It might seem odd that narcissists would stay with a partner when they’re only focused on their own needs and they’re likely to cheat on that partner. They also don’t seem to treat their partners with love, and if they do genuinely feel love for them, they don’t express it well. So, why exactly would they stay with a partner?
Narcissists need a steady flow of narcissistic supply and a romantic partner is a good source of that. Additionally, a narcissist’s partner can give them prestige and raise their status in the eyes of the world. That’s why narcissists only leave when their partner no longer serves their needs.
If you’re involved with a narcissist romantically, you really need to understand the motivation behind how they will treat you. It’s important so that you can protect your own emotional and psychological wellbeing. Let’s examine just why a narcissist might stay with you and how they will treat you if they do.
Why Do Narcissists Choose to Stay with a Partner?
A romantic partner to a narcissist represents a steady flow of adoration and support for their needs as well as a great way to enhance their status. The latter is part of the reason why many narcissists seek out accomplished, good-looking partners.
They make them look better to friends and colleagues. Additionally, as with anything else in the narcissist’s life, a spouse becomes an extension of their own identity. They expect them to cater to their needs, even to the exclusion of their own needs and goals in life.
Moreover, narcissists can’t accept failure, and that means they also don’t want to be seen as a failure in marriage. They certainly won’t take any responsibility if that does happen, but they work to ensure it doesn’t because they don’t want others to think they failed somehow.
Once a narcissist finds and marries someone, they now also have that constant source of narcissistic supply. Of course, as their partner, having to constantly validate them eventually gets old, and that validation is never reciprocated.
That makes it inevitable that the narcissist’s partner will begin to fail them whether it be because of the narcissist’s unrealistically high expectations or because they’re simply tired. When that happens, the narcissist begins devaluing their partner.
Over time, the constant criticism and shift in the narcissist’s behavior frequently cause the partner to leave. If they don’t, however, the narcissist will likely begin to cultivate other so-called backup sources of supply.
They start having affairs as a way to ensure that if you leave they will still have an intact source of narcissistic supply. If the narcissist then decides they no longer need their partner, they may discard them.
How Does a Narcissist Treat Their Romantic Partners?
A romantic relationship with a narcissist goes through distinct stages. The first is the idealization stage. This is where they are intensely interested in everything you do.
They seem very supportive and loving at this point, but they are also learning all about you. Do they genuinely want to know about you? Maybe, but it’s also true that they frequently use what they learn about you against you later on.
If you express any fears, which is normal to do with someone you’re building a close relationship with, they will remember and use them against you at some point. They also use them to manipulate you into doing what they want.
The problem with the idealization stage of a relationship with a narcissist is that they develop unrealistic expectations of their partner. They see you as an extension of their own identity, and as such, they have the expectation that you will be able to intuit their needs and respond immediately or before they themselves know they need something.
One woman I know talked about how her narcissistic husband would expect that she could tell when he was becoming sick. He expected this even before he had any obvious symptoms or expressed them to her. He told her she wasn’t paying enough attention to him and that’s why she didn’t see that he wasn’t feeling well.
It’s an unrealistic expectation given that he’s expecting her to know his unexpressed feelings. In other words, he’s expecting her to read his mind. His implication was that if she truly loved him, she would be able to do this regardless of what was going on with her.
When the narcissist’s partner begins to disappoint them, this is when the devaluation stage begins. Criticism becomes normal, and this can eventually lead to a discard.
What is the Narcissist’s Discard Like?
If the narcissist discards their partner, it is often sudden and with little explanation. This frequently causes the romantic partner to seek an explanation, or at least, closure. The narcissist usually won’t give them that just to keep them hanging on.
It makes the narcissist feel powerful and superior when an ex can’t seem to let go. For them, it boosts their self-esteem and makes it seem like they are so great that their ex just can’t give up. But there’s another reason the narcissist wants to keep their ex hanging on.
It’s also common for a narcissist to come back into your life, sometimes even years after they broke the relationship off. Part of what they do is cycle through people. When one person disappoints them or they get bored of them, they will move on to someone else.
Then when they eventually tire of their new victim, they may move back to the ex. By that time, particularly if you never got closure, you might be receptive to having them come back. Moreover, when they come back, narcissists re-enter the idealization stage of a relationship where they turn the charm on.
If you take them back, however, it’s likely you’ll go through the same thing you did before. Narcissists rarely change because they can’t take responsibility for their actions. It’s extremely important that you realize you can’t change them.
You can’t love them enough or say the right words that will make them change. They have a personality disorder, and without long-term therapy, they are unlikely to truly change.
How Do Narcissists Feel in Their Relationships?
When you’ve been around a narcissist, it’s common to wonder if they have feelings of love for you or for anyone. It can seem as though they don’t really care about the people around them, particularly given the way they treat them.
Of course, narcissists are humans, and so they have feelings. The problem is they have difficulty expressing those feelings, particularly if they make them feel vulnerable. Intimacy makes them feel vulnerable because it risks exposing their true, flawed self.
That means that whatever they might truly be feeling, they are unlikely to reveal it even to their romantic partner. There is also a difference in how vulnerable narcissists feel versus grandiose narcissists.
Vulnerable narcissists are more difficult to spot because they don’t have the outward grandiose behaviors most people associate with narcissism. They feel the same way inside – they want attention and external validation – but they use more subtle methods to get those needs met.
Research has shown that vulnerable narcissists are more insecure in their attachment to loved ones than grandiose narcissists. This causes the vulnerable narcissist to display more negative traits with their emotional reactivity, and they have more negative and intense emotions when they are rejected.
Grandiose narcissists, on the other hand, have what is called a more deactivated pattern of emotional reactivity. Instead of intense, negative responses, they simply exhibit less positive emotional reactions. This clearly affects how each style of narcissist communicates their emotions to partners and other loved ones.
In both cases, however, it’s likely that partners and close loved ones won’t feel loved in the same way they would experience that emotion from a healthy person. This is why many partners of narcissists will say that they never felt loved when they were with that person.
Being the partner of a narcissist is difficult at best. While the narcissist will want to keep you around as long as you’re giving them what they need, they won’t make you feel loved. You’ll need to get genuine emotional support from other people in your life if you want to stay with the narcissist. If the narcissist does feel like they’ve gotten everything they can from you or if they feel bored, they will often discard you suddenly and with little explanation.
If you are romantically involved with a narcissist, you need to understand why they fear intimacy so much. This article has some great information that can help you understand what’s going on in their mind. You’ll want to watch it to gain more insight into why they behave the way they do.
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