When an empathic person is in a sexual relationship and especially an intimate long-term relationship with another person, sex creates emotional, physical, and spiritual bonds.
Bonds and trust that grow from the connected exchange of sex can deepen the feelings of love and care toward their partner. The chemical release of dopamine and oxytocin during sex floods your body and brain with feelings of love and creates a need to feel more of the same.
But when there’s a narcissist involved, things don’t quite work this way. In nearly any intimate relationship with a narcissist, you deal with narcissistic abuse and manipulation.
How do you identify a narcissist in an intimate relationship?
What is narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse happens when someone uses manipulation, threats, intimidation, and other tactics to control another person.
This pervasive form of abuse can occur in any kind of relationship, including intimate relationships, whether two people dating, married, engaged, or living together.
It often begins after the initial phase in the relationship (love bombing or idealization) when the narcissist begins to notice you’re not quite as perfect as they’d believed.
In other words, the narcissist will notice you’re a regular human, not the fantasy they originally saw. This is when the devaluation phase begins, usually with verbal abuse, such as name-calling, belittling comments, and threats.
As the relationship progresses, the abuser will use emotional manipulation tactics, such as gaslighting, intimidation, isolation, and even physical violence. All of this is about gaining control over you.
During the narcissistic abuse cycle, the narcissist will inevitably discard you – literally dumping you or even giving you the silent treatment and figuratively discarding you.
This phase could last some time, but before you know it, you’ll be dealing with repeated attempts to re-engage with you or get your attention. This is what we call the “hoovering phase,” and it means exactly what it sounds like – the narcissist is trying to suck you back into the relationship.
Narcissistic Abuse in Intimate Relationships
Since narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, entitlement, lack of empathy, and a sense of superiority, narcissists tend to focus on their own needs without regard for even the most basic human compassion.
They are self-centered, believe they’re better than most, and tend to be arrogant, demanding, and controlling. They use charm and flattery to manipulate others into doing what they want.
Considering all of that, it’s easy to imagine that narcissistic abuse can be psychologically and emotionally brutal, even and especially in some ways, in sexual relationships.
How your own body and brain contribute
When you and your partner have sex, certain biological functions naturally happen. While you may not realize it consciously, your body and brain are doing all kinds of stuff. In so many ways, your body is actively trying to bond with theirs, whether you intend that or not.
And your brain? A whole other level of sneaky. For example, while you and your partner are having sex, your body and brain are flooded with dopamine and oxytocin, and releasing all those feel-good hormones makes you feel super connected to the narcissist.
(It’s almost like your body betrays you, right?)
Of course, in that moment of bliss, most people would assume that the narcissist is bonding with them too. It would seem logical to believe deep connection and love flow reciprocally between you.
And to add to the confusion, the narcissist is likely to agree with you in the moment, at least if the moment isn’t causing them any distress. This next part might break your heart, but you must hear it.
How does the narcissist see sex?
The narcissist sees sex more as a method of control than a way to connect with you on a deep intimate level.
In nearly every case, whether the narcissist wants sex or DOES NOT want sex, they use the idea of sex as a way to maintain control or to sort of claim ownership.
In the case of a sexual relationship with a narcissist, the bonds on their side do not exist in the same way, and the sharing of sex for connection is not what it appears to be. The narcissist uses sex to gain a feeling of power.
Meanwhile, because of the emotional bonding coupled with the body and brain chemicals, we grow deeper connections to them. Likely the love bomb-devalue cycle in other areas of your relationship with the narcissist will happen, and trauma bonds will also take hold, further complicating things.
Lack of empathy means lack of intimate connection.
Without compassionate or emotional empathy, narcissists can not put themselves in the other person’s place or find the depth of connection that the empath feels.
They also are ego-driven people and view sex not as a way to bond but as a way to own or possess another person and to meet their own needs only.
Narcissists may seem like attentive lovers (at least at first) that appear to be giving pleasure for the benefit of you, their partner, but as the relationship continues and masks come off, it can become clear that this is not the case.
This is because the narcissist never intended to give to you; they had the drive only to please themselves and to make you react to them in a sexual way which fuels their ego and gives them supply.
The narcissist’s use of sex creates an imbalance of power in a relationship where you are becoming filled with trust and intimate love, remaining self-oriented only and using the vulnerability intimacy can create to gain control.
This power was always the narcissist’s intent and main sexual drive; the intimacy felt was only yours, and once under their sexual control in this way, the power becomes abuse and is a factor in deeper trauma bonding.
Sex as narcissistic supply.
There are ways the narcissist gains narcissistic supply through sex; for one, they hear our words of love and gain supply. It’s like direct feedback to the narcissist that they have secured us as supply, and we are fully bonded.
The narcissist also feeds off the oxytocin and dopamine high, both their own and ours, that sex floods our brains and bodies.
These chemicals that are released are powerful “feel good” and bonding chemicals and leave you feeling satisfied yet wanting more, so it deepens the connection to a partner.
