By Adam D. Blum, MFT, Gay Therapy Center Founder and Director
Many of my clients fall in love with narcissists. It's pretty easy to do. Narcissists often are extremely charming, bright, and attractive. I call them "shiny". Around them we can feel excited, more alive, entertained, and flattered that these shiny people chose us. While narcissists can make a charming first impression, they can be challenging to love. They tend to have trouble empathizing with others and so loving them in the context of a long term relationship can feel lonely.
If you want to feel "seen" by your partner then you might not want to date a narcissist.
My clients typically feel hurt by their narcissistic partners because their needs are not valued and respected. It's quite painful to keep giving and receive little care in return.
If you love a narcissist you may be spending a lot of time wondering why he doesn't return your calls promptly, remember your birthday, or demonstrate a consistent interest and curiosity about you.
Here's why. While narcissists look very confident to the outside world, inside it is a different story. Internally they are experiencing painful low self-esteem. In order to avoid this feeling they spend of great deal of energy searching for new and greater sources of admiration from others. That search feels so important and consuming that it leaves little room for focusing on another person. It's like a drug addiction.
Narcissism occurs in a range. We all have some narcissism within us. Healthy narcissism gives us the motivation to get out there and make a splash when we need to. Unhealthy narcissism isolates us from others when it blocks our capacity to empathize and authentically meet someone else's needs.
If you consistently date men who are high on the narcissist scale then you may have a tendency to ignore your own needs in service to another. A common psychological term for this is "codependency."
How can you figure out if the man you are dating is a narcissist? Here are some possible clues:
--You call and text him regularly but he rarely initiates contact.
--You remember his birthday and plan events to delight him but that isn't reciprocated.
--You do most of the household drudgery and he doesn't acknowledge you for that.
--You regularly ask him questions about his day but he doesn't do the same.
--New acquaintances receive a great deal of inspired attention from him but you do not.
--When you mention some of these issues he becomes highly defensive and critical.
If you tend to be codependent then you might be asking right now, "What can I do that will help or change him?" The difficult to accept--but true answer-- is "nothing." Each of us must be motivated from within to change. Period.
So what can you do? The solution is to start giving your own needs the attention they deserve. That means figuring out what they are, respecting them, and bringing people into your life who enjoy meeting them.
For more information about how we help individuals and couples please visit our website at www.thegaytherapycenter.com. We offer services in our San Francisco office or by Skype or phone worldwide.