Can a Narcissist Be a Friend?
Do you sometimes question whether your narcissistic friend is actually a friend or a ‘frenemy’? Do you wonder if he or she is even capable of friendship? If you have something narcissists want or can use, they will engage in behavior that resembles friendship. In the beginning, they will beguile and romance you whether they are male or female. Narcissists are often generous and giving in the beginning of any relationship as this is the time when they are scouting out Narcissistic Supply. They are quick to buy dinner or lavish you with gifts, big and small. They take note of your likes and dislikes and are attentive to details. They give all appearances of potentially being a great friend.
However, friendship is a two-way street of give-and-take; it is built on mutual trust, loyalty and empathy. By definition, narcissists are incapable of empathy and seldom are trustworthy or loyal and therefore, incapable of being a genuine friend. Like an addict, the narcissist has only one goal in mind- to secure sources of Narcissistic Supply. He or she does not need friendship with others for friendship’s sake. To the narcissist, people are simply instruments to be manipulated for the sole purpose of producing Narcissistic Supply. Typically, the narcissistic cycle involves over-valuing people whom they refer to as friends (as they are considered potential sources of Supply), using them, devaluing them (when the friends no longer are a good source of Supply) and then inexplicably discarding them.
Friends who are not disgusted by his or her repetitive acts of ugliness and attitudes are left drained and weary of the narcissist’s roller coaster life. Even the last hangers-on, those few who are still loyal after many years- even they gradually abandon the narcissist because they can no longer endure his or her moods, confrontations, chaotic career and financial states, or the frequent disbanding of his or her relationships..
Narcissists don’t have actual friends. They surround themselves with acquaintances (or a posse) that they refer to as “friends”. Their friends enter and exit frequently in their life, throughout their lifetime, often very rapidly. People may initially think that they are in a friendship, but soon learn they are instead in a one-way relationship whose only purpose is to gratify the narcissist’s need for a “fix” of Supply. If and when the “friend” looks for a reciprocal relationship, the narcissist becomes distant and nonchalantly ends the relationship.
Needless to say, this results in confusion for those unfortunate enough to have been lured into feigned friendship by a narcissist. As soon as the narcissist deems the friendship is coming to an end (if not sooner), he or she then begins to seek out other “friends” to become sources of Supply and the cycle continues.
Characteristics of a Narcissistic Friend
A narcissistic friend sees himself or herself as superior, “special” compared to others. In order to maintain that superior position, he or she frequently devalues other people and actively tries to make them feel inferior. The narcissist usually demands to be the center of attention and feels betrayed if their friends don’t follow his or her lead or plans. A narcissistic friend will expect you to hold the same opinions as them and not disagree.
Interestingly, a narcissist usually has low self-esteem which he or she tries to keep hidden from the world. This is manifested in difficulty accepting criticism, feeling embarrassed or ashamed of some aspect of himself, is easily hurt and feels rejection strongly. A narcissistic friend who doesn’t exhibit those symptoms externally might instead appear to be unemotional or detached.
The narcissistic friend is completely self-absorbed. Everything in his or her environment- absolutely everything- is about him/her. He or she will talk endlessly about, and re-direct conversations back to, his or her own personal experiences, accomplishments, achievements, (successful) investments, (perfect) family and so on. Narcissists boast, flaunt, and even parade on their imaginary stage to catch the spotlight. You will always remain in his or her shadow.
A narcissistic friend will demonstrate a significant lack of empathy. A lack of empathy is one of the most defining characteristics of a narcissist. He cannot put himself (or herself) in another person’s shoes or understand the other person’s feelings. The narcissist did not develop this ability as they were growing up. Do not expect that he or she will develop empathy as an adult.
Narcissists are cold and manipulative underneath their outward mask of warmth. They appear warm and charismatic in the beginning and in public. But once they feel secure in their ability to get Supply from you, they start “forgetting” to call you, not showing up when they said they would, nonchalantly opting at the last minute to do something else with another person-sometimes not even bothering to cancel their plans with you. They are incapable of genuine warmth or putting your needs first.
Maintaining Friendship with a Narcissist
If you choose to remain friends (or feel you have to if a neighbor, relative, etc) you must have strong self esteem and be able to maintain that self-strength and positive self-concept to stay in a friendship with a narcissist. His or her casual lies, their standing you up/choosing “better options” at the last minute and their careless demeaning looks or words can be hurtful and a blow to your self esteem if you do not understand the narcissist’s personality. Some people use humor to “distract him from himself” as a means of surviving this kind of friendship. It will be up to you to understand and accept who and what they are; you can only change your reaction to him or her, they won’t change.
Keep boundaries religiously with narcissistic people, both emotional boundaries (Example: consistently state your rules and don’t ever give in) and physical boundaries (Example: don’t move in where you will be subjected to unending demands). Ask yourself why you are maintaining this one-sided relationship and what you are deriving from the friendship. If you have a good answer to those questions, then maintain the relationship but always remember that it is not possible to have a true friendship with a narcissist as they do not possess the traits necessary to have a genuine, reciprocal relationship.