In relationships, intensity can be defined as a measure or degree of emotional excitement. High intensity relationships are formed when there is high risk and high drama. Also present is a high level of uncertainty and opportunity for either high reward, or high loss.
When we enter into relationships with Narcissists, Psychopaths and Emotionally Unavailable people, there is always an element of danger and unpredictability. These types are shrouded in mystery and cloaked in charisma.
The simplest way to tell if you’re involved with one, is to monitor your emotions. If one minute you’re soaring on cloud nine and the next you are crashing into despair, then you are very likely dating someone, who’s ability to experience intimacy is impaired.
When someone we care about is pulling away from us, it’s human nature to cling tighter. Anytime we are faced with the idea that someone no longer wants us, or cares about us, our emotions plummet. We go into full panic mode and all of our insecurities surface. That person becomes the center of our focus. We can’t cope with everyday life. They wield incredible control over our happiness and our despair. They become our very reason for being and all we can think about is, “I’ve got to get them back.”
These feelings are powerful. Our nervous system goes on high alert and we will do anything to make the pain and anguish stop. When we are initially placed high, high up on a pedestal, the fall is exponentially greater.
When the object of our turmoil decides to reappear in our lives, it’s like we’ve just received a shot of heroin after a difficult withdrawal. The pain subsides and we can mellow out and relax. We can again function in our lives and all we are feeling is immense relief. The reason for their leaving doesn’t really matter at this point, because we’re just so glad they’re back, that any old excuse will do.
The reconciliation is ecstasy. Anytime you are deprived of something, the act of indulging makes it all the more sweet. When you’ve been dieting, don’t you savor that bite of chocolate? You let it swirl around in your mouth and melt on your tongue. You know you shouldn’t have it and that it’s not good for you, but it just feels so incredible you can’t resist. The same rule of thumb goes for your Narcissist. When they come back, the sex is indescribable. The softness of their skin, their touch, their smell is euphoric. At least for a little while……
Then the dance begins again. For never in these types of relationships, do both partners have both feet in at the same time. So eventually their feet will come out again and the crashing and soaring begin again.
What most people struggle with is that when you are in the reconciliation phase, it feels so damn good, it’s hard to fathom why their partner doesn’t want to feel this all the time. It doesn’t compute why the one they love keeps pulling away, when being together is pure bliss.
The answer is so simple and right in front of us, but we fail to see it every time. That high that you are feeling, the ecstasy, the euphoria is NOT the same thing that they are feeling.
All of the soaring and the crashing that you are suffering creates these intense feelings in you. This roller-coaster ride of emotions creates the intensity, so that you are experiencing a hundred different emotions at once. This is a massive endorphin rush to your nervous system. It leaves you feeling like you could never feel what you feel for anyone else. No one else could cause such a depth of feeling or arousal – it becomes addicting. You will start to believe that the two of you have a deep connection and a deep bond that could never be recreated by anyone else. So you’re convinced it must be love.
He is not thinking the same things you are and he is definitely not feeling the same things you are. For one, he isn’t on the rollercoaster ride. He pulls away, because he is feeling trapped, suffocated, fear and anxiety. He’s got no other option, but to pull away, to relieve the tension he’s feeling. And when it subsides, he starts to fear that you won’t be there to fulfill his needs. In his mind he has to con you to come back to him, because above all things, he must have someone thinking he’s Mr. Wonderful. He needs the love, the attention, the sex and the ego strokes you so willingly provide. So he comes back until his anxiety peaks again.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V) tells us why. It says basically that a Narcissist’s ability to experience intimacy is impaired. Narcissists fear intimacy. It causes them immense anxiety. They run from it, because they can never show anyone their true selves. Their whole persona is a mirage, a construct that they have created. Their self-esteem is solely based on how they are perceived by others – not who they truly are. So every time you get too close – they run. What they are suffering from is an intimacy disorder, so they will always keep you at a distance.
