You might think that narcissistic people love only themselves, like Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in the classic Greek myth, but the very opposite is true. The narcissist usually struggles with profound feelings of shame and low self-esteem. The grandiosity you see, the clamoring for admiration is a way to keep all those painful feelings about themselves at bay. How can I have anything to feel ashamed about when I'm so admired and beloved? To bolster themselves and boost their egos, some narcissists crave admiration and envy; others want you to fall in love with them.
If the narcissist thrives on your desire, he becomes adept as arousing such feelings in you. She can make you feel important and valued, lavishing her affection so you'll feel special. He might bring thoughtful little gifts, pay compliments and devote himself to your pleasure in bed. (Think Dennis Quaid seducing Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge.) The narcissist strokes your ego and coddles you, sowing the seeds of your love. I don't mean to suggest that this behavior is always conscious and intentional. Narcissists deceive themselves about their true emotional motivations, often believing they've genuinely fallen in love.
What the narcissist desires is the perfect kind of romantic love that seems like the answer to everything. Falling in love can feel like a drug, the most wonderful drug we humans know because it temporarily blinds us to our own faults and imperfections, to the dissatisfactions we may feel in other areas of our lives. It makes us feel as if we're the center of the universe and we've got it all. Nothing feels better ... while it lasts.
Perfect romantic love never does last, of course. Under the best conditions, it evolves into something more realistic and lasting, where two imperfect people discover one another's virtues and faults, grow to appreciate the goodness in each other but also to accept the disappointments.
True narcissists can't tolerate such an experience. To be "real" with their partners means they must have a more authentic relationship with themselves, too, and with the shame and low self-esteem they so desperately want to evade. So when romantic love begins to fade under the pressure of reality, especially if the partner begins to find fault, the narcissist falls "out of love."
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