Can a Narcissist Love?

Darlene Lancer
Narcissism and Abusive Relationships
9 min readJul 8, 2019

Anyone who’s loved a narcissist wonders, “Does he really love me?” “Does she appreciate me?” They’re torn between their love and their pain, between staying and leaving, but can’t seem to do either. It’s confusing, because sometimes they experience the caring person they love, whose company is a pleasure, only to be followed by behavior that makes them feel unimportant or inadequate. Narcissists claim to love their family and partners, but do they?

Whose point-of-view should we consider–the “lover” or the “lovee?”

Love is a subjective experience. We can’t really know someone’s private experience. Whose point-of-view matters most―the lover or the lovee? Narcissists will claim to love their children, their spouse, and their parents. For them, their love is real. But is it actually love?

Romance vs. Love

Plato described seven types of love: Eros is passionate, physical, romantic love; Philautia is self-love, including healthy self-esteem, hubris, and self-inflation; Ludus is affectionate, fun, and uncommitted love; Pragma is pragmatic love that focuses on long term compatibility and shared goals. Philia love is friendship; Storge is familial and parental love, based on familiarity and dependency; Agape is deep spiritual and unconditional love, including altruism and love for strangers, nature, and God.

Our culture elevates romantic love to the Holy Grail―to be yearned for, sought after, and die for. Eros is not only ephemeral, but it’s also illusory according to Jungian analyst Robert Johnson. He distinguishes love from romance and claims that the passion of romantic love “is always directed at our own projections, our own expectations, our own fantasies . . . It is a love not of another person, but of ourselves.” (Johnson, 1945) Dorothy Tennov called this limerance―an infatuation about someone with whom we want a relationship, characterized by obsessive thoughts and fantasies, but not necessarily about sex.

How Narcissists Love

Darlene Lancer
Narcissism and Abusive Relationships

Therapist-Author of “Codependency for Dummies,” relationship expert. Get a FREE 14 Tips on Letting Go Join me on FB