Relationships with narcissists…
You’ve been there, seen it, done it, got the t-shirt.
Only the t-shirt feels like it’s made of lead as it drags you down lower and lower into a pit of despair and self-loathing.
Because that’s what a relationship with a narcissist will do.
So why do you keep attracting narcissists? I mean, seriously, it’s like goddamn seagulls flocking to a food truck.
Is there some giant etheric sign hanging over your head that beckons to them subconsciously?
Are you doing something that draws them to you? Because then the solution to this narcissist-sized problem would be simple. You’d just stop doing that thing.
Well let me pull back the wool from your eyes and enlighten you as to what you might be doing to attract narcissists into your life.
If any of them ring true for you, then you’ll know how to end this cycle for good.
8 Reasons You Attract Narcissists
There may be a number of different reasons why you seem to be a narcissist magnet. These may not all apply to you, but there’s a strong chance that at least some of them do.
1. You have certain qualities or behaviors that draw them to you.
Narcissists have an intense need to be adored by others. As such, it’s possible that they’re attracted to you because they love how you make them feel.
They tend to be drawn to two different types of people: victims they can use or feed off and those who make them look good.
For instance, you may sincerely be a kind, generous person. You may go out of your way to tell others what you admire and appreciate about them in the hopes of making their days a bit brighter.
While most will take these compliments with grace, narcissists will draw them in like a cactus draws in water. Admiration and affection are literally lifeblood to them, and you’ve shown yourself to be a power source for them.
Alternatively, you may be very attractive to them on multiple levels. As such, they either want to attain you as a lover or friend or be associated with you publicly.
Narcissists feel validated when they “win” something that they want. They rarely see people as actual human beings. Narcissists typically view people as trophies to be attained or tools that they can use to achieve their goals.
If you’ve captured their attention, then you display traits that they find immensely appealing. They want you, and they want others to envy them for having you beside them.
Maybe you’re talented and have achieved a high social status. Bonus points if you have a blue tick mark next to your name on social media that you didn’t purchase. People who are in the public eye or known for certain achievements are considered particularly high value to narcissistic predators.
They might have little to no interest in who you are as a person. In fact, they won’t ask about your own hobbies or desires, and they’ll be annoyed by any of your interests that don’t align with their idea of how they want you to be.
They want to be seen with you (in the clothes they choose for you, of course—they have an image to maintain!), and they want to enjoy you and the status they get alongside you, on their own terms.
2. You’re more concerned with keeping others happy than with taking care of yourself.
Are you a “people pleaser?” Do you find that you often set aside your own needs and wants in favor of making sure that others are happy? And furthermore, are you afraid of dealing with potential negativity if you don’t put others first?
If so, then you’re basically a walking all-you-can-eat narcissist buffet.
When we dive into the factors that contribute to someone developing narcissistic traits, we inevitably find past trauma regarding neglect or abandonment. For instance, one narcissist may be a middle child with special needs siblings, and as such never received the care and attention they needed.
Another might have been put into foster care as a young child and never formed bonds with their caregivers. They may have had their basic needs attended to but were not given any real emotional investment or support.
As a result, they end up needing an extraordinary amount of fussing over when they’re older. They need constant praise and admiration, as well as reassurance.
Furthermore, they tend to be abusive to those closest to them to see if their loved ones will in fact love and fawn over them unconditionally or hurt and abandon them like others have done in the past.
Many children of narcissistic or borderline parents end up developing strong people-pleasing tendencies. They learned early to be hypervigilant about their parent’s mood swings in order to anticipate potential arguments or cruelty and circumvent it by fawning.
For instance, if they saw that said parent was getting agitated, they may have baked brownies to cheer them up or engaged them in admiring conversation about that time they did that thing.
The one doing the pandering doesn’t make their own wellbeing a priority. Instead, they attempt to manage the other’s emotions in order to keep the peace.
If this is you, then you might display similar behaviors in your social circle or workplace. Are you constantly the one who’s trying to be cheerful and ensure that everyone around you has a great time? Do you buy gifts or make things for people to maintain your friendship? Likely listen to their issues and offer support more than they do for you?
Be honest about whether you display these behaviors, as they’re incredibly attractive to narcissists of all flavors.
3. You have difficulty setting (or keeping) healthy boundaries.
If you were raised in an unhealthy family environment, you may have learned that standing up for yourself will result in punishment or mistreatment.
As such, it’s likely that you were taught from an early age that any boundary you tried to set would be annihilated (and you along with it), so there was no point in learning how to stand your ground.