The following graph depicts the intensity differential between Narcissistic Relationships and Healthy Relationships.
Intimacy is the normal progression of most romantic relationships. It is how real love evolves and deepens. It is trusting another enough to expose yourself fully and allowing them to see who you truly are. It exists only when both individuals have both of their feet in the relationship consistently and at the same time. The passion at the beginning evolves into a deep and mutual trust. Trust that your partner will be there, trust that they want to be in the relationship and trust that their feelings are reciprocal. It’s comfortable and filled will mutual love, kindness and respect.
As you can see from the graph, it doesn’t have the immense highs and lows of a Narcissistic Relationship. So if you have been engaging in the emotional rollercoaster, a truly intimate relationship may seem boring to you. When we mistake intensity for intimacy we will never be satisfied in a relationship that doesn’t send us soaring and crashing, because we don’t recognize any of those high intensity emotions. It’s why so many of us run from normal, healthy people that actually want to give us the relationship that we claim we want.
We make the mistake of thinking that real love must have that intensity of feeling, but it doesn’t, at least, not consistently and not at that level. That super high intensity only comes from the immense highs and immense lows that happen when a relationship continually starts and ends. In Narcissistic relationships there is no middle and that is where intimacy grows.
I recently had the privilege of meeting a couple that has been happily married for 22 years. On many occasions I observed the way they interact. The way they look at each other, talk about each other and flirt with each other is endearing. They take pleasure in making each other happy. They laugh a lot. There is complete trust and they give each other room to be themselves and to grow. They have activities that they do together and activities that they enjoy apart. There is no rollercoaster of emotions, no fear, no anxiety and no pain, just mutual love, kindness and respect.
This is what real intimacy looks like. So if you notice your relationship continually soaring and crashing, with no middle, understand that intimacy can never grow under these conditions. All it breeds is dysfunction, trauma bonds and an emotional addiction that is pretty tough to break. Relationships can be hard enough with emotionally healthy individuals, so trying to force one out of someone who is intimately impaired is my definition of insanity.
If you want a happy and truly intimate relationship, you need to recognize these patterns and understand the difference between intensity and intimacy. If there is no middle in your relationship then it’s not a relationship and it’s time to get off the rollercoaster and experience a different kind of ride.
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This article was very helpful to me. It has confirmed a lot of things I have been thinking and feeling. I am still completely in love with this man and it hurts deeply to know that he is a toxic person.
I lived this for 3 decades of marriage calling it ‘love’ until the bottom dropped out and even I coulnd’t deny it away. Have grown enormously over the last 8 years in CODA and COSA.. both great programs, imho. Spouse is in recovery thru Sexaholics Anonymous. Life is now so sweet and serene and kind and truly joyful. Never did I imagine I could have such a relationship and enjoy it! 🙂
So this is me…how do I change? I’ve had lost the last love I every want to lose because of my bx. What do I do to change it so I never hurt myself or another in this way again.
I always looked for men who made me soar, excited, intense, challenging as to what was going to happen next. I pick those men and if they don’t rattle my cage with intensity and crazy making then I move on.
Think now that the men who are just good, sound, human beings are the ones that I eventually will love and feel save with, thus more intimacy. Think I have to stop looking for a jolt when I meet men, give men more of a chance, hang longer even if not fireworks right off the bat.
Unfortunately this describes almost every one in my life starting with my now passed mother.
Now I really have a name for the sickness that was defying description.
Finally I can relax. From all those family religious and life dramas.
It would appear they were only jokes from sick people.
Thanks for therapy and for this article.
It’s confusing because they can be really affectionate. Mine was anyway. It’s crazy to me that someone can say all those things and not mean any of them. I talked to one for a short time but in the time I felt like I told him everything. I’ve never texted so much in my life. he definitely put me up on a pedestal. I think I started calling him out on his BS more and eventually I think he started to pick up on it and he disappeared.
