Have you ever wondered why narcissists tend to shy away from real closeness and intimacy in relationships?

If so, you’re not alone. Just a few days ago, we had a great discussion about this in our community, so I thought I’d share our thoughts here.

As a general rule, narcissists avoid real closeness and intimacy because: 

  • They fear vulnerability.
  • They lack empathy. 
  • They fear abandonment.
  • They crave control and power.
  • They struggle with genuine self-reflection.
  • They prefer superficial relationships.

In this article, I will explain each of these reasons to help you understand why narcissists often go out of their way to avoid intimacy.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1) They Fear Vulnerability

One reason narcissists avoid intimacy is their fear of vulnerability.1

Being intimate with someone means letting your guard down and showing your true self, flaws, and all.

This can be terrifying for someone who’s used to putting on a quote-on-quote “perfect” facade.

It’s like being asked to perform on stage without any practice.

Narcissists worry that they will be judged or rejected if they show their authentic selves.

So, they choose to maintain a surface-level relationship where they can control how they’re seen and protect themselves from the risk of being exposed as imperfect.

2) They Lack Empathy

Narcissists avoid intimacy partly because they lack empathy, which is crucial for forming deep, meaningful connections.2 

Empathy allows us to understand and share the feelings of others, creating a bond based on mutual care and understanding. 

A picture depicting empathy where two people understand and share the feelings of others.

Without it, relationships stay shallow. 

Imagine trying to share a deep, personal story with someone, but they just don’t seem to get why it’s important to you. 

For narcissists, this gap in understanding and feeling makes it hard to connect on an emotional level. 

Since they struggle to genuinely care about someone else’s experiences and emotions, forming an intimate bond becomes difficult. 

Their lack of empathy means they often miss or ignore their partners’ emotional needs, keeping the relationship superficial.

3) They Fear Abandonment

Narcissists avoid intimacy because they fear the emotional impact of being abandoned.3 

Imagine investing all your emotions into a single treasure chest and then worrying constantly about someone stealing it. 

That’s how narcissists often view close relationships. 

Deep down, they’re scared that getting too close to someone gives that person the power to hurt them profoundly by leaving. 

This fear stems from a fragile self-esteem that depends heavily on others’ admiration. 

To avoid the pain and perceived humiliation of abandonment, they preemptively keep others at a distance. 

By doing so, they believe they’re safeguarding themselves against the devastating blow to their ego that being left behind would cause.

Suggested Reading: 7 Things Narcissists Fear the Most

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

4) They Crave Control and Power

Narcissists often avoid intimacy because it can mean sharing control and power within the relationship.4

True intimacy requires a balance of giving and taking, where both partners acknowledge and respect each other’s needs, desires, and vulnerabilities. 

For a narcissist, the idea of relinquishing any amount of control or exposing their own weaknesses can be unappealing. 

It’s like being a captain used to steering the ship alone, suddenly having to navigate with a co-captain; the thought of sharing that control can feel threatening. 

A narcissist getting mad because they are no longer the only one navigating the ship.

This need for dominance drives them to maintain a distance, ensuring they stay in a position of power where they feel safest. 

In their eyes, intimacy could erode this control, making them vulnerable to someone else’s influence or judgment.

Suggested Reading: 3 Reasons Narcissists Are So Controlling

5) They Struggle with Genuine Self-Reflection

Narcissists might avoid intimacy because it often prompts genuine self-reflection and growth, which are processes they typically resist.5 

Intimate relationships can act as mirrors, reflecting our true selves back to us through our partner’s eyes. 

This reflection includes not just our strengths but also our weaknesses and areas where we need to grow. 

For someone who struggles with self-reflection, as many narcissists do, this aspect of intimacy is daunting. 

Their self-image is carefully curated to mask insecurities and maintain a façade of perfection. 

A narcissist behind a mask to hide their insecurities.

Facing the objective truth about themselves, prompted by the closeness and honesty of an intimate relationship, threatens the stability of this façade. 

Avoiding intimacy, then, becomes a way to dodge confronting their flaws and the discomfort of personal growth.

6) They Prefer Superficial Relationships

Narcissists often prefer the simplicity of superficial relationships that don’t demand emotional depth or vulnerability.6 

These relationships are like acquaintanceships, where interactions are polite and surface-level and largely devoid of the messy, complex emotions that characterize closer bonds. 

In superficial relationships, narcissists can receive admiration and attention without the hard work of building genuine connections. 

They can present whatever image they choose without the risk of being challenged or questioned deeply. 

This preference stems from a desire to remain emotionally guarded and to prioritize relationships that bolster their ego with minimal emotional investment. 

Intimacy, with its requirement for authenticity and mutual emotional support, is inherently at odds with this approach, leading narcissists to steer clear of it.

Suggested Reading: What Do Narcissists Want In a Relationship?

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article helpful.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you ever found yourself in a relationship where you felt a lack of intimacy was affecting your connection?

What methods have you tried to foster closer, more genuine relationships, and how have they worked for you?

Or perhaps you have questions about navigating intimacy with someone who might have narcissistic tendencies.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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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.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 23). Vulnerable Narcissist: How To Spot Them And How To Cope. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/vulnerable-narcissist-how-to-spot-them-and-how-to-cope.html ↩︎
  2. Baskin-Sommers, A., Krusemark, E., & Ronningstam, E. (2014). “Empathy in narcissistic personality disorder: from clinical and empirical perspectives.” Personality disorders, 5(3), 323–333. ↩︎
  3. The Attachment Project. How Insecure Attachment Relates to Narcissism. The Attachment Project. https://www.attachmentproject.com/psychology/narcissistic-personality/ ↩︎
  4. Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Ali Mohammad Beigi Dehaghi, “Narcissism and psychological needs for social status, power, and belonging,” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 210, 2023. ↩︎
  5. Julie L. Hall. (2022. March, 4). 7 Reasons Narcissists Rarely Grow Emotionally. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-narcissist-in-your-life/202203/7-reasons-narcissists-rarely-grow-emotionally ↩︎
  6. Arlin Cuncic. (2024. March, 13). Can a Narcissist Love? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/can-a-narcissist-love-7112051#:~:text=Narcissists%20can%20and%20do%20love,the%20object%20of%20their%20affection. ↩︎

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