All I do is Attract Narcissists ... Is it Me?
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Let’s say you’ve worked hard on your healing; you put in months or years to have a solid educational foundation of narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy. You can look at your psychological development and feel proud of your growth and knowledge.
Life feels peaceful.
You then return to the dating world in this 2.0 version of yourself and find sitting before you a new narcissist trying to start a relationship with you. You can’t believe this! “But I worked on myself … how am I here yet again?” You might even start to doubt yourself and think, “I’m probably over-reacting.“
And then, after some time passes, you’re again struggling to have a relationship with someone who is selfish, emotionally limited, and in the throes of discarding you. The healing and recovery cycle must start over again whenever this ‘new’ relationship ends. Naturally, you’ll start to lose faith that any healthy people are out there. Many will believe they drew the narcissist into their lives.
I get it. And looking at that scenario, it is easy to think you attract narcissists. It happened to me, too. After my psychopathic relationship, when I went on dates, it was narcissist after narcissist. Some non-personality-disordered men were in there as well. However, the number of narcissists asking me out was high.
It would have been easy for me to think – “It’s me.” | “I must be giving off signals like beacons only seen by narcissists and psychopaths.”
Well, let me get blunt here – It’s not you! … in the beginning.
From what I have seen of pathological narcissists across the past 20 years is that they are attracted to all kinds – everybody! They go after the powerful, the compassionate, the rude, the submissive, the arrogant, the insecure, the intellectual, and the not-so-intelligent; I could go on and on. They are not a homogeneous group when it comes to partner preference. They are not as calculating or discriminating in this area as we think.
They appear discriminating only because we see the final results of their efforts; we know who they ‘get‘ to stay with. And this is key because not many partners will tolerate the exhausting behavior of a narcissist.
The partners who tend to stay involved with pathological narcissists (after they have demonstrated violating or vile behaviors) are the compassionate, empathic, deep bonders. When these survivors connect with others, that bond is real. These potential targets and survivors may have a style of putting others first.
Many who stay with narcissists are caring, tolerant, and loyal. They can forgive their partners easily because they come from a place of understanding. They may know pain, so they innately respond compassionately, even if they are mistreated.
Many of these individuals have been hurt before, such as through a history of abuse, a narcissistic parent, etc. As you know, our past will often create psychological conditions that interfere with our future relationships and hinder our ability to handle violators when they come into our lives. (We can dive into that topic at another time.)
The involuntary bond many survivors can easily develop with others makes their love a deep, whole human experience. They do not have the capacity for the superficial and discardable surface-level love demonstrated by narcissists.
Unfortunately, this genuine deep bond can easily shift into a trauma bond for a survivor once their narcissist shows their callousness and selfishness.
Therefore, it was not ‘us’ initially that attracted this person because narcissists and psychopaths cast their nets wide for all types.
The ones they tend to ‘catch’ and pull in are often people with beautiful souls who will tolerate, overlook, forgive, and question themselves when they are violated by someone else.
Do narcissists and psychopaths get partners who are the opposite of that? Yes, of course, they do.
We can never make a blanket statement regarding who will pair up with whom. I have seen narcissists with aggressive, argumentative, and arrogant partners who regularly battle each other.
I created this post to highlight individuals who might find themselves involved in these relationships more often than most. But make no mistake, compassionate and kind individuals are not the only ones with narcissistic partners.
The Value of Knowing You
You may not have been taught that you have traits that need to be protected from people who are ‘built’ nothing like you. Protecting oneself in a healthy manner is vital (i.e., boundaries, confidence, walking away from the first signs of disrespect, etc.).
Compassion and empathy are exceptional traits. They require a set of neurological networks and brain regions that do not function well (if at all) in pathological narcissists and psychopaths.
Trauma can easily send empathy and compassion levels even higher than their current state after involvement with a narcissistic partner. Incredible, right!? And that can be both good and bad.
I say it could be bad because an extreme amount of empathy & compassion can make functioning in life painful or difficult (e.g., getting used by selfish people). Those with very high levels of these traits (brought about from abuse) will feel the pain of almost everything that might be suffering – animals, society, the environment, etc. Therefore, to keep this ‘neurological dial’ from getting turned to level 10 – you must protect yourself from people who are violators (e.g., narcissists and psychopaths).
Unfortunately, empathic, compassionate people and pathological narcissists are common romantic pairings. It is usually to the detriment of the empathic person; narcissists will nearly always benefit. They release their hate, jealousy, control, rage, dominance (with the intent to belittle), and pettiness to a captive audience, who must walk on eggshells to appease an extremely fragile ego.
3 Approaches I took
Let me share what allowed me to protect the healing work I put in after my psychopathic relationship. When I decided I was ready to date again, I focused on the following:
- I listened to my body (tension, anxiety) and mind with these new individuals.
- I behaved more as an observer in this ‘beginning’ stage.
- I put up an internal barrier and made it clear to myself that I would control the pace of this introduction period. I knew that if I did not, the consequences would be grave (i.e., pain, anxiety, and more healing/recovery).
Was it difficult? Heck yes! Narcissists can appear so fantastic and ‘normal‘ when you don’t have a chance to observe their behavior over an extended period.
The brain will often need multiple experiences with the person to detect patterns, particularly if the narcissist has a stellar mask. That meant I had to date the individual for several months before any subtle bad behavior was displayed (e.g., sarcastic putdowns of me, inability to take a joke, laying out their past victimizations to test my compassion, etc.).
Work will still be required when opening yourself up to a new relationship, even though you have been healing. If you take yourself through recovery, however, do not put in the work on this end as well, another narcissist will pop themselves into your life, OR you may decide to stay away from intimacy altogether.
I knew myself, my values, and my worth; I did not jump to the conclusion that I attracted these people (who barely knew my name when they asked me out.).
I learned from being involved with a psychopath that I had not been protective of my personality traits. And that was key.
I was not the attractor of pathological narcissists; I was the keeper.
They Love Love too
After your healing journey from this relationship, more pathological narcissists may come along. They love love, just like anyone else. Just know that your traits of compassion and ability to easily connect (which is so fantastic) can make you vulnerable to tolerate mistreatment more than someone who does not have your set of traits. And you can protect those traits with boundaries, observing, paying attention to patterns, and walking away when socially unacceptable behaviors are demonstrated.
If you want to go more into the educational component of healing – join me in Neuroinstincts Academy where you can enroll in the course: How to Use Neuroscience to Accelerate Recovery.
Best ♡ Rhonda Freeman, PhD | Neuropsychologist
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(Do not copy or translate onto your site. Read “How to avoid copyright infringement”)