Does the following scenario sound familiar? You finally leave an abusive relationship, meet someone promising and wonderful, only to discover that they’re just another narcissist!
It’s a vicious and frustrating cycle that can result in anyone feeling helpless. So, why does the chaos keep happening to you? Are you doing something blatantly wrong?
First, please know that this is a common phenomenon once you’ve had your first toxic relationship, and I’m also part of the club. I’ve had my fair share of abusive relationship experiences (see #9 below). But, I am delighted to say that I no longer have to worry that I’ll keep dating narcissists because I have done the inner work that’s so necessary to avoid falling into this trap again.
In fact, I’m happy to share that I am in a very loving, reciprocal relationship that’s brimming with respect, thoughtfulness, and affection.
It should be noted that abuse is never your fault. You’re not just attracted to narcissists or deserving of their awful behaviors. But you may unknowingly find yourself caught in these repetitive dynamics. Here are some of the main reasons why you keep dating narcissists.
1 – You Love ‘Project’ Partners
Do you identify with falling in love with someone’s potential? Do you tend to take pity on society’s scapegoats or the misunderstood people of the world?
If so, you may be attracted to ‘project partners,’ which often coincides with narcissists. If this is your pattern, you may consider yourself an eternal optimist. You believe that love and attention can change their behavior. You may assume that they just haven’t found the right person, treatment, or life circumstances to better themselves.
Unfortunately, as you will continue learning, project partners rarely change their ways. They may present as damaged goods, and their presentation won’t improve their own time.
2 – Their Narcissistic Behavior Feels Completely Normal
Did you have a narcissistic parent or caregiver? If so, you grew up in a toxic environment where shaming, blaming, and attacking your character were everyday experiences.
Unfortunately, research shows that domestic abuse tends to be intergenerational. That means people who have abusive parents are more prone to ending up in abusive relationships when they become adults. They may also be more likely to abuse their children.
This isn’t because you want to replicate the horrific things that happened to you. Instead, you may be subconsciously conditioned to believe that disrespect and hostility are normal parts of a loving relationship.
3 – You Don’t Recognize Love-Bombing
Unfortunately, we live in a world with extremely skewed perceptions of love. For example, many of our favorite romantic comedies or novels display toxic representations of romance. In these unrealistic fantasies, people may stalk one another, fall in love extremely quickly, and give each other intense ultimatums from the beginning.
These fantasies mimic something very dangerous: narcissistic love-bombing. And if you’re hooked on the idea of whimsical romance, you may mistake red flags as signs of adoration.
Not all narcissists engage in love bombing, but many do, especially when they’re in a new relationship. Because you may be feeling euphoric yourself, it can be hard to ground yourself into reality. By the time you realize what’s really happening, you might be in the depths of a narcissistic relationship.
4 – You Struggle With Self-Love
If you devalue or criticize yourself, you’re also likely to tolerate that same mistreatment in your relationships.
Narcissists don’t want confident partners. They want people they can mold, change, and control. Subsequently, they have no incentive for you to feel empowered in your relationship.
5 – You Lack a Core Sense of Identity
Many partners feel like their entire lives revolve around the narcissist. In some ways, this belief is entirely reasonable. There’s a good chance you spend the bulk of your time trying to understand, please, and even read your significant other’s mind.
All this mental work takes away from something essential: your own identity. When you revolve your life around someone else, you neglect your other relationships and passions. Your personality becomes impressionable based on other people’s expectations.
Because narcissists are so predatory, they will detect that trait instantly.
6 – You Struggle With Codependency
As you may realize, codependency and narcissism go hand-in-hand. A codependent person will enable someone else’s behavior, even if it hurts them. This is because they often don’t want to cause problems or become a burden.
And so, if you tend to people-please in your relationships, it might make sense that you keep dating narcissists. You haven’t learned how to truly set boundaries, causing you to tolerate abusive situations in everyday life.
7 – Being Single Terrifies You
We all want to be loved, and it’s normal to want the benefits of commitment. Being single may scare you, and you might want to avoid it at all costs. But if you’re so desperate to be in a relationship that you routinely sacrifice your values and standards, you might keep picking the wrong people.
Think about it. If you keep tolerating the bare minimum, you subconsciously tell yourself that you don’t deserve better. And whether you realize it or not, you exert that energy out in the world.
