You Can't Fix a Narcissist With Love
We always hear that love conquers all, right? It's a common sentiment in our society and it is often validated by stories we hear, sometimes things we experience, and certainly by movies and media. However, people often don't realize what it really means. Yes, it is true that love often conquers all, but only in situations that actually involve love between two people. One person loving someone and that person using them in return is not love. Codependency is not love. Trauma bonding is not love. Narcissism is not love. These things are one-sided and usually very toxic. Unfortunately, love from one person is not enough to override a lack of love from the other. It just doesn't work.
In romantic relationships, people usually believe that the pathologically narcissistic partner was never loved by other partners and/or caregivers, and they may vow to show this person real love with the idea that, "If this person does not know what real love is, I will show them that they can be loved. That will fix these problems; it will prove they are worthy, it will prove I am worthy, and then they will love me. Then we can be happy."
In family relationships, people are usually trying to prove that they love the narcissist in the hope that they can finally show that they have worth, so they deserve to be loved in and valued in return. Again, this will fix the situation, the narcissist will love them and the problems will be solved.
In both of these situations, the person is operating on the belief that they can fix the problems - and by extension, the narcissist - with love. There are several problems with this thinking.
The first is that it is not only not our responsibility to "fix" the people in our lives, but it is not possible to do so. We are only able to accept someone as they are and decide if we want them in our lives. If we don't want them in our lives as they are, then the truth is, we don't really want them in our lives. We want our idea of them or our fantasy of what they could be, and that's not the same thing.
However, let's put that to the side and really look at the situation. The idea is that someone who has never known love or being valued could be saved or fixed by receiving love. On the surface, this looks like a good, solid solution. If a lack of love created the pathologically narcissistic person's problem, then an abundance of love can remedy the problem. It makes sense in this context - and narcissists themselves may even insist that this is the case - but it's not true. You see, people usually overlook a huge hole in this logic, and that is that in order for love to be the solution, the person receiving it has to be able to understand and recognize love in the first place. If the person has never known love, how will they do that?
If you've dealt with a pathologically narcissistic person, you already know that they do not recognize or understand things like love, respect, consideration... They continually insist they are not being given these things when in fact they are being given in huge amounts. The narcissist's idea of what love is supposed to be is usually very different from what it actually is and as a result, they do not recognize it. You cannot give somebody what they are asking for when they don't even know what it is. This is complicated by the fact that pathologically narcissistic people operate almost solely off of feeling - even if they don't realize it and even if it doesn't necessarily seem to be the case; their feelings are considered facts. More than that, they are considered evidence, so if they don't feel that you love them, then you don't - and it doesn't matter what you do to prove it. It will never be enough because feelings are facts to a narcissist. If they don't feel you love them, then you don't and that's that. You're fighting a losing battle against the pathological self-hatred of a person with no self-worth.
This often creates a vicious cycle where people just give more and more and more, hoping the narcissist will finally see and finally value them. This is extremely unlikely. It's not about you having worth to them or not having worth to them, regardless of how it feels. For them, it is about the fact that they don't think they have any worth and therefore no one has ever, will ever or can ever love them. The fact that love does not simply appear and go exactly how they think it should and feel exactly how they think it should 24 hours a day simply reinforces this idea. You become just another faker, just another liar in the long list of people who have betrayed them, let them down, sabotaged them or otherwise were not perfect.
That is the biggest reason that you cannot fix or save a narcissistic person with love. Regardless of whether it is your responsibility or not - which it's not, and regardless of whether it is even possible or not - which it isn't - they can't recognize it anyway and if you've been dealing with one, then you know that by now. It's a fruitless endeavor that results in nothing but pain for both you and the narcissist. It's a frustrating, pointless and un-evolving situation that usually results in unhappy endings, because you both want things from the relationship that the other person cannot give you.
You can't earn the trust of someone who does not trust themselves.
You can't earn the respect of someone who does not respect themselves.
You can't win the honor of someone who does not honor themselves.
You can't win the love of someone who does not love themselves.
It's time to let go of the idea that you can save this person. They have to save themselves. Narcissistic people are going to have to get through life the best way they can, and so are you. The good news is that while you cannot heal the narcissist with love, you can heal yourself that way. Self-love is the way to healing. Learn to let go of the fantasy of the narcissist and embrace the reality of yourself. You deserve more, and your worth is not dependent on other people's perception of your value. Accept that someone's inability to see your worth says nothing about you - because it really, truly doesn't. It says something about them. Stop worrying about what narcissists think of you. They don't even like themselves.