It’s not uncommon to run into more than one relationship in our life that feels toxic. Sometimes, we may even begin to notice a pattern of these types of relationships. This realization can leave us feeling like we are the common denominator.
Many clients ask the question, “Is there something that I am doing to attract narcissistic people?” and “Why did this happen to ME?”.
Let me start by saying, it is never your fault when someone else behaves like a jerk. We are all responsible for our own behavior. Let’s be clear about that. There is nothing that we do to cause narcissistic people to behave they way that they do. Equally, there is nothing that we can do to fix these toxic behaviors in others.
There are, however, some things that predispose us to falling in with toxic people. Recognizing these tendencies, with self-compassion, is part of our journey toward building a life full of secure attachment and healthy connection. Becoming more aware of our own patterns and behaviors, we gain deeper insight into how to recognize, and steer away from, toxic people. We’re never fated to a life of unhealthy relationships. We are always growing!
Getting entangled with a narcissistic person results from a combination of circumstances. Where we are in our own life journey; time, place and context, combined with crossing the path of a narcissist hungry for new supply, can lead us unknowingly into the trap of a toxic relationship.
Below are six possible reasons you might have become entangled with a narcissistic person.
1.You are an optimist.
Looking on the bright side is a great quality. This makes you shine. It’s part of your spark! However, applying a blanket of optimism to an abusive relationship can turn into avoidance or denial. The optimist assumes that things will improve and therefore tolerates offensive behavior longer than necessary. Misdirected optimism can lead us to minimize treatment that’s hurtful and exaggerate the narcissist’s potential for change.
2.You have a forgiving nature.
A forgiving nature often goes hand in hand with being empathic. Empaths have a great ability to relate to another’s side of the story. We’re willing to lend support to those in need and don’t like to stay mad for long. Empathy makes the world a better place and when reciprocated is a hallmark of secure attachment.
When dealing with a person who is interpersonally exploitative, being too quick to forgive gives the offender the “green light” to continue their controlling behavior.
Your feelings and needs are important and shouldn’t be minimized.
Being upset when someone hurts us is our intuition’s way of saying, “Something feels off here”. This is how we know where our boundaries lie. It’s our responsibility to honor this intuition in ourselves and set standards of acceptable treatment. It is okay to say, “No. This is not acceptable for me.”.
3.Your self-esteem needs some extra nurturing.
Sometimes we feel really good about who we are and other times, not so much. Our life experiences and past hurts, if gone unresolved, linger in our psyche and result in patterns of self-doubt, low confidence and a negative self- perception.
Oftentimes, we seek to soothe these discomforts by reaching outward. While this creates temporary relief, it may also be a distraction from working through our own issues.
Narcissistic people are skilled at mirroring what they think you need to hear and are masters at spotting our vulnerabilities. Being intentional about working through our own insecurities and nurturing our self-esteem reduce susceptibility to toxic relationships.
4.You have had a narcissistic parent or caregiver.
In some cases, we may have had a narcissistic parent or caregiver. Growing up with a narcissistic parent creates a kaleidoscope of unhealthy beliefs about our SELF and our connection to others, that require conscious and intentional effort to reframe. Co-dependent and people pleasing tendencies are common in adult children of narcissists.
Sometimes, we end up with narcissistic partners because, consciously or unconsciously, the dynamic feels familiar. If we haven’t had a healthy relationship modeled to us, we don’t know any better.
5.You initially found the person very attractive.
Narcissistic people don’t walk around with horns on their head. They’re often very charming, charismatic and fun to be around. There’s a reason we are attracted to these people. The problem is, it’s only a sliver of their personality, the part they perfect for the audience and wear externally. Underneath, is a person who lacks empathy, is unable to “see” you authentically, or to reciprocate emotional intimacy in a healthy way. While it may feel thrilling at times, it’s not sustainable and will ultimately leave you feeling drained and estranged from reality.
6.You simply didn’t know exactly who you were getting involved with.
Another reason that we end up so deep into a relationship with a toxic person is that we really didn’t know. We may not have had a relationship like this ever before and were completely unaware that ‘narcissistic abuse’ was a thing.
As an empathic person, the assumption is that others are capable of reciprocating our kindness and using rational skills like compromise, communication and healthy problem solving. Narcissistic people use gaslighting and manipulation to gain psychological control. They essentially hijack our psyche.
While the relationship begins to unravel, we are in shock and disbelief. “Is it me, or is this person completely creating their own version of reality?”. You are not crazy. When your intuition is telling you that something is off, trust that feeling.
The slow and hard realization of the truth about who this person is can be excruciatingly painful. You are not crazy, you simply did not know.
If you can relate to any of this, I’m sorry for the pain and confusion you’ve experienced. I get it! Surviving an intimate relationship with a narcissistic person is life altering. While it can be the most painful thing you have endured, it can also be a huge catalyst for growth.
These hard earned experiences can push us into a deeper connection with ourselves. They help us clarify exactly what our boundaries are and teach us how to begin protecting ourselves from being taken advantage of in the future. Remember that you are never destined to a pattern of toxic relationships. Most of us are learning as we go. Each relationship we have on our journey is a new opportunity for growth.