I’m asked this question by survivors of narcissistic abuse on an almost daily basis… and my heart goes out to those who continue to hang onto the hope that perhaps the narcissist they are involved with is “different” from the others. After all, we’ve invested so much of ourselves into the relationship… giving them unconditional love, support, and having tolerated bad behavior in an effort to give them a chance to change for the better. Perhaps, love will find a way?
As far as whether or not the narcissist is able to love, we must first understand the understanding, definition, and assumptions about love for an emotionally healthy person is completely different from that of a narcissist.
The Narcissist May Seem to Love You…
They can shower you with words of love. They can make it “look” like love. And they can convince you that what YOU feel is the deepest, truest love.
This all happens in the idealization stage when you are constantly showered with declaration of love and affection… you’ve finally found your soul mate! Everything about you will fascinate the narc and they will love every little part of who you are, what you do, and how you do everything. Your “soul mate” will praise you all day and marvel at how blessed you both are for having so much in common… it’s like you’re the same person. Do you remember that perfect, dream-like stage? It’s the beginning of most narcissistic relationship… a natural thought process and behavior in order to secure a source of supply.
The problem here is, the narcissist isn’t actually seeing you as your own, individual person… but as an object potentially filling a “role” in their fantasy of what they want their life to look like. It’s not genuine admiration for you as your own person… the narcissist is agreeing with the “idea” in his or her head about how perfect you are for that made-up role, but they’re genuinely excited about what they anticipate to gain from your contribution!
Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have experienced some sort of trauma during childhood… most likely before the age of 6; around the age when children still behaved like the world revolved around them with little regard for the needs of others. It’s also the time when kids heavily depend on their primary caregivers to help define their identity and place in this world. This is literally where the narcissist’s emotional age is stuck at. It’s why they are unable to see past their own needs.
The narcissist had this wonderful fantasy in their head that was written in a way so the narc came up appearing successful and admired… and when you were identified as someone who met all the requirements to fill the role, the narc went all in to secure you as their source of everything they need. “You’re everything I could ever want and need…” sounds so romantic and definite, doesn’t it? Except in a narcissistic relationship, this must be taken literally.
The thing is, because the narcissist is unable to see you as your own person, they are unable to acknowledge and appreciate you for who you are. What they were really appreciating and adoring “about” you was how they expected you to provide this fantasy for them. But because it’s impossible to morph into another person’s idea of perfection, the narc begins to see that you’re “not who they thought you were”, blame you for not living upto their expectations… and devalue.
The narc lacks a functioning personality and cannot maintain their own self-esteem and worth. They’re like a leaky bucket… no matter how many times you fill it with water, it will keep emptying out. Without actually repairing the leak (healing their unbearable childhood trauma), they require constant refilling (narcissistic supply). And because they lack a SELF and depend on others to supply their self-esteem and identity… they don’t have anything to give. Sure, they are experts in “mirroring” you… because people naturally give what they themselves want, but because narcs are empty, these acts of reflection are without substance.
Do you remember feeling “empty” after spending time with the narcissist… good or bad? It’s like putting all of your energy into a deflated balloon. Exhausting and pointless.
Do Narcissists Love Their Children?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a very real personality disorder… brain scans of NPDs reveal abnormalities in the area of the brain related to compassion. Their thoughts, emotions, and behavior, unfortunately, extends to the narc’s children (and pets).
First off, younger children usually depend on and worship their parents… these grownups are their heroes! That admiration alone could provide a healthy dose of supply for the narcissistic (or ANY) parent.
However, being the leaky bucket that they are… even that’s not enough.
I’ve witnessed narcissistic parents who appear to always be present and attentive. However, after some observation, their true intentions rise up to the surface – as truth usually does.
The narc-ex in my life did whatever he could to keep peace with his seemingly volatile ex-wife and invested so much time and effort into “making memories” with his kids who he had 50/50 physical custody (and made it a point to always post on social media – supply extracted from those who admired him for being a “great dad!”).
Although his dedication to fatherhood is one of the reasons I was drawn to him, it was later revealed as he was panicking over an altercation with the ex-wife, that “If she gets mad and moves away with the kids, I’ll have to start paying child support.” No mention of how he’ll miss them or needs to be a part of their lives.
So while cute little kids and pets provide narcs with enough distraction to keep them from sitting in their emptiness… while older children can be manipulated for supply or as tools used against the other parent… while being a parent can be used to suck out supply from those who witness the narc’s life… their ability to love and emotionally bond is just the same as with any other human “relationship.”
Superficial and self-serving.