I knew there was crazy high. Just didn’t know it called intensity. Now I know. N some drama people are going to pay for all the rollercoaster they have dragged me through
Thank you, this is just what I needed to read. Really opened my eyes… I just went and blocked a previous lover who fits into the first category. I really see all of this more clearly now, the narcissism… The intensity, the unbalanced feelings. Actually he is doing this with several women. He really does seek his identity in how women view him and he believes he is open and accepting and caring, but only provides this in short bursts before jumping back to one of the others and making, well me, out to be not mature enough and accepting enough to be patient and give him what he needs.
I recently met another man and I couldn’t believe he kept suggesting breakfast dates and nature walks in the meantime when I kept being too busy for night dates. He didn’t/doesn’t seem to be preoccupied with setting the scene for a hook up. He seems to really just be happy to spend any time possible with me, while openly telling me what he finfs beautiful about me.
I really was on the brink of messing things up with this wonderful, unrushed guy, by opening the door to Mr intensity and just ignoring the cruelty and narcissism of his behaviour. I absolutely don’t want that. How toxic. I am so lucky. I’m going to take it slow, absolutely. Bring on real intimacy (slowly…) Not intensity! Brilliant.
Totally true , I’m still obsessed ,(in love?) though and it hurts like crazy . I cant resist him though
This article really spoke to me. I’ve been through this during my last 2 short term relationships. They started off as pretty magical and these men being super affectionate and attentive. But they ended up crashing when they ended up pulling away. I’ve described both of these as intense to people I talked to about them afterwards. I was so high on the beginning part of the courtship that I either didn’t realize the fall was going to happen or ignored the signs. Because I wanted that initial happiness again. I thought if I stuck it out things would get better. But both of these men were emotionally unavailable. I believe they were and they only liked the attention I was giving them. I should have taken it slower, but when someone is telling you all the things you want to hear it’s hard to say no to what you’re experiencing. I’ve learned I need to find someone who will take it slow with me and get to know me, which neither of these men did. Either after a certain point or never. Hard to tell looking back. I need to find someone who wants to get to know me first, not create the illusion of falling in love. It’s hard. It is an addicting feeling, but I know the other options is what real relationships are made of.
I noticed what you are describing here with mi ex N and at that moment I told him “Did you realize that we are addicted to reconciliation?”
Now I understand exactly what was going on, and the most perverse aspect of my ex narcissistic relationship is that he knew exactly what he was doing and how it works. In fact when I left him he told me “Don’t fool yourself, you’ll never feel what you felt for me again”.
Interesting how someone can play with your mind on purpose, with the sole goal to prove they can destroy you emotionally.
Please don’t let these psychos ruin your life!!!
I love that the focus of this was how intensity can be disguised as intimacy. I’ve had many Narcissists I’ve dated tell me that “something is missing”, or that “there’s no spark”, and this is due to the fact that I’ve taken measures to become a psychologically healthier person, and not as much of an enabler. So, this is good news! This article reminds me again that that “spark” people are still looking for, is the “spark” I walked away from, because I realized that it only lasts as long as a spark really does.
Wow just wow. im pretty sure this is all my relationships. So glad im in therapy with someone who specializes in codependency. So i can stop the cycle and have a healthy relationship some day. Just not anytime soon. Im drained.
I stumbled upon this website just days ago, when I absolutely needed it most. I had a 3 month long online affair with someone that I had met 8 years ago at a friends wedding and became online friends with 2 years ago. It ended with our meeting on October 4th. My fairy tale, as detailed below (forgive any formatting issues, please), made me know what he is–along with this site. Thank you so much for your help in my healing.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who found herself going through a difficult patch and in desperate need of love and affection. She became reacquainted with a boy she once knew, but he was involved with someone else, and not free to love her. Regardless, slowly, they began an affair of the heart through words and pictures. He filled much of the empty space in her heart and became the focus of a great deal of her positive energy and love. He hinted at a future together, just enough to make her hope. But he was thoughtless at times, and often left her feeling lonely and ignored. So, she worked harder to gain his attention and his love. She poured out her heart and soul in long strings of words which many times were answered with very little thought and effort. But it was something–certainly, enough to hold on to. Words of love were written and spoken and though she had to do a lot of reading between the lines, it seemed that he needed her as much as she needed him. Those tiny phrases propelled her through difficult days of unraveling reality, and set her eye on the goal of meeting the boy.
