One of the characteristics of narcissistic behavior that can be emotionally damaging to an enormous extent for those involved with them is their detachment. Narcissists don’t seem to be able to feel with the same depth and purity than we do. Being with them, there is always the nagging feeling that we seem to be far more dedicated to the relationship and emotionally attached to the narcissists than they are to us. We are racking our brains about why it is that they can be so distanced and show so little involvement, while we are giving them all we have to give and often love them with all our hearts. It is pure agony to have to realize that the person you so ardently love and for whom you would do almost everything, is not nearly as emotionally involved and likely doesn’t share your feelings – at least not nearly to the same extent. To shield us from the pain that comes with this realization we often push it aside, cling to the little breadcrumps of affection they are throwing us and completely deny their lack of involvement. Our denial, however, does not solve the problem. Because we are unwilling to accept that they are not nearly as attached as we are, we are disappointed over and over again – whenever their lack of attachment becomes evident once more.
Even after having been disappointed numerous times, we still hold on to them. It would be unbearable for us to admit the evidence for the fact that they don’t really show any signs of a deep emotional attachment to us. We cling to the memory of those moments in which they showed us little signs of their supposed affection and think that if we only hang on, be patient and enduring, things will get better. We fool ourselves by holding on to the conviction that they might be emotionally attached to the same extent as we are, but they are just unwilling to show it. In our belief that some people are just unable and unwilling to show the real depth of their feelings, we deny all the facts that support their detachment and carelessness. We go on denying until we reach the point where their detachment becomes so obvious that even we can’t manage to turn a blind eye to it. By then we often have already invested so much into the relatioship – so much dedication, heartbreak, patience, understanding and energy – that we can’t stand the thought of just letting go. Consequently, in spite of clear evidence for their emotional detachment and lack of involvement, we still can’t let go of them. We hold on and debase ourselves in a misguided belief that our love for them can do miracles, and that if we just give them enough time, they will gradually learn to be as emotionally involved as we are.
Clinging to someone with all your strength, who doesn’t really have any use for our feelings and doesn’t know in the least how to return them is a crippling and heartbreaking experience. I held on tightly to someone for months, who clearly wasn’t nearly as emotionally attached as I was. For me, he became the center of my existence. He would always be my first thought in the morning and the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep. I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, call him whenever I had a spare minute. In short, I felt for him with all my heart and was dedicated to a point where I was beginning to sacrifice my own well-being. In the beginning, it never even occurred to me that I might be investing much more into the relationship than he was. It never crossed my mind that I might not be his first thought in the morning, that his heart was not really in it, and that while I was giving all I had, he was only prepared to give whatever it took to keep me going.
After a certain amount of time, I began to sense his detachment and I slowly became aware of the fact that while I was prepared to sacrifice almost everything for him, he was always keeping a certain distance. On some level, I knew that I couldn’t be sure that he even had deep feelings for me. However, this realization was so painful that I kept pushing it aside. I tried to ignore all of the signs of his lack of emotional involvement and instead clung to the little breadcrumps of affection I received once in a while. My unwillingness to accept his distance led me to endure a lot of shady and ambiguous behavior patiently and with endurance. I somehow learned to live with the fact that while I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, he seemed to be okay with seeing me about once a week. I also somehow came to terms with not being able to talk with him on the phone as often as I would have liked to. Whenever I received a message or a call from him it was really special for me. I would read his text messages and emails over and over again, because they were often everything I had to keep me going. They kept me in the illusion that on a deeper level he felt just as stongly for me, as I did for him, and that he was just unable to show it.
When I once complained about seeing him so seldomly, he only told me that he would also love to see me more often, but just didn’t have the time. I then told him that I had the nagging feeling that I seemed to care much more about seeing him than he did about seeing me. He denied it and just coldly stated that he had learned to live with shitty situations and therefore wasn’t so affected by not being able to see me that often. I once wrote him an email in which I complained about his lack of dedication. He accused me of being clingy and of overreacting. I accepted his explanations, lies and exuses over and over again. However, during the entire relationship I always sensed his emotional detachment as I got enough evidence for it on a daily basis, and just couldn’t deny all of it without taking a certain amount of damage. As a result, I was never really happy with him. On a deeper level I was aware that I was a 100% dedicated to him and loved him with all my heart, while I didn’t really get much in return. At times I was angry with myself for being so weak and for allowing myself to care so much and to love so ardently, when he apparently didn’t know how to reciprocate those feelings. I sensed that I would eventually get my heart broken, and still didn’t manage to let go and save myself.
My sadness and despair increased gradually, and it took me months to finally reach the point where I could no longer turn a blind eye to what was going on. I had an eye-opening epiphany while I was on a short trip with my best friend to Hamburg. We had a great time together and made so many fun experiences. One evening, when I lay in the hotel bed, I had the deep wish to call him and tell him about everything I had experienced. It would have been the most natural thing to do. It was another proof of the depth and intensity of my feelings for him: He was the one I so desperately wanted to talk to to share my experiences, because he was the one I cared about the most. However, I nearly choked on the realization that I would somehow not dare to call him and that during our relationship I never dared to just call him spontaneously. He had managed to keep his distance so well that I never dared to approach him. He was always the one approaching me and I had just accepted it without even giving it a second thought. On that night in Hamburg, painful realizations were nearly crushing me. It had finally become so very evident to me how distant we had always been to each other and that what we had was not even a real dedicated relationship. All of a sudden, I knew that I could not and would never be able to rely on him for emotional support. I understood that he would never be willing to give me what I needed: dedication, affection, honesty and consideration. The signs had been there right from the beginning and it took me several months to finally realize that he was detached and distanced and unable to appreciate and reciprocate my deep, loving feelings for him. While I had loved him unconditionally and with all my heart, he always managed to keep his distane and deny me the emotional support that I needed.
Being with a narcissist will more often than not leave you feeling empty, lonely, shattered and on the brink of an emotional breakdown. Our relationships with them are almost always one-sided, as they are unable and unwilling to feel with the same depth and dedication as we do. We tend to invest all we have in them and love them to an extent where we sacrifice our own wishes, needs and ambitions. Their detachment often is very evident, but we somehow manage to turn a blind eye to it, in order to shield us from pain. However, on a deeper level we are often very much aware of their lack of commitment, and it keeps us from feeling satisfied and happy. Having to accept their lack of emotional involvement is heart-breaking. How can it be that while we love them so ardently, and bear everything with patience and endurance, they are unwilling to reciprocate those feelings? We rack our brains in order to find an answer. We are convinced that we are the source of the problem, as we are just not deserving of real love and dedication. It would never occur to us that we are in a relationship with a narcissist who doesn’t have any use for our love. In a relationship with a narcissist you will never get what you want. Whenever you get too attached, they somehow manage to keep their distance. They cannot give you the stability, commitment and emotional involvement of a real relationship. We should therefore always try to face the facts – no matter how painful they are – instead of living in denial. We can try as hard as we want to, but we will never be able to turn them into the loving and dedicated partners that we are looking for. Having to beg for love and attention clearly doesn’t do us any good and it is a waste of time and energy. We should never debase ourselves and dwell in agony for a relationship with someone who doesn’t know how to value our feelings and how lucky he is to be the one our affections are directed at.