Two Narcissists in a Relationship: Signs & Effects

What happens when two narcissists marry?
on February 26, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Kaytee Gillis

Someone with traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) experiences an inflated sense of self, with an innate desire for attention and admiration. With this in mind, it seems odd that two narcissists could be united in a romantic relationship, as their personalities seem destined to clash in constant competition. 

However, even though it might seem counterintuitive, narcissistic relationships are more common than you think — as their similarities bind them together in an almost passionate kind of power struggle. 

So how does a relationship work between two narcissistic partners, or more specifically, how does this constant need for validation work in the rollercoaster of love? 

Key Takeaways
  • Despite the seemingly incompatible nature of the two narcissists, their similarities and mutual understanding can indeed draw them together, creating a dynamic yet volatile relationship.
  • Initial attraction is often based on mutual admiration of each other's confidence and charm. This phase of idealization can quickly transition into a competitive relationship dynamic.
  • Key indicators include a constant state of competition, a lack of empathy, and a propensity for drama, which can lead to a toxic and emotionally abusive environment.
  • The union of two narcissists is fraught with difficulties such as dual manipulation, rivalry over partnership, unmet emotional needs, challenges with fidelity, intimacy issues, and potential parenting pitfalls.
  • Relationships between two narcissists are characterized by extreme highs and lows. The mutual need for admiration can lead to temporary satisfaction but is quickly overshadowed by conflict and emotional distance.
  • While the relationship may seem destined for failure, there is potential for improvement. If both partners are willing to seek therapy and work on their issues, they can learn to moderate their narcissistic tendencies, develop empathy, and foster a healthier dynamic.

Can two narcissists be in a relationship? 

There are a lot of misconceptions about narcissism, as there are many different types of narcissists, and not all narcissists display the same traits. 

“Narcissism is a personality disorder and, like all personality disorders, runs on a spectrum,” says Kaytee Gillis, psychotherapist, and author.

“Many people have narcissistic traits but may not meet the criteria for a full diagnosis. The word narcissism is stereotyped right now and often overused, often referring to arrogance or someone being stuck up, but that is not what it is.” 

Some common narcissistic tendencies include a heightened sense of self-importance or self-worth, a lack of empathic ability, and a general self-centered approach to life — with all of these traits heightened in a long-term relationship. 

Due to these characteristics, these individuals are usually drawn to non-narcissistic people, so that they can use their power to exert control over the ‘weaker’ person. Therefore they might look for someone with lower self-esteem or codependent tendencies, as they might be more willing to ignore any red flags. 

With their more self-absorbed nature, they naturally prefer this position of power, so as the relationship progresses they can manipulate their romantic partner to satisfy their own needs — utilizing tactics such as gaslighting, love-bombing, and even devaluation. In this dynamic, their partner is simply their narcissistic supply, providing them with the ego boosts they need on command. 

If two narcissists date, it seems impossible that they could co-exist, especially in a romantic relationship! However, their similarities can actually draw two narcissists together. 

Are narcissists attracted to one another? 

Narcissists can be attracted to one another for several reasons, and while their similarities might draw them together, their connection isn’t purely surface level. 

“It is very possible, just as anyone may be attracted to a narcissist's charm and social charisma,” says Gillis. 

“It can also happen the other way where someone who has narcissistic traits can spot those traits in someone else a mile away, thus avoiding them.” 

When two narcissists first interact, it can trigger a phase of intense attraction and idealization. Each individual is drawn to the other's confidence, charm, and perceived social status, wanting to soak this in as much as possible. Both parties might initially idealize each other, seeing the other as a perfect match that can enhance their own self-esteem and status.

There is a theory called ‘assortative mating’ which suggests that individuals are attracted to people who share the same characteristics as them. Think of it as the reverse of opposites attract! According to research, this can also apply to the ‘dark triad’ of traits, including narcissism as “in mate selection, similarity in personality is clearly more important than complementarity, even when undesirable traits are concerned.” 

It’s also important to note that two narcissists may be in a relationship, with neither having the self-awareness of their own narcissistic tendencies. They may become very attached to similarities in their partner, even though they may not recognize those characteristics as narcissistic. 

Therefore, what they are really attracted to is the mutual understanding that they share. 

After this stage of initial attraction, the relationship evolves to a more competitive and volatile era — making it easier to spot narcissistic couples through their relationship behaviors. 

