While having a relationship with a narcissist, you can often find yourself questioning if they truly love you or not. Because one moment they’re making you feel special, and then the next one you’re being degraded. Throughout the relationship you keep feeling like “nobody else could love you as much” or “you’ll never be good enough for them”. In the narcissistic relationship cycle, the “idealization phase” and the “devaluation phase” continue following each other until the end of the relationship.
Idealization is like the preparation phase for the manipulation and devaluation that will follow. In time, the course of relationship changes and that loving person leaves its place to a cruel and arrogant one, and the memories of the idealization phase causes the victim to keep justifying the abuse they’re going through. While trying to normalize the bad sides of he narcissist, you can find yourself forming some of the sentences above:
“I know what a good person they actually are, they must be going through a bad time.”
“They’ve been there for me for so many times, I cannot forget that.”
“I’ve seen how much they love me, they must have other things going for them at the moment.”
So, was everything just a game to make you theirs, or did they truly love you at the beginning?
In order to answer that question, we should first explain something called “splitting”. Emotionally healthy people know that a person can have both good and bad qualities at the same time. Therefore, when somebody they love makes a mistake, that doesn’t change their feelings towards that person. On the other hand, people with splitting tend to see everything as black and white. For them, people are either ideal or worthless. They can’t comprehend the fact people can have both good and evil traits. Of course, sometimes everybody can feel that way about certain people especially when they’re stressed out. But for some others, this type of thinking is fixed.
Although splitting is something that’s more related to borderline personality disorder, it’s something that’s seen in narcissism and many other personality disorders as well. Splitting is the reason why a relationship with a narcissist is a constant cycle between idealization and devaluation.
Going back to our question; did they narcissist really love you at the beginning?
If the person in your life is not an antisocial (a psychopath or sociopath) or a malignant narcissist rather than someone who has mere narcissist personality disorder, they’re likely to have felt some genuine feelings at the beginning of the relationship (during the idealization phase). However, these feelings were not exactly directed at you; but the idealized version of you which was created by their imagination. Let me explain:
Narcissists feel the need to be the center of attention, to be accepted and loved almost as if they’re addicted to it. In order to satisfy these needs, they like to have some people around them who could love them unconditionally, to give them their undivided attention and love, people who could become an extension of them. Long story short, they can develop deep feelings for the fantasies they’ve created about people who could satisfy their needs. Then while you’re on cloud nine (because of the idealization phase), at some point they realize that you’re not “perfect” and are unable to satisfy their endless needs, and thus the devaluation phase starts.
As a result; the narcissist loves the way you make them proud in front of other people, they love the way you make them feel good, the way you support them materially and spiritually, they love the idea of having someone like you, the things you provide them with. Could we really call this love?
But it felt so real?
When they’re idealized, people can feel amazing. Especially if they lacked self-confidence and self-love, they can easily see the idealization phase as true love. Many people make the mistake of confusing density with depth of the feelings. Therefore, the love bombardment they’re exposed to makes them feel like this is what true love looks like. However, just because a feeling is intense doesn’t mean it’s real. Real love develops step by step and unlike instant and temporary feelings; it’s persistent.
Real love isn’t romanticism.
So, was everything a lie?
It can be quite painful to realize that the person you’re with cannot and will not love you the way you want and need to be loved. By the time you realize that, perhaps you’ve already wasted too many years on trying to keep this person satisfied. But you should know that just because they cannot love you unconditionally, doesn’t mean no one can. Try not to take it too personal. Even the love the narcissist have for themselves is based on their self-idealization. They can’t love and accept themselves the way they actually are. They simply accept and embrace this superior version of themselves which they’ve created on their own, and that’s what makes them feel special. How could someone who can’t even love and accept themselves love you?
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Psychology Today. “How to Tell If a Narcissist Loves You”. Access 31 July, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/toxic-relationships/201807/how-tell-if-narcissist-loves-you.
Human Magnet Syndrome. “Narcissists Can Love — But Run! Understanding Narcissistic Codependent Love”. http://humanmagnetsyndrome.com/hmsblog/narcissists-can-love-but-run-understanding-narcissistic-codependent-love/.
You can also check out my other articles on the subject: