Infatuation and limerence with a narcissist

A narcissist is a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. They believe that the world revolves around them. But how do you spot a narcissist? Here are some of their common traits:

  • They believe that they are special and unique
  • They need excessive admiration and have a sense of entitlement
  • They lack empathy
  • They envy others and/or believe that others envy them
  • They have an arrogant behaviour
  • They are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty etc.

Being a narcissist does not mean only having a big ego. Some people truly suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NDP) and, while it’s not clear how someone becomes narcissistic, it has to do as well with their childhood years. If a child has lived without receiving enough love, they might have developed abandonment issues and they have been somehow forced to learn how to rely only on themselves.

People with Narcissistic Behaviour have learned to substitute the lack of love and support from a caregiver with exaggerated self-worth. Narcissists can be highly skilled at attracting people; you may easily feel their charm. From the beginning, you’ll be surprised by their confidence, intelligence and seductive traits, this is why narcissists can easily play with your vulnerabilities and ego.

How does it feel to be in a relationship with a narcissist?

From the 3 stages of a limerent relationship (infatuation, crystallisation and deterioration), the infatuation phase is usually even more intense when we are drawn to a narcissist. This phase of the relationship is also known as love bombing and it occurs when you first meet the narcissist . After one experience with them, you are completely captivated by them and everything seems perfect.

The love bombing phase is at the very beginning of the relationship and it is usually characterized by grand gestures, big declaration of love and large gifts. It seems that you are the one, the perfect person that the narcissist has been waiting for his/her whole life. The feelings of the love-bombing will make you quickly believe this scenario because, after all, you are your new partners’ soul mate, right? For the next few days and weeks, you’re even more bombarded with messages, phone calls, dates, weekend getaways and, quickly, you hear the so-known words: I love you.

The love bombing stage feels indeed amazing, yet it is one of the most dangerous parts of a manipulative relationship. Experiencing limerence with a narcissist feels like being sucked into a ferocious hurricane. In general, the limerent feelings towards a LO are mostly in the subconscious, even though their manifestations are visible, such as sweaty hands, racing pulse and the famous stomach “butterflies”.

Moreover, as Dorothy Tennov described it in 1979, limerence produces obsessive impulses and is an addictive need for reciprocation.  There are a few characteristics that describe a limerent experience, such as having obsessive thoughts about the Limerent Object (LO), feeling an acute need for reciprocation (even if brief), having a huge fear of rejection or feeling vulnerable to any gesture from your LO. Moreover, a surge of dopamine and norepinephrine floods your brain, while serotonin levels fall, causing all these strong emotions. 

But experiencing limerence with a narcissist is different and they pose a significant risk to those prone to love addiction and limerence. Anyone that contributes to the limerence loop represents a challenge, but narcissists may combine the extremes of both early reciprocation and confusion, due to the mixed signals that they are sending. A narcissist would always be focused on what you do for them, not who you are as a person. Narcissists get high off of what the person has to offer them. If a narcissist is draining your attention or trying to get an emotional response from you, this is because they want to feed their ego by you giving them a high-intense experience. They want to feel good by having control over you and they will gain this control by making you feel that you caused trouble. It’s thrilling for them.

Narcissists will make you feel like what you have is love. They might even truly believe it themselves. They will love-bomb you and trick you into thinking that their weird persistence with you is true love. They will say and do heinous stuff for you to get back to them again and again. This kind of relationship can only go towards an end once you stop giving them the same amount of attention as before, once you come back to your sense as they did before. At this moment they will understand that they will no longer have the same effect on you as they did before.

At that moment, they will try to tear you down as if nothing excited. If you don’t leave them, they’ll do it and start looking for someone else that can provide them with the same power as you did before. For limerence, a person is even more dangerous because it is harder for you to see any of their negative traits and, at the same time, you want your feelings to be reciprocated. It is not that easy to realize since the beginning that you might be in a limerence relationship with a narcissist. You might not even suspect it until it’s late and you realize that they are deliberately making you feeling miserably for their pleasure. 

In a way, in limerence, you are also looking for reciprocated feelings. So are limerence relationships narcissistic relationships? One important difference is that, compared with a narcissist, a limerent person would cross oceans for their LO to obtain their reciprocation of feelings. On the other side, the narcissist doesn’t look for reciprocation of feelings, but rather for validation of their worth; anything that can raise their ego.  Pathological narcissists are addicted to other people and the desires that they elicit in them. For them, these emotions represent their inspiration and passion. But remember that a narcissistic person is truly unable to create real intimacy. In limerence relationships, the relationship can transform into one fueled by respect, commitment and trust, while a relationship with a narcissist will never be based on meaningful feelings. They are not able to create these meaningful feelings with themselves, this is why they feel the need to receive them from someone else.

One recommendation from us? If you feel that you’re limerent towards a narcissist, look for help and try to get out as soon as possible.

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