In A Relationship With A Narcissist? The 6 Narcissistic Love Patterns To Look For

Updated December 19, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people may find themselves in relationships with partners who have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or display narcissistic behaviors. Studies have found that narcissistic personality disorder is prevalent in the US. While finding yourself in a relationship with a narcissist may be somewhat common, it isn’t easy or healthy for you. Here are six narcissistic love patterns and other behaviors to look for and what you can do to keep yourself safe.

Troubled Relationships: How To Spot A Narcissist

Even though people with NPD may be good at hiding their condition, common traits can give them away. If you are trying to spot a narcissist, look for the following:

Grand Sense Of Self-Importance

Narcissists often believe they are unique and superior to others, which may be why they have such a profound lack of empathy. They feel too good for ordinary things and often expect others to recognize their importance and superiority.

Sense Of Entitlement

In addition to being self-important, narcissists tend to have a sense of entitlement. They may expect to be treated better than others and believe they have a right to get whatever they want. Failure to have this entitlement fulfilled is often met with outrage and aggression.

Needs Constant Admiration

Are You In A Relationship With A Narcissist?

With narcissists' inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement, they may need constant admiration and excessive attention. They will go out of their way to surround themselves with people who will fulfill this need.

Demeans, Belittles, Or Intimidates Frequently

Narcissists tend to be easily jealous and threatened by individuals who have something they lack, such as money or status, or those who challenge them. Their response to threats is to put the other person down, display extreme anger, and employ manipulation tactics, often in a dismissive or condescending way. It may even get to the point where they resort to bullying and violence to reduce the threat and restore their sense of superiority.

Guilt-Free Exploitation Of Others

Lack of empathy is one of the main traits of narcissistic personality disorder. Because people with narcissistic tendencies cannot identify with others’ feelings, it’s common for them to treat others as objects rather than human beings. They may be quick to take advantage of someone if it means they can achieve their objectives.

The Narcissistic Relationship Cycle

Most relationships with a narcissist or a person with narcissistic tendencies follow a specific cycle with stages: namely, idealization, devaluation, and discard. These stages are defined by how they treat their partner to get what they want from them.

Idealization Stage

Idealization is somewhat common with NPD. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, in the beginning, they will often say things like, “You’re my soulmate,” or “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.” This stage can last weeks or months. Narcissists may advance the relationship quickly, and the object of their affection may feel like they are being put on a pedestal.

Devaluation Stage

Devaluation is another relationship stage common with NPD, When the initial infatuation begins to wane, the narcissist’s true personality may start to shine. They may subtly or overtly devalue their partner, using tactics like withdrawing affection, gaslighting, or withholding emotional or physical intimacy. They may still show affection but will attempt to chip away at their partner’s confidence. 

Discard Stage

Once the narcissist no longer gets the same emotional high from their partner, the insults may worsen, and the narcissist may work to ensure they become the “winner” in the relationship. When their partner asks for compromise, empathy, or honesty or begins to set boundaries, the narcissist will likely discard their partner as they no longer give them the emotional high they need.

Narcissistic Love Patterns

Narcissists may also follow common love patterns, which can be seen in both the idealization and devaluation stages of narcissistic relationships. If you suspect that your partner is a narcissist, here are some of the common narcissistic love patterns to watch out for.

1. Love Bombing

Love bombing is essentially a form of romantic manipulation. It occurs when you first get into a relationship, and your new partner constantly gives you extravagant displays of affection. The narcissist will bombard their partner with affection to gain love and trust. This behavior often triggers an attempt to match the intensity of commitment in the relationship, even though the relationship is still relatively new. Common signs of love bombing may include:

  • They always say just the right thing.

  • The relationship feels flawless; it doesn’t feel real.

  • They are quick to say, “I love you.”

  • Everything is grand and over-the-top.

  • They live to be the hero.

  • They treat other people poorly.

2. Laser Focus on You

In the initial stages, a narcissist may be in constant communication with their partner, texting and calling frequently. They want to know everything about the person they’re with, including all the bad things they’ve gone through. At first, their partner may think it’s nice that someone wants to get to know them; however, a true narcissist doesn’t feel empathy and often asks about hard times for purely selfish reasons. If they can provide solutions, they’ll look like a hero; gathering this information also gives them things to bring up later in the relationship to help tear down their partner.

