Love, Self

The Deeper Reason You Feel Pulled Toward A Relationship With A Narcissist

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relationship with a narcissist

The pull of the narcissist is two-fold and yields double the strength. A narcissist's shining charisma lures us in, while his or her unshakable confidence assures us, which is why you might get yourself into a relationship with a narcissist — even if you know it's a bad idea.

Narcissistic people come in an infinite variety of different sizes and shapes, but one important thing all narcissists have in common is their ability to attract others like a moth to flame. It is human nature to be drawn to that powerful sense of specialness that a narcissist exudes — and makes you feel in return.

Let’s face it, there is nothing quite like the feeling of basking in the glow of a narcissist. That's why you might find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist. But that moment in the limelight comes at a terrible price: feelings of abandonment.

RELATED: How To Leave A Narcissist

In my work as clinical psychologist, I come across scenarios like this far too often. For example, 24-year-old Bryce hung up the phone filled with confusion about the conversation he just had with his mother. Last week, he helped her fix her computer and she was so loving, appreciative and impressed with his skills. Yet just now, when he told her about his promotion to technical supervisor at work, she seemed almost disappointed. “I thought that already happened several months ago,” she’d said before changing the subject.

In another instance, a client of mine named Veronica let out a long, stress-filled sigh as she contemplated knocking on the door of her husband Vincent’s study, after having finally settled her two young children to sleep. She needed his input about some plans for the romantic getaway weekend they’d been planning. So, after working up her courage, she knocked on the door. “I told you not to bother me in the evenings, and tonight is no exception,” he answered through the door in a tone of controlled rage.

Whether your narcissist is your parent, your partner, your spouse, or your friend, your relationship will likely follow a particular predestined pattern. One day you may be at the top of the world feeling needed, valued and affirmed in your relationship. The next, sadly, you may feel invisible or, worse yet, abandoned.

This push/pull dynamic is built into the personality of the narcissistic person. It’s because he is responding to his own internal needs at every moment of every day. He is not even aware of you as a separate person — with feelings and needs of your own.

When your narcissist needs you, he wants you — and that feels great. But when a narcissist doesn’t need you, suddenly, he doesn’t want you and throws you to the side.

RELATED: 8 Signs He's An Evil Narcissist (And How To Deal With His Behavior)

It’s hard not to feel abandoned when this happens.

It is very painful to have a narcissistic mother or father. You may find yourself in the same shoes as Bryce, feeling appreciated and loved by her one day, and forgotten, ignored and abandoned the next. Or you may remain in the loved and cherished role for years, only to experience a dramatic fall from grace when you finally, at some time in your life, assert your own wishes in the relationship and find greater independence.

Either way, you will likely spend the formative years of your life not even realizing that you are hiding your own feelings and needs, so as to not offend your parent. As the child of a narcissist, your young brain learns early and well that if you show your parent what you really feel, your parent will emotionally abandon you.

With your own feelings ignored, you will grow up pushing your feelings down and away, the hallmark of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).

If, like Veronica, your narcissist in your life is not a parent but your partner, spouse or friend, of course his role is different in your life. But again you will find yourself pulled back and forth between basking in the warmth of the relationship when it is on, and feeling rejected, alone, and abandoned when it is off.

In order to save yourself from narcissistic abandonment, consider these 3 steps: 

1. Be aware of what’s really going on.

It’s not you, it’s him (or her). He’s not abandoning you, he’s actually responding to his own internal needs. Sadly, but also comfortingly, probably close to none of this relationship is about you.

2. Recognize your feelings of abandonment for what they are: a warning sign.

Your feelings are a message from your body. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, the message of your feelings of abandonment is, “Be careful, because what happens once can happen again.” This message is your body trying to protect you and it is vital that you listen to it.

3. Fight against the pull.

When your narcissist needs you, he will come back around. He may flatter or validate you, or offer explanations or apologies.

A key way to protect yourself is to find other ways to feel validated and loved in your life. Begin to build a life that gives you the healthy affirmation and love that every human needs. Doing so will make you less vulnerable to your narcissist's pull when the time comes (which it likely will).

RELATED: 5 Seriously Messed Up Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head

Keep in mind that your narcissist may not be consciously manipulating you. Instead, she is driven by her own needs. To her, you are an object who only seems loveable to her when you are meeting those needs.

As painful it is to acknowledge, there is a freedom and healing that comes when you finally accept this very important fact: Just as it is for Bryce with his mother and Veronica with her husband Vincent, when it comes to your relationship with your narcissist, none of it is about you.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) happens automatically when you have a narcissistic parent. And growing up with this experience can make you more vulnerable to forming relationships with narcissists later on in your adult life, too.

To find out if CEN is a part of your life, Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.

Jonice Webb has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is the author of the book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. To learn more about how CEN affects your parenting and other relationships, read Dr. Jonice Webb's new book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.