The Magnetic Attraction Between Narcissists and Those with Low Self-Esteem.
“The enemy of love is never outside. It’s not a man or a woman, it’s what we lack in ourselves.” ~ Anaïs Nin
We often speak of relationships between narcissists and the rest of the world, where the latter is often presented as a victim while the former is the bad one, or even a torturer.
I have however noticed that another type of relationship involving narcissists exists.
Before getting started, I will use the term narcissist below, although I’m actually referring to people having narcissistic personality traits but not showing NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) per se.
The dark magic works very well between a narcissist and an individual showing a low self-esteem and trying, as the narcissist does, to fix this by choosing partners that they see as the best that they could ever dream of.
In such relationships, the low self-esteem individual isn’t a true victim of the narcissist. The couple actually also provides to each other what they are looking for.
I had myself entered in the past a few relationships from a place of low self-esteem. I wanted this or that specific man, because being loved by him could seemingly fill my self-esteem voids.
I can therefore explain the psychological motivations of such relationships from what I have personally experienced.
Narcissists and low self-esteem persons are magnets to one another.
Both need the other one to fix a decreased sense of self-worth which they are most likely unaware of. Those two subconsciously try to feel better by finding partners that reflect the most perfect mirror image of themselves.
Both need to be provided with what is generally called the Narcissistic Supply. This term describes a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from their environment and essential to their self-esteem. In other words, the Narcissistic Supply corresponds to an excessive need for attention and admiration that barely takes into account the feelings and preferences of other people.
Narcissists particularly need to feel that they are wonderful. They are consequently associating with people whom they see as wonderful and as a reflection of their own special-ness. They will look for partners and loves who have something special.
That’s not because they are truly interested or in love with them.
That’s above all to their own selves that the show of the greatest love ever is directed. If they are able to catch that sparkling and special one, then it ultimately shows that they are incredibly worthy as well.
Catching someone whom they see as wonderful feeds them as a shot of high vitamins or caffeine.
On the other hand, narcissistic people tend to be truly flattering to catch their prey. The low self-esteem individual therefore feels empowered and more secure as the relationship begins and develops. Their own sense of worthiness is truly reinforced by the gratifying process that the narcissist is organizing.
Both tend to exaggerate their own achievements and show their most valuable self to the world. That is because both need external validation and approval to feel worthy, reassured and strong.
That’s precisely how a narcissist and a low self-esteem individual can be magnets to one another. Both see the golden luster of the other, and want to catch it to prove themselves that they are able to be partnered with very attractive people.
They consequently fall together and start a relationship. Each feels proud and raring to go. It’s true happiness, it could be maddening love.
The truth is, Yes, it could be. It could be if both were accepting that their partner also sees what’s behind the mask.
However, and this is exactly where the problem lies, the narcissist will pull back soon because the relationship is about to trigger their own self-confidence.
Narcissists seem incredibly golden and show a bunch of very well-valued social traits when one first meets them. They may be physically super-attractive, intellectually truly brilliant, or simply above standards. Most of the time, they will look positive, outgoing, special, important and successful.
However, when one gets to know them in a deeper way, it seems that they are truly different from what they showed at a surface level. This façade of self-importance was there to cover a deep-seated lack of self-worth.
Most often, the narcissist will feel truly endangered in their own self-worth when their partner starts to see their vulnerable part. They will therefore refuse to be real, and try to maintain the relationship at a superficial level.
For the narcissist, the relationship can only exist if it remains safe. Safe, as in I’m perfect, and I have no flaws.
When their love starts to look deeper in them, they panic because they can’t bear the downgraded value of themselves that the relationship seems to be reflecting.
In other words, either the relationships make them feel flattered and powerful, or they prefer to leave. Such couples are actually doomed to failure because they are stopped in their tracks.
You can’t really get close to a narcissist.
As soon as one of the narcissist’s wounds is revealed, they decide to pull back. Their ego can’t bear the new self-image that the relationship lets them see.
They used to see the eyes of their partners filled with admiration and respect for them. They now also see compassion, empathy or interest in a wounded past. For the narcissist, that change in their partner’s looks is unbearable.
However, compassion and admiration, being impressed but comprehensive, are possible at the same time in a relationship.
That’s the biggest and most interesting lesson that I have learnt from starting relationships with individuals showing narcissistic traits. An adventure for two can’t remain for too long at superficial levels, if both want to see where that could lead.
Being in a fulfilling relationship always requires taking off masks and going beyond appearances. It requires building close links and a true intimacy.
That’s what the narcissist can’t stand. They are afraid of intimacy because it requires letting their guards down.
They aren’t properly afraid of the relationship itself or of their partner, but of seeing themselves in a truer and deeper way, possibly differently, less perfect, more normal, more human, through the unfolding of the relationship.
So, they avoid getting too close to anyone, in order to remain able to cope with the reflection of their own that they see in the mirror.
They refuse to see that to have fun and enjoy a love story, couples need to go deeper. It’s not about being weak, but about showing one’s true colors so that the partnership is based on authentic and solid ground.
They refuse to understand that, most of the time, their partner had already felt their flaws and vulnerabilities before they spoke about it directly. Most of the time, the truth was precisely why we loved them.
Their vulnerable past wouldn’t make them look less attractive but simply, more real.
They refuse to see that a relationship isn’t about being above one another. It’s about moving forward, together, and from a place of truth.
“Life is a stage, and when the curtain falls upon an act, it is finished and forgotten. The emptiness of such a life is beyond imagination.” ~ Alexander Lowen
Sophie Gregoire is a thinker. You may often find her with a new idea or a new concept to explain, holding a notebook and pencil. Also found reading and writing, she is more than anything an independent soul. She enjoys traveling and getting lost in new places, namely in Asia. She says it helps understanding our worlds, its people and the humankind. She loves writing to transform her endless thoughts into some kind of reality, and to keep the little piece of sanity she still has. She savors coffee, encounters, Yoga and meditation, and cats… while her own cat is her greatest muse! You could contact Sophie via Facebook, her writing page or her website.