Does 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.

DRK Beauty Healing is a mental health and wellness company for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, South Asian, East Asian, and all women and nonbinary People of Color to discover, experience, and create their unique well-being journey. They offer free therapy through their nonprofit initiative, one of America’s leading free mental health resources. They also provide access to a broad range of affordable resources (e.g., support group sessions) from culturally responsive therapists, faith-based teachers, and practitioners of various spiritual, healing, and occupational modalities. DRK Beauty Healing believes its holistic approach to healing will ultimately empower People of Color across the globe to forge their unique path to wellness.

Can You Tell Whether a Narcissist Really Loves You?

Heartsickness, grief, unhappy couple

Source: Pixabay by Takmeomeo

Anyone who’s loved a narcissist wonders, “Does he really love me?” “Does she appreciate me?” They’re torn between their love and their pain, between staying and leaving, but can't seem to do either. Some swear they’re loved; others are convinced they’re not. It’s 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 inadequate. Narcissists claim to love their family and partners, but do they?

How a Narcissist Loves

Narcissists may show passion in the early stages of dating. But that sort 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 of another person, but of ourselves.” Such relationships provide positive attention and sexual satisfaction to support a narcissist’s ego and self-esteem. For most narcissists, relationships are transactional. Their objective is to enjoy uncommitted pleasure. (Campbell, et al.) They’re playing a game, and winning is the goal. They’re engaging and 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 brag to be respected, loved, and gratified. Additionally, their strong social skills allow them to make a good initial first impression. They can show great interest in romantic prospects and seduce with generosity, expressions of love, flattery, sex, romance, and promises of commitment. Amorous narcissists (Don Juan and Mata Hari types) are adept and persuasive lovers and may have many conquests, yet remain single. Some narcissists lie and/or practice love-bombing by overwhelming their prey with verbal, physical, and material expressions of love.

Narcissists lose interest as the expectation of intimacy increases, or when they’ve won at their game. Many have trouble sustaining a relationship for more than six months to a few years. They prioritize power over intimacy and loathe vulnerability, which they consider weak. (See Lancer, 2014) To maintain control, they avoid closeness and prefer dominance and superiority over others. Game-playing thus strikes the perfect balance to both get their needs met and keep their options open to flirt or date multiple partners. (Campbell, et al.)

A sudden breakup can be traumatic to their ex, who is bewildered by their unexpected change of heart—proposing one minute and then exiting the next. They feel confused, crushed, discarded, and betrayed. If the relationship had continued, eventually they would have seen through the narcissist’s seductive veneer.

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

The Challenges for a Narcissist

Real love is not romance, and it’s not codependency. For Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, it’s “to will 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 or her person. ” (1980, p. 50) It’s a union of two individuals, which requires that we see another person as separate from ourselves. Further, in The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm (1945) emphasizes that love entails an effort to develop knowledge, responsibility, and commitment. We must be motivated to know another’s wants, needs, and feelings and provide encouragement and support. We take pleasure in their happiness and try not to hurt them.

When we love, we show active concern for their life and growth. We try to understand their experience and worldview, though it may differ from ours. Caring involves offering attention, respect, support, compassion, and acceptance. We must devote the necessary time and discipline. Romantic love can evolve into love, but narcissists aren’t motivated to really know and understand others. (Ritter, et al.)

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, narcissists lack empathy. They’re “unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. ” (APA, 2013) Research shows that they have structural abnormalities in brain regions associated with emotional empathy. (Schulze, et al. 2013) Hence, their ability to appropriately respond emotionally and express care and concern is significantly impaired.

Narcissists have several hurdles to loving. First, they neither see themselves nor others clearly. They experience people as extensions of themselves, rather than separate individuals with differing needs, desires, and feelings. Second, they overestimate their own emotional empathy (Ritter, et al). Third, their defenses distort their perceptions and interactions with others. They brag and withdraw to control closeness and vulnerability, project onto others unwanted, negative aspects of themselves, and use denial, entitlement, and narcissistic abuse, including blame, contempt, criticism, and aggression, to ward off shame. Perfectionistic narcissists callously put down others and may attempt to destroy adversaries in order to sustain their illusion of perfection. All of these issues impair narcissists’ capacity to accurately take in another person’s reality, including that person’s love for them. In fact, narcissists' emotional intelligence 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) quality time, 3) gift-giving, 4) acts of service, and 5) physical touch. (Goff, et al. 2007) Another study revealed that participants also felt loved by a partner who: 1) showed interest in their affairs; 2) gave them emotional and moral support; (3) disclosed intimate facts; 4) expressed feelings for them, such as “I’m happier when I’m near you”; and 5) tolerated their demands and flaws in order to maintain the relationship. (Swenson, 1992, p. 92)


