Narcissists seek love because it validates their self-worth and gives them a supply of attention. This boosts their ego and helps them feel like they matter, representing a constant and intense need for narcissists.
And even though some narcissists appear to be kind and attentive in relationships, these traits tend to disappear quickly.
When narcissists know someone loves them, they feel more comfortable letting their guard down.
At this point, abusive and manipulative behaviors get more apparent as the relationship becomes more about what you can offer them rather than what they can provide for you.
In this article, I will explain that narcissists seek love to boost their ego and feel important. They expect constant attention, isolate their partners, and manipulate them. Narcissists fall in love with people who validate their needs.
Do Narcissists Recognize Love?
Many narcissists recognize love and value love as something important to have in life.
It’s common for narcissists to want stereotypical things like marriage and children. Most will say that commitment matters to them.
But love, to them, is something they’re obligated and entitled to receive. They are worthy of it, even if they treat others poorly.
Narcissists in love are rarely interested in being empathic or selfless- they’re far more interested in how their partners can consistently and tirelessly meet their needs.
What Happens When You Show Love to a Narcissist? (How Do They Respond?)
Narcissists love when others show love to them. Of all the highs they can experience, that’s the most important.
It (temporarily) fills the void that’s been gnawing at them. Unfortunately, this starts a vicious relationship cycle for the partner.
Here are some ways narcissists respond to receiving love:
They Expect (And Slowly Demand) Your Kindness and Generosity
It’s normal to expect compassion from your partner. But a narcissist has unrealistic requirements when it comes to a relationship.
They often want constant attention and praise. They need to know they matter at all times- even if that’s at the expense of their well-being.
Narcissists have no problem having high demands for their partners. They want lavish gifts.
They want second, third, and fourth chances when they make mistakes. They want to know you will always comfort them when they’re sad (even if they don’t tell you they’re sad).
But once you need support, the narcissist either disappears or becomes reactive.
They don’t know how to give empathy to others fully. They get resentful when they need to put other people’s needs ahead of their own- even when it’s temporary.
They Start Isolating You From Others
This can happen quickly or slowly, but many narcissists attempt to isolate partners from certain people.
You will often notice this in subtle ways. Most narcissists won’t outright say, “I don’t want you to have friends!” But they will make comments like, “Have you ever noticed how much your friend gossips?” or “Don’t you think your uncle has a drinking problem?
I know I feel uncomfortable when we’re spending time around him.”
Even if their questions or statements aren’t true, they’re counting on you to trust them.
And because most people want to give their partners the benefit of the doubt, it’s easy to get swept into their beliefs.
They Make You Second-Guess Parts Other Parts of Your Life
In addition to isolating you from others, narcissists will often try to make you question other decisions or preferences.
For example, if they don’t like the fact that you earn more money than them, they will make statements like,
“They have you working so hard! You never really have time for me,and when you do, you’re always so tired,” or,
“The money is nice, but it’s coming at the expense of your mental health.”
These statements often sound “innocent” enough to convince you that the narcissist has your best interest at heart.
But really, they’re preoccupied with their own emotions and needs. Over time, this quickly turns into more controlling behavior.
Even if they don’t realize it, narcissists perceive partners as extensions of themselves.
You aren’t your whole being with a unique personality or desires. You’re a product of what they think they’re entitled to own.
So, when they disagree with something you do, they can’t let it go. They can’t just accept that you think or act differently than them.
Instead, they respond with a sense of rage, often leading partners to give in to their demands.
They Withhold Love
The feeling of being withheld love is one of the most painful reactions associated with narcissistic love. However, this hot-and-cold intensity is typical in narcissistic relationships.
At one moment, it can feel like you two are connected and happy together. Suddenly, you did something wrong (even if you don’t know what it is), and the narcissist is acting like you’re a complete enemy.
Withholding love is a part of the devaluing process. How intensely they do this can change over time, but it tends to get more pervasive over the years. At some point, it will then progress into a final discard.
They Discard You
Narcissistic discard represents the last phase in a narcissistic relationship. The discard happens once the narcissist decides they no longer want or need you for their supply.
They need someone to give them that initial fix they crave. Unfortunately, at this point, the relationship often feels so toxic that victims blame themselves for it ending.
They have been so beaten down by the narcissist’s words and actions that they think it’s all their fault.
