My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Narcissists are incapable of truly loving, and yet they experience some feeling, a modicum of emotion, which they insist is love.
So what gives?
Well, narcissists love their spouses or other significant others as long as they continue to reliably provide them with narcissistic supply, in one word, with attention.
Inevitably, narcissists regard others as mere sources, objects, functions, or extensions of themselves. Lagging empathy and emotional maturity, the narcissist's so-called love is pathological.
The precise locus of the pathology depends on the narcissist's stability or instability in different parts of his life.
There are two types of narcissistic love, pathologicalize as it may be.
One type of narcissist loves others as one would get attached to objects. He loves his spouse, for instance, simply because she exists and is available to provide him with narcissistic supply. He loves his children because they are part of his self-image as a successful husband or father. He loves his friends because, and as long as they provide him with narcissistic supply and as long as he can exploit them, as long as they are exploitable and gullible. So these are objects, sources in his life. He doesn't really regard them as three-dimensional human beings with their own needs, preferences, wishes, and priorities.
To him, they are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. They are representations of functions, of his needs, of his priorities, of his wishes.
Such a narcissist reacts with alarm and a rage to any sign of independence and autonomy in his charges. He tries to freeze everyone around him in their allocated positions and assigned roles. His world is rigid and immovable, predictable and static, fully under his control.
Such a narcissist punishes for transgressions against disordained order. He stifles life as a dynamic process of compromising and growing. He renders life instead a mere theater, a tableau vivant, a cult.
The other type of narcissist abhors monotony and constancy, equating them in his mind with death.
He seeks, actually, instability, chaos, upheaval, drama and change, but only when they conform to his plans, designs, and views of the world and especially of himself, only when they conform to his false self.
Thus, such a narcissist does not encourage growth in his nearest and dearest. By monopolizing their lives, he, like the other kind of narcissist, also reduces them to mere objects, props, and the exciting drama of his life.
This second type of narcissist likewise rages any sign of rebellion and disagreement, but as opposed to the first type of narcissist that we describe, he seeks to animate others with his demented energy, grandiose plans, manic and megalomaniacal self-perception.
He is an adrenaline junkie. His world is a whirlwind of comings and goings, reunions and separations, loves and hates, vocations adopted and discarded, schemes erected and dismantled, enemies turned friends and vice versa. His universe is equally a theater, but a more ferocious and chaotic one.
So where is love in all this? Where is a commitment to the loved one's welfare, the discipline, the extension of oneself to incorporate the beloved, the mutual growth?
Well, in the narcissist world, this kind of mature love is nowhere to be seen. The narcissist's love is hate and fear disguised. The narcissist's so-called love is fear of losing control and hatred of the very people is precariously balanced, personality so depends on.
The narcissist is egoistically committed only to his own well-being. To him, the objects of his love are interchangeable, replaceable and therefore by definition inferior to him.
The narcissist idealizes his nearest and dearest and closest not because he is smitten by emotion, not because he loves them, but because he needs to captivate them and to convince himself that they are worthy sources of narcissistic supply. He is aware of their flaws and mediocrity, but he lies to them and to himself about these.
In order to elevate them into high level, high octane, high quality sources of supply.
Once he deems his sources of supply, his nearest, his closest, his dearest, useless, once he deems them useless, he discards and devalues them cold-bloodedly.
The predator, always on the lookout, always on the prowl, he debases the coin of love as he corrupts everything else in himself and around him incessantly and inexorably.