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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Love and the Narcissist

brokenheartfaceOne thing you must realize when you love a narcissist is that your experience is one-sided, as he is incapable of either giving or receiving love.  This concept may be hard to grasp at first, but if you have ever been in a relationship with a narcissist than this theory definitely explains a lot.

If love is not being exchanged in the relationship, then what is?  Anyone who’s ever researched the topic of narcissism has most likely heard of the term “narcissistic supply.” Narcissistic supply is the form of exchange that a narcissist will accept from those he is in a relationship with to gratify his insatiable needs; but this supply is not love, because narcissists are rarely capable of receiving love.

Since people need love to be emotionally healthy, the narcissist is doomed. Because he cannot accept love, he can never actually be connected in a close, intimate relationship with anyone. In the end, this leaves him lonely and empty; he cannot truly thrive in his close relationships, and ultimately this deters him from a quality life.

Of course, since you’re reading this, you probably already figured this out. You have been in a relationship with a person who is elusive and detached and hard to “catch” emotionally. You may be searching the internet to understand why your relationship feels so bad so often. You may be asking yourself if your loved one is a narcissist and you may be wondering if he can change or if there is any hope.

When you try to love or give empathy to your narcissist he will do something maddening to ruin the moment and create emotional havoc. This is intentional because narcissists cannot tolerate love. They cannot receive love because it is threatening to them. They were not properly attuned to as children and as a result their ability to love or be loved was not appropriately developed.  Thus, they will sabotage your attempts at genuine interpersonal connection.

Rather than love, what does a narcissist value in terms of “supply?”  Three things:

  • Admiration
  • Attention
  • Approval

Admiration, attention, and approval are all substitutes for true love.  Narcissists would rather feel special than cared about.

What does a narcissist give in exchange for narcissistic supply?  Three things also:

  • Seduction
  • Manipulation
  • Nothing

Since narcissists need to keep their sources of narcissistic supply around, they have to be clever in how to accomplish this.  Seduction and manipulation are two effective means for obtaining their required supply, and they always need supply because they are continually empty due to the lack of true connections (love) with significant others in their lives.

Once supply has been given, a new day begins. There is no gratitude, satisfaction, or fulfillment.

When supply is not forthcoming, many narcissist’s may also turn to other means of self-soothing, such as addictive behaviors or numbing activities, particularly emotional disengagement.

When a narcissist has a partner who is warm and loving, he will continue to take and take without reciprocating.  Because of this it is important for the partner to set boundaries.
fenceIt may feel counter intuitive, but narcissists do not respect people who continue to be empathic and kind towards them. The nicer you are, the meaner they’ll be. It really is a waste of time to try and please a narcissist because he will only devalue you more if you do.  The best things you can do in a narcissistic relationship is to set healthy boundaries and take care of yourself.

It is rare that narcissists seek treatment for their problems, mainly because they lack insight (one of the typical symptoms of a personality disorder) and also because they don’t feel pain like their partners do. But, if they were to seek treatment, my recommendation would be that in addition to psychotherapy, they also use the “addiction recovery” approach to healing, treating their need for narcissistic supply as an addiction.


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Love and the Narcissist

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2017). Love and the Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 10, 2020, from