Does it feel like you attract the same kind of partner again and again? One that does not add value to your life or enhance your personal growth, but rather one that leads you straight to the therapists’ office.
Let’s look at certain personality characteristics that may attract unsavory characters into your life.
Survivors of abuse come in all types – there are some who are hypercritical, demanding, arrogant, and mean and then others who are just too darn sweet for their own good. Although survivors are a heterogeneous bunch, there are some characteristics that abusers, violators, con-artists, narcissists, and psychopaths, tend to go for the most. (I want to be very clear – you are not responsible for the offensive, abusive behavior of another person. Never.)
Here are 3 characteristics that can increase your appeal to a toxic partner:
1) High empathy
People who are empathic can very easily ‘feel’ the position and pain of another person, with nearly no effort at all. They have compassion for people and animals in general, but most certainly for anyone in their close circle. Their empathy will lead them to fight for you, help you, and nurture you when you are down.
Empathy is at the core of being a ‘good’ person.
People high in empathy often forgive the wrongs of others, even if it was done against them. The downside of having high levels of empathy is that it is easily detectable by cunning individuals. Unhealthy people with patterns of domination, exploitation, and abuse in their past do not have appreciation for this special trait; but they are happy to exploit it. It is not uncommon for toxic partners to prey upon the empathy of their mate, using it as a prime manipulation tactic.
What can you do?
You have an amazing personality trait if you are high in empathy. Although, others who may be much lower in empathy than you are, may suggest that you ‘stop’ demonstrating empathy, I would recommend a different approach. Rather than focus on reducing empathy (which I’m not sure how someone could do anyway), put efforts toward the protection of your empathy.
It will be extremely important for you to have an education regarding personality types that chomp at the bit at the thought of you. A highly empathic partner for a selfish, mean partner is a dream come true. These predatory or violating individuals will need to be recognized by you as soon as possible and kept at a distance. Strong boundaries and the avoidance of giving people the benefit of doubt will need to be habits or skills learned for the sake of empathy protection.
2) Low Boundaries
Because people with low boundaries can find themselves engaged in behaviors, or entangled in relationships, they really do not want or deserve. Many unhealthy, toxic, or abusive people attempt to run over the boundaries of everyone they encounter; however when they do this with someone with strong boundaries they are stopped in their tracks. But when they encounter someone with low boundaries, they get to have their way. Their ‘way’ usually includes minimal demonstration of respect, activities or actions their partner does not really like or approve or, and perhaps even exposure to abuse. All of our relationships should have healthy boundaries.
What can you do?
If you recognize that you have low boundaries, coupled with the experience of feeling that others violate and disrespect you, you may want to explore the underlying cause of this pattern. For some, they may discover they have an anxious-preoccupied (insecure) attachment style that developed as a result of childhood relationships with primary care-givers.
A psychologist or counselor can help you learn ways to implement healthy boundaries and discover the underlying reason for this pattern.
3) People Pleasing
People who demonstrate a pattern of people-pleasing often seek validation outside of themselves; put the needs of others before their own, and attempt to make others happy at the expense of themselves. When our value of ourselves is low – we look outside of ourselves to get an idea of our worth. In order to try to be liked and receive a ‘good’ assessment and avoid criticism and pain, a pattern of being extremely nice, helpful, and self-sacrificing is developed.
This is not something someone does intentionally or by any plan. For many with people pleasing tendencies, this ‘strategy’ was born out of necessity – a way to cope and survive during childhood. Perhaps they were raised with a parent (caregiver) who was unstable, harsh, rejecting, neglectful, or personality disordered. Perhaps you were parentified as a child and had to serve as a parent-figure to your own parent. Or perhaps you were only provided with positive attention when you performed and took on difficult responsibilities. This can lead a person to take on very challenging social situations, when they really should not.
Unhealthy, controlling, or toxic partners exploit people-pleasers, as they tend to take on the blame and responsibilities that belongs to someone else. They often let others take charge because they are afraid of rocking the boat. People-pleasers are extremely helpful individuals, who will work hard to try to get validation from someone who is incapable of seeing the value in anyone other than themselves (e.g., unhealthy partner).
What can you do?
Recognition that this pattern exists is a great first step. The second, which will be extremely tough for people-pleasers, is to not blame yourself. You are more likely than most others to accept and carry blame in your relationships. Understand that this pattern usually developed for a reason and is not something you did. In order to find out the root of this pattern for you specifically, consultation with a psychologist would be beneficial.
There are many traits that can increase vulnerability to unsavory characters. Protect yourself, value your unique and special characteristics, and go get the partner who deserves a star like you!
Want more? I have two articles you might find helpful:
- Can I make it work if I use my Cluster B Education | Staying Go
- Self-Care After the Narcissistic or Psychopathic Relationship Go
All the best,
Rhonda Freeman, PhD
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