What makes a narcissistic person happy?
Can You Have a Happy, Healthy Relationship With a Narcissist?
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if, after a spin through the socially constructed and genetic whirlpool of human nature, we all turned out to be decent, caring and humble human beings? But in reality – as we know all too well – it takes all kinds of people to make a world.
Strong and healthy relationships form the foundation of our wellbeing, so how do we avoid the perils of unhealthy ones? Developing an awareness of those characters who will not be good for us, including those with significant narcissistic tendencies, is one way.
Narcissism – the meaning behind the buzz word
The use of psychological labels such as ‘narcissism’ has become more and more popular in recent years. But we often use them without a full understanding of their meaning. These labels were developed as descriptions of human behaviour and can exist across a spectrum.
“It’s true that narcissistic traits, tendencies, and ‘selfish’ behaviour have become more normalised in Western culture in particular, with an emphasis on the individual at the cost of community. Individualism is rampant.”
As you look around, you might see narcissistic traits and tendencies in friends, family, your own partner and maybe even yourself. From time to time, we all become a little self-focused and self-important, we want others to admire us and see us as special, and we might even be a little selfish or insensitive.
This is in fact quite normal and can even sometimes be healthy. But this behaviour doesn’t usually exclude an ability to be sensitive and caring to others. That’s why when talking about the meaning of narcissism, it’s important to keep things in perspective.
The difference between narcissistic traits and true narcissism
Most of the time when we refer to someone as a narcissist, it’s because we have experienced them as consistently acting in a self-important, selfish and insensitive way. On the other hand, we might call someone narcissistic when they are not doing what we want, and we don’t like the boundaries they may be setting.
The good news is that these behaviours are a long way from the extreme form of malignant narcissism that we call ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ (NPD), which is thankfully quite rare – less than 1% of the general population, and more common among men than women.
So while someone might be inclined to be a little selfish and self-important, that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of caring for others. The key factor to look for is whether an individual can be caring and sensitive at least some of the time.
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What is narcissistic personality disorder?
While narcissistic behaviour exists on a spectrum, someone who would meet the criteria for NPD would consistently display at least five of the following criteria:
- Has an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with one’s self
- Needs constant and excessive admiration and expects to be recognised as superior for their exaggerated, often unworthy, achievements and talents
- Is selfish and lacks empathy across numerous contexts – they are unable or unwilling to recognise the feelings or needs of others
- Has fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, uniqueness, beauty or perfect love
- Believes he or she is ‘special’ and should only relate to other special people – looks down on people they believe to be inferior
- Has a strong sense of entitlement – expects favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her wishes
- Has a tendency to take advantage of others to get what he or she wants
- May display ‘caring and giving’ behaviours, but these are usually just to get what they want, or to make them look good
- Is envious of others or believes others envy him or her
What is it like being in a relationship with a true narcissist?
A person with NPD will have a lot invested in projecting an image of having a perfect and happy relationship. They’ll also want their partner to maintain this charade.
Often their partner will avoid telling others the truth about the relationship. They may seek to avoid embarrassment or hope that things will improve if they just tolerate or ignore the bad behaviour. They also learn that complaining only makes things worse, because their complaints are a wound to the ego of the narcissistic partner.
Ultimately, people with true NPD generally cannot be changed. Someone at the extreme end of this personality type will find it almost impossible to develop insight into how others see them.
This makes it difficult for them to accept any responsibility for behaviours that make their spouse or partner unhappy. In fact, they may respond to their partner’s or other people’s concerns with anger. They may tell lies or twist the truth, shift the blame, or even argue that they are the real victim.
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Is it ever possible to have a healthy relationship with a narcissist?
If we are talking about a person who meets the criteria for NPD listed above, the answer would have to be ‘no’. It’s difficult to have a genuine and loving connection with someone who makes everything about themselves. Additionally, in many cases, those in relationships with someone who has NPD can experience ongoing psychological and emotional abuse – types of domestic violence – at the hands of their partners.
But if you do happen to find yourself in a relationship with someone who might simply display narcissistic tendencies, there is some hope.
