Can a Narcissist Really Love You?

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If you love a narcissist, you likely have wondered if they ever really loved you in return. Read on to discover if a narcissist is even capable of loving you. 

How Narcissists Love

If you love a narcissist, you have been exposed to what can be very confusing signals of both love and hate. In the beginning, the narcissist is a consummate charmer. They often show passion and warmth as well as loving support of your interests and desires. 

As time goes on, however, you begin to discover that the love a narcissist has to give is transactional. It depends on just how much your behaviors support them and give them the adoration they seek. 

The Shadow Side of a Narcissist

Once they’ve gotten what they need in terms of admiration and validation, they then lose interest in doing what it takes to sustain the relationship. That’s when you see their bad side. They prefer power over intimacy and they consider any vulnerability to be weakness. 

If they come to perceive their romantic partner as weak, they will use that to their advantage. They might distance themselves to gain the upper hand in their intimate relationships. This is all in conjunction with playing games that both get their needs met and keeps their options open.

The changes you see in them can be confusing and traumatic. You may perceive them as having become cold and distant, and while you see this as a sudden change, the truth is that it’s simply the narcissist revealing their true, manipulative character. They have, by now, identified your weaknesses, and they will not hesitate to use those weaknesses against you. 

While your narcissistic partner may develop positive feelings for you, the reality is that they are focused solely on their own goals. They will frequently employ their considerable arsenal of defenses to avoid feeling close to you. They will deploy narcissist rage when they’re challenged in any way or if they don’t get their way. 

Your needs will be a secondary consideration to the narcissist and will only be looked after if the ego of your self-absorbed partner will also benefit and be satisfied. While they seemed so supportive of your interests in the beginning of the relationship, you now find that they have no use for what you value. 

The Challenge of Love for a Narcissist

Real love means that you care about another person, their interests, and their happiness. You are motivated to learn about their wants and needs, and you take pleasure in seeing them happy. You don’t want to hurt them. 

You are also concerned for their personal growth, and you are interested in understanding their worldview even if it differs from yours. Love has the following characteristics: 

  • Paying Attention

This means noticing what your partner likes, needs and wants as well as what makes them feel comfortable and happy. 

  • Respect

This refers to respecting them as a separate individual with their own beliefs and desires. It means respecting their feelings even when they are different from yours. 

  • Support

This includes supporting their life goals as well as their goals for your relationship. 

  • Acceptance

This includes accepting their differences and idiosyncrasies as well as their hopes for their life and the people in it. 

  • Compassion

Compassion involves being able to understand what they’re going through, and this requires empathy. You must be able to put yourself in someone else’s position to have compassion for what they’re going through and what they need to feel happy. 

Less Commitment to Their Partners

Narcissists have a difficult time with these characteristics that indicate love. They are simply not motivated to really understand other people. They are so self-absorbed that they can’t focus on other people’s needs, desires, or goals. They utterly lack empathy and are not able to have compassion for the people in their lives. 

can you tell whether a narcissist really loves you

Narcissists are not able to see themselves clearly let alone other people. They see people as mere extensions of themselves, so they don’t accept them as separate individuals. Because they are externally validated, they use manipulative techniques to distort the perceptions of other people and control the interactions they have with them. 

They can never allow themselves to be vulnerable so they have difficulty developing a deep enough relationship to genuinely understand what it means to support someone in their goals. Their need to be adored causes them to utilize multiple negative manipulation techniques to garner attention and admiration from those around them. 

They lack what they need to truly see, understand or genuinely care about another person’s reality. They can’t even see when someone else truly loves them. They are focused on manipulation for the purposes of control, and they do that to get external validation. 

People feel loved when they experience words of affirmation, quality time with another person, gift-giving and receiving, acts of service, and tender, loving physical touches. They also experience love when someone shows interest in them and their affairs, gives them emotional and moral support, discloses intimate facts to them, expresses positive feelings about them, and tolerates their flaws to maintain the relationship with them. 

Can a Narcissist Love You?

While it’s difficult to look into the heart of another person and know what they’re feeling, people who love narcissists often say they don’t receive these common ways in which we tend to express love. Instead, they describe the narcissist as remote, dismissive, and frequently aggressive. 

While a narcissist can show what appears to be care and concern, this is often attached to some selfish goal rather than out of genuine loving sentiment for their partner. Narcissists are capable of feeling and even intellectually understanding the feelings of others, but they have difficulty expressing their true feelings. That would make them vulnerable, and that’s something they can’t tolerate. 

Final Thoughts

Many narcissists have experienced childhood trauma that has affected their ability to assess emotions, mirror them appropriately and express empathy. They may only show love when they are significantly motivated to do so. 

When they do express love, it is conditional and depends on how that expression may impact them personally. In other words, will it make them appear silly or weak? 

Narcissism exists on a continuum, however, and that means that when it’s more severe, the negative qualities of selfishness and the inability to express either love or empathy are more apparent. This is particularly true when there are greater demands placed on the narcissist. To deal with that, you’ll need myriad ways to disarm the narcissist in your life. 

Rather than asking whether the narcissist loves you, it might be more valuable to ask yourself if you feel respected, valued and cared for. Are you getting your own needs met? If you don’t feel any of those are true, then it’s worth considering how that might be affecting your own self-esteem and what you might want to do about it. 

To understand more about what makes a narcissist tick, check out the article, “7 Characteristics of a Narcissistic Person.”


If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel


Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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