Narcissistic Relationships

Narcissistic Relationships

They’re afraid of making waves or mistakes and being authentic. Used to seeking external validation, many become pleasers, pretending to feel what they don’t, and hiding what they do. By reenacting their family drama, they believe their only choice is to be alone or give up themselves in a relationship.

Often adult children of narcissistic parents are depressed, have unacknowledged anger, and feelings of emptiness. They may attract an addict, a narcissist, or another unavailable partner, repeating the pattern of emotional abandonment from childhood.

Healing requires recovery from codependency and overcoming the toxic shame acquired growing up in a narcissistic home.

Related: How Parents Create Narcissistic Children

Partners of Narcissists

Partners of narcissists feel betrayed that the considerate, attentive and romantic person they fell in love with disappeared as time went on.

They feel unseen and lonely and long for emotional connection. In varying degrees, they find it difficult to express their rights, needs, and feelings and to set boundaries.

The relationship reflects the emotional abandonment and lack of entitlement they experienced in childhood. Because their boundaries weren’t respected growing up, they’re highly sensitive to criticism and defenseless to narcissistic abuse.

As their relationship progresses, partners admit feeling less sure of themselves than they once did. Uniformly, their self-esteem and independence steadily decline. Some give up their studies, career, hobbies, family ties, or friends to appease their partner.

Occasionally, they experience remembrances of the warmth and caring from the person with whom they first fell in love—often brilliant, creative, talented, successful, handsome, or beautiful.

They don’t hesitate to say that they’re committed to staying in the relationship, if only they felt more loved and appreciated. For some people, divorce is not an option.

They may be co-parenting with an ex, staying with a spouse for parenting or financial reasons, or they want to maintain family ties with a narcissistic or difficult relative. Some want to leave but lack the courage.

Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissists use defenses to hide their deep and usually unconscious shame. Like bullies, they protect themselves through aggression and by wielding power over others.

Malignant narcissists are maliciously hostile and inflict pain without remorse, but most narcissists don’t even realize they’ve injured those closest to them, because they lack empathy. They’re more concerned with businesswoman flipping off businessmen eating perceived threats and getting their needs met.

Consequently, they aren’t aware of the hurtful impact of their words and actions. For example, one man unbelievably couldn’t understand why his wife, whom he had long cheated on, wasn’t happy for him that he had found joy with his paramour.

It was only when I pointed out that most women wouldn’t be pleased to hear that their spouse was enjoying sex and companionship with another woman that he suddenly grasped the error of his thinking. He had been blinded by the fact that he’d unconsciously sought his wife’s blessings because his narcissistic mother never approved of his girlfriends or choices.

Related: 19 Signs You Were Raised By a Narcissistic Mother or Father

Narcissistic abuse can include any type of abuse, whether physical, sexual, financial, mental, or emotional abuse. Most often it involves some form of emotional abandonment, manipulation, withholding, or other uncaring behavior.

Abuse can range from the silent treatment to rage, and typically includes verbal abuse, such as blaming, criticizing, attacking, ordering, lying, and belittling. It may also include emotional blackmail or passive-aggressive behavior. 


Not many narcissists enter therapy unless they’re pressured by a partner or suffer an extreme blow to their image or self-esteem. 

However, even if the narcissist refuses to get help or change, your relationship can markedly improve by changing your perspective and behavior.

In fact, learning about NPD, raising your self-esteem, and learning to set boundaries are just a few of the many things you can do to significantly better your relationship. 

©Darlene Lancer 2017

Written by Darlene Lancer JD, MFT
Originally appeared on

Narcissistic Relationships
Narcissistic Relationships
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Narcissistic Relationships

2 thoughts on “Narcissistic Relationships”

  1. Tell me, how often do you get contacted by a parent thinking they are being subjected to narcissism by their child?

  2. Hi Darlene
    thank you for your article
    i went through a living hell with my ugly ex husband, the complete and utter narcisist
    he tried to ruin my life
    he tried to alienate me from my own born children
    he failed in that regard
    20 years of hell
    no thanks
    he cheated countless times and ignored me
    left me feeling worthless
    i got fat
    never wanted to leave my home
    he threatened me all the time
    I had him thrown in jail
    it worked for a while after that
    he kicked me out the house for talking to a school friend of mine
    i never went back , he has my kids, i see them whenever i can
    i miss them terribly
    i never thought I would be without them
    they my everything
    he always siad that if i left, he would keep my own kids away from me
    he didnt succeed
    its been a little over a year since i got let out of ‘jail’
    i run my own business
    its doing quite well
    i started running on the street to control my anger and ended up losing 23 kilograms, now im back to my normal size
    i met a super wonderful amazing man who is nothing like my ex nar
    its only up from now on

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