This is one of the most commonly asked questions from those who have given their hearts, and souls to a narcissist. At first the relationship is very intense and romantic and it seems perhaps you have finally found "the one."
I recently watched a movie where a character comically said "or you are still chasing after the elusive "one." Meaning we often spend our lives waiting for the one who will finally make everything right with our world. Initially it may seem the narcissistic lover is "the one." But after the honeymoon is over the tables turn. Why? Well because the honeymoon is over! And narcissists love the honeymoon.
In all healthy relationships there comes a time where the honeymoon must evolve into something real. This means it is time for real communication, dealing with issues, concerns and commitments. It means having the ability to work with a partner, to consider the needs of that partner, to let go of the need to be "right" in favor of having true communication, accountability and responsibility. If you have a concern in your relationship you should be able to take your concern to your partner and be heard. You should also be able to listen, really listen to the concerns of your partner. In a narcissistic relationship this doesn't happen.
The reason the narcissist loves the honeymoon is because he can be stuck in the Peter Pan, terminal boyhood stage where he doesn't have to be responsible or accountable. He doesn't want to deal with issues in the relationship. If any issues are brought up he will be quick to dump them back on you and walk away. He loves the romance, the attention, admiration, adoration, promise of ideal love and hope that he has found "the one" who will tolerate all his weirdness without question. When his beloved begins to question him, differ with him or make demands, his "weirdness" escalates. He resorts to his manipulation techniques to get you to stop bringing his issues to the forefront. And his greatest manipulation technique is to dump it all on you. It is your fault. You are too demanding! You don't accept him as he is!
The narcissist doesn't want to grow up and be accountable. He is entitled to constant attention and admiration without having to invest anything more than the initial time it took to woo you. Once you have been wooed you should be hooked in and he shouldn't have to invest so much anymore. He has groomed you to be a constant source of admiration, attention, sex, affection, and nurturing. The piece that is missing is that the narcissist doesn't seem to believe that he should reciprocate.
With men there is an unlimited supply of selfless women out there who believe in taking care of their man and catering to his needs without concern for their own. And so it is pretty easy to groom a woman to play this role. With female narcissists they want to be the queen and look for men who will completely adore and admire them, once again without any concern for their own needs. Men who had demanding or narcissistic Mother's might easily align with a woman like this and cater to her every need in order to keep her around.
Underneath it all the narcissist can't enter into a place of mature love. Their love is immature, self centered and needy. They are looking for unconditional love but are unwilling to give it. And so the question "did he ever really love me?" can be answered simply by saying "he loved you to the extent he was able. He never had the ability to move beyond the honeymoon and upgrade to mature love. He is stuck in "young" love which is intense, passionate and romantic while it lasts. For a time, you might be "the one" for the narcissist. But when you begin to have needs or demands from the relationship, or you are disagreeable, it will change. When you begin to question his behavior whether it be viewing porn, staying out late or ignoring you, he will be angry at you because he wants you to completely affirm and validate him, no matter what he does. He expects for you to tolerate his affairs, his porn, his sex addiction, his avoidance issues, and anything else he does. This is narcissism! Narcissism is self centered and immature. It doesn't consider you or your needs.
Often when you are cut off, abandoned, devalued and discarded, it is a punishment for your refusal to comply. And as victims of narcissism we often believe it is somehow our fault that he or she treated us with such contempt. We wrack our brains wondering what we did to deserve such cruel treatment. But it is and never has been about you. What you did is refuse to cater to his needs and affirm him unconditionally. But unless you want to completely give up yourself and be absorbed by the narcissist, it is unrealistic to play this role with him. Often we do, for quite a long time. We are conditioned to turn a blind eye, to take him back after he had an affair and not ask questions, and suffer through the cold spells and silent treatments. But eventually one of two things happens. Either the narcissist gets bored with you because you no longer challenge him, or you get fed up with his behavior and start making demands for yourself which may eventually result in your leaving.
You can't always know what is going on inside the tortured mind of the narcissist. The one thing you can know is that he or she is unable to truly give you what you want, need and deserve; a whole, healthy relationship. So whether you leave or the narcissist leaves, you are better off.
It is perfectly O.K. to love the narcissist, even after it is over. If your love was real then honor that and embrace it. This means you are able to love in a deep and honest way. Sometimes the narcissistic relationship shows us how deeply we can and do love. Playing with Peter Pan can be a magical experience, one that you don't forget. It can be intense, passionate, sexy, and romantic. But you are destined to live in never never land which means you will never have anything real or true. It is all only make believe.
I believe there is a part of the narcissist that does love those he gets involved with. At least some of them. He or she may also use relationships to get something he/she wants. The narcissist may marry for money, or prestige or power. A narcissist may get involved with you because you are eye candy and make him/her look good. But then, most people make choices based on what's in it for them. Most people are physically attracted to someone because they perceive that person as hot, or beautiful, or gorgeous. People with money, or power or prestige never have trouble finding a mate, because the mate is more attracted to the goodies, than the person. Many people are attracted to fixer uppers hoping they can rehabilitate them and make them the "perfect mate."
Love only goes as deep as we do, and frankly if your mate doesn't run very deep than neither will the love. If your mate hasn't taken the time to develop himself or herself than it's not likely going to change in the relationship. If you've spent your life embracing "personal growth" and your mate has never read a book on the topic, then you can bet that personal growth isn't high on his list of priorities.
Did the narcissist ever really love you? Perhaps he loved the idea of you. Perhaps he loved how you made him feel. Perhaps he loved the fantasy of what life with you could bring him. Perhaps he loved the idea that he has finally found someone who will love him unconditionally and ignore his shortcomings (which are a lot.) Perhaps he was taken by your beauty, or intelligence or wit. But he was never strong enough to go the next level. And ultimately that is what you wanted right? You wanted a real, mature, loving, caring, nurturing relationship that considered your needs. And you simply weren't going to get it from someone that shallow.
If you tell yourself that you loved him and he loved you to the best of his ability given what he had to work with, you can finally make peace with it all and let him go to be who and what he is....a narcissist.