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He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: Can a Narcissist Truly Love?

Empathy is the necessary ingredient for giving and feeling love.

Sebastian Gauert/Dreamstime
Source: Sebastian Gauert/Dreamstime

Having compassion and empathy for another means to hear, be with, suffer with, and try to get in the shoes of the other person. When this is done, the other person feels seen, heard, and loved. Sadly, people who are narcissistic may not have the capacity for this kind of emotional connection. It can be confusing because they can mimic empathy and seem like they are doing it. When around them long enough it is apparent the empathy display is merely an act. When they are staging empathy and putting on a charming show, it is usually done for a purpose related to them. Feigned empathy can be used to manipulate and get what they want. This can be a shocking revelation. A narcissist may initially act like they dearly love someone, but in reality, they may not have the capacity to love.

When interviewing people for my book, Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family, I witnessed striking emotional reactions. The realization of being in a love relationship with someone who couldn’t really love, was alarming. The traumatic feeling of finding out the relationship was not real, caused disbelief and incredible pain. Because many of the relationships with narcissists also included emotional and psychological abuse, the partner inevitably ends up experiencing severe post-traumatic stress disorder which requires trauma treatment to heal.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, love talk is everywhere. It is a time for many to celebrate the real love they have in their lives with relationships and family. But for those involved with narcissists, it can be one of those reminder days of what they don’t have. If this is you, here are some tips to help make Valentine’s Day a day to practice empathy and compassion:

  1. Think of the people you dearly love and reach out to them.
  2. Celebrate your own capacity for empathy.
  3. Do three acts of kindness for people who are lonely or in need.
  4. Do something kind for yourself.
  5. Listen to your own intuition and trust your feelings.
  6. Practice self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.
  7. Be truly accountable for your own behavior and trust yourself to improve in areas of weakness.
  8. Take one tiny step towards reaching an important goal you have set for yourself.
  9. Give more hugs and smile at people everywhere.
  10. Make yourself the Valentine you dearly love and give empathy and compassion to yourself.

Remember practicing self-care is not selfish as many have been taught. As one of my clients put it, “selfishness hurts others, self-care does not.” If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist or have been raised by a narcissistic parent, remind yourself that you can heal from it. You can work recovery and deal with the deep hurt and betrayal. You can find others in this world who love and care about you. Valentine’s Day can be a reboot for having and showing more love in your life. Our world needs more love, sweet love.