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Monday, May 22, 2017

A Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner: Where Did the Love Go?

I've written prior articles about being in a relationship with a narcissistic romantic partner or spouse, including: A Relationship with a Narcissistic Person Can Have a Negative Impact on Your Self Esteem,  Coping Strategies For Being in a Relationship with a Narcissistic PartnerHow Narcissism Begins at an Early Age, and Narcissism: An Emotional Seesaw Between Grandiosity and Shame
In this article, I'm addressing a particular aspect of being in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic traits, which is how a relationship can start as a whirlwind romance and end with a thud.

A Relationship With a Narcissistic Partner: Where Did the Love Go?

As I've mentioned before in other articles, I usually don't think of people in terms of diagnosis (see my article: Psychotherapy: You're Not Defined By Your Diagnosis).  So, although I do believe that everyone is an individual, there are certain general recurring patterns that tend to occur when you get involved with someone who has strong narcissistic traits.

The Whirlwind Romance
Many people who have narcissistic traits can be very romantic at the outset of the relationship.  They might wine and dine you and sweep you off your feet before you even realize what's happening.

A Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner: Where Did the Love Go?

This is a very heady, romantic time for both people involved.  They will put you on a pedestal.  Often, they will treat you like you're the most special person that they've ever been in a relationship with--they've never felt this way before about anyone else.

The relationship is very exciting at this stage and the sex is usually passionate.

Taking the Relationship to the Next Level
Soon after that, they might tell you that the two of you should move in together or plan a wedding.  You might be surprised, but since every seems to be going so well, you might think, "This was meant to be!"

A Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner: Fantasizing About a Wedding

You might find yourself looking at wedding dresses and looking at wedding venues online.

After a While, They Become Less Available
In most relationships where things are going well, some of the passion might wear off, as is normal, but the emotional intimacy grows deeper and the relationship becomes more meaningful.

But when you're involved with someone who has narcissistic traits, this is when things start to go south:  Your partner is less available.  S/he might start cancelling dates because of other pressing matters at work.

At this point, you definitely get the sense that something has changed and you are right.  What has changed is that your partner has started to get to know you better.

You're no longer that idealized person in his or her imagination--you're a real person that has flaws as well as strengths, as does everyone.

But to the person with narcissistic traits, you're no longer as attractive as s/he imagined you to be.  S/he wants the idealized person that was in his or her imagination--not the real person.  And therein lies the problem.

The person who has strong narcissistic traits is often incapable of having a mature relationship once the heady romantic time is over and reality hits.

Generally speaking, people with narcissistic traits often don't understand this about themselves, so rather than taking responsibility for their own shortcomings in this area, they often blame you:  "You're not the person that you led me to believe that you were" or you will probably blamed in some other way.

Soon after that, the relationship fizzles out because they are looking for someone new in order to recreate that idealistic, romantic relationship again and you're "old news."

It's very difficult to have closure with your former romantic partner because he or she is already thinking about how to meet the next person or is already infatuated with someone else.

What's Real?
You might be shocked to discover how soon your partner gets involved again.  This can cause you to question what's real.  Did you ex really care about you?

The answer to that question is difficult.

First, people who are highly narcissistic usually lack the capacity to love deeply in a mature way.

As I mentioned earlier, they often get wrapped up in the idea of the romantic relationship and idealize you in a way that makes you seem "perfect."

Since you're perfect in their eyes, this is also indirectly a reflection on them, so they must be "perfect" too, and together you're "perfect couple"--until you're not.

Once you begin to show normal human flaws, you're no longer "perfect" and whatever self-imposed spell your partner was under is gone.

You're no longer desirable or fun or whatever other qualities s/he thought you had before you showed yourself to be a normal human being.

Breakup Anxiety
It can be very disorienting to know that while you're heartbroken and riddled with anxiety about what happened to the relationship, your ex is already out and about looking for the next romantic partner.

Many people who have experienced this question their own sense of reality about what happened and how the relationship went from being so loving to nothing.

Having to deal with this on your own (since your ex probably isn't going to be helpful) creates breakup anxiety, and you can feel very alone with it.

Some people even question their self worth, which can devolve into a depressive episode without professional help.

Getting Help in Therapy
A skilled psychotherapist who is knowledgeable about the patterns involved with this type of relationship can help you to understand what happened, process your feelings, get closure and regain a sense of self confidence again.

So, you're not alone, and rather than struggling on your own, you can seek help from an experienced psychotherapist who has worked with this issue in a way that you can't on your own.

Once you have worked through the emotional pain of this type of breakup, you can lead a more fulfilling life with someone who is emotionally mature and ready for a full relationship and not just a fantasy.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.