When people get out of relationships with narcissists, they are sometimes hard on themselves about how they could have let themselves get involved in the relationships or why they stayed for so long.
In addition, others outside the relationship who have never been involved with a narcissist may believe that there was something about the ex-partner that attracted the narcissist.
It turns out that they are right. It may not be quite what they expect, however.
Narcissists have a strong need for admiration and adoration. They also have fragile egos and when the people around them have differing opinions, they often view this as criticism and seek to punish those who dare to disagree. In addition, they value appearances and boast about success, even riding on the coattails of the successes of others. Their self-perceived superiority makes them feel entitled to associate with anyone and anything that makes them appear to be the most important person in the room because they feel they must have the best of everything.
As a result, there are certain qualities that are highly desirable to narcissists in their partners. Many of those qualities are probably the same ones that the friends and family members of the partners value in them. Narcissists, however, unfortunately, know how to exploit those qualities to their advantage.
1. Partners tend to be caretakers.
Narcissists seek out people who are known as “givers.” If the relationship is not quite 50/50, the narcissist is betting that partners who have a natural tendency to take care of others will not complain, as they get pleasure out of being naturally self-sacrificing. Yet narcissists don’t view this behavior as a special gift to treasure and be thankful for. They feel entitled to it because of how “exceptional” they are. In fact, as far as they are concerned, it is a 50/50 relationship because their partner is lucky to be in a relationship with them. What is there to feel grateful about?
2. Partners tend to be empathetic and forgiving.
Narcissists lack emotional empathy, however, they seek out people who have a higher degree of it than normal, sometimes referred to as empaths. Narcissists often relay sob stories about how their exes cheated on them or otherwise mistreated them, or they have other tales of woe about things that have happened to them in their past. There is nothing wrong with sharing information about yourself as you get to know someone, however, narcissists do it strategically or even make these things up to get empaths to drop their guards early. Then when the narcissist blames his or her bad behavior on things that have happened in the past– unfaithful exes, horrible childhoods, lost jobs– partners are likely to excuse the behavior and give them another chance.
3. They tend to have a lot going for them.
Narcissists are big on status. They want to look good in front of others at all times. Therefore, the people they bring into their social circles to represent them must make them look good in some way. Somatic narcissists are obsessed with their bodies, youth and external appearance, spending a lot of time at the gym and in front of mirrors. They tend to focus on how their partner looks physically and how the two of them will be seen out and about as a “sexy couple.” Cerebral narcissists are the know-it-alls and think of themselves as the most intelligent ones in the room, trying to impress people with their accomplishments and positions of power. They would be interested in their partner’s social and educational status. Neither wants to be outshined by their partner, but they do want someone around who enhances their status because, to them, their partners are objects they can show off as if to say, “look what I just obtained for my collection.”
4. They are easygoing.
Narcissists have a strong need to “win” and be right. They expect and feel entitled to “obedience” from the people around them, including their wishes and their rigid views. They may use coercion, cajoling, or any number of tactics to get their way, but partners of narcissists are more interested in harmony than in making sure their opinion is heard or that their will is done. They will drop a subject or go with the flow and can be the natural peacemakers of any group. For narcissists, they offer the perfect opportunity to reign supreme, as they will rarely challenge his or her worldview. When the gaslighting begins, it goes against a partner’s nature to ask questions.
5. They have good hearts and are always looking for the best in other people.
Narcissists need to target people who believe others are essentially good. This makes it very difficult for the partners to leave when the narcissist says he or she can change because the partner projects his or her goodness onto the narcissist. Accepting what really happened in the relationship essentially means that the victim will have to reject his or her own worldview and replace it with a new one in which not everyone has the same heart that they do. It can be a painful and difficult realization to have to face that some people deliberately set out to harm and exploit others.
It is this unique blend of positive qualities that are attractive to narcissists, and people coming out of these relationships should learn to protect these qualities, not change them. Although narcissists also take advantage of individual weaknesses that partners may have as well, survivors of narcissistic abuse should stop believing they are flawed because a narcissist chose them. After all, narcissists only want the best.