Relationships can be tough to begin with, but when you add a mental illness to the equation, they can be a real challenge — especially when you become locked in narcissistic love patterns
You may not think the narcissist in your life has a mental illness.
But according to the Mayo Clinic, Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental condition and one of several types of personality disorders that cause relationship challenges.
When one person has this disorder in a relationship, it can wreak havoc on both partners involved and ruin any chance for intimacy and trust to develop.
Greek mythology tells us the story of Narcissus and Echo whose tragic relationship shows how both partners in a relationship involving a narcissist can be locked into a painful drama where neither are content or feel loved.
Although the relationship is miserable for both people, the narcissist blames his anguish on his partner and sees himself as faultless.
Strangely, his partner typically agrees.
Let's explore why narcissists are not good at relationships and why you may want to avoid getting involved in narcissistic relationships.
While both males and females can be narcissists, in this article, we will use the pronoun “he” to describe a narcissist for the sake of simplicity.
- Narcissistic Behavior Patterns
- Narcissistic Relationship Patterns: 5 Most Common
- How to Deal With a Narcissist in a Relationship
- 29 Ways Narcissist Relationships Are Devastating
- 1. They have no emotional empathy.
- 2. They don't have object constancy.
- 3. They can't control their impulses.
- 4. They are controlling.
- 5. They have unrealistic expectations.
- 6. Narcissists try to make their partners change.
- 7. Criticisms turn to insults.
- 8. The relationship revolves around the narcissist.
- 9. They control conversations.
- 10. They interrupt their partner.
- 11. They break promises.
- 12. They show little remorse.
- 13. They blame their partner.
- 14. They expect their partners to cater to them.
- 15. They spread negativity.
- 16. They try to make their partners feel insecure.
- 17. They easily become upset.
- 18. They will ridicule their partner.
- 19. They are manipulative.
- 20. They play the guilt card.
- 21. They play the victim.
- 22. They have the same arguments over and over.
- 23. Narcissists are quick to anger.
- 24. They need constant validation from their partner.
- 25. They refuse to accept feedback regarding their behavior.
- 26. They quickly forget about the good times.
- 27. They seek revenge.
- 28. They don't truly love their partner.
- 29. In the end, they break their partner's heart.
- Final Thoughts
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Narcissistic Behavior Patterns
A Narcissistic personality type includes several unique and troubling behaviors that occur in their relationships.
- Narcissists typically have an unrealistic sense of superiority, believing that they are better than everyone around them, including their partner.
- Narcissists also have an overwhelming need for attention and admiration and generally, lack empathy toward others.
- People with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they are the focal point in everyone else’s life and to anyone new that they meet.
- They are often elitist, disrespectful, and have patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with narcissism may get angry with anyone who tries to disagree with him, especially if it is in front of other people.
Narcissistic Relationship Patterns: 5 Most Common
There are several narcissist relationship patterns that can occur in a romantic relationship.
You may have experienced one or more of these situations in your current or past relationships.
1. The Bored Narcissist
One of them involves two people starting out with a great relationship and even falling so deeply in love that they begin to talk about marriage.
But as soon as a narcissist gets bored with their partner or the “honeymoon” phase of the relationship is over, he is ready to move on.
He has realized there is nothing left to gain from the relationship, so he is finished, leaving his partner confused and heartbroken.
The narcissist is able to relieve himself of blame by claiming that his partner wasn't who he thought she was.
2. The Recycling Narcissist
Another common pattern in narcissism relationships is recycling partners.
These people repeatedly cycle through the same set of partners because they value being with someone predictable more so than having the novelty of a new conquest.
They are loyal to their partners, but they easily become bored and decide to move on to the next person in their rotation. Relationships with narcissists in this pattern never feel permanent or solid.
With time, the narcissist has gained a collection of predictable lovers who are always willing to take them back.
The reason these narcissists don't stay in one relationship is that they lose positive feelings for their partner if they become hurt or offended in any way.
Instead of trying to fix the issue, they move on to someone else they know is safe.
3. The Novelty Seeking Narcissist
Novelty-seeking narcissists are simply in it for the love of the chase and will immediately lose interest in his partner once he has them hooked. He'll suddenly leave to find someone new to reel in.
They like the thrill of the hunt but not the actual relationship. For about ten minutes, you'll feel like his queen and the woman he's been seeking his entire life. But the moment you show signs he's won you, he has one foot out the door.
4. The Grudge Holding Narcissist
Finally, you have the grudge holders. They have a long list of ex-lovers whom they now despise and refuse to talk to, even if they don't remember why.
The details of the hatred are vague, but the narcissist does remember that they want the other person to suffer, which is what they believe to be happening in their absence.
Clearly, being in a relationship with a narcissist is no easy task. Let's look at some of the things you can do if you find yourself in this situation.
