Five Narcissistic Traits that Harm an Intimate Partner

May 30, 2019

When we look at the behavior of the narcissist in the context of an intimate relationship, we see the devastating effect to both partners, an effect often unbeknownst to both of them. The narcissist, by nature, behaves in ways that meet the criteria for emotional and psychological abuse, a behavior sometimes labeled narcissistic abuse. To recover from the mistreatment of a narcissist, a partner needs to heal. That process begins with recognizing hurtful behaviors and identifying the injuries they cause to those they proclaim to love.


Narcissists are often described as self-absorbed and preoccupied with their own feelings and interests. They expect others to glorify them with positive attention. They feel entitled to have things their way and they believe they are superior and all-knowing. They lack empathy for others and they decline to take responsibility for their behavior.

Use of Deception

Across the board, clients who have narcissistic partners feel they have been duped after time spent in a relationship. The original presentation of the person they have fallen for does not hold up. In fact, the majority claim that once they have reached a commitment of either living together or marriage, their “loving partner” changes.  What they start to experience is tension and conflict as their partner asserts the need to have things their way, over time showing less interest and care in their thoughts and feelings unless it serves them.

Abusive Behavior

The following traits powerfully influence the narcissist’s interactions with their intimate partner who, in time, experiences a decline in a state of emotional wellbeing.

Lack of empathy: Showing no empathy for others is probably the flagship quality of a narcissist. Many of the narcissist’s interactions (as listed below) are meant to deceive a partner without remorse. In fact, however, a person who has the capacity for empathy would not behave without empathy toward someone he/she cares about.

Claims to be superior: knows the truth: To uphold the belief of being superior, narcissists expect their partner to agree and see them as all-knowing. Any ideas or opinions that don’t mirror back what the narcissist needs or expects to hear can bring on a display of demeaning, discounting, and even intimidating reactions toward the partner.

If the narcissist does not react in the moment, the partner will learn to fear payback later. The partner realizes that the resulting grief for speaking up to the narcissist is too great to endure. They keep their thoughts to themselves. Eventually, they’re at risk of losing touch with their feelings, opinions, and sense of self.

Entitled to have things their way: The narcissist feels entitled to take control in the relationship by making the important decisions, having the final say, and not seek their partner’s input. The partner is seen less as a separate person and more of an extension of the narcissist to do their bidding. The partner’s strengths are not seen as holding value unless they help the narcissist. When they don’t, the partner’s strengths become threats that need to be diminished and undermined by degrading critical attacks.

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