Narcissists are very good at pretending to love you. They use many different manipulative techniques that are designed to reflect or “mirror” your perception of the ideal love but as you know, it is all an illusion.
Narcissists pretend to love you because it makes it easier for them to turn you into a viable source of narcissistic supply, chase their own fantasies of the ideal love, and bypass any boundaries that you may have that would prevent them from gaining control over your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
This article is a thorough exploration of the different reasons that narcissists pretend to love you and you will get the information that you need to make well-informed decisions when dealing with the narcissist in your life. In a short video (see below) we start things off by explaining the reason that a trauma bonded relationship can never become healthy so you can truly understand how manipulative a narcissist’s “love” for you really is.
A Short Video Explaining the Reason That Trauma Bonded Relationships Can Never Become Healthy
Narcissists Pretend to Love You for Narcissistic Supply
If you didn’t know already, narcissists have a very negative perception of themselves that they keep hidden behind a grandiose self-perception that they’ve constructed out of narcissistic supply. This is extremely relevant to the reason that narcissists pretend to love you for narcissistic supply, so pay attention to the next few sections!
Our article How Are Narcissists Made is a complete guide to all of the different theories surrounding the origin of narcissism, but generally speaking, narcissism originates from an emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent childhood upbringing with abusive/unhealthy primary caregivers.
Sadly, this level of neglect means that the narcissist never had his or her thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs mirrored by their primary caregivers. As a result, they never got the validation, admiration, and reassurance, which is also known as narcissistic supply, that they needed to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development.
While this emotional neglect, unhealthy cognitive development, and lack of a sense of self is going on, the narcissist is also developing a tremendous amount of powerful negative emotions about themselves that they can’t manage because of how unhealthy their cognitive development was. They just don’t have the emotional skills to do so.
To prevent these negative emotions from destroying their emotional stability, a narcissist will construct a false sense of self out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they can get from their external environment and use it to suppress their negative emotions.
This newly constructed false sense of self is also known as the grandiose self-perception that we mentioned earlier. It allows them to come off as charming, special, successful, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, and virtuous.
While they are really good at convincing others of their grandiose self-perception, they still have to convince themselves and that is not an easy task. If they fail to convince others and/or themselves, they will experience a narcissistic injury (ego injury) and trigger all of their suppressed negative emotions.
Narcissists have so many different manipulative techniques that are designed to help them avoid experiencing narcissistic injuries but because of how emotionally stunted and immature a narcissist’s approach to constructing a sense of self was, it is extremely fragile.
So fragile that they need a consistent flow of validation, admiration, and reassurance to feel emotionally stable. Narcissists can get a lot of narcissistic supply from pretending that they love you.
This is because of the negative emotions that they have buried within themselves. They feel unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, abandonable, weak, and worthless but when they are able to convince others that they love them, it offers an invaluable amount of validation, admiration, and reassurance to their grandiose self-perspective.
To sum everything up that has been said here, one of the reasons that narcissists pretend to love you is because doing so successfully allows them let go of the negative emotions that they have about themselves and hold onto the charming, special, successful, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, and virtuous self-perception that they have about themselves.
It is a very sad thing when you think about it, but it still isn’t an excuse to subject the people that they abuse to unfathomable levels of devaluation, invalidation, dehumanization, degradation, and other forms of abuse.
Narcissists Pretend to Love You to Chase Their Own Fantasies of the Ideal Love
One of the nine personality traits that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has connected to narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is “a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.”
We highly recommend that you read our article Why Do Narcissists Fantasize for a complete guide through this very delusional aspect of narcissism and narcissistic abuse, but in this section we are going to solely focus on a narcissist’s fantasies of the ideal love.
According to the Triangular Theory of Love1 the purest form of love, consummate love, consists of intimacy, passion, and commitment. Generally speaking, consummate love is the type of love those with healthy definitions and expectations of love are searching for.
The love that narcissists are capable of is called infatuated love. It is purely motivated by passion, it is intoxicating, irrational, associated with bad decision making, and it is usually short lived.
Narcissists have a corrupted perception of love and healthy relationships because of the emotional neglect that has shaped their cognitive abilities, so the fantasies that they have for the “ideal love” rarely line up with the perspective of love that other people have, so they are constantly feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.
To make up for this disappointment, narcissists rely on behaviors that make the excited and brings truckloads of narcissistic supply such as mirroring, future faking, and love bombing.
Mirroring in a narcissistic relationship is when a narcissist absorbs a ton of information about your identity and uses the information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in your life and “mirror” your perception of the ideal love.
Suggested Reading: How Do Narcissists Use Mirroring
Future Faking in a narcissistic relationship is when a narcissist makes a false promise for the future to get what they want in the present (e.g. a narcissist says that they want to marry you to make you feel special and look past the abusive behavior that you are experiencing).
Suggested Reading: How to Respond to Future Faking
The Love Bombing Phase is a product of mirroring and future faking. It is a period in the beginning of a narcissistic relationship where the narcissist overwhelms you with your version of the ideal love. They are using mirroring to make you feel like you have a magical, special, and unique connection with them and they are using future faking to manipulate you into envisioning a happier, healthier, and more secure future that is never going to happen.
Suggested Reading: What Do Narcissists Do During the Love Bombing Phase, Is Love Bombing Emotional Abuse
To sum everything up that we have covered in this section, narcissists often pretend to love you because chasing their ideal love brings them an extraordinary amount of narcissistic supply.
They get to put their charming, special, successful, honest, desirable, goodhearted, charismatic, virtuous, and grandiose self-perception on full display with their theatrical ability and they love the narcissistic supply that they get by doing so.
Narcissists Pretend to Love You So They Can Have Power and Control Over You
A narcissist’s insecure need for power and control is destructive. To grasp a comprehensive understanding of this insecure need of theirs, we highly recommend that you read the following articles:
In this section, we are going to focus on the way that narcissists pretend to love you so they can take control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, and aspirations by pushing you into a state of cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is a theory that suggests when we experience an inconsistency among belief, behavior, and information, it creates a tremendous amount of psychological tension. To ease this tension we will change one or more of the elements causing the inconsistency to make everything consistent.
You should read our article Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction to really understand the behaviors that narcissists use to do this, but when they pretend to love you they are showing you the behavior and giving you the information that you need to develop a belief that they truly love you.
Once they realize that you’ve fallen for their trap, meaning that you believe that they actually love you, they will change their behavior and start their abusive pursuit of validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control.
Suggested Reading: What Is the Devaluation Phase
When this change happens they change the behavior that they are showing you and the information that they are giving you, leaving you with only the belief that they truly love you.
This forces you to choose between acknowledging that what you are experiencing is abuse and leaving the relationship or holding onto the belief that they really love you by staying in the relationship.
It seems like the obvious choice is to leave but unfortunately narcissists want to keep you in the relationship so they can remain in power and control of you so they have many narcissistic behavior patterns that are designed to keep you justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing the abuse and this is called cognitive dissonance.
When you get into a space where you are constantly justifying, rationalizing, and normalizing abuse, your sense of self begins to deteriorate and your ability to accurately conceptualize your own perception of reality worsens
This is what narcissists want to happen because it allows them to turn you into a tool that they use to regulate their own emotions (e.g. projection, scapegoating, invalidation, devaluation) by taking control of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, and aspirations.
You can read our article What Do Narcissists Want In a Relationship for a better understanding of this but when the narcissist in your life is pretending to love you it is important to remember that they don’t view you as their equal, they view you as a form of emotional regulation.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Narcissists pretend to love you because it helps them validate their grandiose self-perception, they can chase their ideal love, and because it gives them a significant amount of power and control over your thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations.
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 Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93(2), 119–135. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.93.2.119
Acker M, Davis MH. Intimacy, Passion and Commitment in Adult Romantic Relationships: A Test of the Triangular Theory of Love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 1992;9(1):21-50. doi:10.1177/0265407592091002.