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S2 EP202 – Do You Attract Narcissists?

Episode Summary

Do you have a pattern of attracting narcissists into your life? Discover why! Are you currently in a relationship with a narcissist and need help navigating it? Have you been in love with a narcissist and are now going through pain and confusion as a result of the relationship ending? Healing from a relationship with a narcissist is a learning process. Learn it now!


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding Podcast. Many of my clients seek my help because they keep attracting narcissists into their life, or they are in a relationship with a narcissist and don’t know how to manage the relationship, or they have left a relationship with a narcissist or got left by a narcissist and are deeply struggling with the aftermath.

Seema asked me this question during one of my webinars. It’s a question that I‘m often asked.

“I seem to attract men who are often narcissistic, selfish, cheating, and abusive. As much as I try to not repeat this pattern and learn my lessons and grow, I still find myself with this type of person. My dad had all of those qualities too. What am I missing and how do I finally stop this cycle?”

There are two very different  answers to this question:

One is that there are many narcissistic people, so the chance of meeting a narcissist when you are dating is quite high.

The second answer is far more complex.

Since Seema had a narcissistic father, she might be attracted to men like her father in the hopes of getting them to love her in the way she needed to be loved by her father. Her wounded self might believe that “If only I can get love from a man like my father, then I will feel worthy and lovable.” It’s understandable that her wounded little girl would think this and want this, but it simply doesn’t work, and she is stuck in the notion that she can find a way to have control over getting love from a narcissistic man.

People are often attracted to a partner like the parent they had the most problems with, in the hopes of having control of getting what they didn’t get from the unloving parent. Which, of course, will never happen.

While the chances are high of meeting narcissistic people, if you are loving yourself, you won’t be available to their charm, and you will quickly move on. When you are loving yourself and tuned into your higher guidance, you can feel when you are being manipulated by a narcissist. And when you value yourself, you are not vulnerable to the narcissist who is adept at making you feel that you are the person he or she has always been looking for and that they want to spend the rest of their life with you – right at the beginning of the relationship. But Seema keeps ending up in relationships with narcissists, which means that she is abandoning herself rather than loving herself, and making the men she meets responsible for her sense of self-worth.

One of the ways she might have learned to control is to be a caretaker. Her wounded self might believe that “If I give enough and give myself up enough to please this man, then he will love me.” Seema is likely unwilling to accept that she has no control over getting an unloving person – a selfish, cheating, and abusive person – to be loving.

If Seema were loving herself rather than abandoning herself and then trying to get love from someone else, she wouldn’t be needy of approval and attention, and she wouldn’t tolerate selfish, cheating, and abusive behavior. The moment she had a glimpse of this, she would end the relationship.

If she were truly loving herself, she would not be seduced by the charms of a narcissist. Narcissists often know exactly what to say to pull a person in who is abandoning themselves and is therefore starved to be seen, heard, and valued. If Seema is judging herself as not being good enough, or if she is ignoring her feelings and not taking emotional responsibility, or if she is turning to various addictions to avoid her feelings, or she believes that her worth is defined by others, then she is very vulnerable to the charm of the narcissist who might be telling her how wonderful she is and how he has never felt this way about anyone – within days or weeks after meeting.

We all need to accept that others often treat us the way we are treating ourselves. Seema needs to become aware of the various ways she is abandoning herself that is being mirrored back to her by the men in her life.

If Seema were loving herself, she would be seeing, hearing, and valuing herself, which would make her much less vulnerable to the approval of the narcissist. If she were loving herself, she would be listening to her feelings and her spiritual guidance and she would be able to sense the difference between the manipulations of the narcissist and the authenticity of a loving person.

Since narcissists are often interesting, smart, funny, and endearing, if you are not aware of the charm of the narcissist, it’s easy to fall in love with a narcissist. My friend, Arielle Ford, wrote a wonderful novel about a woman who fell in love with a narcissist, called “The Love Thief.” If you want to get more tuned in to narcissism, as well as read a compelling story, you will really enjoy this novel.

You might be in the same position that Tara is in – already in a relationship with a narcissist and hoping to get him to change.

Tara asked me the following question:

“Dear Dr. Paul, how do you reach your spouse if they are narcissistic and shut down emotionally? He does not say anything when I explain Inner Bonding, intent, or control – just stares. Even if I declare my love for him and my wish to be closer, he just nods his head! He is the son of a narcissist father and borderline mother who both stepped out of his life when we married, He sees no reason to forgive anyone, and he is not only defensive – he’s offensive!!! In any conversation he must be in control. Help!!”

