Narcissism is considered a personality disorder that falls in cluster B of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Its cause is unknown but experts have attributed its development in an individual to genetics and the social environment around them.
Described in 1925 by Austrian psychiatrist Robert Waelder, treating people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) might often prove futile because most of them would not even acknowledge that they have a personality problem.
Whether they realize it or not, narcissists have a difficulty in relating to people in the most intimate way. A lot of their romantic relationships fail for many reasons. They don’t seem to be wired to be in a committed, mutually beneficial relationship. Most narcissists also seem to be estranged from their family even if they believe their relationships with their parents, siblings, or children are okay.
People with NPD, however, have very predictable behaviors. They develop similar patterns across their various relationships because they do the same things over and over. For this reason, it’s easy to recognize the signs and come to understand why a narcissist rarely lasts in a long-term relationship.
Here Are 5 Reasons A Narcissist Can’t Stay In A Relationship
“When a narcissist can no longer control you, they will instead try to control how others see you.” – Unknown
1. They regard people as tools.
Narcissists are not capable of genuinely caring for other people but only for themselves. They might be able to “fall in love” in a dizzying and exciting way at the beginning of the relationship but it won’t have the depth and dynamism that long-lasting unions need to last.
- Narcissists take advantage of people’s feelings and resources like tools to use until they no longer need these people in their lives.
- You will feel emotionally and mentally spent when you’re with a narcissist because they will encroach on your personal space and drain your energy.
- Since they’re not capable of a give-and-take relationship, the concept of compromising is non-existent to a narcissist.
- If you’re in a relationship with this kind of person, you will always be the one trying to adjust to what he wants because he will not give in – even the slightest – to what you want.
- When a narcissist gives you something, be aware that it is not meant to please you. In fact, you should be wary when a narcissist is being nice and giving. This action is likely for their own gain.
Narcissists are neither kind nor generous if there is nothing in it for them. They only invest in you if they are positive they can get something from you. This is a classic user mentality.
A Study on Narcissism and Generosity
A study in the journal Personality and Social Psychology revealed that narcissists can be compelled to participate in a charitable act and show compassion. But they have specific boundaries to these actions. They serve as a self-projection or self-promotion rather than true altruism. Many philanthropists who are self-centered and self-involved still give millions in donations because they know that they will be admired for it. If they stop being “generous,” they risk losing the adulation of their audience.
When a narcissist can no longer gain anything from you, they won’t think twice about dropping you. Hence, they don’t have a lot of people that stay in their life for the long-term.
2. They have ideals that are far detached from reality.
It seems that narcissists have a different view of the world around them. They can have ideals that are so unrealistic that it’s hard for them to remain in a relationship where there are problems and conflicts to deal with.
These people want to maintain a lifestyle and image that can stroke their egos. They value a status that makes them feel important, which is why they have high standards and high demands when it comes to looking for a mate. They mainly search for a “trophy” spouse and not a partner they can truly nurture in a loving and supportive relationship.
It’s not the goal of a narcissist to forge a mutual relationship where both partners can grow together, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Narcissists have their eye on self-enhancement only; they hook up with people they know will be able to satisfy this need.
When their relationship runs into a problem, as eventually occurs in real life, a narcissist will bail on their partner. Because they are so idealistic, little flaws about their partner or the relationship can become a big problem for them. Nothing is ever good enough for a narcissist, which immediately discounts them from finding a relationship that will last. Again, no relationship is perfect.
- If you’re living with a narcissist, you will always have to up your game and try to satisfy his needs just to make him happy.
- You will work hard until you’re too exhausted to think positive thoughts and keep the relationship intact. You won’t, however, see the same effort from a narcissist.
- They will continue to have fantasies in their head about the perfect life or the perfect marriage without realizing they also have to work hard to get this kind of life.
3. They don’t know how to trust.
Trust is a vital aspect for any relationship. This virtue is almost biological because humans seem to be wired to trust someone as soon as they are born into this world.
As children, we place our trust in our parents to provide for us. When we grow older, we learn to trust our teachers and friends to enrich our lives. As we mature, we also learn to trust in the laws of the universe and the laws of our community.
But we can all be paranoid in this complex world. When we experience overwhelming pain and disappointments, we either deal with it or learn to never trust again.
It’s different for a narcissist, though, because they can be emotionally stunted by their experiences and their environment, as per a study in the journal Behavioral Medicine. This perhaps explains why they view trusting another person in a different way. For them, trust exposes their weaknesses so they can never commit to a relationship.
Why Narcissists Lack Trust
- They don’t comprehend that trust also involves becoming vulnerable.
- They don’t understand that trust is how partners in a supportive relationship can be deeply connected to each other.
- Trust allows couples to forge an attachment that enables them to depend and rely on the other person. This is especially true when one or the other needs comfort, assurance, and assistance.
- Secure attachments built on trust brings out what’s positive in the relationship, especially if the two people involved know how to balance each other.
When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, however, it is already imbalanced from the start. Since they cannot trust, they will also try to influence you to think their way. They might even dissuade you from being in touch with other people whom they think do not have their best interests in mind. This is how they manifest their vulnerabilities and fears. You might not see this right away because they are good at masking their motives.
4. They are manipulative.
In line with trust, narcissists like to control the people in their lives. They need to be dominant in the relationship because they are afraid to expose their vulnerabilities. So, they constantly have an angle or an agenda in order to sustain this dominance. Because of their drive for control, they end up manipulating others.
- They will lie, cover up, or exaggerate details to distort the facts in their favor.
- They will always want to feel superior by bragging or taking credit but they will rarely admit their mistakes or flaws.
- Narcissists are affected by criticism and may use tactics like the silent treatment or passive-aggression to manipulate the situation.
- They enjoy bending the rules and getting away with it but they will find someone to blame (other than themselves) if ever they are caught.
- They refuse to recognize accountability.
These narcissistic behaviors bring chaos into a relationship; sometimes you can’t help but think they could be causing trouble just because they want to. Unfortunately, this is also a classic narcissistic trait. They deliberately incite trouble due to lack of empathy and value for the people around them. People are just tools for them, after all.
5. They can be abusive.
A study in the journal Sex Roles cited that male narcissists have the tendency to be hostile and abusive towards the women in their lives. In fact, they are capable of committing domestic violence if they are denied gratification.
They can also show aggression against the LGBTQ community but, as experts explained, it’s not because they have a problem with genders per se. It’s because they have a problem with anyone who will reject them.
Not all abusive people are narcissists, however, and not all narcissists are men. According to the study, there are female narcissists who are just as abusive as men. The odds of abuse increase if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist with these common characteristics:
- Fragile egos
- A penchant for using people
- Habits of manipulating people
- Lack of empathy for others
- Inflated sense of self-importance
- Domineering personality
Final Thoughts On Reasons A Narcissist Can’t Stay In A Relationship
Can narcissists ever find true love? Because of their disorder, they may not be able to fully give and experience true, selfless love in their adult relationships. When someone lives only for himself, it will be harder to find happiness and contentment.
It’s also not easy to sustain a life like this if their happiness comes from external sources. A narcissist will likely not find true and lasting love unless they understand that this entails teamwork and partnership.