3. Subtle Warnings

Narcissists know who they are and what they are doing. They’ll often give subtle warnings, but because they are intertwined with other compliments and acts of affection, these comments can be easy to miss. They may say things like, “You’re too good for me,” or “You deserve better.” Their partner may just think they are being cute. But the reality is that these simple phrases are often subtle warnings. 

4. Seeking Sympathy Through Vulnerability

Once a narcissist knows their partner is committed to the relationship, they may slowly chip away at their self-esteem and confidence. The narcissist may begin to tell stories of their own life, stories that may be painful or traumatic in which they are always the victim. Showing themselves in a vulnerable position helps them strengthen their partner’s trust. If their partner is empathetic, they will likely want to help the narcissist fix the hurt they are feeling, pulling them deeper into the relationship and setting them up with a difficult task.

5. Deflecting Responsibility

Narcissists usually have the opinion that nothing is their fault. Whether it is their behavior or something that happened to them, a narcissist will likely never admit that they are wrong. They often deflect responsibility back onto their partner, convincing them that their reaction is the problem, not the narcissist’s behavior.

6. They Pull Away and Come Back Again Repeatedly

Narcissists put their partners on a pedestal at the beginning of the relationships; then, they may suddenly become distant, disappearing for long stretches at a time. This behavior may make their partner try to figure out what they did wrong and try to make things right so the relationship can return to the way it was. Then, things may go back to how they were until the next time. A true narcissist may do this repeatedly to keep their partner addicted to them, making it difficult to take the necessary steps to move on and leave the relationship.

Are You In A Relationship With A Narcissist?

What To Do If You’re In A Relationship With A Narcissist

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be extremely challenging. Getting your narcissistic partner to admit that there is a problem or that therapy could benefit the relationship will likely be a difficult task. This is primarily due to their lack of empathy and inherent reaction to deflect responsibility. However, you don’t have to struggle with the complex emotions of being in a relationship with a narcissist alone. Talking with someone who won’t judge your decision to be with your partner, such as a licensed therapist, can help you process your emotions and build mental resilience. 

Online therapy has many benefits for people dealing with symptoms of anxiety or depression from trying to manage their relationship with a narcissist. If you are considering treatment but are overwhelmed by the idea of trying to find someone close by who has an open appointment slot, sign up with BetterHelp. You’ll be matched with a licensed therapist that you can talk to from anywhere with an internet connection, and because so many therapists are available online, you won’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. 

Studies have shown that online therapy can help people deal with difficult emotions arising from an at-risk relationship. In a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, researchers found that online therapy was a successful technique for counseling couples in distress and the individuals in those relationships. The report laid out several issues with being in an unhealthy relationship, including personal mental health problems, and also addressed the fact that those in distressed relationships often do not seek treatment. Researchers state that online therapy is a useful method of getting around the barriers that keep couples from seeking therapy, including cost, geographical, and time limitations.

Counselor Reviews

“Jeffrey Owen has a wealth of knowledge and experience. He is clearly skilled in his guidance, enabling me to understand the complexities of narcissism and the impact of such lifelong abuse; that I had not fully understood. Reading on the subject matter is useful, but having counseling to explore in a different way is empowering for a survivor like myself. So thank you Jeff.”

“Cameron has helped me navigate some incredibly challenging things within my relationship. With his help I’ve developed confidence to be a more assertive person. Therapy had helped me understand myself and my partner much better, in addition to implementing practices and taking action to improve a situation whereas I otherwise may feel stuck or hopeless. I really loved that he took the time to get to know me and my history before trying to “tell me what to do.” I feel like he really understands how my mind operates and therefore can give great, valuable advice, in addition to being a comforting sounding board.”

Takeaway

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. You can quickly feel alienated from friends and family, making it that much more difficult. Talk to a licensed counselor to start working through how you are feeling and to help you learn healthy coping techniques and boundaries for your relationships.

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