The theatrical nature of a narcissist leaves many victims and survivors wondering if the love was ever real. Intrusive techniques like mirroring, future faking, love bombing, and hoovering often manipulates victims and survivors into a limbo state of cognitive dissonance where they develop a belief that the abusive relationship they’re trauma bonded to is worth fighting for. 

Narcissists aren’t capable of true love because their falsified identity and suppressed negative emotions condemn them to only achieving infatuated love. Infatuated love is purely motivated by passion and it is intoxicating, irrational, associated with bad decision making, and usually short lived.

What’s interesting about the correlation infatuated love has with narcissistic relationships is the fact that those who experience infatuated love often only see the “perfect” aspect of the relationship, there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether or not it’s true love, it feels like a fantasy, there’s not a lot of trust, and it’s extremely obvious for those on the outside of the relationship that something isn’t right as well.

What does this have to do with narcissistic relationships?

Mirroring is a technique that narcissists use that allows them to learn the victim’s identity astonishingly quickly and use the information they gather to create a “perfect” falsified identity to seduce their victim. 

The beginning stages of narcissistic relationships often move very quickly which makes the connection the victim has with the narcissist instantaneous and very unhealthy. When the intensity of the beginning of a narcissistic relationship is combined with mirroring, victims of narcissistic abuse feel like they’re living out a love fantasy but simultaneously feel uncertain about what exactly is going on. 

Last, but certainly not least, cognitive dissonance is a theory that suggests when we experience an inconsistency among our beliefs, knowledge, and behavior, it creates a lot of psychological tension. To ease this tension we will change one or more of the elements that are causing the inconsistency to make everything consistent. 

Cognitive dissonance manifests in the form of the rationalization, justification, and ultimately normalization of emotional and/or physical abuse in narcissistic relationships. The intensity of the manipulation that narcissists subject their victims to often leaves the victim no other choice but to use cognitive dissonance to make sense of the madness that accompanies narcissistic personalities. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse in a yellow shirt and blue pants using cognitive dissonance to justify her abusive relationship.

With all of that being said, it’s quite clear how infatuated love has such a strong correlation with the dynamics of a narcissistic relationship. However, there are many different types of love and when it comes to narcissism, narcissistic personalities, and narcissistic abuse, there are rarely any absolutes. 

So, this article is going to explore the different types of love and put readers in a position from which they can grasp a comprehensive understanding of the reasons why narcissists are more likely to experience infatuated love.

6 Types of Lovers & Love

There are six types of lovers: pragma, mania, agape, eros, ludus, and storge. Narcissists are most certainly ludus lovers because they’re drawn to the manipulative art of seduction and fun, they stay away from commitment and have several love interests at the same time, their behavior patterns keep their partners guessing, and they can end the relationships they’re in effortlessly.

The Five Other Types of Lovers

Pragma is a style of love that emphasizes the practical aspects of love. The pragmatic lover considers compatibility and the sensibility of their choice of partners. This lover will be concerned with goals in life, status, family reputation, attitudes about parenting, career issues and other practical concerns.

Mania is a style of love characterized by volatility, insecurity, and possessiveness. This lover gets highly upset during arguments or breakups, may have trouble sleeping when in love, and feels emotions very intensely.
Agape is an altruistic, selfless love. These partners give of themselves without expecting anything in return. Such a lover places the partner’s happiness above their own and is self-sacrificing to benefit the partner.

Eros is an erotic style of loving in which the person feels consumed. Physical chemistry and emotional involvement are important to this type of lover.

Storge is a style of love that develops slowly over time. It often begins as a friendship and becomes sexual much later. These partners are likely to remain friends even after the breakup.

The triangular theory of love uses three variables that define love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. The interesting part about these variables is that only one of them needs to be present for love to be present and they can be combined which creates the different types of love readers will learn about shortly. 

Sternberg says that intimacy refers to "feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness in loving relationships," passion refers to "the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena in loving relationships" and decision/commitment means different things in the short and long term. In the short-term, it refers to "the decision that one loves a certain other", and in the long-term, it refers to "one's commitment to maintain that love.

One thing that is REALLY important to keep in mind when reading the information below is that narcissists are incapable of being in healthy relationships. While they may have some level of passion, intimacy, and/or commitment to their victim, it doesn’t originate from a healthy place.

