The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
Many people have been through the hell that is a relationship with a pathological narcissist, and something that is on a lot of people's minds is whether or not the narcissist is capable of loving other people. We will explore that here.
The Truth is...
Can narcissists love? The short answer is no. The narcissist does not love you. The narcissist doesn't love anybody, not even themselves. Especially not themselves. This can be hard to hear and a lot of people don't want to believe it, but sugarcoating things is not the right thing to do here.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are likely the only one in the relationship with any genuine feelings for the other person. That's not to say the narcissist has no genuine feelings at all. They do. They just don't have any genuine feelings for you.
We've all heard that old adage, "If you don't love yourself, you can't love anybody else." It may be old but it's also true, and the narcissist is a perfect example of it. They don't love themselves and because of that, they cannot love anyone else. They also can't believe anyone can love them, either (regardless of what they may say to the contrary). Loving a narcissist is the same as loving a character on a TV show. This is not a real person and can never reciprocate. It is of course up to the individual if they choose to pursue a relationship with someone who is likely not capable of loving them back, but they should at least know what they are getting into.
The Reality of The Situation
It's one thing to understand that a narcissistic partner is not able to love you. It's something else entirely to really understand and internalize what this actually means in practical terms. This is not a 'normal' relationship that is respectful and considerate but simply devoid of affection. This is living in a war zone with someone who is actively and purposely trying to sabotage and destroy your life because not only do they not love you, they are pathologically, even obsessively envious of you and everything you have. Why should you have things that they don't have? They endeavor to take those things away from you. If they can't have it, nobody can.
Narcissists are not just cold and empty. They are white-hot infernos of rage, hatred and jealousy. Most of that is actually directed at themselves, but they often project it outward in a vain attempt to get some relief from it. And the people they direct it at are the people closest to them.
The Cold, Hard Facts
Not only does the narcissist not love you, they don't really consider you a person at all. Not in the way they consider themselves to be a person. That's why they behave the way they do. Some people have punching bags that they take their anger and frustration out on. Narcissists often use other human beings this way. This is because they don't see them as people. It's not malicious, exactly. They're just not built that way.
The only reason narcissists get into relationships in the first place is to validate themselves: "If someone loves me, I matter. If someone has sex with me, I matter. If someone cares about me, I matter. If someone pays attention to me, I matter. I exist. I am important." They don't care about sharing their lives, or happy Christmases with the family or what you did at work today or anything like that at all. They would be happiest if you simply did not exist until they needed you to. Again, this in and of itself is not malicious. They just have no real interest in anyone but themselves. They're focused on what they're doing and what they're thinking and what they want. That's basically it.
Of course, you do exist. You have needs and you have goals and plans and things you want to do. If these do not involve the narcissist, the narcissist is not interested. If it does involve the narcissist but the narcissist doesn't want to do it, the narcissist is not interested. There is no give and take in this kind of relationship. There is only take. There's no understanding, no support. It's all about what they need, what they want. Try to take the focus off of that, and there will be very big problems. Nothing you say really matters and nothing you do really matters unless it has to do with the narcissist. This is what the disorder is.
Anyone who has dealt with a narcissist knows these things are the truth. In fact, the truth is really a lot worse than is being stated here. It's not a pretty picture at all. The abuse, the lies, the emotional blackmail, the constant disruption of people's lives, the destruction of their peace, the nonstop creation of disasters and catastrophes, the complete lack of stability, the never-ending drama, the triangulation, the splitting, the irresponsibility, the childishness, the endless arguments over nothing and vicious attacks for no reason, the total lack of respect, the complete disregard for other people's feelings... It's ugly. Dealing with a narcissist is ugly. It's torture.
Narcissists more than likely don't have the capacity to love at all. They can feel infatuated and they can become obsessed, but these things are not love. Narcissists often think they love others, but if you ask them why they love someone or what they love about that person, the answer will often be a list of things the person does for them. It is generally not be a list of things about the person themselves.
For example, a non-narcissistic person might say, "I love my wife because she's so strong" or "I love how my husband is so passionate about things." A narcissist might say things like, "I love her because she makes me feel smart" or "I love the way he gives me stability." It's all about what someone is doing for them. There's no recognition or understanding of the person as an individual. People only matter to the narcissist if they can do something for the narcissist. Once someone's usefulness goes away, the "feelings" the narcissist had for that person usually go away, too. Feelings for others are superficial and really only extend as far as the person relates to the narcissist. Anything beyond that does not matter. To the narcissist, it doesn't even exist. They are like the center of a wheel, and people are the spokes. They see everyone and everything as an extension of themselves in some way or another. Everything flows from them, and toward them. They are the Sun that every other thing revolves around. Not just the brightest star but the only star.
There are many people right now suffering in relationships and holding onto hope that things will change. The reality is, the chances are 1000 to 1. Because of the unique and damaged way they see and relate to other people, it isn't really possible for narcissists to love others. There can only be one Sun. Narcissists are just too focused on themselves and their problems. There is no room for anyone else.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.