If you have someone in your life who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), you might be wondering who could ever put up with their often abusive behavior. You wouldn’t be the first person to think that maybe another narcissist would be a perfect match for them.
While it’s possible that two narcissists might get married, the same problems exist for narcissistic couples that prevent a narcissist from having a happy relationship with someone who is not narcissistic. That reality makes it very unlikely two narcissists would have a happy marriage.
Let’s examine what exactly narcissists need to be happy, why they are like that, and what they get out of being married. We’ll also discuss why even another narcissist might not be able to fulfill their needs.
What Does a Narcissist Need to be Happy?
It’s not quite correct to say that narcissists can be happy. That’s because the root of their personality disorder is a very fragile self-esteem. Narcissists are externally validated, and to feel any degree of comfort, they need an almost constant supply of adoration coupled with compliments.
Simply put, narcissists need someone who will focus on them and make them feel worthy. They are unable to be introspective and look inward for their self-confidence and sense of self-value. They get that from the people around them.
Giving them that degree of adoration doesn’t exactly make them happy, but it does help them feel more satisfied with their life and their accomplishments.
Why are Narcissists Like That?
People with NPD are the way they are because they have an undeveloped sense of self that causes them to think differently from people who are not narcissists. While there may be some level of genetic involvement that causes NPD, there is often some kind of childhood trauma that resulted in their failure to properly develop a sense of self-worth.
This might be due to one or both of their parents having suffered from narcissism, or some also believe it can also result from parents who shower their children with too much praise. Either way, despite their arrogant nature, narcissists suffer from a profound sense of emptiness and powerlessness.
They also frequently feel a sense of toxic shame which may have resulted from constant criticism from a narcissistic parent. That leaves them feeling very vulnerable.
Because they feel vulnerable, they constantly seek to control their environment and the people in their lives. They also need other people to prop up their self-esteem by praising their every move. If you don’t do that for them, they will likely devalue you in the attempt to make themselves look better by comparison.
Because of their need for almost constant external validation in the form of compliments and adoration, and because of their sense of shame and low self-esteem, most narcissists simply can’t experience happiness in the same way a healthy person can.
The best they can hope for is that someone in their life can make them feel worthy and prop up their self-esteem. That likely won’t be possible with another narcissist.
Won’t Marriage Make a Narcissist Feel Worthy?
The simple answer to this question is that until a narcissist gets help for their personality disorder, nothing–including marriage–will ever be enough to make them feel worthy. That’s the nature of their problem.
Additionally, because narcissists can’t admit that they are the cause of their own problems, it’s difficult and unlikely that they will seek help. Narcissists are overly sensitive to any kind of criticism.
Even gentle critiques of someone with NPD will send them into a blind rage. This is called narcissistic rage, and it can be pretty intense. Of course, there will be times when one partner criticizes another in any healthy marriage, and this is why marriage often doesn’t change a narcissist or help them feel worthy.
While a narcissist can seem happy in certain circumstances, it really can’t last because they are not satisfied on the inside. The demands of married life are stressful even for relatively healthy partners.
One narcissist in a marriage will put an added stress that usually spells doom for the couple. Two narcissists in a marriage is a veritable recipe for disaster. It doesn’t even matter if they are two vulnerable narcissists or two self-aggrandizing narcissists; it’s not likely to work.
Can It Ever Work Between Two Narcissists?
As I alluded to above, there are different types of narcissists. Grandiose or exhibitionist narcissists are what most people typically think of when they think about a narcissist. These are the people who are always showing off or who seem very arrogant.
There is, however, another type of narcissist known as a vulnerable narcissist. These narcissists still feel the same way inside as the exhibitionistic narcissist, but they don’t use the same strategy to get their needs met.
Vulnerable narcissists often put themselves down because they want people in their life to disagree with them. In other words, they are fishing for compliments. They rarely brag about themselves, and instead, they will compliment other people whom they idealize. They look for their narcissistic supply through association with people they admire and by having people correct them when they put themselves down.
There are also toxic or malignant narcissists who have a sadistic streak and can only feel superior when making others feel inadequate or inferior. These are arguably the worst kind of narcissists.
Psychologist and narcissism specialist Elinor Greenberg notes that complementary types of narcissists can marry and be, relatively speaking, happy together, but this is a rare occurrence. It is not possible if either one of them is a malignant narcissist.
Most of the time, relationships with a narcissist are doomed to failure, but when they do manage to get and stay married, it usually isn’t with another narcissist. When two narcissists who are complementary types meet and marry, it can sometimes work, but this is a rare beast.
The best thing a narcissist can do to find happiness is to seek help for their personality disorder. Unfortunately, that is something they are not very likely to do.
Now that you’ve learned about some of the problems that narcissists have in relationships, you might also be interested in this article about whether or not narcissists can be faithful.
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