Intimacy comes in many forms but refers to feeling close and connected to another person. People can be intimate both emotionally and physically, and both types help reinforce a sense of deep love.
But the situation often feels confusing when it comes to narcissism and intimacy.
Many narcissists are in romantic relationships (or want to be in one), but they act in ways that defy intimacy and hurt the people they claim to care about.
Their partners are often left feeling confused or blaming themselves. The narcissist may be getting what they want, but it still isn’t enough. Let’s get into why this happens and what loved ones should know.
Do Narcissists Like Intimacy?
Most narcissists like intimacy with others. If you were to ask them about their thoughts on intimacy, they’d often say that they care immensely about their loved ones.
They will likely rank intimacy as an essential priority in their relationships. And they’re likely to say that they make for great partners (which they genuinely believe).
This speaks to the distorted reality that shapes personality disorders. Narcissistic personality disorder generally emerges as a severe trauma response, leaving someone with a hollow void and a deep sense of self-loathing.
In addition to assuming they’re always right, people with NPD also tend to think something is fundamentally wrong with the rest of the world.
To cope with this intense pain, narcissists build a false self that consists of grandiose thinking and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
But just because they have this false sense doesn’t mean they aren’t desperately trying to fulfill themselves.
In almost every waking moment, someone with NPD seeks some form of validation or approval. They depend on this to feel safe in the world.
Intimacy fulfills an important need- it makes narcissists feel desired and special. And, in some relationships, it helps maintain a sense of power, which is also valuable.
Do Narcissists Avoid Intimacy?
Some narcissists avoid intimacy, but, rarely, they do so without having other strong sources of narcissistic supply.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist who avoids intimacy with you, it’s worth considering if they’re meeting those needs with someone else.
Not all narcissists cheat on their partners, but some do, and they will often justify it fully.
They will generally prioritize their happiness and desires, even if it means violating a commitment they share with someone. If your narcissistic partner suddenly has no interest in sex (and won’t tell you why), that’s a red flag.
In addition to relationships, narcissists may seek supply through their jobs, hobbies/passions, compulsive habits (i.e. drinking alcohol, using drugs, having an eating disorder), accumulating money, or perfecting their physical appearance.
If any of these sources of supply is particularly dominant, the narcissist may not feel the need to have intimacy.
If narcissists aren’t getting enough supply, they’ll probably seek intimacy. If they don’t want it in a committed relationship, they’ll look for it through dating apps, escort services, strip clubs, or other forms of superficial connection.
Narcissism and Emotional Intimacy
Narcissists tend to think they’re skilled in emotional intimacy. But it’s important to understand the nuance of what’s really going on.
When a narcissist first feels attracted to someone, they often experience a heightened sense of euphoria (just like everyone else).
This is the first stage of a narcissist falling in love. But this quickly leads to love bombing, a phase that consists of an all-consuming infatuation.
Real emotional intimacy takes time. Even though they feel excited about a future together, people safely get to know one another.
There’s mutual respect for boundaries. Both people can generally see each other’s flaws and accept them for what they are.
Love bombing is intense- it’s clingy, dramatic, and all about “becoming soul mates.” The narcissist feels fulfilled, and they assume the other person has perfectly completed them.
It’s important to note that, with a narcissistic relationship, love bombing never lasts.
Once the narcissist sees the other person’s real self, they inevitably feel disappointed.
This leads to attempts to control or manipulate the relationship. Eventually, the narcissist starts devaluing their partner. They resent them for not being as “perfect” as they thought they were.
This pattern also explains why narcissists struggle with friendships, children, and other family members.
Even if they claim to love these people, they can rarely set their own selfish needs aside to be there for them truly.
Narcissism and Physical Intimacy
Most narcissists love physical intimacy and can be highly sexual.
However, their thoughts/needs about sex may vary based on their type of narcissism. Here are some ways narcissism and sex break down in the bedroom:
Grandiose, overt narcissists
These “classic” narcissists move through the world outwardly thinking they’re better than others.
Other people can sense their narcissism and often feel uncomfortable or annoyed by it.
However, they also tend to be successful, which can be attractive in a relationship. In the bedroom, they’re often both unjust and selfish.
Vulnerable narcissists can be harder to understand. They tend to present as fragile, insecure, and even needy- which may contradict what people think when they think about narcissism.
However, they are highly preoccupied with themselves. When it comes to physical intimacy, they can often be “very giving,” but that’s often because they want to “hook” their partner in.