Relationships that survive will rely on the partner having good self-esteem, strong boundaries, resources that are valued by the narcissist, patience, an even-tempered personality, and a reason to stay. Over time, your self-esteem will need good reinforcement from other parts of your life, like work or friends, to be maintained.
The success of the relationship will also depend on your partner being able to learn to respond well to your feedback. They may not respond with empathy and understanding at first, but if they can eventually acknowledge your requests in some way, then that signals some hope for the relationship.
If they can never accept or take your concerns on board, then the relationship risks becoming a lopsided and potentially psychologically risky connection – and one that’s ultimately likely to break down over time.
Can a Narcissist Have a Happy and “Successful” Marriage?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the success of a narcissist depends on a variety of factors.
However, there are some things you should know about how narcissists function to make an informed decision about whether or not they can be happy and prosperous.
In this blog post, we will explore the inner workings and discuss whether or not they can be pleased and successful.
Many people with narcissistic personality disorder appear to be in a successful and happy marriage. Their social media posts show them laughing together over a special dinner, walking hand-in-hand along the beach, and even renewing their wedding vows in front of friends and family. Should we believe the pictures? Can a narcissist have a happy marriage?
The answer is not a simple one. Narcissists are very good at hiding their true feelings and manipulating those around them. They often put on a persona in order to make themselves look good. So, it may be difficult to know what is going on inside of their head or how they truly feel about their spouse.
Generally speaking, however, narcissists do not have healthy relationships. They can be very demanding and controlling, which leads to a lot of conflict and unhappiness in the marriage. Studies show that narcissists are more likely to get divorced than people who do not have a narcissistic personality disorder.
However, if you can handle the challenges of being married to a narcissist and can find ways to make your relationship work, you may have a very happy marriage.
A narcissist can be highly successful in their career, but it is not always easy to maintain that success. They are often controlling and demanding of others at work. This means they tend to have high turnover rates among employees and conflicts with colleagues. Narcissists also tend to get fired from jobs more often than people without narcissistic personality disorder due to their inability to handle criticism or failure. This may lead them down the path of self-destruction rather than seeking help from mentors or supervisors who could offer constructive feedback on how they could improve themselves professionally or personally.
Narcissists who find professional success typically do so because they are talented at what they do (such as being a doctor, lawyer, or CEO) and have worked very hard to get where they are today. They may also be able to build strong relationships with others to keep their jobs despite having a narcissistic personality disorder.
The bottom line is that narcissists can be successful and happy, but it takes a lot of work on their part and the support from those around them who want this success for them too!
Narcissists’ happiness depends greatly on how much effort they put into maintaining healthy relationships at home or work.
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All the sacrifices you’ll have to make for a relationship with a narcissist to work
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- A relationships with a narcissist is never going to be easy.
- The most common advice is to get out of the relationship and move on.
- But for some people this doesn’t seem like an option, possibly because they have children, or simply want to make it work.
- It’s possible to have a relationship with a narcissist, but it’s incredibly draining.
- Be prepared for losing a lot of who you are, and sacrificing a lot of what you care about.
- Even if you do everything they ask, they may end up discarding you anyway.
The most common advice people hear when they are in a relationship with someone who has a dark triad personality is to leave them. «Run fast and far,» is the advice of therapist Perpetua Neo, who works with victims of narcissistic abuse.
But for some people, this may feel impossible because their life is so wrapped around the narcissist. Often, clients come to Neo asking what they can do to make their relationship work. Maybe they’re married, or even have children together, and unraveling their entire world doesn’t feel like an option.
It’s certainly possible to have a relationship with a narcissist, but it’s going to be emotionally and psychologically exhausting. Narcissists drain all the life and spirit from their partner, using them as an emotional — and sometimes literal — punching bag.
There is intermittent affection
«Some people they feel like they see this good person inside,» Neo told INSIDER. «He’s so sweet at times. and of course he’s sweet at times, that’s the whole point.»
Narcissists hook in their victims by love bombing them. It’s only when they are sure their supply will stick around that their mask starts to slip, and they reveal their true self. But they break up the insults and abuse with intermittent affection, which is what the victim holds out for.
But even if the victim is wise to the fact they are living with a narcissistic abuser, they choose to stay. So they ask professionals how they can make their relationship work.