The narcissist often presents as stoic, aloof, or downright mean when the discard happens.
They no longer want anything to do with you. If they are willing to talk, it’s only to blame you for how much you’ve hurt them or damaged the relationship.
They will often claim that you changed (even though they’re only speaking to the initial high that’s changed for them).
At this point, it’s common for them to jump into another relationship. But they’ll also likely hoover you to keep tabs and ensure you aren’t doing too well without them.
Do Narcissists Feel Love and Attraction?
However, their version of love tends to be more superficial and goal-oriented.
They love someone based on what they get out of it. It’s rarely about making a joint effort. Instead, it’s about fulfilling their own intense needs.
Most narcissists have a warped definition of love. To them, love is more of an external source of ongoing validation.
It’s not about a take-and-give. It’s something they believe they’re owed. Love, from this framework, becomes transactional. What a partner gives is meant to satisfy a narcissist’s inflated ego.
How Does a Narcissist Treat Someone They Love?
At first, it’s common for narcissists to love bomb people. This marks the honeymoon phase of a relationship, where everything feels larger than life.
During this love bombing, the narcissist idealizes someone as their perfect partner. This validates themselves and seemingly feels the large void they carry within.
At this point, the narcissist is generally on their best behavior. They shower their partner with praise and affection. You both feel like you’re on top of the world. The narcissist is euphoric, and they do everything they can to hold onto that feeling.
But love bombing, the first phase of a narcissistic abuse cycle, always has an expiration date. Once someone starts acting outside that perfect image, the narcissist gets frustrated. They feel betrayed. They’re upset that you’ve changed or ruined the relationship.
This is when devaluing starts to begin. Devaluing happens as the new high of the relationship fades. Instead of recognizing that love ebbs and flows- and that people are inherently flawed, the narcissist takes their anger out on their partners.
They will go back and forth with various manipulation strategies, including gaslighting, direct threats, blaming themselves (to get more sympathy and attention), and other self-destructive behavior. Other times, they will sprinkle in random love-bombing behavior to keep you hooked.
Many people will say that loving a narcissist is like walking on eggshells.
You never know what might upset them. You also never really know what will make them feel happy or loved.
They could tell you exactly what they like, and even if you provide that, they could get angry. It feels like a constant lose-lose battle.
In all of this, it becomes clear that narcissists care about receiving love far more than they care about giving it.
Will a Narcissist Express Love Verbally?
Many narcissists will express love freely, especially at the beginning of a relationship. It’s not uncommon for narcissists to send long-winded messages or make intense proclamations of love.
But these grand gestures often lack substance. The narcissist loves how they feel receiving a steady stream of narcissistic supply from you. That doesn’t inherently mean they love you.
And over time, these expressions of love tend to wane. Instead, narcissists become more demanding, hostile, and manipulative.
If you mention wanting affection, they might respond with comments like, “You know I love you. Don’t be so needy!” or, “Why do you keep asking? What are you so insecure about?”
Do Narcissists Care About Your Feelings?
It’s a misconception that narcissists don’t experience emotions. It’s far too simplistic to state that narcissists don’t care about other people’s feelings.
However, they feel emotions through a distorted framework. Their needs are inherently self-centered, and their ego is incredibly fragile.
So, they might care about your feelings, but that’s only when their feelings, needs, and desires are in check.
When everything is going well, they might have room to pay attention to what they want.
Things get far more complicated when your needs compete with theirs. Once they feel threatened, your feelings no longer matter. At that point, you’re getting in their way, which needs to be addressed immediately.
Who Do Narcissists Fall In Love With?
Narcissists fall in love with many types of people, but they’re always attracted to people who will validate their egos and needs. They often choose partners who reflect parts of themselves (or who they wish to be).
It’s a misconception that all narcissists only go for emotionally-vulnerable people.
Many are drawn to the stronger types, although they will work much harder to destroy whatever strength they initially felt attracted to.
Other narcissists tend to gravitate toward people with more empath personalities.
Empaths are known for feeling and loving deeply, and they often want to rescue the narcissist (which appeals to narcissists). The empath can also subconsciously represent a narcissist’s ideal self.
Finally, narcissists sometimes are attracted to other narcissists. They may be drawn to each other’s egos and statuses even if they don’t realize it. They might also be more tolerant of one another’s off-putting personality traits.