Why Narcissists Can Never Handle Real Intimacy

Why Narcissists Can Never Handle Real Intimacy

Dating a narcissist is a wild rollercoaster ride. Just when you think you’re getting emotionally closer to them, they distance themselves because they don’t want to get real with you. What gives? Here are 15 reasons why narcissists can’t handle real intimacy — and why you should probably stop trying so hard to connect.

1. They have huge egos.

Having high self-esteem is generally a good thing, but people with narcissistic tendencies love themselves a little too much. Their ego is the size of Africa, which gets in the way of their personal and professional relationships. They struggle to connect with other people because they’re too stuck in their own thoughts of why they’re amazing.

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2. They’re obsessed with what they want.

Reflection of Man Bushing Hair in Mirror©iStock/Art-Of-Photo

Within a narcissist’s world, their needs and desires form the gravitational center. This relentless self-focus leaves their partners feeling unheard, like their own happiness is nothing more than an afterthought. The narcissist’s pursuit of personal satisfaction creates an emotional black hole, making true intimacy nearly impossible.

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3. They use empathy to manipulate people.

A lot of narcissists couldn’t care less about your feelings, but the empathetic narcissist is a whole different beast. They put on a show of understanding, picking up on your emotions, not to help you, but to find your weak spots. Their kindness is a trap, all designed to get you under their thumb, Psychology Today explains.

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4. They’re obsessed with their image.

A narcissist’s world revolves around image. They crave the spotlight and need everyone to see them as flawless and amazing. Unsurprisingly, this makes true connection nearly impossible. Letting their guard down, being honest and vulnerable? That risks exposing their true selves, the parts they desperately try to hide. It’s a terrifying prospect for them.

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5. They’re scared of being vulnerable.

Narcissists feel pressure to appear powerful and superior to everyone around them, so the last thing they want is to feel emotionally exposed. However, as you know, you can’t achieve relationship intimacy if you don’t break down your walls and allow yourself to be vulnerable, so they’ll be trapped in a cycle of superficial relationships forever.

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6. They fall in love with the idea of you.

A narcissist’s love-bombing is a whirlwind of intense adoration, but it’s a mirage. They don’t fall in love with you, but with the idealized version of you they’ve created in their own heads. This is why they shower you with affection, making you feel like the center of the universe. Sadly, as the fantasy fades and they see the real you, the infatuation inevitably fizzles out.

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7. They lose interest when they see your flaws.

When a narcissist starts to see you for who you really are, flaws and all, they start to lose interest. They chase fantasies instead of wanting a real relationship that’s not perfect but meaningful.

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8. They’re terrified of being judged.

Narcissists want to be loved and admired by everyone they meet, but this is based on a huge fear of being judged. They work hard to maintain their perfect image and be charming so that no one can be critical of their flaws, including their partner. Instead of embracing their imperfections as part of what makes them who they are (or working to fix them!), they do everything they can to cover them up and hide them.

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9. They’re constantly in an emotionally fragile state.

Although they seem super-confident, narcissists are highly sensitive to criticism, per Healthline. This means that they’ll take any negative feedback they receiven to heart, even if they try to pretend they’re not really bothered about it. Confronting them about relationship problems can cause them to fight, run away, or get defensive. The result? You can’t grow closer from resolving the issues.

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10. They don’t take responsibility for their mistakes.

To compensate for being scared of criticism, narcissists walk around acting like they’re the biggest catches and the perfect partners. The result? They’re not accountable for any mistakes they make. This makes it difficult to deal with them because they’ll frustratingly keep blaming you for everything.

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11. Their behavior is inconsistent.

Dealing with narcissists is like being on an emotional rollercoaster. They’ll be super into you and love bomb you one second, then put you down and act entirely uninterested in you the next. This is their dance to manipulate and control you, which goes against intimacy and love.

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12. They self-sabotage.

A narcissist’s fear of intimacy runs deep, fueling self-destructive behaviors within relationships. Because they’re so terrified of exposing their flaws, they may sabotage their own happiness. This fear manifests in pushing partners away, refusing to open up emotionally, or delaying any progress towards a deeper connection.

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13. They have cheating tendencies.

A narcissist’s unquenchable need for praise and admiration makes them dangerously prone to cheating, PsychCentral reveals. They crave the thrill of new conquests, constantly seeking outside sources to feed their ego. Their relentless flirtations and attention-seeking behaviors slowly erode the foundations of your relationship. Plus, this insatiable desire for validation fuels a constant risk of betrayal, making true closeness feel impossible.

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14. They try to change you.

A woman depressed looking out the window.©iStock/stevecoleimages

In the beginning, a narcissist’s adoration can feel addicting. Sadly, this facade soon crumbles, replaced by a relentless desire to control. They subtly erode your self-esteem, constantly suggesting changes you need to make. This isn’t love; it’s manipulation. They eat away at your unique qualities, demanding you conform to an impossible standard to feel worthy of their affection.

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15. They struggle to trust anyone.

Deep-seated trust issues plague a lot of narcissists, so they fiercely guard their emotional core. Their cynicism about other people’s intentions reinforces their need for distance. This makes forming genuine bonds incredibly difficult, if not downright impossible. For them, emotional intimacy feels risky and vulnerable, so they don’t even want to go there.

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Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.