If you have a partner who is a narcissist, you might reasonably be wondering why they were attracted to you. It’s not uncommon to think that there must be something wrong with you if they were attracted to you. It’s easy to think that you somehow should have known or that you have some kind of problem of your own, but the situation is much more complicated than that.
Narcissists are looking for some very specific characteristics in a spouse that will benefit them the most. These traits are typically thought of as being good, but the narcissist uses them to their advantage. Narcissists may also look for certain weaknesses that complement their own bad behaviors.
Read on to learn more about what the narcissist looks for in a spouse and how those traits work to their advantage. It’s important to understand how certain positive characteristics can attract the narcissist into your life.
Traits the Narcissist Looks for in a Spouse
By the time a narcissist is looking for a spouse, they’ve usually received feedback by that point in time about their bad behavior, so they learn what to look for that will work to their advantage. One of the things they prize in a partner is a forgiving nature. They may not have empathy for the hurt they cause other people, but they need someone who will not hold their actions against them.
Empathy is a trait they also prize highly in potential partners. In fact, empaths are people whom narcissists find very attractive. Their desire to help other people means they are more willing to forgive a narcissist for their bad behavior and sacrifice their own needs to help them.
Narcissists also look for people who are self-sacrificing. They are frequently attracted to people who are codependent. Codependent people — because of their own traumatic childhood experiences — are willing to sacrifice their own needs for those of the people they love. That suits the narcissist just fine because they don’t want to have to focus on the needs of other people. They are concerned only about their own needs.
Narcissists also require their partners to be loyal, although that loyalty only works one way. Narcissists often cheat on their partners, but they fly into a rage if they even suspect that their partner may be doing the same thing. They don’t see the hypocrisy in this, and they don’t understand how their own disloyal actions affect their partner.
Codependent people often have another trait that narcissists prize; they are frequently overly responsible. This complements the narcissist’s irresponsible nature. Another trait of a codependent person is that of being very accommodating. They will put up with last-minute changes and just go with the flow, something narcissists are not able to do.
Are Narcissists Attracted to Other Narcissists?
Narcissists can often be attracted to other narcissists. This is particularly true for grandiose narcissists. Both love the limelight, and at least initially, they can have a great time together. They understand each other in a way that others cannot.
The traits that often attract narcissists to other narcissists include the tendency to focus only on the good and overlook the bad. Narcissists don’t like to focus on anything they have done wrong, and so, they appreciate that same trait in their partners. It means they don’t have to examine their behaviors.
They are also attracted to someone who has an external locus of control. Narcissists are externally focused. They may care more for how someone looks, for example, as opposed to how they act. The narcissist never wants to look inside, and so, someone who won’t force them to do that is preferable to another potential spouse.
If two narcissists are able to get beyond the inevitable devaluation stage that happens in most relationships involving someone with this personality disorder, they can even go on to have a long-term relationship.
What are the Stages of a Narcissistic Relationship?
Many people who get involved with a narcissist report feeling initially as if they had found their soulmate. The narcissist seemed so supportive and loving, but that didn’t last, and they soon showed their true colors.
This is typical in relationships with narcissists. The narcissist begins by charming the person they are interested in, and they will pay attention to what that person likes and desires. They seem very supportive of their needs, and they are so loving and kind.
During this initial stage, the narcissist is busy learning everything they can about you, including what your weaknesses are. When they start to think they have gotten you hooked on them, they start to show their true colors.
This is when the devaluation stage begins. They start making more demands of you — usually unrealistic demands — and they criticize you when you are unable to meet those demands. For you, their victim, this seems unbelievable.
You can seem to reconcile this new behavior with that of the person you fell in love with at the beginning of your relationship. It’s typical for victims to make excuses for the narcissist at this point. You might think, for example, “He’s really stressed at work,” or “She hasn’t been getting enough sleep.”
The emotional abuse doesn’t stop, however, and you usually start to realize this is what the narcissist is really like. If you stay, you may begin to doubt your own sense of self, and your self-esteem may start to suffer. Many people leave the narcissist at this stage, but if they suspect you might do that, they often turn the charm back on to lure you back in. Even if you don’t fall for that, the narcissist will likely come back into your life at some point.
Is There a Difference Between Male and Female Narcissists?
There are some differences and some similarities in what male and female narcissists are looking for in a spouse. Female narcissists focus more on their looks and will often use their feminine wiles to get what they want. Male narcissists are more focused on their possessions and their status.
Both male and female narcissists, however, are looking for partners they can control. They want someone who makes them look good too. For a male narcissist, that likely means a beautiful woman they can show off to their friends. For a female narcissist, that likely means a man who makes a good living or is in a high-status profession.
Both still need the same kind of narcissistic supply — that constant adoration that props up their self-esteem — and both will happily manipulate not only their spouse but their children too. The main differences between male and female narcissists are in how they go about manipulating their victims.
Does a Narcissist Love Their Spouse?
This is a tricky question, because narcissists, like anyone else, have feelings, and no one can ever truly know what is in the heart of another person. It may seem that a narcissist loves you, at least initially, but as sociologist, Virginia Stein, states, “Sadly, they might appear to love, very convincingly, but I don’t believe they have the capacity to love.”
Many narcissists express love for their partners, but the problem is they don’t treat them very much like they love them. To feel loved, you need to feel understood, respected, and supported. Narcissists don’t feel empathy in the same way healthy people do, and so, they have difficulty understanding your feelings. They can’t put themselves in your place.
What’s more, narcissists are focused on themselves, and so, they don’t bother to really try and understand your needs or desires. They are only able to see what it is they need or want and how they can go about getting their needs met.
Another factor is that the constant manipulation employed by narcissists causes pain and bad feelings. It doesn’t feel like love. While they may truly feel love for the people close to them, the problem may lie in the fact that they don’t seem to know how to express that love.
They definitely fear intimacy because, if you get close to them, they fear you will see the truth about their hateful and flawed true self. They can’t let you get that close both because you will see the truth and also because they will have to face it too. That means that even if they do feel love for you, they will always keep you at arm’s length.
The traits a narcissist looks for in a spouse are often characteristics we tend to think of as positive. Being forgiving, self-sacrificing, and empathetic are all wonderful traits that make for a great relationship with a healthy person. The problem is that the narcissist is not healthy.
Narcissists are looking for traits they can exploit. They need you to overlook their flaws and sacrifice your own needs in favor of theirs. It’s usually a no-win situation for the partner of such a toxic person. If you set strong boundaries and prioritize good self-care practices, it is possible to be happy in a relationship with a narcissist, but it usually does mean adjusting your expectations with regard to what you hope to get out of the relationship. That can be a deal-breaker.
If you are in a relationship with a narcissist and decide to leave them behind, you might find that is easier said than done. You’ll want to read this article about whether or not you should give a narcissist who comes back into your life a second chance. It might seem like they have changed, but you’ll want to know what to look for and how to proceed before you take them back.
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