Signs of a narcissistic couple

Lack of empathy: Narcissists struggle with empathy, which can lead to a lack of emotional support and understanding in the relationship. Depending on the severity of their narcissistic tendencies, this could lead to emotional abuse, as they value their own needs above all else.
Constant competition: While a bit of healthy competition is welcomed in most relationships, two narcissists will be constantly intent on one-upping each other. However, as the relationship progresses, power dynamics become more evident, with each partner striving to maintain control and superiority within the relationship. As they compete for attention, recognition, and achievements, it can turn into a toxic relationship quite quickly.
Drama: Due to this fixation on power, the relationship can be highly volatile, with this couple being known for their blazing rows (and often passionate make-ups!) Likely both partners might thrive on the drama and intensity of the relationship, mistaking it for passion and connection.

What happens when two narcissists are in a relationship? 

When two narcissists fall in love, several signs signify this kind of relationship, but what happens next? 

With such volatility, lack of empathy, and manipulation, it doesn’t spell a happy ending for this kind of relationship. However, even though it may not resemble a fairytale ending, their mutual understanding could lead to an odd equilibrium and a long-lasting union.

Narcissists are notorious for their inability to hold down healthy relationships with others, as their personality traits create and reinforce a toxic dynamic. 

When two narcissists come together, they can actually help each other feed their own egos and boost each other's self-esteem — as they innately understand these patterns of behavior. Both partners do not find these narcissistic behaviors strange, therefore they are accepting of this kind of love. 

Even though this equilibrium is possible, it does not go without its problems. Narcissistic relationships are innately problematic and volatile, with a range of issues and pitfalls at every turn. 

Problems when two narcissists marry

Dual manipulation: When two narcissists are fighting for power in a relationship, there are usually numerous manipulative tactics at play. They may exploit each other to meet their own needs or to achieve personal goals, without regard for the consequences to their partner. While this disrupts the well-being of the relationship, since they are both participating in these behaviors, they may not recognize what’s wrong with these behaviors.
Rivalry above partnership: While marriage should be an equal partnership, can turn into a competitive battleground where each spouse vies for dominance, attention, and validation, often at the expense of the other.
Unmet emotional needs: Both partners may feel emotionally neglected, as their needs for affection, understanding, and genuine connection go unmet. As each seeks attention, they both are left feeling unheard.
Challenges with fidelity: Due to their own self-admiration, they may continue to seek validation outside of the relationship. This can escalate to infidelity or emotional affairs.
Intimacy issues: The relationship may lack depth, with both partners struggling to form a genuinely intimate emotional connection due to their self-focus. Each may avoid showing vulnerability, seeing it as a weakness, which further impedes the development of a deep emotional bond.
Parenting issues: Although this does not apply to all narcissistic couples, their personality traits can affect their parenting styles — where the needs of the children may be secondary to the parents’ need for admiration and affirmation.

What is the outcome of a relationship between two narcissists?

The outcome of a relationship between two narcissists can vary widely, depending on several factors including the individuals' level of narcissism, their willingness to recognize and work on their issues, and external pressures or motivations for change.

The relationship may experience intense cycles of highs and lows, with periods of extreme happiness when the mutual need for admiration is met, quickly followed by lows characterized by conflict, competition, and emotional distance. This volatility can be exhausting and confusing for both partners, with insecurity triggering constant conflicts and innate power struggles. 

Over time, the lack of genuine empathy and emotional support can erode the emotional bond between the partners. 

“Instead of being able to look back on their behavior and reflect, take ownership, and make amends (which is what separates someone with NPD traits from those who do not have them). They will be unable to have that level of self-reflection,” says Gillis. 

This erosion can lead to the appearance of far more worrying behaviors, such as manipulation or emotional abuse.

While the volatility of these kinds of relationships can look like they’re destined for failure, it doesn’t always have to lead to a breakup. 

Narcissistic couples can struggle to reach out for help, as they naturally reject help. However, if the couples can overcome this fear and approach couples therapy as a team, they have a much greater chance for success. Through therapy and personal development, they can learn to moderate their narcissistic tendencies, develop empathy, and build a healthier relationship dynamic.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the most common type of relationship for a narcissist?

    Narcissists most commonly seek out a relationship where they can be in a position of power and control. This usually involves finding a partner with low self-esteem, self-worth, or codependent tendencies. The narcissist may see an opportunity to exploit these traits and use manipulation tactics to get what they want from the relationship. In this common dynamic, their partner acts as their narcissistic supply — without the depth of a true connection.
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