On her YouTube channel, clinical psychologistDr. Ramani Durvasula creates content that offers helpful advice on how people can navigate their relationships with the narcissists in their lives, from sidestepping direct confrontation to knowing which words to avoid in conversation, to minimizing contact. But how does somebody end up in a narcissistic relationship in the first place?
According to Durvasula, there are generally five different types of people who tend to attract narcissists. Here are the personality traits that are common in a "narcissism magnet":
You're overly empathic
Empathic people are overly receptive and attuned to the emotions and needs of others. And for the most part, this is a wonderful thing to be. However, if this kind of person meets a narcissist, they'll try to mirror back the narcissist's feelings; and for the narcissist, Durvasula says, that can feel like "mainlining validation."
"The narcissist in general is generally contemptuous of empathy," she explains. "They're certainly not going to deliver it to someone else. But when an overly empathic person crosses their path, and is turning themselves upside down to hear, regard and validate the narcissist, as far as they're concerned they've hit a home run, and they'll keep that person around. Sadly, that person who doesn't understand what they've backed into will keep offering up that empathy, and think 'maybe I'm not listening enough, maybe I should try listening harder'... Overly empathic people will exhaust themselves in these relationships before they get out."
You're a "rescuer"
Rescuers are often also very empathic, but they will focus on the reasons that the narcissist needs to be "saved." This can manifest in all manner of ways, from letting somebody move in with them way too early on in a relationship, giving someone money with the best of intentions without realizing they are being manipulated, and calling in favors to help them find a job, only for the narcissist to then make them look bad.
"Rescuers are notorious for putting themselves into really problematic spots with the goal of rescuing another person," says Durvasula. "So you can see, then, how a narcissist would so be able to prey on this. Narcissists are really good at selling a sad story in the beginning. They'll often tell stories of how everyone was mean to them... and they'll tell you on a first or second date. Always pay attention when someone really doubles down on their sadsack stories really early, because it really is quite manipulative, especially for rescuers, who will now feel like they have to save this person."
You're overly positive
Much like someone who is overly empathic, it is generally speaking a good thing to put out good intentions into the world and hope for the best from other people—but it can also make you a target.
"An overly positive person can't imagine in such a beautiful, fair and just world, that there could be people out there who lack empathy, and are entitled, grandiose and can't change," says Durvasula. "An overly positive person will find that one grain of good, and run with it. Narcissists manipulate and exploit this absolutely to their best interest."
You're quick to forgive
"What do forgiving people do? They give lots and lots of second chances," says Durvasula. "A healthy person will say 'I'm so lucky that I just got forgiven, and I need to change my behavior so I don't hurt this person again.' To a narcissist, forgiveness is permission."
This is complicated, she explains, by the fact that for many people, forgiveness is a spiritual imperative; they consider it the right thing to do. But rather than leading the narcissist to learn or change, it ends up creating a cycle in which the narcissist continues to act with impunity and without altering their behavior, which ends up being exhausting and demoralizing for the forgiver.
You had narcissistic parents
"Having narcissistic parents is a setup to being a magnet for narcissists as an adult," says Durvasula. While it's easy to assume that somebody who grew up as the child of narcissists should have learned to identify that behavior in others, what frequently happens instead is that they normalize and internalize it.
"By the time you get to 18, 19, 20, you might not have figured out what to call this thing," she says. "You might have thought, 'well all human relationships require me to prove myself, and feel like I'm not enough, and bring vast amounts of narcissistic supply to a person, isn't that what a normal relationship is?'"
This is called habituation, where you simply get used to narcissistic behavior in others, and learn to accommodate it. "Then you get masterful at learning the workarounds, and as a result, when a narcissistic person comes into your purview, instead of thinking 'this is toxic', you'll try to figure out the workarounds."
You Might Also Like