Narcissists yearn for perfect, romantic love and absolute adoration. People often think that narcissistic individuals love only themselves, like Narcissus in the Greek myth who fell in love with his own reflection, but the polar opposite is true. The narcissist usually struggles with fragile self-esteem and intense feelings of shame. The grandiose thinking they exhibit as well as the clamoring for attention and admiration are defense mechanisms that help keep all those painful feelings hidden from others and from themselves. It’s as if they say to themselves, “How can I have anything to feel ashamed about when I’m so admired and loved?” They need to bolster themselves and boost their egos and narcissists do so through other’s admiration and envy; some narcissists take this a step further and accomplish this by having people fall in love with them.
Since the narcissist thrives on people desiring him (or her), he learns to excel at arousing such feelings in others. He (or she) can make their intended target feel important and highly valued, lavishing constant affection in order to make them feel special. He may do thoughtful little gestures, bring gifts, pay compliments and devote himself to the other’s pleasure in bed. The narcissist strokes their ego and pampers them, sowing the seeds of love. Narcissists can be exceedingly nice, quite charming, flirtatious and seductive, and will flatter someone shamelessly if they want something from them. This behavior is not always conscious and intentional. Sometimes narcissists deceive even themselves about their true emotional motivations, often believing they’ve genuinely fallen in love.
Being “in love”
The narcissist seeks the perfect kind of romantic love, idealized and unrealistic- like one sees in movies or reads in a book. Being “in love” (some know it as ‘infatuation’) can feel like a drug, causing a “high” sensation and temporarily blinding people to theirr own faults and imperfections, to the dissatisfactions they may feel in other areas of their lives. It makes people feel as if they are the center of the universe and that their lives are perfect. Nothing feels better … while it lasts. It’s certainly understandable why narcissists have such a strong desire to seek this out- it fulfills most of their narcissistic needs.
What Does Love Mean to a Narcissist?
(Adapted from A Narcissist’s Love Letter)
When a narcissist tells you he is in love with you… he means he loves the story he can tell to his next lover, about his ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how like a storybook and what an outstanding couple they made.
When a narcissist says he’s in love with you… he means he loves the way he feels when he’s with you. He loves himself through you. He loves seeing himself through your eyes. He loves seeing himself through his eyes imagining how he looks through your eyes. He loves having someone new to tell his stories to, to express his opinions, and to share his profound theories and beliefs about the important things in life.
When he tells you he’s in love with you… he really loves having someone beautiful to wear, like a new outfit. He loves the way you feel on him. He loves the way he feels about himself when you are with him.
When he says he’s in love with you… what he really loves is not being alone. He loves having a full-time, personal audience.
When a narcissist tells you he’s in love with you… he means he loves being what keeps you up at night, your obsession. He loves being your altar, your sacrament, your icon, your miracle. He loves being the object of your sacrifice. He loves being your pain.
When a narcissist says he’s in love with you… he means he is in love with being your sun, monopolizing your orbit, being your gravity, keeping you drawn back to him no matter how hard you try to jump or fly away. He loves keeping you his. He’s in love with being your drug and your dagger.
“Perfect” Love Doesn’t Last (and neither do narcissists)
Unlike fairytales, “perfect” romantic love can’t last forever. Hopefully, it evolves into something more realistic and lasting- where two people discover and accept one another’s virtues and faults, grow to appreciate the good qualities in each other but also to accept the disappointing traits.
True narcissists cannot tolerate such an experience. To be emotionally honest and open with their partners means they must have a more authentic relationship with themselves, too… and with the shame and poor self-esteem they so desperately want to keep at bay. When the person they profess to be in love with attempts to get close to them in this way, they feel they are getting emotional pressure put on them and they withdraw because that person is “too demanding”.
The previous feelings of perfect, romantic love begin to fade along with the idealization of their partner… and the narcissist falls “out of love.”