I’m going to make the assumption that Tara knew some of these things about him before marrying him, or that she got swept off her feet by the narcissistic charm and didn’t take the time she needed to really know him before marrying him.

And the question I would ask her if she was my client is, “If you knew some of these things before marrying him, then why did you marry him?” The main reason people marry someone like Tara is describing is because they are coming from a big false belief that their love can change the person.

Tara asked, “How do you reach your spouse if they are narcissistic and shut down emotionally?” and the answer is, you don’t! You can’t. And Tara is not coming to grips with this truth – that she can’t have any control at all over anyone’s intent to be open or closed, learning or protected, loving or unloving.

If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, the first thing you need to do is take your eyes off your partner and put them on yourself. You need to explore where the belief comes from that you can change him or her – that you can ‘reach him or her’ – and you need to accept that you are totally helpless over others.

Tara said, “He does not say anything when I explain Inner Bonding, intent or control – just stares.”

Tara needs to explore what feelings she is avoiding by trying to change him. She needs to come to terms with the fact that when she is explaining Inner Bonding and explaining the intent to learn and the intent to control to him, her own intent is to control!

And her husband is likely in complete resistance to being controlled by her. If you are in a relationship like this, you need to either completely accept him or her exactly the way they are, or leave the relationship, but ‘reaching him,’ changing him, controlling him is not an option. Leaving the relationship before healing your end of this system – which is likely very much about trying to control him – will only delay you in healing your end of the system. So I suggest that, for the time being, you accept your partner as he or she is and put your attention on learning to love yourself in the face of your partner’s behavior. Every time you focus on your partner instead of you, you are disconnecting from yourself and making the other person responsible for you.

Tara said, “Even if I declare my love for him and my wish to be closer, he just nods his head!”

Do you believe that your love will heal your partner’s narcissism? It sounds like Tara is declaring her love in the hopes of getting her husband to open up, which means that declaring her love is a form of control – which he will continue to resist. Why not focus on loving yourself rather than on trying to get someone else to change?

Tara said, “He is the son of a narcissist father and borderline mother who both stepped out of his life when we married. He sees no reason to forgive anyone, and he is not only defensive – he’s offensive!!! Any conversation he must be in control. Help!!”

It would be very valuable learning for Tara to see that she is trying to control as much as he is – it’s just that she does it in different ways. Her husband’s control may be more overt and her’s more covert, but it is control nevertheless.

The bottom line is – people can change if they want to, but we can’t change them or get them to open up. So, focus on changing what you can change – which is you!

An important choice in loving yourself is not to be involved with a narcissist if you can help it. In her excellent book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, Dr. Judith Orloff states,

“Don’t fall in love with a narcissist. Run in the opposite direction no matter how attracted you feel.”

I agree, but the challenge is in knowing who is a narcissist before you fall in love. As I previously said, narcissists tend to be quite charming and manipulative, and often come on very strong at the beginning of a relationship, so if you are in the dating world, it would be helpful for you to learn about the signs of narcissism.

Dr. Orloff also advises people to avoid working with a narcissistic boss, but when you can’t avoid this, to learn to disconnect your self-worth from your boss’s narcissistic behavior. When you learn not to take your boss’s behavior personally, you will have a much easier time feeling okay. She suggests that if you need to make a request of your boss, (quote) “show how your request will be to the narcissist’s advantage.”(unquote)

If you are already in a relationship with a narcissistic spouse, parent, sibling, child, or friend. and you are going to stay in the relationship with a narcissist, then, as I’ve said, you need to fully accept the narcissist exactly as he or she is. Having unrealistic expectations of a narcissist’s caring, respect, empathy, or compassion will leave you feeling much heartache. Narcissists are not capable of empathy and compassion, so you need to accept your powerlessness over their lack of emotional capabilities and give yourself the caring, respect, empathy, and compassion you need, as well as seek out friends who are open, caring, and empathic.

If you are an empathic and compassionate person, then you might be making the mistake of assuming that others are like you. I made this mistake for many years – assuming that the people close to me could feel and care about my feelings as I felt and cared about theirs. It was a shock to me to realize that I actually knew very few people who were capable of true empathy and compassion.

Once I let go of believing that others were like me, it became much easier to accept others exactly where they are. When I saw that my parents and other members of my family were incapable of empathy and compassion, I stopped expecting it and stopped getting hurt by them.

