Narcissistic relationships are extremely complicated. For a short amount of time, narcissists can behave in a manner that misleads their victims into developing a belief that they are capable of maintaining and committing to a relationship, but that belief quickly fades away and leaves victims of narcissistic abuse wondering if narcissists are afraid of commitment. 

Narcissists are afraid of commitment because they have a fear of abandonment from their anxious attachment styles, the emotional closeness required for healthy relationships symbolize everything that a narcissist is afraid of, and because committing to one person limits the amount of narcissistic supply they can get.

This article is going to guide you through the different reasons that narcissists are afraid of commitment so that you can become more knowledgeable about narcissism, narcissistic personalities, and narcissistic abuse. We’ve also created a short video below that outlines our article How to Spot a Narcissist In the Beginning of the Relationship so you can learn as much as possible from this article.

A Short Video About How to Spot a Narcissist In the Beginning of the Relationship

Narcissists Are Afraid of Commitment Because of Their Anxious Attachment Styles 

In our article How Are Narcissists Made we covered many different theories pertaining to the origin of narcissism but after a survey we conducted among 200 survivors of narcissistic abuse, the work of a psychiatrist named John Bowlby, a psychologist named Mary Ainsworth, and a professor of psychology named Dr. Cindy Hazan revealed a lot of important information that relates to a narcissist’s fear of commitment. 

The work we are referring to is called the Attachment Theory, which focuses on the relationships that infants form with their primary caregivers. The definition of a healthy primary caregiver that they gave is one that is emotionally and physically available, responsive, and consistent because this type of caregiver is able to mirror the child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs which gives them the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self. 

Depending on the type of primary caregiver a child has, there are three types of attachment styles that the Attachment Theory outlines: secure attachment, anxious attachment, and avoidant attachment. 

An infant with a secure attachment style is believed to have primary caregivers who are available, responsive, and consistent. When they are physically or emotionally separated from their caregivers, they get upset but calm down and are easily soothed when they are reunited with their primary caregivers.

An infant with an anxious attachment style is believed to have primary caregivers who are unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent. When they are physically or emotionally separated from their primary caregivers, they get upset but when they are reunited they are caught between wanting to calm down and be soothed and wanting to punish the primary caregivers for leaving. 

An infant with an avoidant attachment style is believed to have primary caregivers who are unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent. When they are physically or emotionally separated from their caregivers, they get upset but when they are reunited they actively try to avoid the primary caregivers.

An anxiously attached child

The foundation for the discovery of these attachment styles was laid by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth but where things got really interesting was when the Dr. Cindy Hazan revealed that these attachment styles that we develop as infants follow us into adulthood.

The reason being that the description provided for an adult with an anxious attachment style has an undeniable resemblance to someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Anxiously attached adults fear abandonment, need constant reassurance that their partner won’t leave them, crave emotional closeness and intimacy, and feel threatened, jealous, or angry and overreact when they feel something is threatening the relationship.

While there are definitely a lot of similarities between the description of adults with anxious attachment styles and what we know about narcissists, we wanted to take it a step further by conducting a survey among 200 survivors of narcissistic abuse to determine which attachment style they believed that the narcissist in their life has.

In this survey we gave the participants the same description of the different attachment styles that we did above, but what the survey focused on was the narcissist’s response when they were physically or emotionally separated from our participant and this is what we found.

survey for vicitms of narcissistic abuse

The results are fascinating and provide us with a lot of insight for a narcissist’s fear of commitment but it is only a piece of a puzzle. A narcissist’s anxious, or in some cases avoidant, attachment styles have a lot to do with their fear of commitment but there are two other things that have something to do with a narcissist’s fear of commitment that are really important to be aware of.

Narcissists Are Afraid of Commitment Because Relationships Symbolize Everything That They Are Afraid Of

While there are many different theories pertaining to the origin of narcissism it’s widely believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy/abusive upbringing with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers. Much like the attachment styles you just learned about, this has a huge role in a narcissist’s fear of commitment.