«It’s a really tough question to answer,» said Neo. «And eventually I just tell them, if I could, I would tell you a way of making him better, so you would have a healthy relationship. And life would be amazing. But I can’t do that.»
You have to sacrifice a lot
Ultimately, to live a half decent life with a narcissist, you have to sacrifice a lot of who you are, and what you stand for. Also, said Neo, you have to accept you’re going to be lied to all the time.
«Prepare to be gaslighted, for there to be two versions of what’s happened,» she said. «Because narcissists are very good at rewriting reality and getting you to admit to doing something you didn’t do.»
For a narcissist to be happy, you’ll always have to accept their version of events as the truth. Otherwise, you’ll be on the receiving end of their narcissistic rage.
Even if you do everything they ask, a narcissist will still try and undermine you at every opportunity. It’s not like they’re going to reward you for good behaviour.
«They like to call the shots but they do it in a really subtle, undermining way,» said Neo. «So they’ll say things like ‘oh I can’t make up my mind, you decide what we’re going to eat or do.'»
Then, when you’ve made all the plans, they’ll say they want to be spontaneous, and you’ll end up doing something else. If you protest the decision, you’ll get called needy and demanding.
«Their spontaneity is something you have to appreciate instead,» said Neo.
You’ll be tapped out
Narcissists are always looking for someone else to blame. And if you’re in a relationship with one, chances are that’ll be you. So to make the relationship work, you’ll have to take them belittling you at every turn, and calling you crazy and oversensitive if you dare react. Essentially, you’ll be made to feel bad for every feeling you have.
«Be prepared to lose yourself, your interests, be denigrated, be harassed, because everything is your fault,» said Neo. «They will tell you your interests are bad or stupid, that your art is bad, the things you read are uncool, the music you like is terrible. They will try to beat and change you into somebody else.»
This may even include your career. To keep the narcissist happy you might have to give up your job and become someone who stays home all day, cooking and cleaning, even if this isn’t how you ever saw yourself.
«Essentially, your whole life will revolve around this person to make them happy,» Neo said. «Then they will turn it around and tell you you’re boring instead.»
If they are not a high-powered narcissist, they may use you as their financial supply too. In that case, you’ll keep your job, but you’ll be working overtime to keep up with the narcissist’s expensive tastes and careless spending.
Narcissists don’t trust anyone
They also might even stalk you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never given them a reason to distrust you, they still won’t give you enough respect to lead your own life without surveillance.
«Narcissists like to track their partners, so a lot of them will secretly install trackers into their partner’s phones, or computers, and they actually are pretty proud of it,» said Neo. «Another way is to marry you and make you change your surname, so everything about your identity gets eroded away.»
Unfortunately, narcissists are often extreme drug or alcohol abusers. That means you’ll have to get used to them pushing it too far, losing control of themselves, and acting erratically.
«Because they have bad habits they are also really irresponsible, miss their work, and their meetings, and everything else,» said Neo. «And you have to clean up their mess. So you’ll make all these excuses because you’ve already been warned that you’re a team and it’s you against the world.»
Narcissists use phrases like «you’re my soul mate,» and «I’ve never met someone like you,» so their victims are lulled into this false sense of security. In reality, they’re just isolating you from everything and everyone else.
«They’ll say things like ‘I’ve never met a person like you,’ ‘we are together and we have to face this big bad world alone’ — so it almost feels metaphysical,» Neo said. «And of course be prepared for keeping it all secret. If you ask for help you have to pay the price for that.»
It’s unclear whether narcissists really mean to hurt their partners to the extent that they do, because they are simply wired that way. They have often had bad childhoods, so they will use that as an excuse for their behaviour, and expect you to be understanding of it too. They will lash out at you if you don’t forgive them for everything and absolve their abuse, Neo said.
Either way, it’s unlikely there will be many happy times in a relationship with a narcissist. Your happiest days, Neo said, are likely to be the ones where they are in a cycle of depression or coming down from a drug high.
«The days where they’re down, and the morning in bed, that is the day you actually feel grateful for because you know you’re going to be safe,» she said. «So your new expectations from life actually sink that low, and that’s the kind of life you should expect if you want to be with a narcissist.»