Narcissists as Friends and Lovers: Can They Go the Distance?

Narcissists who are especially effective at winning the affection and praise of others may also leave a trail of broken relationships behind them once they’ve been found out. A narcissist wants new conquests to believe that it was he or she who had been the "victim" or the "wounded party" in any previous break-ups. They will lavishly embellish their own good qualities as they enthusiastically vilify their exes.

Narcissists Need Friendships Until Friendships Get Real

Being a narcissist’s sidekick isn’t a lot of fun, either. It’s exhausting when you have to play the role of sycophant or superfan whenever you’re together. Narcissists don’t understand that friendships are not built on master/lackey or superstar/superfan models. They cannot appreciate or master the relaxed, natural flow of “give-and-take” interactions that are characteristic of genuine friendships. It’s not that a narcissist wants to alienate potential friends; in fact, she might even not realize what she’s doing.

Narcissists often expect their “friends” to be willing to shine the spotlight on the narcissist, no matter how stellar their own performance or personality might be. The chief job of a narcissist’s friend is to make everyone else think the narcissist looks good—even if the narcissist really doesn’t. It requires friends to learn to stuff down their own need for recognition or attention in order to keep the light shining on their narcissistic friend. It is absolutely normal for friends to grow weary of this level of responsibility in the friendship.

Narcissists Are Loyal Only to Themselves

Narcissists have difficulty maintaining genuine relationships with partners or friends. To actively engage in an authentic relationship requires that one is able to let down one’s guard and be open and honest. Narcissists are terrified of being seen as imperfect, as that would crack open the image that they try to project as superhuman. True narcissists, not just those with some narcissistic qualities, are highly unlikely to have normal, easygoing, give-and-take friendships because most people would not have the stamina necessary to continuously pump up the ego of their narcissist friend. Narcissists suck a lot of energy out of the people who try to befriend them—enough praise is never enough.

Long-Term Prognosis of a Relationship with a Narcissist

In healthy relationships, people make room for a partner’s mistakes. However, when you’re involved with a narcissist, the blame for any bump in the road or misunderstanding falls on you. Narcissists are unable to accept ownership or responsibility for any relational issues or personal problems. Narcissists blame others for their own failings—their ego is so fragile that they cannot tolerate any threat to their self-esteem. Romantic partners of narcissists run the risk of beginning to accept that they are less than their partners and may begin to belittle themselves and accept a partner’s criticism as deserved, whether it really is or not.

The Narcissist and the Co-Dependent Partner

Sadly, the individuals who are willing to remain in relationships with narcissists are probably in co-dependent, not interdependent, relationships with their partners. Narcissists need partners whom they feel serve as positive reflections on themselves. They crave control over partners in a variety of ways. These might include what a partner wears, how a partner speaks, who a partner spends time with, and so on. As narcissists tighten control over a partner’s self-expression, their partners might begin to push back, and this is when narcissists lose their cool and their fear takes hold. The relationship may become a yo-yo—the partner tries to get some distance but is sucked back into the old patterns. This can go on until the narcissist grows tired of the partner or the partner no longer serves his needs.

If you feel that you’ve been drawn into a relationship with a narcissist, you may want to create some clear-cut personal boundaries. Take time to objectively observe your interactions with your partner and determine whether or not the relationship is meeting your needs, not just those of your partner.

Personality
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Who is the real “crazy ex” when a narcissist’s relationship falls apart?
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