When a child grows up with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers, their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs don’t get mirrored so they don’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. 

What this does is it forces the child to search their external environment for the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their primary caregivers can’t give them. A simple example of this would be a child constructing their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get for being a really good ballet dancer because their primary caregivers don’t mirror their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. 

Over time this is going to cause the child to develop a belief that they aren’t good enough to be loved or acknowledged by others unless they excel in their external environment. This leads to them developing a deeply rooted hatred for themselves and prioritizing their external environment over their internal environment. 

As they get older they are going to keep constructing their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from their external environment so that they can suppress their sense of inadequacy, sense of being unlovable and unwanted, fear of abandonment, self-hate, and insecurities deep within their psyche so that they don’t have to acknowledge them. 

What all of this means is that one of the reasons that narcissists are afraid of commitment is because they never acquired the emotional skills that come with having a healthy cognitive development so they’re stuck with all of these deeply rooted negative emotions that get triggered by commitment, emotional closeness, and any other form of authenticity. 

Narcissists Are Afraid of Commitment Because It Limits the Amount of Narcissistic Supply That They Can Get

Narcissists spend their entire lives hiding behind a falsified identity that is designed to accumulate validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment while simultaneously suppressing the deeply rooted negative emotions that they have about themselves. 

The biggest issue with this approach is that their falsified identity originates from a crippling level of emotional inadequacy and immaturity. They don’t have the emotional skills or capabilities that come with a healthy cognitive development because of how neglectful their primary caregivers were during their childhood. 

This means that their falsified identity is incapable of suppressing their negative emotions for extended periods of time so it needs a constant flow of narcissistic supply, the validation, admiration, and reassurance of others, to stay intact. When this is combined with a narcissist’s preoccupation with fantasies of the ideal love, commitment becomes something that narcissists are afraid of. 

The reason being that a committed relationship requires open communication, trust, honesty, mutuality, respect, empathy, and emotional closeness to work. Not only do the characteristics of commitment trigger a narcissist’s deeply rooted negative emotions about themselves, but it also contradicts their own perception of what a healthy and committed relationship entails.

A narcissist’s grandiose sense of self-importance, sense of specialness and uniqueness, excessive need for validation, admiration, and reassurance, interpersonally exploitative behavior, and arrogance causes them to believe that they are entitled to getting exactly what they want, exactly when they want it. 

This is especially true when it comes to the narcissistic supply that they get from the relationships that they’re in. The beginning stages of a narcissistic relationship often has a ton of validation, admiration, and reassurance because it is the love bombing phase.

love bombing

The love bombing phase is when the narcissist will use mirroring to absorb a ton of information about the victim’s identity and use that information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in the victim’s life.

Victims of narcissistic abuse often describe this phase as magical, a once in a lifetime experience, a special or unique connection, and fulfilling, because it is. Narcissist put a lot of effort into the love bombing phase because of how much narcissistic supply it provides them so it often does feel amazing for the victim.

However, the love bombing phase does not last forever. In our survey among 220 survivors of narcissistic abuse we found that the love bombing phase with a male narcissist lasts about five-and-a-half months and with a female narcissist it lasts about three-and-a-half months.

Once the love bombing phase ends, so does the truckloads of validation, admiration, and reassurance that the narcissist gets from it. They may continue to be in the relationship because there are other ways that they can get the narcissistic supply, but that doesn’t mean that they are truly committed to it.

Being committed would require them to abandon their unhealthy expectations of “love” and leave them without the narcissistic supply that they need to suppress all of their negative emotions and it is for this reason that narcissists are scared of commitment.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Narcissists are scared of commitment but it can be really hard to spot this fear because they will often act like they want a committed relationship to keep you under their power and control. Nevertheless, narcissists are scared of commitment because they have a fear of abandonment from their anxious attachment styles, emotional closeness and relationships represent everything they are terrified of, and committing to one person limits the amount of narcissistic supply that they can get.

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References:

Adult Attachment Theory and Research