Have you ever asked yourself, “Why does it feel like I always attract narcissists?” Many survivors say most partners or friends they grow to care about are narcissists. When we do attract healthy people or partners, we may find that we aren’t as intrigued by a wholesome relationship, or we label the relationship as “unexciting.” There is something about narcissist that draws narcissists and victims together.
I want to make a point here. We can’t control a narcissist, but we can change things within ourselves to stop the cycle. In my experience, there are three reasons we attract toxic people.
1.You suffered narcissistic abuse as a child.
Almost everyone is taught how life should be in their childhood. In a healthy family, the parents meet the needs of the children physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. In an unhealthy family, the roles are reversed. The child is expected to work hard to shine a light on the toxic parent and earn that parent’s love. Unfortunately, in some cases, both parents are narcissists!
When we reach adulthood, a toxic environment seems “normal” and healthy. It’s what we know. Many of us raised by harmful parents think love must be earned, not just given. We learn no one will love us unless we are pretty or handsome, intelligent, quiet, outgoing, successful, and more. The toxic parent dictates our beliefs, values, and worth. This mandate is brainwashing for many of us. Those voices of inadequacy play in our heads for a lifetime unless we do something about them. And it’s difficult to do the work to heal, so sometimes we don’t go to therapy or find coaching. A broken heart and soul lead to bad choices in partners, friendships, and jobs.
A good example of toxic parents comes from one of my clients. Megan is a 34-yer-old woman living at home with her parents because she is between restaurant jobs. Megan’s mom is a narcissist, and her father has become the “yes man” or doormat. Megan had her menstrual cycle a few days ago, and her parents turned off the water source to her room. She came home from work needing to shower, but her parents wanted to show her who is still in control.
2.You are a people pleaser or empath
People pleasers and many empaths put themselves last when it comes to living their lives. Others almost always come first. People pleasers tend to have others take advantage of their generosity, especially narcissists. Narcissists recognize that people-pleasers are givers, not takers, and will do almost anything to make others happy.
In his book Why Pleasing You Is Killing Me, Dr. Les Carter writes a list of people-pleasing traits, including the following:
- I have opinions about right and wrong but will not always stand firm when faced with a persuasive person.
- I can be motivated by guilt.
- It really bothers me if I have upset someone.
- I feel that I try harder to make relationships work than others do.
- When another person is angry, I go into the appeaser mode.
- Sometimes I just try too hard to be nice.
- Even when I am nice to others, it seems they want more.
- When I do something for my own pleasure, I may feel selfish.
I can’t think of any better traits for a narcissist to want in a partner. It’s the antithesis of what the narcissist is and what that toxic person needs.
3.You are co-dependent.
Co-dependency is often people pleasing, but it is put in the category of a learned conduct. This behavior can be passed down from one generation to another. It is often an emotional and behavioral condition between two partners, lovers, family members, or friends. Many of us who have had narcissistic parents have watched the other parent – often co-dependent – develop unhealthy strategies to cope with the narcissist. We mimic their efforts because it seemed to work for the non-narcissistic parent. Copying that behavior in our adulthood, we then find ourselves evolving into a partner who sacrifices pleasure, money, time, emotional well-being, and even physical health. We do all this just to make the other person happy.
The trouble is, with a narcissist, it’s never enough. The toxic partner has demands which the co-dependent will not meet, no matter what. It’s a vicious cycle of please-me-and-ill-love-you that the co-dependent will never win.
It’s essential to work on healing from narcissistic abuse before dating or developing new relationships. Healing looks different for everyone. It can mean watching videos about narcissism, going to therapy, using a recovery coach, attending a support group and/or engaging in spiritual healing. Sometimes it’s a combination of all those efforts that produce results.
It’s not impossible, but it can be challenging to heal alone. Find what works for you. Healing is a journey, and it’s one well worth the reward at the end: your peace.