When I stopped trying to have control over getting their understanding and compassion, and over being seen and heard by them, I also became much more sensitive to when others are incapable of empathy. Now, I mostly steer away from interactions with people who are narcissistic and not capable of empathy and compassion.

One aspect of loving yourself around narcissists is to stop thinking that caretaking them will change them and then they will be loving to you. This isn’t at all what happens with narcissists. Narcissists get their ‘narcissistic supply’ from your caretaking. The more you give yourself up, the happier they are.

People who are empathic tend to feel very sorry for the abandoned inner child of a narcissist. You feel their pain – even when they are not aware of their own pain – and you don’t want them to hurt. So you may do your best to be there for their inner child while abandoning yourself – which is what caretaking is. Over time, this results in feeling resentful that you are doing all the giving and receiving very little back. When you feel pulled on to care-take another’s abandoned inner child, stop and pay attention to what’s really happening in the relationship. Overdoing for a narcissist can happen slowly over time, until one day you realize that you are completely drained from giving yourself up.

The main issue in loving yourself with a narcissist is to fully accept that there is NOTHING you can do to change or heal the narcissist. They can heal, but you can’t do it for them. For healing to occur, they need to learn to show up as a loving adult for themselves, but the sad reality is that few are motivated to do so, because they are generally not unhappy being narcissists, and they don’t believe that the problems in their relationships have anything to do with them. Part of narcissism is blaming others and never taking accountability – other than as a manipulation. When you fully accept your lack of control over them, then you are free to take loving care of yourself.

Have you been in a relationship with a narcissist? Many people are very vulnerable to getting into a relationship with a narcissist because, as I’ve said, narcissists often know how to temporarily – at the beginning of the relationship – give you the love and attention you have yearned for your whole life. These relationships are often intense, compelling, alive, passionate – and confusing. And there is often much turmoil when they end.

Andrea asked me for help with the aftermath of her relationship:

“I ended a relationship a month ago that was short but intense. I was shocked by his reaction and what he has subsequently done, and I researched narcissistic personality disorder, and to my dismay all but one of the characteristics describe him and us almost exactly. I have tried to get over it by telling myself that the relationship wasn’t sustainable anyway and better that I got out of involvement with a narcissist, but I still feel hurt and in pain about it that leaves me unable to focus on the things I need to do in my own life – basically abandoning myself. I have tried to do Inner Bonding, but not been able to alleviate the hurt, and additionally the shame I feel about being so taken advantage of by what he’s done with my belongings. I’d be grateful for any helpful advice and suggestions.”

First, Andrea needs to move into compassion for herself rather than shaming herself. Rather than judging herself, she needs to discover why she was vulnerable to the narcissist. When she learns to give herself the love she needs, she will be able to focus on her own life.

Like Andrea, often people who have been in a relationship with a narcissist find themselves going through intense emotional and financial trauma. The aftermath of a relationship with a narcissist can be one of the worst experiences of your life, so it’s very important to do the inner work necessary to no longer be vulnerable to the charms of a narcissist.

Ronda asked:

“At the beginning of this year I ended a very intense and also dysfunctional relationship, and later found out that my ex was a typical narcissist. I’ve had a lot of learning and healing, but I still have my ex on my mind a lot. Why do I keep recalling him? What can I do to complete my healing?”

What Ronda is experiencing is the result of the intensity of the connection that can occur with a narcissist. She likely fell in love with his soul, but then could not tolerate his narcissistic wounded self. She misses the fun and connection she had with him, and she likely thinks of him when she is feeling lonely. Ronda needs to be compassionate with herself when she is lonely, and she needs to make it okay to miss the intensity and the connection. She needs to learn to give herself the experience of meaningful connection with herself, with spirit and with others, in a healthy way.

Stuart asked me in a session:

“I know leaving the relationship was the right thing to do. I now see that she is a narcissist. Most of the time, I feel great about my new life. But there are times I feel heartbroken even though I know the relationship was not good for me. I’m wondering why?”

Like Ronda, Stuart fell in love with the essence of his former partner. He loved the love, attention, and passionate sex she gave him, and he ignored the red flags that showed up along the way. He is heartbroken because he misses her essence, but he could not tolerate her narcissistic wounded self. His partner turned out to be a major liar and extremely manipulative. She hurt him deeply, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t heartbroken at losing the wonderful parts of the relationship. Like everyone who ends up in a relationship with a narcissist, Stuart needs to heal his own wounded self who is vulnerable to the kind of attention and passion that narcissists often offer. He needs to learn to give the love and attention to himself that he seeks from others. He needs to learn to stop abandoning himself.

As I’ve said, if you are susceptible to the charms of the narcissist, then you need to explore the self-abandonment that is the underlying cause of this vulnerability. The more you learn to love yourself, the more you become tuned into the manipulative energy of the narcissist. Energetically, there is a big difference between the so called love the narcissist offers and the real love offered by a genuinely loving person. There are many red flags along the way, which become apparent to you when you are connected with your feelings and your spiritual guidance.

Many of us have had the experience of being in a relationship with a narcissist.

You met the person of your dreams – charming, intelligent, romantic, attentive, incredible chemistry and great lover. You might have been told how wonderful you are, how this was the first time your lover had ever felt this way and had this level of connection, and you felt truly seen for the first time.

Perhaps there was a nagging unease that all this was happening too fast – that he or she couldn’t possibly feel this way about you without knowing you better. But you were swept off your feet and finally decided to open your heart.

The confusion may have started then, as your lover pulled away and become critical. Or, it might have started after you married, and you found yourself with a partner totally different than the person you fell in love with.

Whether your relationship was two months or two years or two decades, it was likely tumultuous, confusing, and painful. And if you were married and then divorced, it might have been more painful or even frightening.

There is much healing for you to do if you were in love with a narcissist.

Here is what you need to do to heal from being in a relationship with a narcissist.

First, you need to be very compassionate with yourself and let yourself grieve for the huge loss of what you had hoped for. It might seem easier to judge yourself for the big mistakes you believe you made, but self-judgment will keep you stuck. There is no possibility of healing when you judge yourself.

Each time the grief comes up, embrace it with kindness and caring toward yourself. Even though you know it’s better to have ended this relationship, it’s hard to let go of the intensity of a relationship with a narcissist. It’s hard to imagine a future relationship that isn’t boring compared to the intensity you’ve been experiencing.

Then, once some of the grief has subsided, it’s time to go inward and explore why you were vulnerable to this person. Was your partner giving you what you were not giving to yourself? Was your partner seeing you and valuing you in the way you need to be seeing and valuing yourself? Did you ignore some red flags because you so wanted it all to be true?

Did you make excuses for your partner to avoid facing the truth? Did you give yourself up to try to have control over getting your partner to be loving to you again? What did you sacrifice to keep the relationship – your integrity, your financial security, your time with family and friends, your time for yourself, your inner knowing?

It’s vitally important to be honest with yourself so that you don’t end up feeling like a victim, and so that you have less of a chance of repeating this in a future relationship.

During this time of self-reflection, it’s very important to get support. You might want to join a 12-Step CODA group, get therapy or facilitation, or join a support group.

It’s also important to educate yourself about narcissism. There are numerous books, websites, YouTube videos, and articles devoted to understanding narcissism. Since I’m certain that you don’t want to repeat this, you need to do all you can to learn about what happened. You need to become sensitive to the numerous red flags so that you can pick them up very early in a subsequent relationship.

One of my clients shared that she had met a man six years ago, dated him a few times, and then they remained distant friends. Recently, when she was in his town, they saw each other, and she was very attracted to him. He came on strong, inviting her to join him on an upcoming European vacation. She felt uneasy, but a day later texted him to see if he wanted to have dinner with her. He never responded to the invitation. It took her only 24 hours to recognize these two red flags of narcissism – coming on strong and then disappearing. She was pleased that she found this out so soon! Instead of beating herself up for being attracted to another narcissist, she congratulated herself for staying open to the truth.

Since narcissists are often very attractive, anyone can become attracted. But whether or not you will pursue it depends on how much Inner Bonding work you have done.

The very best thing you can to do not get into a relationship with a narcissist or to heal from a relationship with a narcissist, is to learn to love yourself – to see, value, and cherish yourself and take loving care of your own feelings. In other words, practice Inner Bonding!

If you enjoyed this podcast, I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends about it, and if you give it a review wherever you heard it.

And I invite you join me for my bi-monthly masterclass and receive my live help, which you can learn about at

I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books and from our website at

If you want to do individual work with me or with one of our many trained Inner Bonding facilitators, please go and look under Facilitators -> Find a Facilitator, or call my office, the number is on the website.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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