Narcissists struggle with commitment and the emotional closeness that comes with it because they fear the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that are required to truly be emotionally connected with someone else. This fear also makes them incapable of protecting the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of others, which is a fundamental requirement for any healthy relationship. So, what do narcissists want in a relationship if they despise everything that they represent?

Narcissists want three things from a relationship. First, they want to fulfill their fantasies of the ideal love. Second, narcissists want to project their negative emotions onto the person that they’re in a relationship with. Third, they want validation, admiration, and reassurance to protect their fragile sense of self.

This article is going to guide you through all of the different things that narcissists want in a relationship but narcissists are manipulative and really good at tricking people into believing in them, so we’ve also created a short video below that explains the reason that a narcissistic relationship can never become a healthy relationship.

A Short Video Explaining Why Narcissistic Relationships Will Never Become Healthy

Narcissists Want Their Relationships to Fulfill Their Fantasies of the Ideal Love

A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love is one of the nine personality traits that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) connects with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and it has a significant contribution to a narcissist’s desire to be in a relationship. 

The triangular theory of love uses three variables that define love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. In our article Can a Narcissist Love we went through all six types of love that the triangular theory of love outlines, but in a healthy relationship the ideal love is called consummate love. It occurs when intimacy, passion, and commitment is present in a relationship.

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.

In the mind of a narcissist, the ideal love that they are chasing is consummate love. But because of their abusive/unhealthy upbringing that led to a poor cognitive development, suppressed negative emotions, emotional immaturity and inadequacy, and overall fear of emotional closeness, they’re only capable of achieving infatuated love. 

Infatuated love is purely motivated by passion and it is intoxicating, irrational, associated with bad decision making, and usually short lived. When narcissists get into relationships, they think that they are chasing their fantasies of consummate love but they are really just chasing infatuated love.

This is one of the reasons why love bombing is such a common phase to see in the early stages of a narcissistic relationship. Just for clarification, the love bombing phase is a phase where a 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 fills a void in the victims life. 

It’s often described as magical, intense, passionate, unique, special, and a once in a lifetime experience by victims of narcissistic abuse but it is all about the narcissist being exactly who the victim needs them to be. Unfortunately, the love bombing phase is short-lived. 

a narcissist showing that he isn't capable of maintaining healthy relationships

In fact, in our article How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last (Survey) it was discovered that the love bombing phase lasts five-and-a-half months with narcissistic men and three-and-a-half months with narcissistic women because love bombing is infatuated love.

Narcissists get into relationships to fulfill their fantasies of the ideal love. In the beginning stages of the relationship it actually works really well for them because of how captivating and intense love bombing can be. 

But as the relationship progresses and they’re required to maintain a certain level of intimacy and commitment, they get frightened and begin invalidating, devaluing, and degrading their victim on a daily basis.

Narcissists Want Their Relationships to Regulate Their Suppressed Negative Emotions

Narcissists want their relationship to regulate their suppressed negative emotions because of their abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are unresponsive, unavailable, and inconsistent. Primary caregivers who are like this aren’t capable of mirroring their child’s emotions, thoughts, feelings, and needs, which means that the child doesn’t get the support that they need to develop a realistic sense of self. 

Generally speaking, this support that the child doesn’t receive from their unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers is validation, admiration, and reassurance. When the child doesn’t receive this from their primary caregiver, they turn to their external environment for validation, admiration, and reassurance to construct a sense of self.

A really simple example of this would be a daughter of unavailable, unresponsive, and very inconsistent primary caregivers constructing her sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that she gets from her external environment for being a really good singer.

This is a very emotionally immature and inadequate approach to developing a sense of self because it doesn’t allow the child to have the healthy cognitive development that they need to manage their own emotions. 

This approach also causes the child to develop many negative emotions about themselves because the neglect of their primary caregivers and attention from their external environment has taught them that their true identity isn’t good enough to be acknowledged or accepted by others. 

Because of the emotional neglect that narcissist’s received throughout their childhood, they’re too emotionally inadequate and immature to handle all of the deeply rooted negative emotions that they have about themselves. 

Instead, they use the sense of self that they construct with the validation, admiration, and reassurance from their external environment to suppress all of their negative emotions deep within their psyche. It is for this reason that narcissists are so heavily dependent on validation, admiration, and reassurance. It is a fundamental requirement for their emotional stability. 

When a narcissist doesn’t get enough validation, admiration, and reassurance, it destroys their sense of self and triggers all of their suppressed negative emotions. So, another purpose that relationships have for a narcissist is that the victim becomes a repository for all of their suppressed negative emotions when their sense of self gets contradicted.

This is known as projection. It is a defense mechanism that occurs when we take aspects of our own identity that we find unacceptable and project them onto others. A common example of this in a narcissistic relationship is accusations of cheating. 

When a narcissist cheats on their partner, they find it unacceptable. Not because cheating is wrong and it will hurt their partner when they find out. But because cheating will hurt their public image and therefore their ability to get validation, admiration, and reassurance.

If they were to acknowledge that they’ve done something wrong, it would contradict their sense of self and destroy their emotional stability. Instead, they simply project all of the negative emotions that they have about cheating on their partner to avoid taking any responsibility for their actions.

For narcissists, relationships are a safety net that protects their emotional stability. When they are in a situation where the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they receive from their external environment isn’t enough to hold back all of their negative emotions, they’ll project them onto the person that they are in a relationship with.

Narcissists Want Their Relationships to Give Them a Lot of Validation, Admiration, and Reassurance

Narcissists want their relationships to give them a consistent supply of validation, admiration, and reassurance, which is also known as narcissistic supply. Narcissistic supply is often thought of as positive things like compliments, approval, awards, admiration, sex, etc., but there are also very negative forms of narcissistic supply like arguments, misery, and chaos. 

Narcissists use positive forms of narcissistic supply to construct and support their grandiose sense of self-importance, specialness, and uniqueness. Positive forms of narcissistic supply could come from the victim or they could use the relationship to get narcissistic supply from their external environment. 

When narcissists manipulate their victim into neglecting their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs, the victim’s purpose in life becomes serving the narcissist. Everything that they do is to better the life of the narcissist. They exhaust themselves trying to be the perfect person for the narcissist. This often leads to the narcissist receiving a lot of praise, admiration, validation, approval, sex, and so on. It is a positive form of narcissistic supply. 

When narcissists use their victim’s vulnerabilities and insecurities to manipulate them into getting angry, emotionally unstable, depressed, or miserable, they are using a very inadequate and immature form of emotional regulation that is giving them a negative form of narcissistic supply. The reason that they’re able to do this is because narcissists need a tangible representation of the destruction they cause to distract them from their own emotional instability and inadequacy. 

When a narcissist manipulates someone into a position where they’re depressed, emotionally unstable, and/or miserable, they are essentially transferring their emotional instability to their victim. It allows them to further suppress their negative emotions because they can point a finger at their victim and think, “you are the depressed, emotionally unstable, and miserable one, not me!”.

This is part of the reason that invalidation, devaluating, dehumanization, minimization, and degradation play a massive role in narcissistic abuse. Narcissists need to feel emotionally, physically, spiritually, and/or financially superior to others to protect their fragile sense of self from being contradicted and they seek out relationships to give them the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to do so.

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

The desires that narcissists have in their relationship are very unhealthy, abusive, and selfish. They want their relationships to fulfill their fantasies of the ideal love, to absorb all of their negative emotions, and to give them an endless supply of validation, admiration, and reassurance. They do not care about the emotional stability of the people that they are involved with.


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.