What love really means to the Narcissist or abuser

06 Jun 2018

Have you ever wondered what love really means to the narcissist or abuser?  Have you ever wondered what goes through their head?  And why it is that what goes on in their heads does not coincide with what goes on in the head of their much put-upon partner? Nowhere is this divide more apparent than when it comes to love.  In this article, we shall be focusing on answers that you can use to make sense of their behaviors that seem to make no sense.

So many women tell me everything that is wrong with the relationship that they have with a Narcissistic or abusive partner, and then they add, “But I really love him. There’s so much love there. And if there’s so much love, you can’t throw away the relationship, can you?”

But the question is, what do they really mean when they use the word “love”?

And what does an emotionally abusive or narcissistic partner mean when they use the word love”?

So, you really need to start by getting clear about what you mean by love. And what does love mean in the context of a narcissistic or abusive relationship?

We need to start by taking a look at what love means to you.  We can then compare and contrast it with what love means to a narcissistic or abusive partner. But let’s start with you.

What love means to you

If you’re like most people, then what I’m guessing that what love means to you is care, attention, support, trust, loyalty, intimacy, togetherness, connection, someone who really has your back, someone who you can rely on, someone who makes you feel good about yourself, someone who brightens the world up by being in it, someone who certainly brightens up your world.

Such is the “job description” that you bring to loving a partner – to the very best of your ability. Maybe you would balk at feeling you could ever make your partner’s world a brighter place.  However, you have certainly given 120% trying to make your partner’s world a better place (which is hardly a very different aspiration).  That hasn’t worked, of course.  But not for your lack of effort. 

What love really means to the abuser or narcissist

 Superficially speaking, what the abuser or narcissist means by love, could almost look like the same thing.  Several of the same words and concepts are involved.

The narcissist or abuser also looks for care, support, loyalty, trust, someone who has their back, and someone who is totally reliable.  True intimacy is not their thing, but they do want someone who offers them sex or whatever other service or creature comfort that they happen to want at any given time.

The important piece here is that all of this is a one-way street. 

The one-way street

The abuser or narcissist believes, with absolute conviction, in the one-way street.  All good things are meant to flow to them, but nothing good needs to flow from them.

A narcissistic or emotionally abusive partner wants  – demands – all of these good things from you. However, none of these things are seriously on offer to you.  With a narcissist or abuser, you have a relationship of Give and Take.  You give, they take. End of story.  What you give out, you do NOT get back.

If you think about the relationship that you actually have with an emotional abuser or narcissist, they don’t make your world feel brighter – or better – just by being in it. Anything but.

If your world feels terrible – as it is often does – that is because the abuser or Narcissist has consistently trashed your worth and crushed your sense of self.

What it is really about 

So, if it is not really about all the beautiful, desirable caring-sharing stuff, what is “love” really about where abusers and narcissist are concerned? For them, “love” is all about leverage.

Abusers and narcissists use love to leverage you, to get the most out of you. They are looking for someone to

  • Meet ALL their needs,
  • Provide them with their creature comforts,
  • Give them a safe haven when they want it, and do for them all the bits of life that they can’t be bothered to do for themselves – like routinely parenting their own children, or being a grown up.

They rely on using someone else to do all of that for them.  And the way in which they leverage your service is by using the word love.

“Love is the drug” 

Possibly nobody has said it better than Roxy Music about a thousand years ago, “Love is the drug” that narcissists and abusers peddle.  Or, if you prefer, love is the tool that they – use at the beginning of the relationship – in order to get your buy-in. They will love bomb you and tell you how wonderful you are at the beginning of a relationship.  However, the longer the relationship goes on, the less that happens.

Why? Because that is a price that they no longer need to pay. They have got you hooked in. So the only time that you will start to heard the love word all over again is when you are intent on leaving. Then, all of a sudden, they will realize,

  • how much they really love you and
  • how awful they’ve been to you and
  • how it’s going to change.

Of course, it never does.  Because they never do change.

They promise, but they don’t deliver. They know that you really want to hear the L-Word and they know that if they use the L-Word in convincing tones of voice then you will probably say, “That’s good enough. They mean it this time.”

Leverage is very, very, important for abusers and narcissists. They need someone to have power over, and they want someone just like you.

So, if you’re trying to make sense of what the relationship means to them, I would suggest you cast aside your own definitions, and your own values, and think instead in terms of chocolate.

Think chocolate

Someone who likes chocolate likes chocolate. Actually, most people like chocolate. But you couldn’t really say that we have a true relationship – a two-way relationship – with a bar of chocolate.

You may have a preferred brand of chocolate. You get a good feeling out of eating it, it definitely gives you something or you wouldn’t do it. However, chocolate doesn’t exactly give back to you. Plus, you don’t cherish chocolate. You don’t feel that you have to treat chocolate with care and consideration. You don’t make it a really important being in your life. You don’t value it as much as you value yourself, or a loved one.

And that’s the way it is with narcissist and abusers and relationships. For them, the person that they are in a relationship with is just like chocolate. They want that person there to consume  when they want to. If their preferred brand disappears from the market, chances are they’ll find another one.

So, unless you want to be consumed like chocolate by an abusive or narcissistic partner, then you really have no future worth speaking of in the relationship.

But the important thing to remember is this, the biggest obstacle that you face is your internal monologue.

Beware the internal monologue

Your internal monologue runs along the lines of, “Yes, but… I can’t leave because I’ll never find anyone who’s as wonderful as that person again. Who else is going to love me? If that person couldn’t, who else could possibly love me?”

That internal monologue is based on one BIG mistake.  That person couldn’t possibly love you, because that person specializes in being unloving.  That person’s gift is for being controlling, and being hurtful. When you leave your narcissistic or abusive partner, it may seem like a tremendous step into the void. It may seem the most frightening, impossible, thing you’ll ever do.  However, it is that step into the void that opens the way to a much, much better life.

There are people out there who will be happy to love you as you want to be loved. You can find people who will give to you the same kind of generous, caring, loyal love that you give.  You just cannot get that love from a narcissist or emotional abuser.  What really goes on in their head is toxic. It won’t change – no matter how much you might like it to.

If part of you already knows this but another part of you still can’t bear to let go, then what you need is support.  You need to be coached through your anxieties and self-doubt to a place of trust in yourself.  I can help.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

Leave a comment

The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse.  Starting with the basics.

Connect with me on Instagram

Want daily reassurance and inspiration? Sign up to my Instagram account. @dr_anniephd