Narcissists may pick up on this vulnerable behavior and offer to protect or rescue you. They know you don’t want to be alone. So, they promise to be that person to love you unconditionally. They promise that things will be different this time.
But if you’re afraid of being single, you disregard serious red flags because you reason that living with those red flags is better than being alone. And even when things are going badly, you might justify staying because you feel trapped.
8 – You Don’t Commit to No Contact
How do you typically end relationships with narcissists? Are you firm and grounded in cutting off all communication? Or are you more apologetic and passive?
It’s no secret that ending relationships is challenging. But ending a relationship with a narcissist may seem downright impossible.
Furthermore, going no-contact may feel dramatic or cruel. But it’s the only way to really commit to change. It’s also the best strategy to avoid dating narcissists (or staying in narcissistic relationships) in the future.
That’s because going no-contact truly means honoring your need for integrity and respect. If the narcissist continues yielding their power and control over you, you may start condoning that behavior- both in your current relationship and in future ones.
9 – You Fall For Different Types of Narcissists
Narcissists may all crave power and control, but they use different strategies to meet these needs. For example, more overt narcissists tend to be obnoxious and self-centered. You can pick them out of a line-up because they’re the ones bragging about themselves incessantly or interrupting others in a conversation.
More covert or vulnerable narcissists, however, might portray themselves as victims. They might present as insecure or shy, only for you to later realize that they undoubtedly think they’re above everyone else.
On the other hand, cerebral narcissists may win people over with their wisdom and intelligence. You might find yourself easily impressed by their impressive resume before discovering that they demean anyone they consider “below” them.
And so, it is common for some people to oscillate between different types of narcissists. Don’t blame yourself if this happens. After all, most narcissists are relatively skilled at concealing their true colors at first!
10 – You Keep Believing You Deserve Abuse
Narcissists often get away with their destructive ways because they are skilled in extreme gaslighting. Your past (or current) partner likely convinced you that you were the problem. In addition, you probably spent most of the relationship second-guessing or doubting yourself.
When you believe you deserve abuse, you don’t stand up for yourself. You accept your reality as inevitable or even normal. You believe that things will never get better.
So, if you want to stop dating narcissists, you have to truly internalize that you don’t deserve abuse. This rule applies in all circumstances. While your recovery may take time, the first step is to take back your freedom.
How Do You Stop Dating Narcissists?
Now that you have identified some key patterns, what do you do next? How do you change the cycle in your life?
First, learning how to recognize narcissistic patterns is essential. Ideally, you need to be armed with this knowledge before you even begin dating someone new. If you’re single and have a history of narcissistic partners, avoid rushing into a new relationship.
Even if you feel tempted to “move on,” you probably haven’t developed a strong radar for detecting narcissism. Insight is the best step for moving forward. Are you truly aware of your triggers? Do you recognize yourself in any of the reasons mentioned above? If so, spend some time reflecting on how you can improve those pain points.
Personally, when I left my last toxic relationship several years ago, I forced myself to be alone for a long time. During this period, I did lots of healing work that I outline in The Break Free Program. I surrendered and accepted that I hadn’t been willing to walk away when red flags began popping up. I learned my coping schemas and discovered how to overcome my triggers. I did energy healing, both alone at home and also through energy healing practitioners. I overcame the financial PTSD that I’d developed from losing my finances and being forced to start over.
These are the same steps you can take if you are fresh out of a toxic relationship or are on the precipice of leaving one.
Then, once I’d integrated all the initial healing work, I went further into rebuilding my inner identity, learned how to be comfortable setting boundaries and saying ‘no’, and finally began to honor myself enough so that if red flags were to pop up in the future, I could walk away and mean it. (This is how the THRIVE program was born).
With this work, I watched old beliefs and negative energies melt away as I witnessed all my deepest wishes manifest into real life. I finally felt motivated to embark on new adventures, allowing my story to unfold instead of just dreaming about it. I learned to love who I am, allowing myself to attract the most caring people into my life while walking away from drama lovers – and feeling quite alright about it.
And I promise you that even if you’ve experienced horrific trauma and abuse, you can still heal your life. You can learn to stop betraying yourself and acting out of alignment with your own integrity. You can learn to get comfortable setting boundaries without feeling guilty. Like you, I once felt hopeless and afraid that I was doomed to keep dating narcissists, but once I did the inner work and implemented everything I’d learned, my life began to transform in ways I never thought possible.
This can happen for you, too.
As always, I truly look forward to answering your questions and comments below.