This article by psychotherapist Ross Rosenberg makes a surprising claim about non-pathological narcissists (those who are not malignant or psychopathic, which means high spectrum Ns having ASPD traits)–they CAN love. But the “love” is shortlived because it’s really intense infatuation (limerence) and depends on the other person fulfilling the idealized image of the person the narcissist has formed in their mind, and such a relationship is doomed to fail.
Narcissists Can Love–But Run! Understanding Narcissistic Codependent Love
By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT
Considering Narcissists have hurt and damaged the lives of so many people, it makes a great deal of sense why there is a proliferation of information, advice, articles and books on the subject of narcissism. There seems to be a surplus of people on Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites who are making it their life’s mission to vilify narcissists, while making themselves out to be specialists (or even experts) on the subject. Those who contribute are often victims of narcissistic abuse and want to help others avoid their mistakes. I am thankful for their efforts, especially since it is connected to codependency recovery, which is where I spend a great deal of my personal and professional effort. It seems to be one of the biggest psychological movements I have seen in recent years.
And there are well-researched and experienced experts in the area who have and are making valuable contributions to the understanding of narcissism. Sam Vaknin is one such expert on narcissism who, just by his own efforts, has almost made the term “Malignant Narcissist” a household term. But even with his contributions, and perhaps because of them, there has been a backlash of misunderstanding on the subject. By focusing on Malignant Narcissism (which happens to be the condition he purports to have), he has accidentally and unintentionally given the impression that “Malignant Narcissism” is the same clinical condition or psychopathology as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The truth of the matter is Malignant Narcissism is a subcategory of NPD. Moreover, those with NPD, or what I call “garden variety narcissists,” do not display many of the same characteristics as those with Malignant Narcissism.
One common mistake about Narcissism, which I see frequently on the Internet, about which there is now a deluge of articles, posts and blogs is that those with NPD cannot love and do not have empathy. This subject was discussed in detail in a recent YouTube collaboration video with me and Sam Vaknin entitled, “Can Narcissists Love and Do They Have Empathy?” Although Vaknin and I agreed it was a complicated question that has an equally complicated answer, we agreed for the most part that narcissists can, in fact, feel and express love and can be empathetic.
We also mostly agreed that Malignant Narcissists and those with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD or Sociopaths) cannot feel or experience love. Because Malignant Narcissism is often confused with ASPD, it is necessary to simply define it as a subcategory of NPD, which is not only a pathologically narcissistic disorder, but also combines traits of Paranoid Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. For more information on Malignant Narcissism, consider reading Vaknin’s book, “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited” (2015). It is, therefore, correct to assume that Malignant Narc’s and ASPD’s cannot love as it is understood in our general culture. But it is incorrect to make that same leap for those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which will henceforth be referred to as “narcissists.”
Please read the rest of Dr. Rosenberg’s article here: