How do you know if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist? Do you find your partner expects a lot from you and nothing you do is good enough? Are they perfecting your behavior or appearance? Do you feel pressure to be perfect or do things their way? Do you feel forced to take on their view while unable to share your own? Do you feel it is always about what you need to do for them and not about you? Are you giving a lot but they still expect more? Is it hard for them to have empathy for you? Can they discard you at your low points? Are conversations about them? Do you question yourself and lose yourself in the relationship? Are you feeling inadequate because you’re not meeting their expectations? Can they cover up the things they do wrong, distort the truth, prove their right, hide their feelings, or walk away to avoid facing things? Do you walk on egg shells around their mood when they’ve had a bad day but cannot talk about it? Do they have a high opinion of themselves, but collapse in a heap and cannot function when life does not go their way? If this sounds right, then you could be in a relationship with a narcissist.
A narcissist expects special treatment, appreciation, admiration, perfect attunement, and feels disappointed when others are not measuring up or supplying them. When they feel empty with no supplies or without admiration, they devalue their relationships and feel their relationship is not satisfying enough for them, so they seek supplies elsewhere. So how do narcissists become this way?
The Narcissistic Parent
According to James Masterson, parents who are narcissistic see their child as extensions of themselves. If the child performs well then the parent feels good about themselves, but if the child does not measure up, the parent feels low. The child feels pressure to be perfect and feels inadequate if they do not get approval from the parent. Yet, they are reprimanded for expressing themselves or showing hurt feelings, so they learn to hide or cover up their emotions because it is a sign of weakness.
Masterson describes the manifest narcissist (known as exhibitionist or grandiose) as being idealized by their parents. They were admired because they met the parents expectations, so the parent felt special or perfect in return. These children were the ‘golden child’, and they could do no wrong. They were able to get away with things because they supplied the parents self-esteem. They never learned to fit within the rules because they were special. Yet, these narcissists often expect others to treat them this way in order to feel special. They become bitterly disappointed when their partner does not put them first, prioritize them, or supply them. They can easily feel that the relationship is not giving them what they need. Therefore, they have unrealistic expectations about what to expect in relationships. They hope that their partner meets all their needs, and they want the relationship to evolve around their needs. They never had to live in accordance with reality or consider others. The world was their oyster, and they want to continue living this way and with the feeling of being entitled to have whatever they want.
How does a narcissist relate to their partner?
A grandiose narcissist expects that their partner will put them on a pedestal, measure up with their expectations, take on their views, do things their way, be perfect, mirror their grandiosity, and provide perfect supplies. Whenever partners do not resonate with their expectations, the narcissist feels empty and deflated because they rely on those supplies to fill them up. They find ways to boost their self-esteem or inflate their grandiosity in order to feel better or escape their emptiness (addictions, porn, affairs, winning sports).
When wounded or criticized by their partner, they will prove how good they are in order to inflate their grandiosity. Often they cover up their inadequate feelings by devaluing partners to prove that they’re right, by forcing their view to be heard, and often by deflecting blame so that others are wrong, rather than listen or take responsibility for their problems. Feeling berated and beaten down, the partner ends up doubting their own thoughts and gives up their view or a mind of their own. Partners soon realize that you do not question narcissist. In worst case scenarios, many victims of narcissistic abuse actually take on the views of the narcissist and lose their own sense of self in order to keep the peace.
The grandiose narcissist often complains that others do not value them, support their view, or give them what they want. They easily feel bored due to the empty self and seek constant stimulation or excitement. Yet, they accuse their partner of being boring and unexciting when they are not giving them supplies. They easily replace partners and justify affairs since they feel they deserve a more satisfying partner. Effectively, they feel more important than others and that the same rules do not apply to them.
The grandiose narcissist becomes the master of getting supplies by saying whatever others want to hear in order to win them over and by fake acting to appear to be the man of their partner’s dreams. They work out what others want in order to get what they want from them. Love is about making them feel gratified not about the other. Eventually, they will discard partners who do not fulfill their supplies or who expose who they really are. They will devalue and cut off from the relationship and then feel hurt. They cut off from their emotions by creating a wall of self-protection, so they never feel vulnerable or get close to anyone. They are extremely envious of others and will cut them down to be above them. They will devalue you if you rise above them.
Can you resolve a relationship with a narcissist?
The question is: can you repair a relationship with a narcissist? Can therapy help? First of all, you need to determine if they’re covering up who they really are by fake acting to win you over or do they genuinely want to work on themselves? Are they play acting to be the victim by deflecting blame or not owning up to their mistakes? Are they still seeking supplies or coming to terms with their real self — a self that is not perfect or above others? Often narcissists want their partner back in order to get supplies so they can feel good, not because they care or want to have a reciprocal relationship. They can lure partners back in, after discarding them, by charming them and finding out what they want and then portraying what they need, in order to get them back.
Be careful you are not being fooled by a false persona and listen to yourself. Many will say you cannot have a relationship with a narcissist, and you should have no contact. The exception would be for those who have crashed, stopped getting supplies, and who are facing the deflation of their grandiosity. Few come into therapy on their own merit, but they do when they realize that they cannot live according to their grandiose self and must start living according to their real impaired self, which feels flawed for not being perfect.