What Is a Narcissistic Relationship?

Marjorie McAtee

A narcissistic relationship, in which one partner suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, can often be very harmful for the non-narcissistic partner. Narcissistic personality disorder typically leaves its victims unable to cultivate a true inner sense of self, to the point where they depend heavily on the attention of others in order to feel important, unique, and special. As a result, the narcissistic partner in the relationship will generally demand large amounts of time and attention from the other partner, while thoroughly disregarding that partner's needs, desires, and identity. The typical narcissist believes that his partner's sole duty in life is to shower him with attention, whether negative or positive, and to meet all of his needs. The narcissistic relationship can therefore be very draining for the non-narcissistic partner, and can even lead to long-term psychological consequences for that partner, since these relationships typically involve emotional, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse.

Narcissistic people might crave the attention they get from new partners.
Narcissistic people might crave the attention they get from new partners.

Psychologists believe that people with narcissism feel a strong need to be admired, fawned over, praised, and wanted. In a narcissistic relationship, the narcissist will generally demand excessive and unending praise from the non-narcissistic partner. The narcissistic partner will, however, typically remain emotionally distant from the other partner, probably because the narcissist is incapable of experiencing feelings such as empathy or compassion. Validation behaviors on the part of the narcissistic individual in such a relationship generally occur when the narcissist is feeling validated and admired by sources outside the relationship, or when the narcissist begins to fear losing the relationship and the source of constant validation it supplies. Experts believe this dynamic can apply not only to the romantic narcissistic relationship, but also to the filial, professional, or platonic narcissistic relationship.

People with narcissism feel a strong desire to be praised and admired.
People with narcissism feel a strong desire to be praised and admired.

The typical narcissist lacks the ability to self-validate or self-affirm. They are generally very focused on themselves, and unable to recognize or understand the valid needs of others. The interpersonal boundaries of others typically mean very little to them, while their own need for recognition generally takes center stage in their own minds.

A narcissist may be overly competitive with their significant other.
A narcissist may be overly competitive with their significant other.

The demands a narcissist may make on a relationship partner can often, however, extend beyond the emotional. Narcissists often choose relationship partners who possess skills, qualities, or assets that they themselves desire, since they may feel that they can somehow possess a partner's beauty, wealth, accomplishments, or status. Many narcissists, however, cannot perform the necessary daily tasks necessary to function well in society. They will often rely on a partner, friend, or relative to meet these practical needs instead.

A narcissist may enjoy receiving affection but not giving it back.
A narcissist may enjoy receiving affection but not giving it back.
Narcissistic friends tend to dominate conversations.
Narcissistic friends tend to dominate conversations.
In some cases, a narcissist can be a very charming friend or partner, and the victim may have developed a codependent relationship that can take some time to recover from.
In some cases, a narcissist can be a very charming friend or partner, and the victim may have developed a codependent relationship that can take some time to recover from.

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Discussion Comments


Yes this post basically hit home. I've dealt with sociopaths and I will tell you they only look out for themselves.

They will be respectful as long as you give them your soul. Other than that, you will be treated like a piece of garbage or a replaceable tool.

For those of you dating, or in contact with one of these brute-beasts, I'll leave you with this message: get out while you can!


My thoughts on this are that a Narcissistic person can work with others. The most important thing is them becoming aware of the issues and in some way climbing on board to address it. If you are able to identify antisocial and incorrect behaviors and learn to work around your own personal bias, you will begin to change yourself.

The key here is gaining the desire to change and learning the tools to work with others. Often, people who have a natural talent for something do it well, but people who don't have the talent and must learn it to it even better because they are working through the process every time and paying more attention to detail.

Always be able to self evaluate your behavior, and be open minded. This will help.


I just got rid of someone who I believe to be very dangerous, who has been hiding in plain sight for so long. This girl was my son's girlfriend and once the penny dropped and I had some suspicions about her sexual behavior, I was astounded at the events that unfolded. This girl has had no thought of who she told about her sexual encounters, but her reasoning was that if he could not give her the attention she wanted she would look elsewhere.

I was told a story by someone else about her having a bit of a kiss, sex texting and generally being adored by someone who should have known better. I confronted this other person and after a while, he admitted what had been going on.

I was angry and confused, so I called this girl and confronted her with my findings, I may as well have been asking her what the weather was like. I read the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder on the advice of a friend. After the first two lines, I knew these were her personality traits. I read the symptoms and she has all of them. I did the test for myself and was as truthful as I could be and did the test for her knowing or almost how she would answer. My score was 8. Her score was 38! Run for the hills, I think.


So much of this describes the men I have been with, even the ones who were supposed to be just friends.

They want you to want them and will accept you there as long as you're pining and suffering, but try and get happiness for "yourself" and you get the silent treatment for that.

I had more than my share and have never been happier to get away from it.

They will drain you and drag you down in the pits of hell and show no mercy. I do not buy it anymore and will never be the landing pillow to give them comfort, Because these types sure as hell will not return the favor. There is absolutely no "give and take." It's nothing but possession and rejection combined.


Sometimes narcissistic people are so self-conscious that they are afraid to interact with strangers. My friend was like this, and she got her husband to take care of everything that involved talking to another person.

She didn't like dealing with cashiers. She was afraid they would be rude to her or look at her strangely. So, she made him do the grocery shopping.

Even though he worked and she stayed home, she wouldn't go take care of things like paying the electric bill or rent, because that meant she might have to talk to someone she didn't know, and that person might not like her.

Around friends and family, she needed continual confirmation. If they didn't offer her compliments, then she started asking them what they thought of her hair, clothes, and makeup. Even at a funeral home, she would change the subject to herself. It got very tiring for us, and just being around her was a strain.


I had a narcissistic boyfriend for over a year. He was in a band, which I thought was so cool. He had long, flowing hair and a ton of charisma, and I fell under his spell.

I wouldn't have thought that someone like him would have been so needy. He was always asking what I thought of his performance on a certain song, if I liked what he was wearing, and how I thought he should stand on stage.

I admired him fully, and he knew he had my heart. I didn't find out until later on in the relationship that my love wasn't enough to quench his desire for validation. He was cheating on me with any women who complimented him and said they wanted to take him home.


@seag47 – I empathize more with your sister. Some people have told me that I am a narcissist, and maybe that's true, but if a guy falls in love with me anyway, why should he leave me when he knew exactly what he was getting into from the start of the relationship?

My boyfriend was a lot like your sister's boyfriend. He lavished attention on me, and to him, I was the pinnacle of female perfection.

Maybe I didn't feel the same about him, but I liked him enough to keep him around. I fulfilled his deepest wish simply by letting him be my boyfriend. In return, I got the love and admiration I needed.

He broke up with me because he said I was selfish. I told him that I had given him the best gift possible by letting him be my man, and he actually laughed in my face!

I think he should have known how things would be, because I made it clear a long time ago. I guess he hoped he could change me, which I think is crazy, since he professed to love me perfectly.


I felt sorry for my narcissistic sister's boyfriend. I knew how she needed everything to be all about her, and she could never give the love that a healthy relationship requires both partners to give.

He did everything right. He bought her flowers, wrote her poems, and constantly told her how lovely she was.

He was everything that she needed, and though she didn't feel the same way for him, he didn't care. He simply adored her and was grateful that she allowed him to be in her life.

After a couple of years, though, he felt an emptiness inside himself. He knew that his affection wasn't reciprocated, and he was getting tired of my sister's neediness. He broke up with her, and she was devastated for all the wrong reasons.

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