Photo lonely man sitting on bench sad mood black and white


Love needs certainty and reciprocity. It’s a process where each is forced to change while resisting the change. Esther Perel

The challenges.

As a psychotherapist, I have seen firsthand how narcissistic traits can create challenging relationship dynamics. Narcissistic traits can include a lack of empathy, an excessive need for admiration, and a sense of entitlement. These traits can make it difficult for a person to connect with others healthily and meaningfully. This inhibition in their capacity to connect authentically can lead to problems in romantic and non-romantic relationships.

Working with couples in intimate romantic relationships, where one presents with narcissistic traits, shifting from ‘I’ towards ‘We’  can be challenging. Part of the work involves helping a self-involved individual transition from avoiding to leaning toward the other.

Couples Therapist C. Dollard from The Gottman Institute shares: “The other partner in that relationship may cope with the narcissism by feeling angry, fearful, doubting themselves, or even becoming anxious, depressed, and feeling hopeless.”

The struggles with empathy and self-esteem.

One of the primary ways narcissistic traits affect relationships is by presenting with a shallow capacity for empathy. Empathy is crucial in any relationship. In intimate relationships, emotional connection and feeling seen by your intimate partner is experienced as a sign of care and love.

Individuals with narcissistic traits may struggle to understand or relate to the feelings and needs of others. They may prioritize their own needs and desires above those of their partners. When this happens in relationships, I hear their partners express that they experience a sense of emotional distance, leaving them to feeling alone, frustrated and neglected.

Additionally, people with narcissistic traits seem to require constant validation and admiration from their partners. They seem very concerned about how they are perceived. They struggle with fragile self-esteem and unexamined insecurities. This can be exhausting for those around them, as they may feel constantly asked to provide reassurance and support. This need for validation can also lead to an uneven power dynamic in relationships, with the more self-involved individual always holding the upper hand.

The need for attention and self-involvement.

Another way in which narcissistic traits can affect relationships is by showing a great sense of entitlement, feeling that they deserve special treatment or attention, and may become upset, more distant or angry when they do not receive it. This can lead to relationship conflict, as they may feel their partner is not meeting their needs or living up to their expectations.

Individuals with narcissistic traits in an intimate relationship struggle with their partners expressing their needs and wants. They are often experienced as demands, criticism or pressure rather than as opportunities to be more curious about their partners’ experiences. Most of the time, they take a hands-off attitude, leaving their partners feeling inadequate and resentful.

Those in a relationship with a partner with narcissistic traits often feel a lack of reciprocity or genuine interest in their partner in exploring who they are. This often reflects that someone with narcissistic traits is more concerned with their image and their needs being met than the personal growth that an intimate relationship can offer.

Overall …

… narcissistic traits can have a significant impact on relationships. If you are struggling with narcissistic tendencies or are in a relationship with someone who exhibits these traits, seeking the help of a therapist can be beneficial.
A therapist can help you better understand your behaviour and its impact on your relationships and provide tools and strategies to improve your connections with others. Additionally, therapy can help you develop healthier ways of relating to others and work towards creating more fulfilling relationships.