Narcissistic Personality Disorder Relationships

Loving someone who has narcissistic traits is not easy. The key traits of the narcissist may include a constant need for approval from others and an impaired ability to recognize the needs of others.  With long-term treatments, narcissists and their loved ones can find help.

Being in a relationship with someone with this personality style can be very challenging. Narcissists tend to have an inflated sense of ego and entitlement, put themselves first, lack empathy and can become abusive to others.

It may be difficult for narcissists to recognize the distorted and unhealthy patterns of their thinking and behaviours. This can then make getting treatment especially difficult, although not impossible.

Seeking professional assistance is the start of any treatment. After taking this first difficult step and recognizing there is a problem, both of you can begin making progress towards a healthier relationship.

Relationship Patterns

Many narcissists are unable to accept themselves and others as integrated whole selves, complete with both good and bad qualities. Narcissists tend to judge others as either perfect or flawed, based on the treatment they are receiving. These traits manifest themselves in three fairly predictable patterns:

Idealizing Phase: Loving a narcissist is quite easy at the beginning of the relationship. People with narcissistic traits are charming in the courtship stage, largely due to their romanticized idea of the “perfect relationship”. For you, this may feel like the typical honeymoon phase that many couples experience early on in their relationship. For narcissists, this phase is much more extreme. It involves living out romantic fantasies, showing you and the rest of the world all their good parts without revealing any vulnerabilities.

Waning Phase: Over time (even overnight), the honeymoon phase comes to an end. Instead of growing closer to authenticity, this is the time when narcissists’ resistance to vulnerability starts to come through. Your partner starts to notice your less-than-perfect qualities and may make frequent comments about necessary improvements. If you reject these suggestions, your partner feels insulted. Because narcissists view any slight to themselves as a flaw in others’ behaviour, they may begin to distance themselves at this point.

Discarding Phase: Many relationships with narcissists end in disregard for the other partner. Even if they look back on the relationship with fondness, they typically will not accept any of the blame for how things turned out. If there is abuse involved, sometimes the partner will be the one to end the relationship.

Loving a Narcissist

One of the most difficult things about loving a narcissist is their lack of empathy, which can give you the feeling that they aren’t really present even if they are with you. People with narcissism struggle to understand the feelings of others and often use people to meet their own needs.

While the lack of empathy can seem cold and manipulative, it is a symptom of an inability to show empathy and does not necessarily signify wilful hatred on the part of your loved one. Learning how to understand a narcissist without judging them is an important step in gaining their trust, which may make seeking treatment easier. Although more research is needed on this topic, studies have shown that it can be possible to reduce narcissistic tendencies and increase empathy among narcissists.

Treatment for narcissists is important, as those people are more likely than others to experience substance abuse as well as anxiety, mood and personality disorders.

Finding Support for Yourself

Abuse is a real possibility for those in a relationship with a narcissist. For a narcissist’ loved ones, it can be difficult to differentiate between the acceptance of the behaviour of a narcissist and tolerance of abusive behaviour.

While it is healthy to accept that your loved one is a possible narcissist and in need of some compassion, it is unacceptable to endure abusive behaviour. Be on guard for any abuse or mistreatment, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, sexual or financial, and seek help as soon as you can.

If you are in a non-abusive relationship with someone who has narcissistic traits, it is still important to set firm boundaries and look after yourself first and foremost. Consider seeking therapy for yourself and the support of others who are in similar situations. By building up your own resilience and sense of self-worth, you will be better equipped to support your partner.