The terms love avoidant and narcissist are often used interchangeably, but these two types of individuals are not always the same. They do have similarities, but there are also differences that have an impact on the relationship. As a general statement, all narcissists are love avoidant, but people can be love avoidant and not be narcissists.
This can be confusing. Taking a closer look at each type of person will clarify the signs to watch for in any relationship. Understanding if the new partner is a love avoidant or a narcissist will help you determine if it is time to end the relationship or consider working with a therapist to restructure the relationship and stay together.
The Common Background Issues
Everyone has a different background, particularly their relationship with their earliest caregivers. Caregivers are typically biological parents, but for some children, this could be grandparents, legal guardians, or adoptive parents.
Both the narcissist and the love avoidant usually have a history of abandonment by caregivers. This can be abandonment that is emotional, where the caregivers are physically present but neglect to care for the child’s emotional wellbeing. These parents may fawn over the child one minute, only to ignore the child the next. The child learns early in life that there is no one to rely on for this emotional support, so they turn inwards. The child sees others as untrustworthy and looks to his or herself for love and a sense of who they are in the world.
As this child grows, he or she learns that others are a source of emotional pain. To protect themselves, these children and adults put up walls to seal out the risk of emotional pain. They avoid emotional connections and remain distant and aloof in social interactions and in intimate relationships.
Signs of Narcissists and Love Avoidants
The following are signs of love avoidance and narcissism. Look for patterns and consistent behavior and not just one particular behavior that can include:
· A lack of true intimacy on an emotional level
· Putting more emphasis on things rather than people
· Showing a lack of emotional range
· Signs of perfectionism
· Lacking close friends or group of friends
At the same time, there are also differences between the two. Some of these include:
· The love avoidant is distant to protect self, the narcissist sees him or herself as superior to others and above having a relationship with an inferior person
· The love avoidant attempts to isolate from others, the narcissist feels a sense of entitlement to control others
· The love avoidant may be dismissive of others to keep them away, the narcissist is dismissive of others because they are not his or her equals
· The love avoidant moves away from relationships, the narcissist rushes the partner into relationships using love bombing and other techniques
· Love avoidants have low self-esteem and typically have some level of difficulty in social situations, the narcissist appears highly self-confident and seeks out ways to highlight their superiority in social settings. In reality, both struggle with self-esteem issues.
· The love avoidant blames self for all things, the narcissist blames everyone else for things, even those they are fully responsible for creating.
· Love avoidants
Tips for Relationships with Love Avoidants and Narcissists
In general, both narcissists and love avoidants can make changes with therapy and support. However, as with most change, they must want to do the work to make the change. Both of these individuals can have very different personalities in public and in private, and they may see the positive public side as an accurate representation of their reality. They often dismiss the distress of the partner, and it is not uncommon for the love avoidant to have some of the traits and behaviors of the narcissist, particularly in the relationship.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist or a love avoidant, it is essential to:
· Set boundaries to protect your wellbeing and establish the ground rules for the relationship if it is to continue
· Stop making excuses and justifying the behavior of the partner
· Learn how to communicate your needs in the relationship
· Develop healthy self-care routines
It will also be critical to make a decision as to the changes you need to see to continue working on the relationship. Many people find that ending the relationship is an essential part of their own wellbeing if the narcissist or love avoidant is unwilling or unable to change.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach
Author of Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love
And Wake Up Recovery for Toxic Relationships, Codependency and Love Addiction