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.
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.
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.
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.