5. The Love Bombing Narcissist
This is the guy who showers you with gifts, compliments, flowers, adoration, and extravagant dates. Sounds dreamy, right? It is until you realize all of this adoration and attention is a manipulation tactic.
Narcissist love bombing is exactly that — your overwhelmed with attention and love, only to be bombed by learning he thinks you owe him as a result. He's done all of these things for you, so now you need to fall in line.
How to Deal With a Narcissist in a Relationship
Your obvious first option when it comes to dealing with a narcissist is simply to not allow him in your life.
However, you may already be in a close relationship with a narcissist before you realize there's a problem.
- If you have a narcissist in your life, and you want to placate him to keep the peace, your best bet is to either kiss up to him or just don't engage.
- If you want to communicate effectively, you need to show admiration for his achievements and even minor “good deeds.”
- A narcissist will provide you with reasons to congratulate him. You just need to listen and look impressed if you don't want him to walk away.
- Narcissists are in this relationship for their own benefit, not yours. You need to know what to expect from a relationship with a narcissist.
- Don't accept promises from a narcissist. Once they get their end of the deal, they will move on and forget whatever they promised you.
- While narcissists never feel guilty, they do feel a sense of shame. If you are in a position to counsel, ask the narcissist what he believes people would think of whatever action is in question.
- Narcissists are not dumb — they just don't consider other people's feelings. If you have his attention, don’t tell him how people might react to his action, but instead ask some probing questions.
- Narcissists are more likely to follow through with ideas that they believe they came up with themselves.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do in life is to surround yourself with people who are good to you and be good to them back.
Having other supportive people in your life can mitigate the pain of dealing with your narcissistic partner.
29 Ways Narcissist Relationships Are Devastating
Here are the typical behaviors narcissists and narcissist love patterns that make them terrible partners in relationships. If you are in a NPD relationship cycle and recognize many of these behaviors, you may need support from a therapist or friend to leave the relationship.
1. They have no emotional empathy.
Emotional empathy refers to your ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and imagine what he or she is feeling.
People with emotional empathy are less likely to want to hurt other people because they can easily relate to the pain that they cause.
Narcissists without emotional empathy have very little motivation to pay attention to the hurt that they cause their partners. They don't have the capacity to see things through anyone's eyes but their own.
2. They don't have object constancy.
When a narcissist is in a relationship with someone he claims to love, he lacks the ability to see himself and his partner as an integrated team.
He is unable to accept that his partner is not perfect and value them for their positive qualities.
He is not able to maintain his positive emotional connection with a partner when he feels angry or hurt by that person.
3. They can't control their impulses.
When a narcissist is in an argument with a partner, he is unable to rein in his impulses to wound the person he claims to love.
This means that the narcissist is more likely to physically or emotionally injure their partner. Many physical and emotional abusers are also narcissists.
4. They are controlling.
Narcissists try to control their partners by telling them whom they can and can't see.
They also want to control their partner's (or the family) finances and limit the amount of time their partners are allowed to speak to their friends and families.
5. They have unrealistic expectations.
Narcissists either see their partner as being perfect or as being flawed. There is nothing in the middle.
Narcissists are extremists and think in either black or white terms. When a narcissist first finds someone attractive, he is likely to idealize that person and believe that he is the perfect mate for them.
With time, flaws begin to arise, and the narcissist is no longer interested. As the excitement of the initial romance starts to fade, narcissists become disappointed in their partner.
6. Narcissists try to make their partners change.
A narcissist will suggest ways for his partner to change “for their own good.”
He may suggest a new haircut or a new wardrobe. He may even try to convince his partner that she will feel better if she follows his advice.
7. Criticisms turn to insults.
After compliments stop and gentle criticisms are also a thing of the past, a narcissist will blatantly insult his partner.
He will stop trying to sugarcoat his suggestions and will start treating his partner with cruelty. His criticisms eventually escalate to cruel insults.
8. The relationship revolves around the narcissist.
Often, a narcissist's partner is merely viewed as an object to help manage his needs and fragile self-esteem.
Partners may watch their companion flirt with other people, jump to the front of a line, or be rude to a waiter.
They are expected to comply with demands and judgments and acknowledge their partner’s “specialness.”
9. They control conversations.
Narcissists love to talk about themselves, and they will hardly give their partner the chance to be a part of a two-way conversation.
Their partners struggle to have their opinions and feelings heard. When a partner does speak, her comments will be corrected or ignored if her opinion doesn't match the narcissist's point of view.
A narcissist may throw a tantrum if his partner disagrees with his views.
10. They interrupt their partner.
Narcissists will also interrupt their partners to switch the focus back to themselves if their partner starts talking about something else. He will show very little interest in his partner's point of view or thoughts.
11. They break promises.
If a narcissist makes a promise to his partner, there is no guarantee it will be honored. Often, if the promise doesn't benefit them in any way, it will go unfulfilled.