Narcissists love people who won’t stand up to them, so your early programming has made you a walking smorgasbord for them. By not being able to set (or maintain) boundaries, you essentially grant them free rein to do and say whatever they want without any discomfort or negative repercussion.
Show me a narcissist who wouldn’t want to be with a floormat who allows them to behave as atrociously as they want.
They don’t like what you’ve cooked, so they throw it out and order pizza instead? You don’t get angry, you just apologize for not making something they liked.
They want you to change your hair color to something they like better, even if you hate that shade? That’s okay, you’ll do it because it makes them happy and you want them to keep loving you.
You may feel hurt or resentful about how negatively they treat you, but you’re too afraid of how badly they’ll react to actually voice how you feel.
Maybe you see them as a trophy that you don’t want to lose, or you’re in a precarious situation and depend upon them for support. As such, you don’t put up any boundaries to protect yourself. You just cry in the shower or drink when they aren’t home.
4. You cave to pressure.
This expands upon the previous issue, but it isn’t necessarily linked to it.
Many people have difficulty withstanding pressure from others—whether that’s peer pressure, emotional manipulation such as guilt tripping, or relentless persistence.
Let’s say you noticed some red flags early on and decided to end a relationship before it really got started. That kind of action is incredibly attractive to a narcissist, because they crave the thrill of the chase and the validation of getting what they want.
By pulling away, you’re potentially depriving them of their prey, and they’ll do everything in their power to regain control of the situation.
Basically, it hurts their ego when and if someone seems to reject them, and they need to validate their belief in their own awesomeness by “winning” you back. The more you distance yourself, the more intensely they’ll pursue you.
This only ends if you stand your ground and refuse to be drawn back in no matter how much they flatter, spoil, or guilt trip you. They’ll try every trick in their personal arsenal to get you back where they want you, of course.
Maybe they’ll pretend to be vulnerable and tell you a story about something awful they experienced to try and elicit sympathy.
Alternatively, they may dangle opportunities or gifts in front of you—especially those you need. If you’re low on funds, they may offer to pay bills for you, or they may simply show up with something they know you’ve been eyeing for a while. Anything to gain the upper hand again.
If you cave to this kind of pressure and allow yourself to be manipulated into believing that you didn’t give them a fair chance, then they “win.”
You might be fully aware that you’re caving to manipulation, and even hate yourself for it, but you just don’t have it in you to keep fighting.
At this point, they might either go all-out to prove to you how amazing they are and show you what you would have missed out on, or they’ll go out of their way to be abusive toward you during this second chance to punish you for making them feel bad about themselves, even temporarily.
5. Your low self-esteem is charmed by positive attention.
Narcissists lure their partners (aka “new victims”) in with flattery and love bombing. This involves making their target feel like the most important person in their universe.
They might send you gifts, show up at your home or work “just because they were thinking of you,” write you letters or poems, or tell others how incredible you are. Or all of the above.
People who haven’t received much loving care from parents or previous partners might suddenly feel adored and special for the first time in their lives, so they tolerate the narcissist’s poor behaviors in the hopes of getting the dopamine high from their flattery and affection.
When the narcissist inevitably tones down the loving outpourings (usually once they’ve achieved comfort and stability in the relationship), the one who was being love bombed often wonders what happened. The person they’re with is suddenly cold, distant, and even mean.
If you’ve found yourself in a position like this before, you may have gone above and beyond to try to get yourself back into this person’s good books. You may feel unwanted or unloved without their attention, and thus allow them to treat you badly just so you can feel the intense high when they inevitably pour love and care in your direction once again.
6. You don’t trust your instincts when it comes to others behaving badly.
Have you often been in positions where you’ve felt that someone is behaving poorly, but others around you don’t see what the problem is? For example, maybe people made fun of you for being “too sensitive” or “too untrusting” when it came to others’ behaviors.
Maybe you got unnerved when a person you were dating started to lavish you with gifts too early in the relationship. Or a new friend kept showing up uninvited and insisting that you go out with them to do fun things.
When you expressed your discomfort to others, they may have told you that you were being stupid or irrational and said that you “should be” flattered or happy that you’re getting so much love and attention instead.
As such, you may have been taught to ignore your own instincts and judgement and defer to what others think and feel instead.
Additionally, you may intentionally overlook or accept poor behavior toward you because you’ve been made to feel that your emotions are invalid. Or even worse, that you’re the one who’s in the wrong if you have the audacity to interpret other people’s actions as potentially toxic and damaging.
This can be incredibly damaging, as you may start to question your critical thinking and deductive reasoning abilities in favor of simply going along with what others are saying and doing.