Narcissists are purely motivated by their own selfish needs and should be treated as such. The information below is not intended to give victims and survivors the idea that a relationship with a narcissist could work. We, and millions of other victims and survivors, strongly believe that relationships with a narcissist can’t, nor will it ever, work.

Liking

A large majority of the human population consider liking and loving two very different feelings. It’s believed that we can love someone but not like them and vice versa. However, liking is a form of love that only has intimacy. Circling back to the first part of this section, according to the triangular theory of love there only needs to be one of the variables present for love to be present. So, liking someone is a form of love. 

It’s possible for a narcissist to experience this type of love, but highly unlikely. The reason being that a narcissist’s self-centeredness, tendency to avoid intimacy, and suppressed negative emotions cause them to have little, if any, motivation to maintain close and healthy relationships. 

Why is this important to know?

The biggest aspect of liking that differentiates it from the other types of love can be discovered when the two individuals in question are separated. 

Imagine that you’ve been developing a relationship with someone special for the better part of a year. It may be a friendship, romantic relationship, or even a connection you have with a family member. Then one day, this person has to move really far away and you won’t be able to see them that much anymore.

If you were to have thoughts and feelings of loss but not rumination or preoccupation, it would be a strong indicator that the type of love you had for this person was liking. However, if you were ruminating and experienced a lot of preoccupation, it would be a strong indicator of the other types of love you’ll learn about shortly.

A victim of narcissistic abuse in orange pants ruminating about her relationship.

The self-centeredness, tendency to avoid intimacy, and suppressed negative emotions that narcissists have make liking, a form of love that is solely based on intimacy, unrealistic for a narcissist to experience.

Empty Love

Love where the only variable from the triangular theory of love present is commitment is called empty love. Relationships with empty love can manifest in two different ways. 

First, the relationship could start out with intimacy and/or passion present but overtime it fades away leaving only commitment. Second, the relationship could start out with solely commitment and remain that way. 

A woman with blue hair and a big hat in a relationship plagued with empty love

From a logical standpoint, empty love is certainly more common to see in narcissistic relationships, especially towards the end. However, it’s very unlikely that a narcissist will experience a relationship characterized by empty love that began with both intimacy and passion. 

Why? 

You’ll learn more about this in the next section but a relationship where intimacy, passion, and commitment are present is called consummate love and it is the purest form of love there is. A narcissist’s emotional stability is heavily dependent on their ability to project their suppressed negative emotions onto others, making them incapable of this type of love. 

What’s much more likely is that either intimacy or passion was present in the beginning of the relationship but disappeared overtime. For example, a narcissist could get into a relationship because of passion and financial benefit but once their partner starts to age and they’ve financially abused their partner to the point of no return, all that remains is empty love while they search for a new source of narcissistic supply.

A narcissistic woman in a pink dress searching Tinder for her new supply

Consummate Love

When intimacy, passion, and commitment is present, it’s known as consummate love. For many, this is the ideal type of love. It feels like two best friends who’ve fallen in love with each other and are committed to staying together. The two share an intense passion for one another, the spark hasn’t died, and they’re incredibly close to one another.

Out of all of the different types of love, consummate love is the most unlikely type of love a narcissist could experience. You see, consummate love contradicts the behavior patterns of a narcissist.

6 Things That Must Occur for Consummate Love to Exist

  • One must be comfortable putting the needs of others ahead of their own. 
  • One must be willing to make compromises.
  • One must be willing to give admiration instead of seeking it.
  • One must feel secure in the relationship.
  • One must acknowledge what they have instead of constantly focusing on what they don’t.
  • One must not manipulate the other.

While narcissists often strive for consummate love, their definition of it is mangled. They could, and often do, have someone who is ready to commit themselves fully but their behavior patterns ruin it every single time. 

They need unhealthy levels of excitement, they’re naturally manipulative, selfish, arrogant, and cruel, and they feel entitled to a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance even though they’re unwilling to do so themselves. 

Companionate Love

Companionate love is when two people have intimacy and commitment but lost the passion or never had it to begin with. These types of relationships are held together by respect and love but the physical attraction for one another is either very low or non-existent. 