So, finally, they met. And they held tightly to each other and exchanged intimate expressions of physical and emotional love and affection, and it felt to her, like there was no world outside the bubble they had created for themselves. For hours, they laughed, and touched, and loved and finally enjoyed each other’s true presence, in every sense. And then the boy remembered, there was someone waiting for him at home. And he began to feel guilt. And he began to pull away from her. He told her that he loved her, but NOT the way that she needed to be loved. She did her best to understand, and to offer comfort to him, when she was the one who needed it most. And so, they parted.
In the days following their meeting, she thought of little else but him. Her heart was broken, though she tried to convince him that wasn’t the case. She didn’t know how to give herself the space to heal, so she kept reaching out to him. Sometimes he would answer and tell her how much he missed her and how difficult parting was for him too, and other times, he would fall silent, as had been his way so many times in the months before. He said just enough to keep her hanging on, to keep her thinking there was some shred of hope that he had made a mistake by leaving her, that he had misspoken about his love and that upon parting, realized that he just couldn’t do without her.
But in her heart, she knew. She didn’t want to believe it, but she knew that the professions of love had never once been about her, but about the way she made him feel. Wanted, needed, adored and considered. All of the things she had been looking for, she freely gave, and now her heart was left more empty than before.
All I can say is WOW. It never occurred to me that I was addicted to the high I get whenever my ex N would return to my life because of the intense emotions I feel during our reconciliation phase. It is like a shot of heroin (not that I’ve ever done heroin) to relieve our pain and sooth our suffering. However, the high goes away and things get comfortable and then the turmoil returns somehow like clockwork. I never dreamed he didn’t feel what I was feeling. On some level we both have a deep craving for something. I craved him, and he craved the power of control and the ego stroke. I was always so desperate to keep him happy and be my best in those times, while thinking we still could have an amazing future, when all along he was just living in the moment. Hate that…. Trying so hard to move on now because I KNOW what I’m dealing with now and he only causes me PAIN.
Welcome to love addiction….
first time i read soo much with my hand over my mouth in shock. this ..is by far.. the best representation of my life with my N. THANK YOU .. there is no MIDDLE… thats it! another AHA ..moment. grr
Wow…! The most precise and insightful description of my love life! It makes me feel as if you’re inside of my mind translating what I’ve been going through. I’m at this stage that I know he’s not a healthy choice for me but still long for him and his validation. Wonder how my Narcissist / E.U.M would react if he read this article? Any idea?
This is one of the best descriptions I have read thus far…thank you!
I have been on a roller coaster most of my life. I also have ADHD which makes me impulsive and finds the highs very exciting.
Thank you for giving us this valuable information so that we can better understand!
I have been seeing the poster child for 10 yrs. The pulling in and pushing away is exhausting. This article describes the emotions perfectly. This is a long, arduous struggle to rid yourself of this terrible ‘affliction’ .. the addiction of one’s narcissist.
Wow. This exactly describes my 30yr relationship with my soon to be ex-wife. You are such a perceptive writer.
She has been emotionally unavailable some the beginning. My therapist says I have never expedienced true reciprocal love. I guess we lasted so long because we met when I was 19 and she was my first everything. I never knew what a real relationship should be like so I lived with it. Now that she is pulling the plug, I’ve been rudely awakened, but see that I’ve been co-dependent in a Narcissitic relationship. Keep writing. This stuff is right on the Mark.
the continual ups and downs describes my relationship with my husband perfectly. Thank you again for a wonderful article. I’m at the sprint to the finish for the divorce finalization and I need all the encouraging that I can get. Thank you!