Narcissists spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort mimicking the characteristics of someone who is capable of truly being intimate with another human being, but they always fall short of true intimacy. Given the fact that one of the core narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) traits is a preoccupation with fantasies of ideal love, you’d think that narcissists enjoy intimacy but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Narcissists don’t enjoy intimacy because they fear the emotions, thoughts, feelings, and needs that are required to be truly intimate with someone else. This fear that they have makes them incapable of protecting the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of others which is a fundamental requirement for true intimacy.
When it comes to narcissism and intimacy, things can get really confusing. This article is going to guide you through the complexity of it all but we’re going to start with a short video about a very malicious way that narcissists use intimacy to remain in power and control of their victim to illuminate the lack of respect that narcissists have for true intimacy and what it represents.
A Short Video Outlining One Way That Narcissists Use Intimacy to Manipulate Their Vicitms
Narcissists Don’t Enjoy Intimacy Because They Have Anxious Attachment Styles
In the 1950’s John Bowlby, a psychiatrist, and Mary Ainsworth, a psychologist, introduced a theory called the Attachment Theory that focuses on the relationships we form with our primary caregivers as infants. In their work they defined a healthy primary caregiver as available, responsive, and consistent.
When a child has healthy primary caregivers, their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs are mirrored so they get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to have a healthy cognitive development and develop a realistic sense of self. Where the Attachment Theory intertwines with a narcissist’s disdain for intimacy can be found within the attachment styles.
Attachment styles is a term used to describe our physical and emotional response to others, that Bowlby and Ainsworth outlined in their theory: secure, anxious, and avoidant. For some context, their work specifically focuses on the way that infants respond when they are emotionally and/or physically separated from their primary caregivers.
The Attachment Theory reveals that infants who have a secure attachment style will be sad when separated from their primary caregiver but quickly soothed upon their return. Infants with anxious attachment styles will be very upset when separated from their primary caregiver and will be caught between wanting to be soothed and wanting to punish the primary caregiver for leaving upon their return.
Infants with avoidant attachment styles don’t get visibly upset when separated from their primary caregiver but they will actively try to avoid them upon their return.
In recent years, the work of Cindy Hazan, PhD, has focused on the fact that we carry the attachment styles that we develop in our upbringing into adulthood which is very interesting because of how similar the behavioral characteristics that adults with anxious attachment styles have are with those who have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
This is where the idea that narcissists have anxious attachment styles originate from and to test this theory, we conducted a survey among 200 survivors of narcissistic abuse to find out and put the results in a short video below.
A Short Video That Outlines a Survey We Conducted About Attachment Styles and Narcissism
The survey we conducted was fascinating and revealed that one of the reasons that narcissist’s don’t enjoy intimacy is because their anxious attachment styles cause them to develop fear of intimacy, emotions, and emotional closeness and disregard the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of others.
Narcissists Don’t Enjoy Intimacy Because They Fear the Thoughts, Feelings, Emotions, and Needs That Come With Being Truly Intimate
In the previous section we mentioned that it’s believed that narcissism originates from an upbringing with unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers who don’t mirror their child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs. This means that the child doesn’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self.
Well, this is where a narcissist’s fear of the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that come with being truly intimate originate from. When a child doesn’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self from their primary caregivers, they’ll construct their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from their external environment.
A simple example of this would be a child of unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers constructing their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get for being really popular among their peers.
The sad thing about this approach to building a sense of self is that it gives the child an extremely unhealthy cognitive development and teaches them that their true identity isn’t good enough to be acknowledged, accepted, wanted, or respected by others.
What ends up happening is the child develops a ton of deeply rooted negative emotions about themselves but are too emotionally inadequate and immature to use healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage them so they just use the sense of self that they constructed from the validation, admiration, and reassurance they get from their external environment to suppress all of their negative emotions deep within their psyche.
When a narcissist comes across true intimacy, the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that are required to be truly intimate with someone trigger all of their suppressed negative emotions that they have about themselves.
These suppressed negative emotions are powerful ones like a sense of inadequacy, a belief that they’re unloveable and unwanted, a fear of abandonment, and a deeply rooted hatred for themselves, their vulnerabilities, and their insecurities.
Narcissists don’t enjoy intimacy because they’re terrified of the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that are required to be truly intimate. Intimacy and emotional closeness represent everything that a narcissist hates and fears about themselves.
Narcissist’s Don’t Enjoy Intimacy Because It Interferes With Their Pursuit of Validation, Admiration, and Reassurance
We mentioned this in the previous section but narcissists build their sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they get from their external environment. For example, imagine a narcissistic father who constructed his sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that he gets for being popular in the community instead of the time he spends with his family.
This emotionally immature and inadequate approach to constructing a sense of self is partly to blame for a narcissist hatred of intimacy. The reason being that because of their immature and inadequate approach, their sense of self is extremely fragile. In fact, their sense of self is so fragile that any form of authenticity can compromise its integrity.
A simple example of a narcissist’s sense of self being contradicted by authenticity would be someone calling the narcissist out on their abusive and manipulative behavior. When their grandiose sense of self-importance, specialness, or uniqueness isn’t validated or reassured by others, it destroys their false sense of self.
This is a huge problem because their sense of self is the only thing that is holding back all of their suppressed negative emotions. The same suppressed negative emotions that they’re too emotionally immature and inadequate to manage by using healthy forms of emotional regulation to manage. Since their sense of self is so fragile, narcissists need an excessive amount of admiration, validation, and reassurance to keep it intact.
Narcissists don’t enjoy intimacy because it interferes with their need for validation, admiration, and reassurance. To be intimate with someone, you have to protect their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
Narcissists are so selfish that they believe that the people around them should neglect their own thoughts, emotions, feelings, and needs, to make sure that the narcissist gets enough validation, admiration, and reassurance.
To be intimate with another person, you have to be able to be vulnerable around them, you have to accept them for who they are, you need to grow from your shared experiences, you need to work like a team, you need to work hard to understand them, and you have to establish a strong sense of trust.
A narcissist’s insecure pursuit of validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control to support their fragile sense of self prohibits them from ever being even remotely capable of achieving true intimacy. For narcissists, intimacy is just an obstacle in the way of what they want exactly when they want it.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Narcissists do not enjoy intimacy because they are terrified of the emotions, thoughts, feelings, and needs that come with truly being intimate with another person. It is this fear of emotional closeness that makes them incapable of protecting the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of others which is essential for any truly intimate relationship.
When dealing with anything that requires emotional closeness in a narcissistic relationship, it is important to remember that narcissists are masterful at portraying themselves as someone who is capable of having an emotional connection with another human being. They will pretend that a true emotional connection is something that they want but it never is.
The best thing that you can do to remain safe is to make sure that you have a healthy definition of emotional closeness, healthy relationship, and love. Here is a list of articles that are a good place to start living a happier and healthier life.
- Is It Possible to Have a Healthy Relationship With a Narcissist?
- Why Do I Love the Narcissist So Much?
- Can a Narcissist Love?
- How to Have a Healthy Relationship After Narcissistic Abuse
- Why Do I Still Love the Narcissist?
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.