At times, they may also seem entirely uninterested in sex, but that’s often because they want the thrill of their partner continuously pursuing them.
Malignant narcissists share traits with people with antisocial personality disorder.
All types of narcissists are the most likely to use violence or other forms of cruelty to meet their needs.
But they tend to come across as charming, which is why people sometimes find them attractive.
That said, they can be highly dangerous, and they may coerce or force their partners into being physically intimate.
Cerebral narcissists present as overly intellectual and can be highly snobby in how they view the world.
Many of these narcissists actually look down on sex- they think of it as this primitive, shallow need.
They get their supply from other forms of validation, such as in a high-powered career or by engaging in educational conversations.
Somatic narcissists are fixated on bodies, including both theirs and others. Sex is very important to them, as it’s a way to show off their physical appearance.
However, having sex with a somatic narcissist often feels incredibly unfulfilling, as most of the focus will be on their own satisfaction.
Sex maintains their self-esteem, and they also tend only to want to sleep with people who meet incredibly high physical standards.
They do not take well to aging, so staying in a long-term relationship with this type of person poses many challenges.
Sexual narcissists are the most sexual of all narcissists. Sex is the main way they seek supply from others.
These narcissists are more likely to cheat on their partners (because they seek novelty), have porn addictions, or have unusual sexual fantasies.
They also tend to be very entitled when it comes to sex. But they never seem satisfied no matter how much they get it (or even if their partner does exactly what they want).
What Does Intimacy Look Like for a Narcissist in a Long-Term Relationship?
Narcissists live in extremes, and not just with sexual behavior. They want their relationships to be exciting and passionate at all times.
Where most people enjoy getting to know the ‘humanness’ of others, narcissists struggle with this kind of connection.
They tend to be only interested in being with people who can best fulfill their needs- and not vice versa.
Because of this, narcissists are often hot and cold with intimacy in long-term relationships.
Sometimes, they have no problem being physically affectionate with their partners, but they might withhold emotional intimacy or other forms of healthy communication.
Others use sex as a weapon, taking it away to punish their partners seemingly.
Many narcissists also have unrealistic expectations when it comes to intimacy.
For example, they often expect their partner to “always” be in the mood when they are.
But they also have no problem frequently turning down their partner’s requests or even shaming them for their sexual fantasies or desires.
Some narcissists prefer long-term relationships, especially if they value certain ideals, like having a marriage or family. Others avoid such commitment and may even look down on it altogether.
Why Do Narcissists Struggle With Intimacy?
Narcissists struggle with intimacy because intimacy inherently requires vulnerability, and narcissists feel threatened by vulnerability.
They don’t like letting their guard down (unless it means they will receive empathy or other forms of attention).
Many narcissists also never grew up with any form of healthy intimacy modeled to them.
They don’t know what it means to give or receive love authentically. They want someone who can fully validate and support them, but when the tables turn, they feel annoyed by having to take care of someone else.
Finally, intimacy requires a sense of trust. Most narcissists are suspicious of their partners’ loyalty because they fear abandonment (even if they don’t show it).
Because they can’t fully trust others, they can’t lean into intimacy comfortably.
Do Narcissists Hate Intimacy?
Why do narcissists have intimacy issues? First, it’s too simplistic to say that narcissists hate intimacy.
Most people want to be loved, but narcissists want all the love without the work. It’s hard for them to reciprocate love when it comes to other people because their worldviews are so self-centered and ego-focused.
Some narcissists hate intimacy because they only want the excitement of a new or superficial relationship.
These narcissists generally avoid commitment in general. They will sleep around and date around, sourcing different types of narcissistic supply along the way.
If they do engage in those behaviors, it’s often a “means to an end,” where they’re just trying to fast-forward to having sex as quickly as possible.
What Is Narcissist Intimacy Avoidance?
Narcissist intimacy avoidance refers to withdrawing or actively avoiding intimacy.
Some narcissists avoid intimacy because it scares them. Others, who might be more self-aware, avoid intimacy because they are working on themselves and don’t want to hurt their partners.
Narcissists might also avoid intimacy to punish their partners. If you wronged them, they want you to feel guilty about it.
They don’t want to give you the benefit of emotional or physical connection during this time.
That said, if a narcissist isn’t being intimate, there’s a good chance they’re getting their supply elsewhere- whether that’s through another person or an external source of validation.