Why you attracted a narcissist and how to break the cycle

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Love is supposed to be a dream, but all too often we attract the wrong people.

Take the following nightmare scenario: 

You fell for someone who seemed ideal. The connection was strong and the attraction was on fire. 

Then things started to get serious and red flags started popping up. 

This person turned out to be a manipulative and self-centered narcissist. 

Maybe it’s not the first time this has happened, either…

I can feel your frustration from here, and I definitely share it. You want answers and a solution. 

Specifically: 

Why did this happen and how do you break the cycle? 

Let’s get right down to it…

Why you attract narcissists

Every relationship is different. 

But if you keep finding that you attract narcissists there are four main reasons for that: 

1) You have low self-esteem

The first and most common reason that you might be attracting a narcissist is that you have low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem isn’t always obvious. You may think you feel great about yourself. But dig under the surface and see what’s there. 

There is often deep underlying insecurity or feelings of inadequacy.

These kinds of vulnerabilities are pure gold to a narcissist. They know how to take your doubts about yourself and make it so you only feel self-worth when serving and praising them. 

When you don’t feel good enough, even subconsciously, this often attracts a narcissistic person who seizes on your insecurity to manipulate you and milk you for validation. 

The fact that narcissists are attracted to you is only half of the equation. 

The other half is why you’re attracted to them or even giving them a chance. 

As Dr. Claire Jack notes

“If your self-esteem has been damaged—whether due to your upbringing, previous relationships or other events which have happened to you—you may well be attracted to a narcissist who continues to put down your opinions and engages in other behaviors which signify to you that you’re not good enough just as you are.”

2) You’re simply way too nice 

Being a kind and respectful person is great. 

But this can go way too far. 

Often, the overly eager “nice guy” or typical people-pleasing woman is unknowingly rolling out a welcome mat for the worst kinds of narcissists out there. 

People who expect others to serve them and want praise and constant recognition are always on the lookout for a new source of validation. 

If you’re overly nice and put up with selfish and pushy people without sticking to your boundaries, they’re much more likely to see you as a prime target. 

I will get into how to balance being a pleasant and nice person with also standing up for yourself a bit further down here. 

For now, let’s move on to the next point about why you keep attracting narcissists

3) You were raised by narcissistic parents

Another of the most common reasons why you attract narcissists is that you were raised by them. 

When your parents or one of your parents was a narcissist, it can really sabotage your conception of love and affection

You unconsciously picked up many ways of giving and receiving love which are not healthy. 

In fact, if you were raised by a narcissist then you likely weren’t loved early enough and had a constant feeling of having to “prove” your worth. 

Now you keep attracting narcissists who feel that need in you and take advantage of it to satisfy their own endless insecurity and need for validation. 

4) You’re stuck in the savior role 

The fourth reason that you may be attracting narcissists is that you’ve learned how to love in a codependent way and have a savior complex. 

The savior complex is a common feature of codependent relationships. 

It generally features one individual who wants to “save” or “fix” the other. The second individual plays the role of the “victim” or the one who needs saving. 

This is an ideal setup for a narcissist, because it allows him or her to embrace the full range of victim mentality and victim behaviors. 

They may use shame, guilt, aggression or pity to try to get you to do everything they want. 

They expect all the compassion but won’t give any back. They want you to be their on-call, personal savior. 

Doesn’t sound very romantic, does it? 

Uncovering your own role

It takes two to tango. 

The fact that a narcissist is attracted to you does not mean you have to accept. 

Generally, the role you play is more in your control and is thus most fruitful to focus on. 

In other words, even if a narcissist finds you’re their dream guy or girl, you have the power not to fall into the trap. 

The key lies in how you respond and process trauma and how you express yourself to partners in romantic interactions. 

If you are attracting a lot of narcissists, it’s often because you have become patient and gentle in dealing with those in pain. 

That’s a good thing, potentially. 

But it has to be with the right person – a person who won’t misuse or exploit your patience and kindness! 

In other words, the same openness that can make you a prime target for a narcissist can make you a loving and appreciated partner for somebody else. 

