Can a narcissist be loyal

Narcissism and partnership: this is how the relationship works

Recognizing narcissistic personality disorder in relationships

Narcissism in a partnership is difficult to spot at first. Those who are freshly in love tend to idealize the other person and gloss over narcissistic behavior. However, if you know that your partner is a narcissist, you can adjust to it better and the relationship has more chance of succeeding.

The transition from “healthy egoism” to pathological narcissistic personality disorder is often fluid. Pathological narcissism manifests itself, for example, when healthy self-esteem turns into overestimation of oneself, the person affected tends to “megalomaniac” fantasies or shows extreme feelings of superiority and need for attention that negatively influence interpersonal relationships.

In addition, there is a lack of empathy, feelings of envy and exploitative behavior. Narcissists often abuse partners and friends as "vicarious agents" for their own needs. Narcissists can be charming and seductive one moment when it serves their purposes, but become aggressive and reproachful the next moment when they feel constrained.

If pathological narcissism and partnership come together, the narcissistic partner will find himself in a constant rollercoaster of attraction and repulsion. On the one hand, he longs for admiration and confirmation in the relationship, but on the other hand he cannot stand too much closeness. That's because he likes to have control and the upper hand at all times. Both threatens to slip away from him if he gets emotionally involved too deeply with another person.

Why narcissism and partnership are so difficult to reconcile

At first glance, narcissists look attractive. They court their partner and make them feel special. However, such a partnership often has no chance in the long term. If people with narcissism are no longer permanently admired by their partner, but also experience rejection or criticism, they cannot deal with it. Sometimes even the smallest signs of rejection - for example, when the non-narcissistic partner would rather have an afternoon nap than talk to the narcissist - are enough to seriously offend the narcissist and cause the first ruptures in the relationship.

Narcissists see their partner as an "extended self"

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are addicted to approval, so to speak. Their own self-esteem is badly damaged and to fill this void they soak up the admiration of others like a sponge. What is particularly valuable to them is the recognition of people who admire and idealize them themselves. Very attractive, seemingly unapproachable people magically attract them because the reward effect is greater after a successful conquest. A narcissist therefore initially raves about his partner and idealizes him on a pedestal.

But he does not see his counterpart as an independent person with his own wishes and needs, but only as an "aid" to feel better about himself. The narcissist brings the partner into his own system, his own world. One speaks here of the “extended self”. This means that narcissists see other people, including and especially their partner, as part of their self and not as an individual personality.

Typical partners of narcissists: The complementary narcissist

At the same time, the non-narcissistic person also embraces these values ​​and behaves accordingly in order to please the narcissist. After all, it's good for everyone to be admired, and especially at the beginning narcissists are not stingy with compliments. Often the partners of narcissistic people are people with low self-esteem, so-called complementary narcissists or co-narcissists. These people hope for recognition, security and the strengthening of their own ego from the partnership.

It is typical for complementary narcissists that they like to selflessly sacrifice themselves for others, that they are used to giving back and giving in to others. They are often loyal and loyal, helpful and sensitive, addicted to harmony and avoidance of conflict. You appear “too nice for this world” and always want to please everyone - except yourself.

As long as complementary narcissists show their partner the desired appreciation and admiration, the relationship works through mutual confirmation - one takes it, the other gives it. This phenomenon is called "narcissistic collusion". Narcissists and complementary narcissists enter into a symbiosis, they merge with one another. The narcissist enjoys the unconditional recognition of his partner and, conversely, the co-narcissist enjoys being with such a grandiose and successful person and shining in his radiance.

When the narcissistic collusion breaks down in the partnership

However, this construct begins to falter as soon as the non-narcissistic partner ceases to serve the narcissist's goals. If the first difficulties manifest themselves in the relationship and the partner no longer fulfills his task of enhancing the narcissist's ego, he is often dropped ice cold. This may be because the narcissist found something supposedly better outside of the relationship.

Anyone with a narcissistic personality disorder is constantly on the lookout for something new, exciting, for adventure and a "kick". It may be that the steadfast love relationship has become too boring for him. But it is also possible that the complementary narcissist gradually rebels and no longer wants to constantly subordinate himself - this, too, leads to relationship problems with narcissists. Another reason narcissists break up is when they feel hemmed in and are afraid that they are losing control of their emotions.

This is how the relationship with a narcissist can succeed

For a relationship to work, the narcissistic partner must learn to treat the other person as an individual and not as an extension of himself. The non-narcissistic partner, on the other hand, learns to strengthen his own self-esteem and autonomy in the relationship. It is important that both partners are willing to enter into a dialogue and redefine their partnership. The respective desires and feelings must be addressed, and both parties must learn to set limits and to avoid mutual manipulation, jealousy or feelings of envy. Because this is often difficult for narcissists, couples therapy can help. However, people with a pronounced narcissistic personality disorder are sometimes unable to lead a healthy relationship even with therapeutic help.

Redefining the relationship as an opportunity for narcissists and their partners

In some cases, however, there is a chance to turn a partnership with a narcissist into an equal relationship. Contrary to expectations, this possibility opens up in the very phase in which the first butterflies in the stomach have disappeared and the narcissist shows his true colors. With the so-called co-evaluation - a dialogue about limits and wishes within the relationship - the non-narcissistic partner can try to strengthen his position in the relationship and make it clear to the narcissist that he is an autonomous being with his own wishes and needs.

Most people, however, only manage to have a functioning partnership despite narcissism if, as a non-narcissistic partner, they have the necessary stability: A healthy self-confidence, intact family structures and a reliable circle of friends outside the relationship are of great help in order not to be around yourself to be absorbed by the narcissist's cosmos and not to be helplessly at the mercy of his whims.

Disclaimer: This text contains only general information and is not suitable for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor. Discuss any individual questions you have about your illness or therapy with your doctor.
For Gisèle Schneider, healthy nutrition and sport are not only important issues in everyday life. For years she has dealt with questions about sports, nutrition and medicine in her articles.
Gisèle Schneider
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