By definition, a narcissist is a person who has an excessive interest or admiration of themselves. It’s an extreme self-involvement to the degree that it makes a person ignore the needs of those around them.
Of course, all of us have the capacity to have certain narcissistic behavioural tendencies from time to time, but in the case of a true narcissist—they frequently disregard others or their feelings. They also don’t have the understanding of how their behaviour affects others.
Does that mean that narcissists are mentally ill? Well, narcissism is a personality trait, but it could also be part of a larger personality disorder. This diagnosis would, of course, need to be given by a professional, however.
Whatever the case may be, loving a narcissist can be very difficult, emotionally taxing, and miserable. But the truth is, oftentimes our heart overrides our head. When you’re in love with a narcissist, it may be difficult to see the forest from trees, unable to imagine a life without them. This is very real, even for those whose patience is tested on a regular basis, and those who take knocks from their partner all too often.
What is the True Cost of Loving a Narcissist?
For a narcissist, there are many things that become an obsession. One of which is financial control, security, and stability.
A narcissist may hide their assets during a divorce, or even charge you for things that seem ridiculous, such as giving you a ride to the store. They too love to spend extravagantly, and they may or may not fit the bill. For example, when you go out for meals, do they opt for a glass of wine or the most expensive bottle of champagne?
Narcissists also find great importance in brands and want the best of everything. Many narcissists opt for one specific expensive brand, which means that they’ll be unsatisfied with anything else you may buy them. This reliance on brands feeds their ego and contributes to their self-worth. That, in addition to them not feeling empathy for others, means that you may be paying for their lavish lifestyle—a lifestyle that they often want to boast about on social media.
Narcissists are never generous with their own money and expect others to cater to them. They believe that they truly deserve everything they demand. Another form of financial abuse is when a narcissist convinces you to take out loans. This would then not affect their credit score but rather, their partner’s.
Loss of Self-Worth
Narcissists have the capacity to make you feel as though you’ve completely lost yourself. They use a form of brainwashing to make you feel inadequate, and to evoke trust issues, doubt or second-guess yourself.
You may feel as though you’re not good enough, leading to shame and embarrassment, which stops you from reaching out for help. You may believe all the negative things they’re saying about you, thinking that there’s something inherently wrong with you, leading to confusion when it comes to decision making.
Narcissists too will try to derail your goals and aspirations in an attempt to control everything about you.
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, the abuse may make concentrating difficult. This is because the brain releases a surge of stress hormones when you’re traumatised, which affects the hippocampus region in the brain.
This can lead to difficulty in completely everyday tasks, focusing at work or even when you’re watching TV, and experiencing short-term memory loss.
Because narcissists tend to belittle their partners so intensely, it can lead to feelings of unworthiness. If you’re with a narcissist, you may begin punishing yourself because you genuinely believe you deserve punishment.
This can manifest into unhealthy and self-destructive habits such as drinking too much, drug addiction, smoking, binge eating or overspending in an attempt to numb the emotional pain.
The Two Types of Narcissism
When it comes to a narcissist, there are two main types, both of which are a result of how they experienced childhood.
An adult grandiose narcissist was most likely treated as if they were superior or above others during childhood. This behaviour then followed them into their adult life where they like to brag about their achievements and elitism. A grandiose narcissist is usually aggressive, dominant, very self-confident, and tends to exaggerate their importance.
An adult who is a vulnerable narcissist most likely experienced a negative childhood. One where they were neglected or abused. These kinds of narcissists are more sensitive and use narcissistic behaviour to protect themselves from feelings of inadequacy. They thrive when people treat them as if they’re special, and feel anxious when they’re not treated as such.
At the end of the day, however, there is no way to prevent children who have narcissistic characteristics from developing into full-blown narcissists. It comes down to a combination of genes (passed on generational behaviours), environment, and parenting style. Helping them to develop empathy and having positive role models can help however.
What Are the Signs That Your Partner is a Narcissist?
Interestingly, when you first begin dating a narcissist, it may feel like a fairytale. A narcissist is known to compliment their partners constantly, and to reveal heavy emotions fairly early in the relationship (such as saying they love you).
At the beginning of a relationship, they may come on too strong. This is a red flag. But then again, don’t we all love to feel appreciated, to receive compliments, and to believe that we’re amazing?
The most important thing to remember is that real love takes time, and that it needs to be nurtured and grown. “If you think it’s too early for them to really love you, it probably is,” says Rebecca Weiler, a licensed professional mental health counsellor. She goes on to admit that narcissists tend to manufacture superficial connections early on in a relationship.
15 Signs That Your Partner May Be a Narcissist
They tend to talk only about themselves and how great they are
They lash out when you say something they don’t want to hear
They manipulative and control you
They have higher levels of aggression
They have a sense of entitlement
They have a sense of arrogance
They exploit others for their own advantage
They’re obsessed with unlimited success, power, intelligence, or beauty
Is It Possible for Narcissists to Love Others?
Narcissists, unfortunately, do not have the ability to love another person in the way that most people understand love. The way in which they love is antithetical to how non-narcissists love.
They may show you love and act lovingly, but this kind of love is almost always conditional. In other words, they love depending on what they can get in return. This kind of a relationship is usually transactional, toxic, drama-filled, and in some cases, traumatic.
Breaking Up with a Narcissist
With all of the above information, it seems nearly impossible for someone to break up with or divorce a narcissist. Their manipulative, belittling, abusive, and self-serving behaviour often makes partners feel unworthy of leaving, as if they don’t deserve or can’t find better.
If you feel as though you’re with a narcissist, there are some things that you can practice and do that can help remove yourself from the relationship:
Make a conscious decision to tell yourself every day that you deserve better
Make a list of reasons why the relationship is toxic and why you should leave
Write down specific events or examples from the past that are negative
Strengthen your relationship with empathetic friends and family
Build a support network with those who can remind you of reality
Urge your partner to attend therapy
Visit a therapist alone
Try to remove acts of self-blame and know that it is not you
Create a list of things you need, deserve, and desire from future relationships
Create a personal savings account so that you have your own money
Change passwords or delete your accounts, such as social media, bank information etc.
Make sure there is no tracker activated on your devices or car
Don’t be reeled in by sob stories and bad mouthing (manipulation) when you talk about ending the relationship
Realistically assess the situation, and if there is any concern for life-threatening or intense harm when ending the relationship, take it slow and consult a professional
Loving a narcissist can be very intense and negatively impactful for you and your physical, emotional and mental health. We strongly hope that you’ll be able to gain some clarity with this information, and truly see yourself as the amazing, strong, and highly capable individual that you are. So much so, that you find your true love and happiness.