8 Reasons Why You Can Never Expect Empathy From a Narcissist

Empathy is important in relationships; it allows us to understand what our partner feels and support them when times are tough.

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you probably expect them to empathize with you from time to time.

Unfortunately, a narcissist just isn’t capable of showing empathy for your experience. They may be able to fake it from time to time, but they cannot feel for you the way a person without narcissism can. 

Learn why below. 

They Lack Empathy by Definition

When we talk about narcissism, we are referring to people who have narcissistic personality disorder or show traits of this disorder. A lack of empathy is one of the diagnostic criteria for narcissism.

So, by definition, a narcissist is someone who struggles with empathy. Their own needs and desires consume them, and they don’t have room for other people’s feelings.

They Think They’re Superior to You

Narcissistic people are known to perceive themselves as being superior to others. They believe they are special and should be treated as such.

A narcissist, therefore, doesn’t really have time to consider your feelings or struggles. They are far too focused on their own needs for attention and admiration. 

If a narcissist does hurt you, they are unlikely to take accountability for it or concern themselves with how you’re feeling. After all, they view you as being beneath them, so they shouldn’t have to consider you anyway. 

You’re Only Part of a Fantasy 

People with narcissistic traits often fantasize about achieving ideal love, power, and beauty. If you’re in a relationship with someone like this, you’re simply part of their fantasy.

They expect you to play the role of their perfect, seductive lover, which requires you to follow a certain script. The narcissist doesn’t actually see you as a person separate from them, with your own needs, desires, and perspectives.

Instead, you’re an extension of the narcissist, there to serve them. It’s difficult for the narcissist even to comprehend that you might have feelings that differ from theirs. They cannot empathize with you, simply because they only see things through their lens. 

You Exist to Meet Their Needs 

When you enter a relationship with a narcissist, you’re signing up to fulfill their every demand. This means you will tend to their needs, perform endless favors, and shower them with affection and attention whenever they request it.

A narcissist cannot imagine a world in which their partner doesn’t meet their every demand. They’ll be shocked if you are not available to them exactly when they need it, or if you dare to say no to one of their demands. 

The point here is that your need for empathy is irrelevant to the narcissist. They aren’t with you to cater to your feelings. They’re in the relationship for you to cater to them! 

Exploitation is Their Primary Tactic 

Among the other traits of narcissistic personality disorder is the willingness to exploit others for one’s own gain. When a narcissist chooses a partner, they often select someone who has much to offer.

This means they want an intelligent, attractive, and successful partner. They prefer someone who can boost their status, fill their bank accounts, and further their own interests. 

Narcissists choose these types of partners to take advantage of what their partner has to offer. They will feel no remorse for using you for your money, or for what you can do for them.

For example, if you’re a higher up in the industry they work in, they might date you for a period to advance their career. Because of their exploitative nature, narcissists feel no remorse for using you for their own gain.

Since their only goal is to take advantage of you, the narcissist isn’t concerned about your feelings. They view the relationship as transactional; you provide them what they need, and they agree to be in a relationship with you, while offering little to nothing in return. 

They’re Entitled

Narcissism comes with a strong sense of entitlement. Your narcissistic partner believes you should automatically give into their demands, and they feel they have a right to take whatever they’d like from you.

The problem with this sense of entitlement is that the narcissist will not like when you set boundaries or put your own needs before theirs, even when you’re being entirely reasonable. 

So, if you tell them no, or stand up for your own needs, the narcissist may react with rage. They might also punish you by giving you the silent treatment or disappearing from your life for days if you’ve upset them.

Here’s where the lack of empathy comes in: the narcissist cannot empathize with your feelings or frustrations. They feel entitled to treat you badly if you tell them no. As far as they’re concerned, you broke the rules, and your negative feelings are your fault. 

They View Emotions as Weak

What narcissists don’t want you to know is that they struggle with fragile self-esteem. Underneath their arrogant behavior, they are unsure of themselves and highly self-critical.

To protect themselves from feelings of shame and inferiority, narcissists maintain a tough exterior. They view sharing their emotions or showing any sort of vulnerability as being weak. To show vulnerability would be to allow their tough exterior to crumble.

Because narcissists have emotionally hardened themselves, they do not have any room for your emotions either. When you share that you’re upset by something they’ve done, they will feel that you’re simply too weak or sensitive. 

In their mind, they don’t need to show any empathy for what you’re feeling. Instead, they expect you to “toughen up” and move on from whatever bothers you. 

They’re Fearful of Shame

Narcissists cannot handle feeling any sense of shame or guilt. Since they’re highly self-critical with fragile self-esteem, they must maintain an arrogant, self-assured personality.  

Additionally, they need you to praise and admire them, to reinforce the big ego they have built to protect themselves. This means that if they have wronged you, they will never be able to take accountability for it.

Admitting fault for wronging you would cause the narcissist to feel ashamed, which is one of their worst fears. Showing empathy for what they’ve done, and validating your feelings, would mean admitting they’re not perfect.

So, if they’ve somehow hurt you, showing empathy for you would cause the narcissist to feel too ashamed, and their entire system for protecting themselves would come crashing to the ground. 

The Bottom Line 

Empathy runs contrary to most of what makes a narcissist, well, a narcissist. People with narcissistic traits are arrogant and entitled, caring most about having their demands met.

The narcissist will never have time for your emotions because your needs aren’t a concern to them. You’re in their life to cater to them and help them maintain their inflated ego.

If you choose to stay in a relationship with a narcissist, don’t expect them ever to feel your pain, especially if they’re the one causing it. If you want a relationship with reciprocity and genuine care, you’ll have to leave the narcissist behind. 

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