Being in a relationship with someone can be an amazing experience unless that person is a self-centered narcissist. People who have narcissistic tendencies are difficult to deal with on their best days. At their worst, they can cause others pain and suffering. Someone who finds themselves dating or in a committed relationship with this kind of person may feel as though they’re the problem and that they have to change in order to please the narcissist and to preserve the relationship. They are convinced that if they can make the narcissist change into a rational, compassionate person if they only try hard enough. Sadly, this is not the truth and many relationships fail because the narcissist is not willing to change and cannot accept changes in others.

What Is Narcissism, Exactly?

Narcissism is often characterized as a high level of self-confidence and a feeling that they are the most important person in the world. Although narcissists seem to be very self-assured and think very highly of themselves, this is only a mask that they wear. The truth is, they actually suffer from low self-esteem and are constantly trying to enhance their internal view of themselves, most often at the expense of others.

When a narcissist begins to lose their self-esteem, it comes out in one of two ways. Sometimes they become severely depressed and exhibit self-loathing and shame. Other times, they devalue others while making themselves seem omnipotent with grand statements about how perfect they are. This usually begins in childhood when a person doesn’t feel as though they’re getting the validation they need and deserve from their parents, teachers, or peers.

Narcissists Despise Other’s Emotions

When a narcissist hurts someone’s feelings or acts in a mean, hateful way towards them they don’t feel anything. In fact, they will often turn the other person’s emotions against them and claim that they are weak, or that they deserve the treatment. They don’t care about anyone’s feelings, except their own, and are prone to repeatedly hurting other people intentionally and unintentionally.

A woman in a relationship with a narcissist asking her husband if ever cares about the feelings of others.
In a relationship with a narcissist can lead to asking this rhetorical question

This lack of emotional empathy makes their partner, children, parents, and anyone else that cares for them feel crazy for being emotional. In fact, this is one of the most common ways that a narcissist dismisses another person’s emotions, by insisting that they are unstable emotionally and mentally. On the other hand, if they are expressing any type of emotion, other people are expected to be comforting, supportive, and non-judgmental.

Narcissists Believe People Are Either Good or Bad

While most people are able to accept that there is both good and bad in everyone, a narcissist is incapable of seeing this. This is something that is usually learned at a young age when parents accept their children for who they are, no matter how imperfect. A person who grows up with parents who treated them as all bad or all good, however, never develops this understanding and is rigid in their thinking.

In a relationship, a narcissist will often define their partner as a wonderful human being that they think very highly of when they’re feeling good. When they’re in a foul mood, or feeling low about themselves, they tend to see their partner as an unworthy, flawed, and useless addition to their lives. This change can happen in a moment and creates an unstable base on which to build a solid, happy, ongoing relationship.

Narcissists Cannot Accept Blame On Any Level
Carmelo Anthony displaying a narcissistic tendency
NBA player Carmelo Anthony displaying a narcissistic tendency

Anyone who has ever had an argument or other altercation with their narcissist partner knows that the blame will always rest on their shoulders. A common narcissistic tendency is to believe that accepting blame is a sign of weakness and therefore it is unacceptable to do so. On the other hand, they have no problem putting all the blame on someone else and expect the other person to take it without question.

This inability to accept any blame means that a narcissist will never apologize for their behavior or the words that they speak. They insist that they have done nothing wrong and that the other person is the reason for their behavior. Even if they can’t say they’re sorry, a narcissist will often try to make up for their behavior by giving small gifts or doing something special for the other person to make up for it. This is, in some ways an apology.

Narcissist Do Not Respect Other People’s Boundaries

A narcissist is certain that they have the right to speak to or treat others any way that they wish. That may mean being verbally or physically abusive if their partner does something that they disapprove of. They may also lash out in violent ways if they feel as though their partner is embarrassing them or otherwise making them look bad. This kind of behavior is never acceptable and has to be stopped before it goes too far.

The reality is, a narcissist has their own boundaries and never let anyone cross them. But, they’re all too willing to do so themselves unless the boundaries are set early in the relationship and firmly protected. If a narcissist begins to berate their new partner and that person doesn’t accept it, the behavior will likely stop. In a long-term relationship, it’s complicated and difficult to set and stick to boundaries, but it is necessary.

Narcissists Seek Relationships, They Need Love Too!

It will never be easy to date or be in a relationship with a narcissistic person. In fact, there are times that it will be downright unbearable and leaving may be the only way to end the agony. However, when a person loves someone, they’re willing to go through hell in order to maintain their connection. It’s important to keep in mind that a narcissist is actually a very fragile human being that has experienced a great deal of trauma. Their childhood was likely not very happy and they often have parents who are less than kind. With a whole lot of love, understanding, and firm boundaries, however, it is possible to have a long-term wonderful relationship with a narcissist without suffering.

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