Questions about love and narcissism are asked a lot by those who love a narcissist: Can a narcissist fall in love? What is love to a narcissist? Could it be true there never was any love in my relationship or marriage? Does my narcissistic parent love me? In this article, I will explore these questions about love and narcissism.
The questions above are quite painful because they are mostly asked from experience. I’m sorry if you experienced a narcissist or you’re (possibly) dealing with a narcissist now. I hope this article and my website can be helpful to you!
The answer to whether a narcissist can love is rather complicated and I will try to explain why in this article. I’m aware that love could be experienced differently, so know this article is written from my perspective and my experience with narcissists.
The experiences of victims of narcissistic abuse show a great variety and there is also a great variety in narcissists. Some survivors know or think they were/are loved, others doubt if love was ever there, and some definitely know it wasn’t there in hindsight. Sadly, it will mostly be a draining and brutal experience when having a relationship with narcissists or having narcissistic parents.
When dealing with narcissists or people that show a lot of narcissistic behaviour, it becomes complicated to know or see what’s the truth or feeling behind their loving behaviour. Do they simply have no conscience or empathy and are they thus incapable to love you? Or do they love in a different way? A narcissist can have quite an impact on your reality and manipulate your thoughts and feelings. They have the ability to show loving behaviour but is this similar to real love?
In this article, I will discuss the loving behaviour of narcissists and how they might experience love. I will go into different forms of love, empathy, conscience and what are good questions to ask yourself. In the end, I think it should be all about what you want in a relationship and what’s healthy for you.
What is love? About different forms of love
In order to say something about whether a narcissist can love it’s necessary to at least differentiate between different forms of love. I will not try to define love specifically as everyone experiences it in their own unique way.
There are different forms of love I will discuss in this article:
– Unconditional love
– Conditional love
– Loving/romantic behaviour (love-bombing)
– Your own love for the other person and yourself
To be clear right away about whether a true narcissist can love:
A narcissist can’t love someone unconditionally, but they can love. This love could be real to them but it will still be conditional love. The question then becomes whether you think conditional love is real love. A narcissist will give you love if you please them and you can fulfil their unending needs (which is impossible).
To fulfil the needs of a narcissist, if even possible, you probably can’t be yourself and you need to become a pleasing personality. It means you eventually will agree that the narcissist is more worthy than you. I wrote an article about self-worth, appreciation, ego and narcissism in which I go deeper into the aspect of self-worth and narcissism.
Now, I would like to first go into the relationship you have with yourself.
Love as a mirror
Some say love and relationships mirror the relationship you have with yourself. This would require you to have a healthy relationship with yourself to be able to have a healthy relationship with others. I agree a healthy relationship with yourself is important and if so, there will probably be a higher chance of having healthy relationships with others.
When dealing with narcissists, however, it’s not that simple to say that the relationship is unhealthy because you have an unhealthy relationship with yourself. This is because you can’t blame a victim of the manipulative and brutal behaviour of the narcissist. When in love with a narcissist, it can be impossible or hard to see the truth behind their behaviour and what they are capable of.
I think with a narcissist it mostly works the other way around: a narcissist creates an unhealthy relationship by manipulating you into having an unhealthy relationship with yourself and by disconnecting you from yourself. They sadly exploit you when you’re vulnerable or try to make you vulnerable/dependent. When recovering/healing, it’s therefore important to shift the attention to yourself and work on having a healthy relationship with yourself (again).
If you love a narcissist you will probably show a lot of love to them and give a lot. Some wonder if the love was real when thinking back about it. Know the love you gave this person is very real and a great thing. It shows the love you can give, which is a beautiful thing. I hope you are able to show this same unconditional love to yourself!
Narcissistic love is conditional love. The conditional aspect of love could be translated by the following examples of thoughts of a narcissist:
– I love how you’re making me feel about myself.
– I love that you do whatever I like and that you love me.
– I have to say ‘I love you’ to make you do what I want.
– I like to say ‘I love you’ and see how you admire me saying it.
A narcissist can thus love you because they love themselves and they think they deserve you. You might improve their image of superiority and they could love to publically parade with you. The reasons narcissists love are very different than those of a normal person.
Practicality could be also a substitute for love to a narcissist. When this happens they ask inner questions that are about themselves and not about whether they love someone. These questions could be about whether someone is a ‘catch’, the status/wealth of a person, and if someone gets a lot of love from friends and family. Others inner questions might be about getting admiration, being less bored themselves or needing someone to take care of them in some way.
Some narcissists are malignant, some are ethical and some don’t have any ethics. This results in different views on relationships by narcissists and thus different behaviour. All narcissists, however, will have a problem being in love permanently because of their love being conditional to their unending needs. You can’t satisfy their needs while being yourself because their needs aren’t healthy.
Love-bombing: the appearance of love, romance, and loving behaviour
In the phase or moments of so-called love-bombing, there will be a lot of romantic and loving behaviour shown by a narcissist. You will be showered with compliments, they will tell you about their vision of the future with you, be interested in you and it will just all seem perfect. They could say they are very proud of you, really appreciate you and also show empathic behaviour. In this phase, a narcissist could truly believe and think they feel love for you.
A narcissist can make you feel loved and be charming and make you the happiest person in the world. Sadly, it doesn’t last and it seems a way to invest in controlling you later on. They can withdraw their ‘love’ and make you feel less worthy or have doubts about yourself. You might think about how you can change yourself to make it right again when they withdraw their love. It’s a dynamic where a narcissist changes behaviour and the victim can’t see it’s not because of them. The victim will search within themselves, possibly cross boundaries and act less like themselves.
