There is irony in the fact that, according to some pretty compelling research, narcissists actually do like each other. It’s complicated since they view love differently, but there is some merit to the idea.
This is ironic because narcissists famously have little feelings for others and are instead self-absorbed and manipulative. However, they are often able to form bonds and long-term relationships with other narcissists.
While it may seem strange, there are some reasonable answers to why this phenomenon might be true. While narcissists don’t necessarily know they have a problem, if they recognize and accept the flaws they see in another narcissist (and vice versa), then the relationship need not veer into emotionally dangerous territory.
The manipulation and abuse that a narcissist heaps upon, say, an empath won’t be useful in a relationship with another narcissist. Issues of control are settled early in the exchange.
Let’s examine the ways in which narcissists are attracted to and form relationships with other narcissists.
Mutual Emotional Maintenance
In the beginning stages of a narcissistic friendship, there may be some competition and rivalry between the two narcissists. They will try to outdo the other in trying out manipulative behaviors or expressing disdain for each other’s opinions and achievements.
But, as the friendship develops—based on a mutual understanding of each other’s tendencies—these rivalries will give way to a wary trust. They basically recognize they are experiencing similar emotions.
Of course, each narcissist will test the other at times, testing the limits of their friendship. This is merely to maintain an established balance between the two; the relationship can only work if nobody ends up constantly “on top.”
Instead of being repelled by the other’s arrogance and ego-driven personality, the narcissist admires those qualities they see in themselves.
Part of the rapport between narcissists is that, deep down, they both realize what they need from each other—in short, protection. That is, because narcissism is fueled by a lack of self-esteem and diminished self-awareness, each party in the friendship needs to protect that vulnerable space within themselves. Thus, they tend to boost each other’s self-confidence rather than tear it down.
They respect each other’s life strategies, so this removes the element of conflict from the friendship, as well as opens up the possibility for trust. Indeed, many narcissistic friendships will grow incredibly close as they begin to see the world through the lens of “us versus them.” It’s the superior and always right “us” against the rest of the small-minded and inferior world.
Letting Down Defenses
As the relationship between two narcissists develops over time, they will likely be able to fully disengage a lot of their arsenal when around the narcissist friend. In fact, once the jostling for superiority and massaging of egos are dropped, then the narcissists themselves are fairly easygoing.
Their friendship is quieter, and their behavior more docile around each other than you’d ever suspect.
Now that the narcissist isn’t threatened by exposure—the narcissist friend doesn’t want to be exposed, either—they are free to relax into the relationship. The narcissist has the other narcissist’s back. And, lest we forget, they each harbor sensitive information about the other, so they have equal power in the relationship.
I’ve seen narcissistic friendships that appear to be as deep and true as any I’ve witnessed. Friends who can finish each other’s sentences. Friends who monopolize each other’s time to the exclusion of everyone else.
Friends who can work together, play together, travel together without conflict. It may be the only time a narcissist really lets down their guard.
Still, because another hallmark of narcissism is the quick onset of boredom, some narcissistic friendships don’t last. If the game isn’t intriguing enough to hold one or the other’s attention, then they will often drift apart.
Each has to demonstrate their value to the other; otherwise, the narcissist reckons, it’s not worth their time.
Do You Have a Narcissist Friend?
All of this may have you worried: “I have a narcissist friend! Does this mean I’m a narcissist, too?” Well, this depends on how you might rate yourself in terms of your own narcissistic tendencies.
Basically, if you have a narcissistic friend, there are a couple of ways in which that might reflect upon you.
On the one hand, you may score fairly high on the narcissism scale yourself. If you are truly concerned, check out the Narcissistic Personality Inventory to see if you might fit the definition. Most of us display some narcissistic tendencies, but few of us are true narcissists.
If you feel that you are not a narcissist, consider the other possibility, which is that you are a forgiving person who tends to see the best in people. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as you are cautious with your narcissistic friend and protect yourself from emotional harm.
Most of us derive our quality of life, in part, through our family and friendship bonds; be sure that you are engaged in mutually fulfilling ones.
While narcissists have a difficult time forging lasting bonds with people, they do find themselves drawn to other narcissists. These relationships can be more fruitful and less antagonistic because there is an unstated understanding between the two narcissists, as well as less conflict and a mutual acceptance of certain behaviors.
They think alike and respect each other’s point of view, where the rest of us might balk at arrogant and selfish behavior. Narcissists can relax with each other, knowing that their weaknesses won’t be exploited or exposed by the other. These attachments can last a long time, as long as boredom doesn’t set in.
Still, it may be possible for narcissists to be friends with non-narcissists. There are people—maybe you are one of them—who do tend to focus on the best in others, forgiving them their quirks and foibles. Just remember to always be vigilant with your narcissistic friend.
If you’re wondering how you might spot narcissism in a friend, check out this post for seven common signs.
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