Being kind, loving and understanding of your partner is a good thing! As long as you’re not falling into codependency…

But being kind, loving and understanding of a narcissistic partner who’s only using you is not a good thing! 

Which is why the key to breaking the cycle lies in recognizing narcissists early and avoiding them, as well as dealing with the more toxic aspects of your attraction to narcissists specifically. 

Breaking the cycle

Breaking the cycle is about spotting narcissists early and facing and resolving the aspects of yourself that are attracted to their manipulation. 

This involves five steps. 

1) Heal wounds from the past 

First and foremost, if you want to avoid ending up with narcissists, you need to heal the wounds from the past. 

This may involve therapy, going on a retreat, a large amount of self-reflection or even talking to people from your past like your parents who may have hurt or neglected you. 

Try to make it about healing more than blame. 

None of us are perfect. 

But until you face up to the pain of past relationships that skewed your ability to understand healthy love, you’ll have a tendency to keep ending up in the same swamp. 

2) Boost your confidence

As I noted, narcissists feed on low self-esteem and those who believe they’re somehow not good enough or need to take whatever attention they’re given. 

For this reason, boosting your confidence and self-worth can be the master key in your arsenal. 

Here are some tips for boosting your self-confidence that I recommend: 

  • Double down on skills you are good at 
  • Learn new talents 
  • Do hobbies you love 
  • Try new activities and make new friends
  • Exercise, run and eat well
  • Spend time with people who care about you and love you
  • Put your own goals first and focus on what brings you fulfillment
  • Volunteer or help others
  • Learn a new language, travel, explore
  • Discover more about spirituality and your own path to find the truth
  • Find your mission and purpose and go after it
  • Be patient with being single and don’t settle 

There are many ways to boost self-confidence, but the bottom line is removing the kinds of things that make you feel you need external validation.

Focus on areas which are within your control and where your own efforts can bring them closer to fruition. 

3) Stick to your boundaries 

Next up in how to break the cycle of being with narcissists is to stick to your boundaries. 

If you think about it, a boundary isn’t even real if you don’t abide by it. 

This is obviously easier said than done. There’s always that “just one more time” or “maybe she’ll change.”

But you need to truly stick to your boundaries and be willing and able to cut things off when they cross your lines. 

Which brings me to the next point:

How do you know when somebody is a narcissist or not?

4) Spot the red flags

Next up, you need to work on spotting the red flags of a narcissist. 

These include: 

  • Playing the victim and shaming or guilting you if you don’t do things their way
  • Being completely tone deaf to your concerns and perspective 
  • Demanding constant attention, praise and validation
  • Being sexually or emotionally selfish on a consistent basis
  • Becoming very jealous or possessive of you for no good reason
  • Sabotaging your accomplishments or downplaying them
  • Making sarcastic and hurtful comments about you or your appearance
  • Playing games with your emotions and intentionally provoking jealousy in you
  • Threatening ultimatums like breaking up if you don’t do what they want…
  • Making plans for the future for both of you without your input or assent…

These are only some of the many early red flags that can show up in a relationship with a narcissist

Keep your eyes open for them and take them seriously when you see them emerge. 

If a partner does these more than very rarely, you need to think very seriously about leaving them behind. 

First, communicate and let your concerns be heard. But if you keep being treated this way, it’s not something you should put up with. 

Which brings me to the last point… 

5) Be willing to walk

If a narcissist can tell that you don’t have the guts to leave them, they will test you to within an inch of your sanity. 

You need to be truly willing to leave if the relationship becomes toxic or pathological narcissism emerges. 

Remember that you do not have to put up with toxic and abusive behavior. Even if you truly love your partner, it is up to them to treat you in a way that adheres to basic respect and decency. 

You have the absolute right to draw your own boundaries and stick to them. 

If you are dating a narcissist and he or she is mistreating you and manipulating you, you have the right and obligation to yourself to leave that relationship. 

Don’t forget this…

You’ll end up with the love you think you deserve deep down. 

Know your value, cut off narcissists early and be sure of yourself. 

You deserve real love and a rewarding, reciprocal relationship with someone who deserves your kindness and affection. 

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