We know that all attention is narcissistic supply to a narcissist, and sex seems to be a heightened supply because of the intense feelings it creates in you. Narcissists often get an ego boost from sex, another form of supply.
They sometimes view themselves as great at sex and use you to prove that (to themselves). They often like you to “perform” or show how great they are sexually.
This can feel inauthentic and cause you to sense that something is wrong or even leave you feeling unloved.
Objectification of all people is common for narcissists. They see us as objects for their own gain or pleasure, maybe even so far as eventually you may feel like a sex doll or like you are expected to perform in a certain way lacking all authentic and spontaneous behavior on your part, or maybe like you are not even there.
Essentially, the narcissist is having sex with themselves, using you as an object to complete the sex act, and gaining further power over you.
You may be seeking love and sharing an intimate exchange with them, but they see you as a warm body to use for their own purpose. It can feel like sex with a stranger when you look in their eyes as they objectify you.
Combined with our inevitable trauma bonds with the narcissist, this can create a cognitive dissonance during sex.
Have you ever felt empty and cried during sex with a narcissist?
Knowing intuitively something is not right but feeling connection and love at the same time can cause that empty feeling and leave you silently crying. Being objectified is not being intimately cared for and is emotionally abusive.
The Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse In An Intimate Relationship.
If you want to figure out if you’re dealing with a narcissist, it can help to understand what to look for – what ways a narcissist will abuse you in an intimate relationship.
The deeper we feel a connection through sex, the further the narcissist steals the power to use as their source of narcissistic supply and manipulate you.
They do this in many ways; here are a few examples:
- Forcing you to cross personal boundaries and go beyond your comfort zone
- Demanding sex when it’s not wanted
- Threaten to leave or cheat if sex is not up to their expectations at that moment
- Forced or non-consensual sex
They know sex bonds us to them; they may even think or say they feel close and bonded after sex.
If it is a truth at all, this is a half-truth, and it works to ensure that their feelings are mutual – sadly, it is not possible given they do not feel emotional or compassionate empathy.
The narcissist feels like they own you, and sex is one way they use to ensure it stays that way.
Understanding the Dynamics of Narcissism
Narcissists often use charm, flattery, and manipulation to gain people’s trust. They will then take advantage of their position of power to exploit others. This type of behavior is called narcissistic abuse.
- The narcissist uses his or her position of power to control others.
- He or she may use verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, isolation, or physical violence to exert control.
- In some cases, the abuser may be jealous or possessive.
- To maintain control, the narcissist must be seen as superior to those around him or her.
- He or she may use flattery, intimidation, threats, guilt trips, and name-calling to get what he or she wants from others.
Why does narcissism lead to abuse?
People who suffer from narcissism tend to believe they deserve special treatment because they are so wonderful.
Narcissistic abusers use their power and control to manipulate others into doing what they want them to do.
Narcissistic abusers often lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want. They may also threaten to hurt themselves or others if they are not treated well.
They also think that other people should treat them with deference and respect.
They might become angry and jealous if they don’t get enough attention or admiration.
All of this can lead to abuse for obvious reasons (they don’t get what they want) and for more confusing ones, such as the fact that they generally choose to attack those closest to them – often, especially their intimate partner.
This may be because they can do so “behind closed doors,” so to speak, but it may also have to do with the fact that for narcissists, familiarity really does breed contempt.
What happens to you?
Having a narcissist for a partner can leave you feeling emotionally alone, and when it comes to sex, it’s no exception.
The isolation and loneliness in a sexual relationship with a narcissist can be so devastating that you change and seem to lose vital parts of yourself.
Having your intimacy abused not only diminishes the empowerment you may feel but damages self-worth.
Being used sexually in the ways a narcissist uses and abuses is not easy to accept; it’s painful, humiliating, devaluing, dehumanizing, and can crush self-esteem.
Having the natural and beautiful part of being an empath, your ability to bond with love and empathy expressed through sex and intimacy not only unreciprocated but used as a point of power and control against you can leave you feeling like it is now hard to trust.
You may even feel naive or foolish for having trusted. Feelings of guilt, shame, and anger may also be present.
None of those feelings make you weird or bad. These are all normal ways to feel after having your intimacy used and abused, Now is the time for understanding exactly what took place and using active self-care to find healing.
Can you think of ways the narcissist used sex to manipulate you?
A narcissist often uses manipulation tactics to keep people under his/her thumb. They might even lie to make themselves appear better than others. This type of abuse can happen in any relationship, but it’s especially common in romantic relationships.
If any time you felt off or distant or emotionally not right during or after, maybe even sad or used, these could be clues to seeing the manipulation that took place.
Thanks for reading this post! My name is Lise Colucci, and I am one of the certified life coaches at QueenBeeing. Learn more about me here or schedule a one-on-one coaching session with me here.
Get Help With Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
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- Get a therapist who will work with you online, and check out our guide to finding a therapist or psychologist who understands narcissism and narcissistic abuse.