In fact, this may eventually be thrown back at you when and if you find yourself recovering from narcissistic abuse. You may be asked why you didn’t acknowledge all those red flags and trust your intuition about staying away from them, then be told that you brought your misery on yourself.
7. You’re an empath who’s naturally drawn to narcissists, whether you want to be or not.
This is an uncomfortable truth to face, but it’s important if you want to break this cycle permanently.
Many empaths are naturally drawn to narcissists even though the narcissists end up harming them greatly.
This is because, on a fundamental level, narcissists have been through something so painful that it shattered something within them. Their narcissistic tendencies have developed in order to protect them and as a way to get their needs met.
Enter the kindhearted, loving empath who wants to heal people with love and kindness and you have a recipe for a codependent disaster.
The empath has a deep need to help others and to be helpful to those they care about. They often have “acts of service” as a primary love language, and may run themselves ragged trying to nurture their loved ones. Similarly, the narcissist needs to be fawned over in order to feel that they’re worthy.
This creates an unhealthy dynamic in which these two types crave and depend upon each other’s unhealthy behaviors.
As mentioned earlier, narcissists will push-pull those they claim to care about to keep getting an emotional high off the drama and subsequent outpouring of love and affection.
In contrast, the empath needs to be needed, otherwise they feel lost and ineffective. As you can imagine, this combination is a recipe for misery on every side.
8. You enjoy punishing them.
There’s another reason why someone may get involved with narcissists, and that’s because they enjoy the rapport they have with them. They recognize exactly what’s going on and use this unhealthy dynamic for their own amusement.
For instance, maybe you had a narcissist parent whom you never had a chance to punish for their awful behavior toward you. As such, when and if you find yourself in a position where a narcissist is trying to get closer to you, you may use it as an opportunity to punish said parent by proxy.
You’re perfectly aware of what the narcissist is up to and you play along in order to mess with them.
Maybe you’re fully cognizant of all their manipulative behaviors and play along with them. In fact, you might also make them believe that they’re the one in control, just the way they like to be.
Then, once you’ve enjoyed their love bombing and gifts—possibly their physical affection as well—you either drop them like a bad habit or ghost them outright.
In essence, you intentionally take pleasure in hurting them before they can hurt you.
You might even go out of your way to get involved with narcissists who hurt people close to you in order to punish them for their awful behaviors.
You’ve had enough experience dealing with narcissists that you can play them like violins. As such, you’re an expert at getting their attention and wrapping them around your little finger. Then you get immense satisfaction when you show them that you see right through their charade, and in fact, used their own techniques against them.
This is a case of “hurt people hurting people.” You haven’t healed from past narcissist abuse. Instead you’ve attempted to make them experience firsthand what they’ve been inflicting on other people.
There’s a major problem with this approach, and that’s because you assume that other people will think and feel the way you do. You might react a certain way when you’re on the receiving end of abuse, but that doesn’t mean others will respond similarly.
Remember that most narcissists are broken on a fundamental level. They behave the way they do because they’re hurting and have terrible self-esteem. You may feel temporarily empowered by the feeling of having stabbed them with their own knife, but that doesn’t mean you’ve “won” anything here.
Your actions may not have any effect on this person whatsoever, because they don’t feel the same way you do. Furthermore, you might make their behavior even worse, as they may feel victimized by your cruelty toward them and then take those emotions out on their next victims.
You may want to give them a taste of their own medicine, but they won’t learn that lesson at all. Instead they will just double down on how badly they treat their targets from now on.
One really can’t “win” with a narcissist. You’ll never break through to them and make them have any epiphanies, nor will they ever apologize sincerely to anyone. The only way anyone can come out a winner is to go gray rock, go low- or no -contact with the narcissist and maintain distance from them forever.
How To Stop Attracting Narcissists
If you’d like to stop attracting narcissists, then you’ll need to jump the groove you seem to be stuck in.
This will involve critical self-awareness, and it will require you to develop some new coping mechanisms and behavioral techniques.
Below are some of the main actions you can take to break this cycle.
Be aware of your own leanings and behaviors.
Remember that narcissists are often drawn to people-pleasing empaths. These are usually people who have low self-esteem and feel the need for external validation from others.
Be honest with yourself about whether you exhibit these traits, and determine what may have caused them to begin with. You may need to enlist the help of a therapist here if you can’t pinpoint the exact contributing factors that led you here.
People often end up as people-pleasers because they were in abusive situations during childhood. They learned that they needed to fawn and pander to people in order to have their own emotional needs met.
This early programming creates the foundation for their psyche to develop. Furthermore, it’s why these folks often get involved with narcissists in adulthood—they’re comfortable in environments similar to what they grew up with.
