Why do I date narcissists?

Explore why you might find yourself repeatedly drawn to narcissists and how understanding your own psychological patterns can pave the way for healthier relationships.

Ever caught yourself wondering, "Why do I end up with partners who think the world revolves around them?" If dating narcissists seems like a recurring theme in your romantic history, understanding the psychological patterns at play can shed some light on your relationship dynamics and help you break the cycle.

I keep dating narcissists - why?

Let's delve deeper into schemas. These are not just passing thoughts but deep-seated beliefs and feelings developed early in life that fundamentally shape how we interact with others and perceive the world around us. They form during childhood through interactions with parents and other key figures, absorbing the dynamics within our family unit. 

If you often find your needs overshadowed by others', it might be due to a 'Subjugation' schema. This schema develops when, as a child, expressing your needs or opinions was discouraged, often leading you to prioritise others’ needs over your own as an adult. This makes you a prime target for someone who dominates and seeks control, like a narcissist.

Alternatively, you might struggle with a 'Defectiveness' schema if you constantly feel ‘not good enough.’ This often stems from receiving criticism or not feeling fully accepted during your formative years. These experiences can make the seemingly confident and assured nature of a narcissist highly attractive, as their persona initially appears to fill the void created by your own insecurities.

Our brains are wired to recognise the familiar because familiarity implies safety, a survival mechanism ingrained in us. However, this can backfire in relationships. If you had a demanding or emotionally distant parent, you might unknowingly find yourself drawn to similar traits in partners because it feels 'normal' or 'comfortable.' This isn't because it's healthy, but rather because it's the relationship dynamic you understand.

Recognising these patterns is the first step towards changing them. Learning to get your needs met in healthy ways is really important. This involves building up your self-worth and confidence outside of relationships, which can help you establish healthy boundaries. When you value yourself and understand your worth, you're less likely to tolerate someone with narcissistic traits.

It’s also about rewiring how you perceive love and attention. Love does not need to come with conditions or be a transaction where you give more than you receive. By building up your self-esteem and engaging in relationships that promote mutual respect and genuine care, you begin to break the cycle.

Narcissist early warning signs - what to look out for

Identifying a narcissist early in the dating game can save you from future heartache. Narcissists have a knack for making a grand entrance into your life, often appearing charming and attentive, only to reveal their true colours as you get deeper into the relationship.

Here are some early warning signs to help you recognise a narcissist before you get too involved:

Love bombing - this is when someone overwhelms you with loving words, actions, and behaviours that feel almost too good to be true. For instance, if within the first few dates they're showering you with gifts, planning extravagant dates, and making sweeping declarations about your future together, be wary. While romance isn't bad, this level of intense, over-the-top attention can often be a manipulative tactic designed to quickly win you over and gain control. Initially, this may feel flattering, but it's typically a strategy aimed at emotionally hooking you before you have the chance to see their true character.

It's all about them - narcissists love the spotlight. Pay attention during your conversations. Are they always steering the talk back to themselves? An example might be you sharing something about a hard day at work, and they immediately relate it to something that happened to them, shifting the focus of the conversation back to themselves, and minimising your experiences.

Gaslighting - this subtle form of manipulation is a serious red flag. Narcissists will often outright deny your experience or reality, making you doubt yourself. For example, if you bring up something they said that hurt you, they might respond with something like, "I never said that, you're imagining things," or "You're too sensitive," invalidating your feelings and confusing your perception of events.

Zero empathy - a narcissist's lack of empathy can be stark. They struggle to genuinely connect with the emotional experiences of others. If you find that they dismiss your feelings regularly or fail to show any genuine concern when you’re upset or hurt, it’s a major warning sign. An example could be you feeling ill and instead of showing concern, they complain about how it’s going to affect their plans.

Constant criticism - after the initial phase, if your partner starts to nitpick and criticise things about you - from the way you dress to how you speak or your interests - it's often their way of keeping you low and more likely to stick with them out of insecurity.

Recognising these signs early can help you make informed decisions about whether to continue investing in the relationship or if it's healthier to take a step back. Being informed about these patterns can empower you to navigate the dating world more wisely, helping you find a relationship based on mutual respect and genuine affection.

How dating a narcissist changes you

Being involved with a narcissist can feel like being trapped on a never-ending emotional rollercoaster. The highs might be dizzying, but the lows are often devastating, affecting more than just your day-to-day mood. These relationships can gradually erode your self-worth, altering how you perceive yourself and your value in relationships. The cycle of praise followed by criticism can leave you doubting your worth and questioning your own perceptions and feelings. This erosion of confidence is especially damaging if you're already inclined to feel 'not good enough' - often rooted in a 'Defectiveness' schema. The narcissist’s critical and dismissive behaviour can reinforce your deepest insecurities, convincing you that you are the problem and deserving of their bad treatment.

This constant undermining can have long-lasting effects, making you hesitant to open up in future relationships. The fear of being hurt again might deter you from forming close connections, which are essential for deep, meaningful relationships. However, it's vital to remain open and not shut yourself off to potential happiness due to past experiences. Staying open is essential for truly connecting.

How to avoid dating a narcissist

Strengthening your sense of self won’t make you immune to narcissists, but it will equip you with the tools to recognise the signs earlier. Being aware allows you to swiftly identify and act on unhealthy behaviours, potentially saving you from prolonged heartache. Narcissists tend to be drawn to those they perceive to be easy to manipulate, but having a robust sense of self and clear boundaries reduces their chances of success.

That’s why it can help to take things slow when first getting to know someone. Narcissists often seek quick, intense emotional involvement to secure their control and validation. By pacing the relationship, you give both you and your partner time to gradually reveal your true selves. This slower pace can deter a narcissist, who will most likely lose interest and move on, allowing you to better discern their intentions before becoming too emotionally involved. This not only helps in filtering out narcissists but also enables you to build a solid foundation based on genuine mutual understanding and respect.

Taking a measured approach to new relationships can help you identify and challenge any ingrained schemas. By recognising these patterns and understanding how they influence your relationship choices, you can work on healing and not just reinforcing old patterns that hold you back. You learn to value yourself and your needs, ensuring that your relationships are healthy and balanced.

Ready to dodge the narcissist bullet? Here are some strategies:

Know your worth - remember that you deserve a relationship where your feelings and needs are respected.

Set firm boundaries - determine your non-negotiables in a relationship and adhere to them. Narcissists often target people who are flexible with their boundaries.

Take it slow - rushing into things can make it easier to miss red flags. Taking your time allows you to observe how your partner handles patience and boundaries.

Stay educated - knowing the traits of narcissism can help you spot them early on. Knowledge truly is power.

By taking the steps to understand and heal your schemas, you're not just avoiding narcissists - you're laying the groundwork for healthier, more fulfilling relationships that truly meet your emotional needs. 

Start your journey today with tools like our Relationship Report, which provides personalised insights into your relational patterns and offers actionable advice on navigating them.

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