If you try to point this out to a narcissistic partner, he will find a way to turn the tables and make it appear that you are to blame for his unreliability.
12. They show little remorse.
When narcissists get into an argument with his partner, he will not be the first to apologize and will likely not apologize at all.
Narcissists do not feel guilty for making their partners feel bad, so they don't feel the need to apologize.
13. They blame their partner.
If something goes wrong, narcissists always place the blame on their partner, even if the event was completely out of their partner's control.
For example, if he is running late for work, a narcissist is likely to blame his partner for his own tardiness and rushed schedule.
Or, if he forgets to do something, he may blame his partner for not reminding him to do it.
14. They expect their partners to cater to them.
Narcissists feel entitled to preferential treatment from everyone, including their partners.
They expect their partners to instantly cater to their every need without having to do a favor in return.
15. They spread negativity.
Narcissists enjoy spreading negativity in order to gain attention and feel powerful. They don't want other people to feel happy because they don't feel happy themselves.
16. They try to make their partners feel insecure.
A narcissist wants his partner to feel insecure and off balance so she feels like she can't live without him.
He wants the people around him to feel inferior and down about themselves in order to build himself up.
17. They easily become upset.
Narcissists easily become upset if they feel they are being slighted, or they are not getting the attention they feel like they deserve.
This may make a partner feel like they are walking on eggshells all the time as to keep the peace around the house.
Because narcissists are self-protective and are on high alert for disrespect, they can become upset at small things that were not intended to hurt them.
18. They will ridicule their partner.
Narcissists are quick to ridicule their partners, which is a form of emotional abuse. By making their partners feel inferior, narcissists are able to boost their fragile egos and feel better about themselves.
19. They are manipulative.
Narcissists make decisions for their partners to suit their own needs. They will often try to make their partner feel like it was her idea to do whatever the narcissist wants.
He may also use passive-aggressive behaviors to manipulate as described in numbers 20 and 21 below.
20. They play the guilt card.
One common example of manipulation is a narcissist claiming that he has given his partner so much, but she is so ungrateful. A narcissist often does this in order to make his partner feel guilty.
When anything goes wrong in the relationship, he will attempt to twist his partner's emotions so she feels she is to blame.
21. They play the victim.
A narcissist will typically take on the role of a victim and tell his partner that she has to help him or else she isn't a good person.
He will hijack his partner's emotions and convince them to feel bad for him and make unreasonable sacrifices for him.
He might even threaten to hurt himself or commit suicide to make you feel so sorry for him that you'll do anything to prevent his threats.
22. They have the same arguments over and over.
Because narcissists take offense easily, they are quick to repeat arguments that they have had in the past.
If an issue has already been forgiven once, a narcissist will not retain this forgiveness the next time the issue comes up.
23. Narcissists are quick to anger.
A narcissist can go from happy to angry very quickly.
When this happens, if he doesn't choose to create a heated argument, he is likely to give his partner the cold shoulder and ignore them.
24. They need constant validation from their partner.
25. They refuse to accept feedback regarding their behavior.
A narcissist will always think that he is right, so if his partner tries to tell him that he is acting inappropriately, he will not be open to the feedback.
In his or her mind, there is no such thing as constructive criticism because they must always be right.
26. They quickly forget about the good times.
When a narcissist gets upset, he will forget about the positive qualities he once saw in his partner and only focus on the evil he perceives in front of him.
He can't put your actions into perspective or see the bigger context of the relationship. He is purely in the moment and only sees you as a bad person when he's angry.
27. They seek revenge.
If a narcissist feels hurt, he will see it necessary to hurt his partner equally as much in return, no matter how accidental the original situation was.
And if a narcissist feels like he is being attacked, he will bite back even harder. He can't let anything go for fear he will be perceived as weak or gullible.
28. They don't truly love their partner.
Narcissists have a hard time loving their partners in a healthy way because they don’t love themselves.
They are so focused on themselves that they cannot really “see” their partner as a separate person who also needs love.
A narcissist is incapable of true emotional intimacy that is necessary for a healthy, happy connection. A relationship is a means to an end — getting his needs for reinforcement, adulation, and control met by his partner.
29. In the end, they break their partner's heart.
Narcissists can seem to fall madly in love with someone right away, and they are quick to make a commitment to their partners.
However, once the honeymoon phase is over, this initial passion is not sustained, and they won't think twice about leaving.
Most narcissists leave a string of brokenhearted lovers in their past who feel confused and full of self-doubt about themselves.
Ultimately, it is exhausting to be trapped in the narcissistic dating cycle (or marriage patterns) that define romance with the type of person.
As a partner, you have to accept that he will never be empathetic with your feelings, no matter how long the relationship lasts.
Some narcissists can learn to notice when they are hurting their partner, but this doesn't mean that they will care.
In the end, narcissists are not good at relationships because they don't view them as a two-way street.
They are only in it for themselves.