It’s extremely unlikely for a narcissist to experience companionate love because it doesn’t fulfill their need for excitement, grandiosity, and theatrics. A narcissist’s emotional stability is heavily dependent on the amount of narcissistic supply they can accumulate. 

Why? 

An unhealthy/abusive upbringing has caused narcissists to develop an emotional immaturity and an intense hatred for their identity which happens to be insecure and vulnerable. Because of their emotional immaturity, they’re unable to manage the negative emotions that come from their self-loathing tendencies. 

Instead, they suppress these negative emotions with a falsified identity that they’ve built off of their own perception of what society values most. Unfortunately, their emotional immaturity makes them incapable of looking past society’s superficial exterior when building their falsified identity so they end up gravitating towards materialistic things like money, social status, appearances and so on. 

This leaves them with an incredibly fragile ego that needs to be protected by narcissistic supply, the validation, admiration, and reassurance they extract from others. A relationship without passion would not give them a sufficient amount of narcissistic supply. 

This lack of supply would lead them to finding other sources of supply, unfaithful behavior, which would strip the relationship of the commitment component. Once this happens the love becomes more like “liking” than anything else. 

Romantic Love

A relationship where there’s passion and intimacy but no commitment is called romantic love. From a narcissistic perspective, romantic love is incredibly similar to infatuated love, but it’s very important to understand the correlation intimacy has with narcissism. 

Love

Intimacy represents EVERYTHING that a narcissist is terrified of. Their overwhelming fear of being abandoned, rejected, and inadequate causes any form of intimacy to trigger a narcissist’s suppressed fears and negative emotions.  

So, the reason that it’s unlikely that a narcissist would truly experience romantic love is because they’re incredibly shallow. They have many manipulative behaviors designed to mimic intimacy like love bombing and mirroring, but their superfical tendencies make them incapable of ever truly being intimate with another person. 

Fatuous Love

Fatuous love occurs when a relationship only has passion and commitment. We’ve all experienced these types of relationships at one point or another. They are the types of relationships where there’s a strong physical attachment that leads to premature commitment. 

A couple in fatuous love getting married too quickly

These relationships are often incredibly superficial, vulnerable, insecure, and hyper focused on the physical attraction they have for one another. Narcissists can certainly experience this type of love, but again, it would be rare.

Why? 

Fatuous love requires commitment and according to Sternberg commitment means different things in the short and long term. In the short-term, it refers to “the decision that one loves a certain other”, and in the long-term, it refers to “one’s commitment to maintain that love”.

While narcissist may appear to be capable of fatuous love, the commitment and passion that they show is love bombing. The love bombing phase is a period in the beginning stages of a narcissistic relationship where the narcissist uses an overwhelming amount of mirroring to learn the ins and outs of the victim’s identity very quickly. 

During this phase a narcissist will essentially transform themselves into the perfect romantic partner, friend, family member, or co-worker, leading the victim to believe that the narcissist is meant to be in their lives. In fact, many victims of narcissistic abuse describe the love bombing phase as magical, unique, and/or a once in a life time conneciton.

The love bombing phase is a period where the narcissist will say and do whatever is required to seduce their victim. While it may feel as if they’re ready to make a commitment, it’s nothing more than love bombing and mirroring motivated by a fragile, insecure, selfish, and inadequate sense of self. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

One of the hardest aspects of the healing journey from narcissistic abuse is the realization that everything that made you feel good was a lie.

They don’t know you so well because they care about you, they know you so well because they want to manipulate you. They weren’t serious about the plans they had for the relationship in the future, they were just future faking you. You didn’t have a unique, magical, or special connection with them, you were just trauma bonded. They didn’t love you, they loved the idea of owning you.

It’s a very harsh reality that you must to come to terms with if you are to heal from this horrifying form of abuse. Healing is a journey but it begins with the acknowledgement that the limitations the narcissist in your life placed on you are only as real as you let them be. You, and every other victim of an abusive relationships on the planet, deserves happiness, love, and peace of mind.

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Madey, Scott F., and Lindsey Rodgers. “The Effect of Attachment and Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love on Relationship Satisfaction.” Individual Differences Research 7.2 (2009).

Fricker, Julie, and Susan Moore. “Relationship satisfaction: The role of love styles and attachment styles.” Current Research in Social Psychology 7.11 (2002): 182-204.

Types of Love