“The basic framework of the study compared grandiose narcissists to chocolate cake: In the short run, you enjoy all that deliciousness, but later you start to regret having eaten it, due to the extra calories you’ve consumed.” – Susan Krauss-Whitbourne, PhD
Narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), is defined as a strong sense of “grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration.” People diagnosed with NPD are often defined as arrogant, demanding, manipulative, and self-centered.
Narcissists need to feel a certain level of power or superiority over people. In what can only be defined as a shallow “social circle,” narcissists only interact with people they think are gifted or unique.
The interesting thing is that narcissists give off an aura of extreme self-confidence – a trait that actually draws some people to them; however, this projection is often illusionary. They’re actually quite fragile people. Under normal circumstances, this fragility would be a source of sympathy. Others may go out of their way to help you.
But any relationship with a narcissist is not a normal circumstance. Narcissists will take advantage of any kind person’s act. Worse, they will see a person’s kindness as an act of weakness – like a great white shark that detects blood in the water.
Welcome to a narcissist’s world.
Narcissists & Relationships
It goes without saying that a true narcissist cannot have – and doesn’t really want – an intimate relationship.
1. They do not trust others
In an intimate relationship, both partners become vulnerable, and vulnerability requires trust. Well, how can someone with NPD trust, then? They can’t.
Narcissists, though emotionally stunted, can be as intelligent as their counterparts. As such, they logically comprehend the relationship between trust and vulnerability. Therefore, they will not commit to an actual relationship.
They will, however, enter into a one-sided “relationship” with plans for exploitation. Weakness, vulnerability, and trust are not recognizable to the narcissistic brain.
2. They’re always looking for angles
Getting back to that superiority/non-vulnerability thing. In order to temporarily feed their insatiable hunger for dominance, the narcissist will victimize their partner. They won’t give it a second’s thought.
This is arguably the most heart-wrenching element of having a narcissistic partner. They’ll give only to take away – including affection, love, tenderness, and devotion. Nothing is real.
The bottom line: when love appears, there is never “just because.” They want something – not someone.
3. They’re prone to abusive behavior
The findings of a Kent State University research study states that “the anger, hostility, and short fuse that accompany a man’s narcissism tend to be directed toward straight women,” adding that “Narcissistic men are also more likely to commit domestic violence because of their egocentrism and lack of empathy…”
While the focus of this particular study is the rate of abuse at the hands of male narcissists, females also commit acts of domestic violence, albeit at a much lower rate (25 percent and 14 percent, respectively.)
It’s important to remember that most men (and women) who abuse their partners are not narcissistic. Nevertheless, the odds of committing abuse – physical, psychological, and verbal – are higher when in a relationship with a narcissist.
4. There is no “us”
Peg Streep answers, in Psychology Today, the question “Can a narcissist become more empathetic?”
Unsurprisingly, Streep doesn’t issue an affirmative response: “The narcissist’s lack of empathy is key to understanding why, when you’re with one, there’s a real sense in which he or she isn’t ‘with’ you at all. Without empathy, a person remains more or less encased in plastic, unmoved by the feelings or plight of others – even supposedly close others – on both a cognitive and emotional level.” (Emphasis mine)
Empathy is a pre-requisite (as is vulnerability and trust) in a relationship. Most experiments that have studied the narcissism/relationship correlation have found narcissists to be incapable.