Narcissism FAQ: The Double Reflection – Narcissistic Couples

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Question:

Can two Narcissists establish a long term, stable relationship?


Answer:

There is no clear answer to this. It depends on numerous factors. If forced to generalise, I would say that two narcissists OF THE SAME TYPE cannot maintain a stable, long term FULL FLEDGED relationship. To remind you, I distinguish two types of narcissists: the Somatic Narcissist and the Cerebral Narcissist. The somatic type relies on his body and sexuality as Sources of Narcissistic Supply. The Cerebral Narcissist uses his intellect, his intelligence and his professional achievements to obtain the same.

As I said, Narcissists are either cerebral or somatic. In other words, they either generate their narcissistic supply by applying their bodies or by applying their minds.

The somatic narcissist flaunts his sexual conquests, parades his possessions, exhibits his muscles, brags about his physical aesthetics or sexual prowess or exploits, is often a health freak and a hypochondriac. The cerebral narcissist is a know-it-all, haughty and intelligent “computer”. He uses his awesome intellect, or knowledge (real or pretended) to secure adoration, adulation and admiration. To him, his body and its maintenance are a burden and a distraction.

Both types are auto-erotic (psychosexually in love with themselves, with their bodies and with their brain). Both types prefer masturbation to adult, mature, interactive, multi-dimensional and emotion-laden sex.

The cerebral narcissist is often celibate (even when he has a girlfriend or a spouse). He prefers pornography and sexual auto-stimulation to the real thing. The cerebral narcissist is sometimes a latent (hidden, not yet outed) homosexual.

The somatic narcissist uses other people’s bodies to masturbate. Sex with him – pyrotechnics and acrobatics aside – is likely to be an impersonal and emotionally alienating and draining experience. The partner is often treated as an object, an extension of the somatic narcissist, a toy, a warm and pulsating vibrator.

It is a mistake to assume type-constancy. In other words, all narcissists are BOTH cerebral and somatic. In each narcissist, one of the types is dominant. So, the narcissist is either OVERWHELMINGLY cerebral – or DOMINANTLY somatic. But the other type, the recessive (manifested less frequently) type, is there. It is lurking, waiting to erupt. The narcissist swings between his dominant type and his recessive type. The latter is expressed mainly as a result of a major narcissistic injury or life crisis.

Thus, if both members of the couple are Cerebral Narcissists, for instance if both of them are scholars – the resulting competition will prevent them from serving as ample Sources of Narcissistic Supply to each other. Finally the mutual admiration society will crumble. Occupied by the pursuit of their own narcissistic gratification – they will have no time or energy or will left to cater to the narcissistic needs of the partner. Moreover, the partner will be perceived as a dangerous and vicious consumer of a scarce resource: the available Sources of Narcissistic Supply.

But if the narcissists involved are OF DIFFERENT TYPES – a long-term partnership based on the provision of Narcissistic Supply can definitely survive.

Example: if one of the narcissists is somatic (uses his/her body as a source of narcissistic gratification) and the other cerebral (uses his intellect or his professional achievements as such a source) – there is nothing to destabilise such collaboration. It will even be emotionally rewarding. The relationship between them will resemble the one that exists between an artist and his art, or a collector and his collection. This can – and probably will – change, of course, as the narcissists involved grow older, flabbier and less agile intellectually. The Somatic Narcissist might also be prone to multiple sexual relationships and encounters intended to support his somatic and sexual self-image. These may subject the relationship to fracturing strains. But, all in all, a stable and enduring relationship can – and often does – develop between dissimilar narcissists.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love, and runs the website Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited. Sam has served as the author of the Personality Disorders topic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder topic, the Verbal and Emotional Abuse topic, and the Spousal Abuse and Domestic Violence topic, Suite101.
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