Are you wondering why you’re attracting narcissistic mates?
Attraction to a narcissist is bad news and if you want to avoid it, you need to look at the various attachment styles that make you an attractive victim to these types of men.
So, if you’ve ever found yourself drawn to a narcissist, you may feel like a bug attracted to light.
American singer and songwriter Aimee Mann demonstrates her understanding of the “narcissistic alliance” in her 2002 hit song “The Moth”, which opens with the following verse:
The moth don’t care when he sees the flame
He might get burned but he’s in the game
And once he’s in, he can’t go back
He’ll beat his wings till he burns them black
Some scientists scratch their heads trying to understand why a moth will always fly into a flame that burns its wings. Theories range from pheromones that draw a moth to the light all the way to the theory that light acts as a moth’s directional compass, telling it where to go.
In both scenarios, the moth is seduced by the light causing it to head into danger without consideration for the consequences ahead.
In the therapeutic space, clients who enter into relationships with a narcissist often discover they follow the same pattern, ignoring the many red flags that appear during the relational flight course.
The good news is, if you happen to be one of those people, you can change the way you navigate future relationships so it’s easier to find the love you’re seeking.
To start off, we need to define narcissism, what it is, and what it isn’t.
A narcissistic personality exists on a continuum that we all live on. On the one end, are people who can behave immaturely, selfishly, with a touch of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and can be extremely self-focused.
On the other end, there are people who are truly self-less, care deeply about others and their well-being, and who see others as different from them but value those differences greatly.
Most of us lie in the middle.
As human beings, we all are self-motivated to some degree and that means that we all have our own needs in relationships and we also have our own version of relational struggles.
The issue with the narcissist is that they lack empathy for the other people in their life.
A person with true narcissistic behavior, in a clinical sense, can only see others as objects for their pleasure, not as people with wants, needs, vulnerabilities, and feelings.
Instead, they exploit those wants, needs, and vulnerabilities because, for some people, it gives them a false sense of power and superiority. For others, it feeds them with a sick sense of pleasure.
Regardless of the motivation, if you are a metaphorical moth who always seems to be drawn to a narcissist’s flame, then you know how charred the wings of your heart can get hoping that your love interest picks you over their own needs, wants, and desires.
You likely also know, even though you may hope to the high heavens that things will be different this time, that in this type of relationship, you always get burnt in the end.
While many people in this predicament torment themselves trying to understand why their narcissistic mate treats them the way they do, the more important question is, why are you drawn to them like a moth to the flame?
The answer lies in your attachment style.
Your attachment style, which was formed early in childhood, is like your preprogrammed flight plan. It is your due-north and directs you where to go almost without thinking.
For most people, their attachment style developed during your childhood and was impacted by how your parent’s or caregivers treated you. If you were neglected, mistreated, abandoned or hurt in other ways, you unconsciously look for this pattern in future relationships (this is like your own pheromones directing you to a familiar scent).
Unfortunately, until you learn how to understand why you’re attracted to these kinds of pre-programmed relationships, you will continue to seek out relationships that model the ones you were in as a child.
While many try to “think” their way out of this pattern, hoping it will happen never works.
Most people need to access their early relational wounding in a deeper way, usually through psychotherapy. When this happens, a person can grieve and unburden themselves from unconscious beliefs placed there as a child.
These could include thoughts like:
- “I’m not lovable.”
- “Only when I behave in certain ways will a person love me.”
- “My job in a relationship is to make them happy regardless of my needs.”
- “Their needs come first.”
- “I don’t deserve to be happy.“
Once a person brings this kind of thinking into therapy, a good therapist can help them unpack these beliefs and heal them with more loving ones. In therapy, the work is actually to replace these negative beliefs with more positive ones which reduce the attraction to future narcissists because the need to feed these beliefs dies off.
When this happens, the words to Aimee Man’s song can be replaced with something more like:
“The moth will care when s/he sees the flame
S/he won’t get burned
Cause s/he’s left the game.”
Being attracted to narcissists is not a life sentence if you do the work to heal.
You can choose to find healthier paths to love but it does require that you dig a little deeper to see what is causing you to feel like a moth to a flame whenever one comes around.
Maura Matarese, M.A., LMHC, is a psychotherapist, speaker, and author of the book: Finding Hope in the Crisis: A Therapist’s Perspective on Love, Loss, and Courage. She is also creating online self- help courses to help you heal your heart after loss and betrayal, so please enjoy a free self-help workbook to teach you how to heal your broken heart.
This article was originally published at Maura Matarese, M. A. LMHC. Reprinted with permission from the author.