Those who attract narcissists seem to want that kind of dynamic on a subconscious level, and they can only break the cycle with conscious awareness and action.
Instead of fawning, aim to find balance in your relationships. Basically, ensure that both parties are giving equally and showing each other proper respect.
Learn to recognize red flags and repeated patterns.
Hindsight is 20/20, which is why we see all the red flags that another has exhibited once the relationship is either well established or over. With time and distance, we can look back with clear vision and see the warning signs that we chose to ignore when we were in love (or thought we were).
If you’ve discovered that you keep attracting narcissists, then it’s important to be aware of not only the marinara-hued flags they’re dancing around with but also your own reactions to them.
Start by making a list of the narcissists you’ve been involved with in the past. Write down the traits and behaviors they’ve exhibited, and see if there were commonalities between them.
- Did they all say similar phrases when you first started to get to know each other?
- Were they prone to love-bombing followed by periods of absence?
- How did their controlling behaviors manifest at the beginning?
Pattern recognition is key when it comes to stopping cycles that you don’t want to continue. Narcissists tend to follow very specific behavioral patterns in their relationships.
This is why people who’ve been involved with narcissists all share similar stories—it’s as though the narcissists have a shared “how-to” manual that they all refer to.
Once you’ve become more aware of their behavioral patterns, you can learn to be more discerning when it comes to new people in your life. And this goes for flagrant narcissists along with low-grade narcissism.
When and if you meet an amazing person whom you seem to connect with, refer back to the list of narcissistic behaviors exhibited by your various exes. If the new person you’re dating is behaving similarly, walk away.
You may think that this one will be different, or that the pattern is just a coincidence, but that’s likely what you’ve told yourself the last few times as well.
They might seem amazing, but if you want to stop attracting narcissists, you need to be prepared to walk away for the sake of your own health and sanity.
Guard your own safety above all else.
If you’ve had difficulty standing your ground and holding boundaries in the past, make this a priority.
When and if you come across a person who alternates between flattering you and demanding your time and attention, distance yourself from them. Furthermore, don’t allow them to try and manipulate you back into their sphere.
Keep your distance, and go “gray rock” with them. Don’t give them any emotional energy to feed off, nor any hope that you’ll provide some in the future. In essence, make yourself unappealing to them by becoming as uninteresting as possible.
When they discover that they can’t get any positive energy from you, nor will they be able to use you as a stepping-stone to further their own interests, they’ll turn their attention in a different direction before you can blink.
Remember that they love the thrill of the chase and the validation of winning someone. If the prey is no longer running, but plops themselves down in a heap of gray ennui, then there’s no thrill involved.
This is rather like a situation in which a pet will bark and leap and play to demand a taste of what you’re eating, but they will lose interest when it turns out to be an unseasoned boiled potato.
Ultimately, you’ll need to place your wellbeing as the highest priority, and that involves defending yourself against a narcissist’s interest and attention.
You may need to withdraw from your social circles and be a bit of a recluse for a while to give them time to redirect interest elsewhere.
Alternatively, when and if a narcissist fixates on you, find out what they dislike (or even downright despise) and use that to fend them off.
For example, if you find out that a narcissist who’s decided to pursue you absolutely hates it when people drink alcohol, make sure to talk about how you’re taking sommelier courses and want to learn how to make your own wine.
They might get insulting about it in an attempt to change your interests to things they prefer, but hold your ground. They’ll get disgusted with you and drop you like a bad habit in no time. This is awesome, as it’ll save you a lot of misery in the long run.
Being aware of our own leanings really is the key to understanding why we find ourselves repeating cycles. If you’re having difficulty determining why you keep attracting narcissists, it’s a good idea to book some time with a therapist.
We often can’t help but get in our own way when it comes to soul-searching, as we might get defensive and try to explain away unhealthy behaviors instead of understanding why we do them.
Once we glean this understanding, we can take the steps necessary to stop repeating unhealthy behavioral patterns. Furthermore, a good therapist can offer you tools to use in order to stop habits such as people pleasing or boundary dropping.
Hopefully by recognizing your own empathic or unhelpful behaviors, as well as learning to see patterns and red flags in others, you’ll be able to avoid attracting more narcissists in the future.
Further essential narcissist reading:
- Coping Mechanisms When Leaving A Narcissistic Partner Behind
- How To Communicate Effectively After A Narcissistic Relationship
- 12 Symptoms Of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome
- Feeling Sympathy For Narcissists: The Arguments For And Against
- The Covert Narcissist And How You Might Not Spot Them Straight Away
- Why You Should NEVER Attempt Couples Therapy With A Narcissist