breeds dissatisfaction with relationships, they are prone to manipulation, selfish and lack empathy. In addition, these people are attracted to partners with high social status, because in this way narcissists get opportunities for themselves to rise above. nine0003

“Combined with low levels of partner fidelity, this can lead narcissistic individuals to constantly seek new relationships with those who are even more attractive,” Wendy Patrick comments on the results of the published study.

What should the rest of us do?

And what about those who themselves are not like that, but have suffered in relations with these unbearable, but sometimes very attractive partners? To begin with, to realize what qualities of yours attracted such a person, advises Wendy Patrick. nine0003

Kindness, compassion, empathy, a tendency to take care of others are wonderful traits. And if you have them, then, of course, you deserve better than a selfish, narcissistic and not appreciating partner.

Although many refer to the period of their relationship with narcissists as "lost time", in some ways it is a valuable experience. It helps us appreciate how much love, respect, and devotion are valuable to us. So a failed relationship in the past can pave the way for a healthy union in the future. nine0003

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5 reasons why narcissists can't really love

Can a narcissist fall in love? Definitely can, but his feelings usually do not last long. If you have experience with a narcissist behind your shoulders, you probably thought at first that he really loves you. Get ready for the uncomfortable truth: he was in love with you, or at least his own romantic fantasy of you as the perfect couple. The problem, of course, is that a perfect match is impossible. Life and relationships are not fantasy, but narcissistic people cannot understand and accept these elementary things. nine0003

So, if a narcissist is capable of falling in love, then why are his feelings so short-lived? And there are at least five reasons for this.

1. Idealism and realism are incompatible

The desires of the narcissist are not based on realism. You can dream of a luxurious mansion on the coast of the most beautiful beach, but if you are not a multimillionaire, this will not happen. We know and accept these things; narcissists don't. It should be noted that the idealization of relationships is not the only fantasy in the head of a narcissist. He also in his dreams “draws” for himself an ideal house, body, car, profession, and so on. nine0003

2. The narcissist needs constant "feeding"

A partner for the narcissist is like an oxygen tank for a diver. As long as he lets him breathe, the narcissist happily takes advantage of this. When oxygen runs out, the narcissist throws away the balloon without regret. It is while oxygen is being supplied that a narcissistic and selfish person is in a state of love, and then the recharge disappears, and with it the feelings, and then the narcissist himself.

3. His partner is just a human

A narcissist lacks empathy completely, and all his actions are manipulative in nature. This is why most emotionally and physically abusive bullies are narcissists. Unfortunately, they are very skillfully able to drag their prey into the net. The partner of the narcissist is just a person with his own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, because the manipulator masterfully uses this. And in a toxic relationship, love does not exist.

4. Man is not a separate island

If the narcissist's partner is unable to face the truth, someone else may. Most of us have a "support system" (family and friends). These people can come to the rescue and help sort out the situation a little.

Learn more