If experienced, you probably felt your intuition in this love-bombing phase. It could seem they loved you very soon or you might feel like they couldn’t even know you from within yet. You might not even remember you actually falling for them but rather you were overwhelmed by their determination. It’s essential to trust your intuition in the future if you feel like this is true for you.
There are many different types of narcissists. Some narcissists use love-bombing and seduction because they like to play the game of winning someone over. They will lose interest when they’ve won the game.
Other narcissists convince themselves it’s always the fault of the other person and chase an impossible expectation. The other person should be perfect and give unconditional love forever. They will idealize this person from the start and possibly fall in love but as this perfect picture is something impossible they will realize this person is not perfect. Their needs are not fulfilled so they will devalue, blame and discard this person.
Narcissistic love is thus conditional love given when their unending needs are being fulfilled. This disturbing setup means narcissistic love will always be temporary.
Can someone that lacks emotional empathy love?
The simple answer to whether a narcissist can love you in the same way as you is ‘no’. When someone has narcissistic personality disorder they can’t experience and feel love the way you know it. A narcissist lacks the capacity to build a deeper connection with someone as they lack to build a deeper connection with themselves.
A narcissist’s world revolves around craving for admiration and ego-boosting. The ego is not something real, however. It’s a created identity that started believing in itself. There is no authenticity or truth within the ego. It means some narcissists can perfectly act or think they are ‘in love’ and say and do all the right things. The lacking part is it being true or heartfelt. There could be a misconception that the identity created by their ego is an authentic soul.
Suppose someone is an empath. A lot of victims of narcissistic abuse are empaths because of the toxic attraction between an empath and a narcissist (opposites of each other). It’s a very toxic relationship and I wrote an in-depth article about the empath-narcissist relationship if you want to read more about this.
I don’t believe an empath can be truly loved by someone without empathy. A narcissist will not love you how you deserve to be loved. There are simply not capable because of their lack of empathy. A narcissist doesn’t care for the needs or feelings of the other and thus will the relationship be only about them. It’s about their needs and their craving for attention, affirmation and ego-boosting.
Obviously, if the relationship fulfils their narcissistic needs they could be pleased with you and the relationship. It’s conditional but they could care. This setup is toxic. It means they will ‘love’ or ‘care’ about you when you have the narcissist needs in the first place and everything you do is about them.
You need to cross your boundaries, become someone else and ignore your own needs and feelings to do this. If they care for the person you are with them it means they care for someone that isn’t really you.
Conscience and love: my experience with a narcissistic father
I want to discuss why conscience was the most important factor for me instead of a lack of empathy or being self-served. At a certain moment in my youth, I realized my father couldn’t possibly have a conscience. He did things I didn’t know a human being was capable of and he could lie about it, deny it, and act like it was normal (gaslighting).
This great discrepancy between his abnormal behaviour and him appearing like it was normal and actually believing it was eye-opening. For me, it became clear: He can’t have a conscience, emotional empathy and is thus incapable of unconditional love.
I don’t believe he chose to be like this consciously and I merely thought it was sad someone was like this. It can’t be healthy for a person or result in good energy. He experienced a lot in his youth and I suppose there is no turning back at a certain moment.
He did know theoretically what love was and could be charming, interested, take financial care of the family and do activities with us children. There was a contrast, however, between this loving behaviour and his constant need for validation, ego-boosting and admiration. This need clearly was more important (or uncontrollable) than being the nice father figure and it showed.
No foundation for a deeper connection
This all meant to me that there is no foundation to build a deeper connection with my father as there is no honesty or reason to trust him because everything he does is appearance and an act. If nothing is true only emptiness, superficialness and manipulation remain. Even though he theoretically knows what’s good he still chooses to show a lot of unhealthy and disturbing behaviour.
I realized the lack of conscience was the most important factor in letting go of false hope and accepting the situation. I concluded I don’t have a father but he is just someone I know. How can someone love without a conscience? Recently I decided to go no contact as I don’t want this energy and I have to protect myself from his draining and manipulative behaviour. Now, I hope to help others with my website.
Do you (possibly) have a narcissistic parent and want to read more about it? I wrote an article about possible signs of narcissistic parents and another article about what I have learned from having a narcissistic father.
What is love to you and what do you want?
To conclude: the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter whether a narcissist (conditionally) loves you or not. When someone is draining your energy with manipulative behaviour it’s unhealthy in any way. It’s unhealthy when the effect of a relationship or marriage is feeling drained, disconnected from yourself, anxious, or less-worthy. Even if you or this person feels love, it would be destructive and unhealthy.
Does your partner enjoy you loving yourself, growing and developing as a person? When you’re dealing with a narcissist it’s important to shift attention to yourself again. It matters whether you feel valued and your needs are met in the relationship. Do you feel loved, respected and cared about?
You can’t change someone into having empathy and caring for others. You can’t get a deeper connection with someone that doesn’t have a foundation of truth or authenticity. There is no cure to ‘heal’ them by loving them. The blind spot of a narcissist is the belief they aren’t one. And if they do know, they still can’t change what they don’t feel.
They simply don’t hear the music and that’s a sad thing. In my opinion, conditional love isn’t love at all. Love doesn’t have to be perfect but it should be true.
I wrote an article about the narcissist’s web of control in which I suggest some questions you can ask yourself when having doubts about your observations and feelings about a person and their effect on you. You can read it here if you are interested.
In the end, know that the only important question is what you want in a relationship and what is love to you. I wish you kindness and true love in the future!
– Did you like this article and is it helpful to you? I encourage you to share, like, follow, comment and possibly subscribe to my newsletter to receive monthly updates of my activities!
Two possibly interesting reads for you:
– What should you do when going no contact is not an option (right away)? Read my article about the grey rock method for dealing with narcissists.
– What to expect when you break up with a narcissist? Read my article about what to expect.