People who love narcissists are starved 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 intellectually understanding someone’s feelings. The problem appears to be rooted in childhood trauma and physiological deficits that impact emotional assessment, mirroring, and appropriate empathic expression (e.g., unconscious or unexpressed: “I love you, but”). When expressed, “I’m too busy to come to the hospital” sounds pretty cold, but may not reflect the narcissist’s love for the person hospitalized. When the importance of a visit is explained to them, they might make the trip.

They may show love when they’re motivated. Their love is conditional, depending upon the impact on the narcissist. My book, Dealing with a Narcissist, explains in detail how to navigate and beneficially use this in relationships with narcissists, addicts, or anyone who's highly defensive. Because narcissism exists on a continuum from mild to malignant, when it’s severe, selfishness and an inability to express love become more apparent when greater demands are placed on a narcissist. Dating or long-distance relationships that have fewer expectations are easier.

Bottom Line

Wondering whether a narcissist loves you is the wrong question. Although it’s wise to understand such minds, like Echo in the myth of Narcissus, partners overly focus on the narcissist to their detriment. Instead, ask yourself whether you feel valued, respected, and cared about. Are you getting your needs met? If not, how is that affecting you and your self-esteem, and what can you do about that?

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Who can love daffodils? | PSYCHOLOGIES


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.

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?

“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.

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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what his confessions really mean

People-narcissists by their nature do not know how to sincerely love another person. However, we can hear from their lips confessions addressed to us. However, do not flatter yourself and do not think that the narcissist has kindled feelings for you. The love of a narcissist is very peculiar. The phrase "I love you" spoken by him can usually mean the following:

1. "I love to feel that I am your everything"

Narcissists are quite selfish individuals who love to be at the center of your life. They like their power over you and the pleasure they get from your words and actions. They like to feel superior and will always take every opportunity to make you feel inferior. They love to tell you about your vulnerability and highlight your weaknesses. They enjoy making you feel ashamed and guilty, and they will never agree to discuss or resolve something that does not suit you.

2. “I love it when you try so hard to do something for me.

They love it when you dance to their tune and go out of your way to please. However, you will never be able to awaken love and respect in the heart of a narcissist. They don't care about you or your feelings and always put themselves first, reminding you all the time that only they are perfect and have the right to pleasure, admiration and comfort.

3. "I like to think of you as my property"

For narcissists, you are like a fancy car that elevates their status in the eyes of others. They like to think that others are jealous of their possessions.

4. "I love making you feel guilty"

Nothing makes a narcissist feel more insecure and vulnerable than not having control over something or someone that can undermine their image and superior status. They will make you feel anxious and lose your temper, then to shift all the blame and responsibility on you.

5. “I love shaping your thoughts and beliefs.”

The narcissist's love is based on their sense of self-importance. Such people like the feeling when you consider them your miracle and savior, the source of life on which you depend. Moreover, they like that your attitude towards them makes them feel like a god. And they also love the fact that they can firmly bind you to them. Narcissists make you sacrifice everything for them. By the way, they love to use their power to limit you, make you hesitate and question your own sanity.

6. “I love that feeling when I look into your admiring eyes.”

You are like a drug for them. You are their loyal audience, their biggest fan. Have you noticed how pleased narcissists can be when you want to know their opinion? They love to teach and instruct you, and you must silently obey.

7. "I love to control your perception of reality."

The narcissist's love is closely related to control. For example, narcissists control your mind by highlighting your weaknesses and imperfections. As a result, they convince you that something is supposedly wrong with you. Of course, they manipulate you by reminding you of all they have done for you and how ungrateful you are. Narcissists are delighted with how skillfully they are able to manipulate other people's opinions of you, attracting them to their side. They love that they can easily tell you "no" and you can't do anything.

8. "I love to feel like your drug."

Narcissists are immensely pleased with the fact that you are afraid of losing them and are ready to do anything for their person. They enjoy the fact that they can isolate you from other people and control you. Because they set you up against others. In this way they let you know that only they are your whole world.

9. "I love it when you say that I hurt you"

Bringing a partner to tears and suffering - this is how the love of a narcissist manifests itself in real life. This lets them know how effective their tactics were. In the end, this guarantees them that you will never be able to escape from their sphere of control and manage your life on your own.

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