Narcissistic Love Patterns: The Romantic (2023)

If you have ever been wildly and passionately in love with a narcissist who left you crying and wondering what happened, you may have asked yourself: “Did he really love me at all? Does he ever think of me? Will he come back to me?”

After listening to dozens of narcissistic men in therapy talk about their love affairs, I have learned that most of these men are highly predictable. I have coined the term “narcissistic love patterns” to describe the relationship behaviors that these men reproduce over and over again with different women. If you know your narcissistic ex’s “love pattern” you can generally predict how he will behave with you. It can also help you understand how he saw you and what the relationship really meant to him.

There are certain “narcissistic love patterns” that occur so frequently that I have given them names: “the romantic," “the big game hunter,” “the white knight,” “the novelty seeker,” “the hater,” and “the recycler.” If I took a vote on which of these narcissistic exes most women want back, “the romantic” would be the absolute winner.

In today’s post, we will take a close look at the romantic narcissist’s love pattern in order to understand why his loss feels so devastating and why women long for him to return.

The Romantic Narcissist

If you thought that your very romantic narcissistic ex really loved you and wanted to marry you, you are not crazy. Even though he is now gone, your guy actually meant what he said when he said it to you. He was in love with you, or at least with his own romantic fantasy of the two of you as the perfect couple.

The narcissistic men that I call “romantics” fall in love easily and love being in love. They also love all the trappings of the perfect romance as much as you do: dinner by candlelight, cozy weekends in the cabin in the woods, and moonlit walks along the beach. They are at their best and most fully present in the courtship stage of your relationship. Their goal is to make every moment as romantic as possible. And the sex is amazing because he is slow, passionate, and considerate. He delights in your body and tells you over and over again how beautiful you are.

Then he memorializes your perfect romance by posting pictures of the two of you on all the social media sites. He wants everyone he knows to see the two of you as the perfect couple. There are pictures of you on the boat with the wind blowing your hair, pictures of the two of you hiking together, and pictures of the two of you walking along quaint cobblestone streets.

Romantic narcissists may even start to plan a wedding with you and encourage you to start thinking of names for your children. But…just about the time that you are thinking that you have found your ideal husband, he begins to cool off. You can feel him starting to back away. He calls you less often and starts making lame excuses about why he cannot see you: Work has gotten terribly busy and his cousins are coming to visit. There is no more talk about a future together, and the honeymoon is now officially over. You continue reaching out to him in an attempt to get him back, but he is now in full retreat.

What is happening: The novelty of enacting the perfect loving couple has worn off and he is beginning to see you more realistically. He has started to see things about you that do not exactly fit his fantasies of perfect love. He is also getting slightly bored. He has run through his repertoire of romantic gestures and now that it is time to seal the deal and either move in with you or propose, he wants out of the relationship.

For normal men, all the romantic moments and wonderful sex tend to lead toward greater intimacy and interpersonal trust. For narcissistic men, as the relationship becomes more real, they begin to feel disappointed and stifled. It is one thing to fantasize about marrying you, it is another to stay emotionally connected to you once things get to the point of moving to the next stage of the relationship.

As reality sets in, these men find a way to back out of the relationship. Suddenly, one day you realize that the person that you thought was the love of your life is now out of your life. You are left with a million unanswered questions. Why did he leave? Was any of what happened between you real? Will he come back?

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Here are two of the most common rationalizations that these men use to justify leaving you:

You aren’t who they thought you were: This explanation allows them to relieve themselves of any blame. It is your fault that things did not work out, not their inability to stay committed. Now that the narcissist knows you well enough to see your flaws (and in a narcissist’s mind, to be flawed is to be worthless) there is no point staying with you. The truth is that they were never actually in love with you; what they were in love with was the idea of being part of a perfect couple that everyone envied. The emphasis here is on “perfect.”

Yours is a doomed and tragic love: The relationship did not work out because tragically it was doomed from the start by forces beyond the two lovers’ control. This version of why they are leaving is based on all the romantic and doomed lovers of literature and cinema. Think of Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet," or Allie and Noah in The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. This appeals because the man gets to be as romantic and sentimental about the two of you as he likes, but does not ever have to subject this love to the real tests of everyday life. The lovers in his fantasy are always tragically parted before anyone has to buy the toilet paper.

What is likely to happen next: Now that they are safely out of the relationship and do not have to deliver on any of the promises that they made you, they are likely to be looking back on the relationship with nostalgia. If you could eavesdrop on their conversations with other people, you would probably hear them describing you and the relationship in glowing terms. You were the love of their life. Everything was perfect. They gloss over how and why the relationship ended. True to form, everything that happened is romanticized and it all looks even better in the rearview mirror than it actually was when you were together. All this, unfortunately, does not do you, the ex, any good because even if they came back, they would leave you again….and again. They are in love with the courtship stage of dating and are not mature enough to deliver on their promises and move into a real relationship. Their love life is one romantic courtship repeated over and over again with a different woman each time. They are in love with the idea of love and not with you.

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