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Narcissists & Intimacy

The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.


When people hear the word "intimacy," many think of physical intimacy, like sex. That is a type of intimacy but it isn't the only kind or even the most important kind. Intimacy is sharing yourself with the other person, and the other person sharing themselves with you. Physical intimacy falls into this category of course, but sharing our bodies isn't the only way we share ourselves with others.

The problem for those dealing with pathologically narcissistic people is that often, this is the only kind of sharing there is. If the narcissist is someone in your family, then for all intents and purposes, there may be no intimacy in the relationship at all. This can be very painful. Humans desire intimacy and connection with others, so when intimacy is lacking in relationships of any kind, people can feel very lonely and unfulfilled.

In romantic relationships with narcissistic people, physical intimacy can become very important. We often hear how great narcissists are in bed, or how their partners become addicted to sex with them. Maybe that's true. Or maybe physical intimacy with narcissists becomes so important to their partner because that's the only kind of intimacy there is. It can feel like true intimacy in the moment, and people often mistake it for true closeness. But sex is not the source of intimacy in a relationship. It's an expression of it. Some narcissistic people may even withhold that as well, leaving their partner in a completely barren relationship.

Intimacy is sharing yourself with another person, allowing them to see the real you, who you really are. It is no surprise at all that pathologically narcissistic people find this difficult. Indeed, many of them are pathologically phobic of almost all intimacy. And that makes sense. With as much as they are hiding, with as much shame as they are operating under, with as many identity issues as they have, the idea of sharing "who they really are" with someone else would have to be terrifying. And that's if they even know who that is and could even do so.

To pathologically narcissistic people, true emotional intimacy would feel like an invasion, an exposure. It would feel dangerous and threatening. Remember, narcissists believe a person must be perfect in order to be worth anything and that includes themselves. So are they really going to be able to willingly and safely be able to share their fears, their flaws, their vulnerabilities? When they've spent their entire lives hiding these things - even from themselves? When they believe the revelation of these things destroys any value they may actually have as a human being? These are people who can't even admit they left the door unlocked or bought the wrong kind of cereal.

Pathologically narcissistic people have spent their entire lives avoiding, denying and hiding from who they believe they really are. Because of this, they don't know or trust themselves any more than they know or trust anybody else. If you cannot know yourself, you cannot accept yourself. If you cannot accept yourself, you cannot believe others accept you. If you cannot believe others accept you, you cannot trust them. If you cannot trust them, you cannot share yourself. Without sharing, there is no intimacy. Without intimacy there is no real love. It all starts in the same place.

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If you do somehow get a glimpse at a narcissist's true vulnerability - or if you discover it and bring it up, the shame and terror they feel for showing it to you often results in a vicious backlash. They may rage, disappear, go cold and hateful, accuse you of tricking them into telling you, accuse you of only caring or listening so you can use it against them, use your own vulnerabilities against you or any number of other things designed to defend against the shame and the rejection they feel is coming for revealing themselves as not being perfect.

Relationships with pathologically narcissistic people can feel intimate, at least at first. It can feel as though you've found your soul mate, the person who truly and fully gets you. However, over time you realize that this person has no actual interest in getting to know the real you and absolutely zero interest in letting you know the real them. They reflect yourself, your feelings and your interests back to you, they do not show you themselves. They don't know you and you do not know them. This revelation is often very shocking for people and it can be very traumatic. The person you believe you've been sharing yourself with for years has no insight into your character or personality at all - and they don't care to have any. Worse, who you thought they were is not real, either. There is no connection at all.

This happens in part because narcissistic people idealize others. They don't get to know a person for who they actually are. Everyone idealizes a new relationship to some extent, but most people are able to see reality. They may ignore it for a time or try to rationalize it, but they can see it and their idealized feelings or opinions will become more realistic over time as they get to know the person through experience, exploration and intimacy.

Pathologically narcissistic people do not seem able to do that. They dismiss things that happen which don't fall into line with their narrative and there is no intimacy. Therefore, they don't get to know the real you. They don't even really see you. You exist as a two dimensional representation of their own feelings, not as a complex human being in your own right. When you are seen as good, you can do no wrong. When you are seen as bad, you can do nothing right. This is not realistic or fair, but it's the way things are.

Many people are endlessly frustrated with the lack of intimacy in their relationships with pathologically narcissistic people. Intimacy creates a feeling of connection and bonding. It makes us feel seen, heard and known. It makes us feel loved. In relationships of any kind with narcissistic people, there is no true sharing. There is no true bonding. There is no true understanding of the other person. There is no honesty, no stability and no trust. There can therefore be no intimacy and no real love.

Intimacy - true intimacy - comes from knowing and fully accepting someone. In this of all things, narcissists will forever fall short. They can't even accept themselves and accepting yourself is how you create true intimacy.

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