Can a narcissist fall in love? Whether or not a narcissist can fall in love is a fierce matter of debate. So before we delve too much into why they can’t stay in love, let’s address the above question.
The answer, per most experts, is an unequivocal “Yes.” Here’s what Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., a psychotherapist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of various personality disorders, says:
“If you (exes of narcissists) thought that your romantic Narcissistic ex really loved you and wanted to marry you, you are not crazy. Even though he is now gone, your guy actually meant what he said when he said it to you. He was in love with you, or at least his own romantic fantasy of the two of you as the perfect couple.”
The problem is that it’s impossible for the “perfect couple” fantasy to materialize. Life isn’t a fantasy; relationships aren’t a fantasy, and narcissists can’t seem to grasp this elementary concept.
So, yes, a narcissist can fall in love – but why can’t they remain in love?
“My husband didn’t need to raise his voice or hit me, as his method of violence was the words that could cut through me sharper than a knife ever could, destroying any sense of self-confidence I previously had.” ~ Megan Holgate, Life & Divorce Coach
What Is a Narcissist?
Let’s start by better understanding the terminology.
Narcissism is a personality disorder marked by a strong sense of self-importance and grandiosity. Individuals with narcissistic traits may have an exaggerated sense of their abilities and achievements and seek constant admiration and attention from others. They may also lack empathy for others and tend to exploit and manipulate others to meet their needs.
The term narcissism derives from Greek mythology, where Narcissus was a beautiful young man who fell in love with his reflection in the water. He became so enamored with his reflection that he couldn’t tear himself away, eventually dying from his obsession. In psychology, the term describes a similar preoccupation with oneself.
Narcissism can manifest in numerous ways, ranging from mild to severe.
In some cases, individuals with narcissistic traits may be highly successful and charismatic, but their behavior can disrupt and destroy those around them. They may engage in abusive behavior, including gaslighting, manipulation, and emotional abuse. They do these things to maintain control over others.
Several theories about what causes narcissism include genetic factors, childhood experiences, and cultural influences. Some researchers believe that individuals with narcissistic traits may have had parents who were either overly critical or indulgent, leading to an unstable sense of self-worth.
5 Reasons a Narcissist Cannot Find True Love
Here are five reasons why a narcissist falls in and out of love:
1. Idealism isn’t realism
The Fantasyland desires of a narcissist are not based on realism. The same can be said of any outlandish notion that lacks the means of transforming the idea into reality.
One may dream of a pristine mansion on the coast of the most beautiful beach, but unless you’re a multi-millionaire, it won’t happen. We innately know and accept such things – narcissists do not.
It should be noted that the idealization of relationships isn’t the only “head in the clouds” feature playing in a narcissist’s head. They picture the perfect home, body, car, occupation, etc.
2. They need a constant “supply”
A user on Quora explained their experience of being married to a narcissist:
“Like an oxygen tank to a Scuba diver, we just give them the supply of what they need at that time, and, like the oxygen tank, once they have no more use for us, we’re simply discarded without a second thought.”
Psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel introduced the term Narcissistic supply in 1938. It is “a type of admiration, interpersonal support, or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment and essential to their self-esteem.”
Once their ‘supply’ is out, it’s out. Unfortunately, so is the narcissist’s partner.
3. Their partner is only human
Simply put, if the narcissist doesn’t end the relationship, their partner may (and hopefully does.) A narcissist’s lack of empathy, manipulative nature and verbal insults are not conducive to a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
Unfortunately, narcissists have a deviously charming way of “reeling” someone back in. Why would they want to do this? Because they’re afraid of their Narcissistic supply running out. Pretty twisted.
Hopefully, the other person will see the narcissist for what he or she is – and move on before their life is in shambles.
4. A person is not an island
If their partner can’t separate fact from fiction, someone else just may. Most of us have a support system – family and friends – who will provide thoughtful insight into a person. Sadly, too often it’s a therapist or an expert on personality disorders (which narcissists have) who conveys the truth about the individual.
If there’s one piece of advice to give here, seek insight from “people readers” within one’s social circle. And, most importantly, listen for recurring opinions.
5. There’s always “something more”
“There’s always something more” explains a narcissist’s life in four words. “Nothing is good enough” is an appropriate second option.
Narcissists’ needs are always in flux. They’re never satisfied with anything for long, and their decisions are never final. Combined with a highly materialistic nature, it’s no surprise that narcissists are never satisfied.
Here are a few communications you might hear from NPD-diagnosed individuals:
- “My many accomplishments are my everything.”
- “I dyed my hair blonde and received breast implants to get men’s attention – and I love to make other women jealous.”
- “I never want to be looked down upon as poor. So my fiancé and I each drive a Mercedes. The best man at our upcoming wedding ceremony also drives a Mercedes.”
Final Thoughts on Why a Narcissist Cannot Truly Love Another
Treating narcissism can be difficult. That’s because individuals with the disorder may resist therapy and not realize they need help. So if you are in a relationship who struggles with this personality disorder, it may be best to guard your heart. Encourage them to seek help and support them. But do not surrender yourself to their manipulations.