Sheryl Crow talks about falling for 'pathological narcissists'

Sheryl Crow is opening up about her relationship history — and missteps along the way.

The singer, 58, was a guest on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert and talked about how having breast cancer changed her life, which she now groups in two parts: before cancer, which she was diagnosed with at age 44, and after. One of the things that the experience helped her put in perspective was how she “gravitated to pathological narcissists” as romantic partners.

“I think that it took me until I got diagnosed with breast cancer to figure out that love is not something that you tap dance to get,” said Crow, whose exes include Lance Armstrong, Eric Clapton, Owen Wilson and Josh Charles. “That was my relationship with my work. My relationship in the universe. I picked people that demanded that of me. I mean — I’ve picked some very high-achieving men.”

Crow, who is promoting her eleventh and finale studio album Threads (on which Clapton appears), said that she did some hard work on herself after she went through cancer and “really dug down.” Some wisdom she got was from a healer, who told her, “‘Until you can put yourself first in your life, you will always be at the bottom.’”

“I think that is where I had gotten,” she said. “In fact, I think I had really mastered, even in a relationship, picking someone that could really manifest that with me — of making me seriously the bottom of the heap.”

She said she was always the kind of person who, if she got hurt in a breakup, to suppress her feelings and push them down.

“Try to stay busy, don’t dwell on it,” she said. “Everything is about pushing it down, not dealing with it.” And “that just registers itself somewhere in your psyche.”

Crow said when she had breast cancer, she never feared she would die because it was “so early stage.” Instead, she viewed it as a “speed bump” that was “tailor-made” for her in that it made her reassess. It started almost immediately at her first radiation treatment when the technician told her, “‘Don’t miss out on the lesson’” of cancer. “‘Just notice.’”

She said that she “was the last person that I would nurture” in her life. “I wouldn’t let anyone take care of me. I wouldn’t let anyone nurture me. I was the fixer in all my relationships. It’s kind of like that oxygen mask thing ... if you don’t put yours on, you can’t put your kids on. You gotta put yours on first.”

Crow continued, “It sounds really simplistic ... but you just don’t get your lessons until the second you get them,” she said. “You can have the same lessons over and over, but there is a moment you actually get it and that was mine.”

In relationships, she said she was a “loyalist and someone who sticks with people way beyond what I should. Co-dependent? Yeah, I guess in some ways I am. I think I’m less of that now. I think I’ve very aware of it [now].” But “pre-cancer, I gravitated to pathological narcissists — and that sounds awful... I’m just saying I’m drawn to them.”

Making the point that she’s not talking about any one person, she continued, “What happens is you find people who mirror back to you how you already feel about yourself. Like — there is a wow thing. You’re a rock star. You’re funny. You’re smart. You have your whole financial thing. You run your own company. And that looks great. And then slowly start whittle away all the things that you really feel about yourself. Which are: You’re not really worth being loved. You’re not that good. You’re fooling people. All those little voices.”

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 12:  Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow attending the premiere of "Along Came Polly" at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA 01/12/03  (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)
Crow dated Lance Armstrong, pictured with her here in 2003, just prior to her cancer diagnosis. (Photo: Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)

Crow pointed out that there are “obviously varying degrees of narcissism and I think we all have aspects of it — and then there are people that are actually more pathological,” she said. “I found that most of the important relationships that I had were extremely high performing, high achieving narcissists. The thing about that, you eventually become part of the shadow around them and it’s extremely lonely. I got used to being lonely and I was constantly — in several of my relationships — just used to being expendable.”

She went on to say, “People who get into relationships with narcissists are generally referred to as echos. That’s the person that mirrors back to the narcissist all of the things that they want be but that they aren’t. It’s always a dangerous spot to be in because you are at any minute gonna be tossed when that picture of what they want to be but aren’t becomes too glaring.”

Despite what she said, Crow added of her exes, “Every person that I have loved, I love still love, I don’t have any terrible feelings about anyone. That sounds really woo-woo. There was a reason why I loved them.”

Crow’s interview was wide-ranging, she also spoke of getting one of her big breaks touring with Michael Jackson, who she now reflects on as a “strange dude,” and talked about Whitney Houston’s tragic end still breaks her heart because to so many around her she was merely a “money train.” Crow said those levels of stardom were ones she never aspired to have,

Crow, who didn’t reveal if she is currently dating anyone, also spoke about quarantine with her sons, Wyatt and Levi, in Nashville. She says that despite the circumstances, it’s been an “incredible” time of bonding. She can be at home full-time with the boys, who she says grew up learning to walk on tour busses. It’s been “kind of awesome.”

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