Can You Ever Have A Healthy Relationship With A Narcissist? An Expert Explains

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is nothing short of challenging, and if you've ever dated one, you know this first-hand. Some people believe narcissism means being super into their looks and spending hours staring in a mirror, but really, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is much more complex. According to Amira Martin, LCSW-R, of Columbia University School of Social Work, we all possess narcissistic traits, but some people have more than the average person — and those are the ones you need to watch out for. Getting romantically involved with someone like this can have serious consequences.


Every narcissist is different, but they all share the same key qualities: an inflated ego (or God complex), a desire for praise and attention, and a lack of empathy, per the Mayo Clinic. Dating someone with this personality type is not only challenging but also potentially harmful. A narcissist puts their needs first and will take advantage of whomever they need to in order to get what they want. As much as you want them to change, there is very little evidence they do. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is permanent, and cannot be cured, Martin states. If that's the case, can you ever have a healthy relationship with a narcissist, or is it doomed from the start?

If you're looking for a deep connection, absolutely not

It should come as no surprise that a healthy romantic relationship with a narcissist isn't on the table, and it never will be. "The overt narcissist is the one we typically think of, chest out, all dressed up, and wants all eyes on them," Amira Martin tells us. "They too will treat you as if you don't matter." Due to their lack of empathy and blatant neglect of their partner's needs, it's extremely difficult for a narcissist to find value in the relationship unless it's directly benefiting them, Martin adds. If you're searching for a lifetime partner who has your back and genuinely cares about your needs, you aren't going to find it in a person rooted in self-indulgence. The only real connection they have is with themselves.


The thing about narcissists is they're incredibly charming, so they know how to make you feel important and wanted. That's how they get you in the first place. They're funny and outgoing, and make you feel like a million bucks. Unfortunately, the facade eventually goes away and you see them for who they really are: toxic and abusive. Perhaps, you were drawn in by their incredible listening skills, only to realize they were gathering information to use against you down the line. Don't mistake interest for concern. At the end of the day, a narcissist is out for personal gain. 

You can have fun with them

If you find yourself attracted to a narcissist but have no intentions of being in a relationship or falling in love, that's a different story. Amira Martin says this type of person is good for having fun with, so if that's something you want, we say go for it — but tread lightly! As we just discussed, a narcissist is totally fun and charming at the beginning (and they're often great in bed). But does this translate outside of the bedroom? "But if you want true and deep love, a meaningful connection, or someone who will value you the way you will value them, then definitely not," Martin explains.


The key is making sure you have an exit strategy and sticking to it. You may go into a situation fully intending to call it quits before things get serious, but those things hardly ever go to plan. To keep yourself safe from a narcissistic relationship, we recommend you keep them at an arm's distance. Continue to hang out with your friends and do your own thing. A narcissist will try to monopolize your time, but by maintaining time for yourself, you'll successfully avoid a toxic relationship.

Recognizing when it's time to go

Recognizing when it's time to end a relationship with a narcissist isn't black and white, and there isn't one specific thing that needs to happen in order for you to call it quits. Instead, there are several warning signs to look out for. For instance, your partner continuously belittles you and your accomplishments, forcing you to believe you'll never be good enough for them. "They may cause you severe physical or emotional harm," Amira Martin adds.


We know it's easier said than done, but it's better to get out sooner rather than later. Being in a relationship with a narcissist can have damaging, lasting effects on your mental health. Victims of narcissistic abuse often develop anxiety, depression, dissociative disorders, and thoughts of self-harm and suicide, per PsychCentral. When you decide to leave, Martin says it's important to surround yourself with a strong support system, whoever that is to you. If you can, seek help from a therapist or mental health professional. Above all, stay strong, and know you're not alone.