How Did I Attract a Narcissist?
Understanding how I unknowingly made my relationship choices
It had taken months to work up the courage to ask my marriage counselor a foreboding question. A haunting question that spooked me.
Yet I was even more afraid of the answer.
But I was ready to hear the truth.
“I know this is about me,” I say. “What is it about me that attracted me to this personality?”
I had either unintentionally or intentionally waited until the hour was almost over to speak these words.
The avoider in me frequently puts off unpleasant things. Hence, my counselor had just opened the door when he paused to respond.
“Oh, Colleen,” he says. “Not everything is textbook. But it may be because you had a father who physically abandoned you and therefore, you attracted yourself to a man who emotionally abandoned you.”
I appreciate my counselor for his ability to not textbook label everything.
The world is far too complex for that. There are moments where absolutely some things can neatly fall into the black and into the white. And other moments where they should never be so rigidly defined.
On this day, I may have worked up the courage to finally find my truth, but not enough to marinate on it. I had left zero time in the appointment to delve deeper. I wasn’t ready.
It’s easy to blame the narcissist.
And by no means am I letting this severely frightening personality disorder off the hook.
Yet I understood we leave our family of origin and the roles we play and head out into the world.
I hadn’t accidentally stumbled upon the narcissist. How I wish this were true. And in non-textbook terms, some may. But I knew I hadn’t.
I knew growing up with an alcoholic father who had left, impacted my relationship choices. I also understood I was a pleaser and a fixer. Family of origin and the roles we play in childhood. There you have it.
And as my counselor said not everything is textbook.
I often wonder if my determination to not marry an unpredictable alcoholic had led me towards another unpredictable personality. I had no counseling as a child. Just a desire to not repeat the past and marry someone with that particular illness. But had I unwittingly been drawn to another severe personality? One who was equally as chaotic and unpredictable.
And then there is the issue of the roles that we play.
The people-pleaser and fixer in me had gravitated towards the golden boy. It’s not an uncommon match. The pleaser and fixer will continue to make sure the world revolves around the golden boy.
In childhood, the golden child is usually allowed to come and go as they please. The family doesn’t hold them accountable to the same rules and typically revolves around them.
My golden boy was passive-aggressively controlling so it was easy to miss the ‘control’ part. There were initially very few hints of just how truly difficult his personality was.
It was maximum emotional camouflage. The narcissist, who in relationship infancy traditionally hides their innate being and the passive-aggressive who appears laid-back.
But I had found my emotional Yin and Yang. The individual who complimented the role I played in childhood. This is why it felt so right. This is why this particular man felt familiar and comfortable to me. And unfortunately, to my young self — safe.
Yet nothing could have been farther from the truth.
I was not safe in the arms of a narcissist.
And the tools I had from childhood left me even more poorly equipped.
They say there are several things from childhood we tend to duplicate — if we are not careful. For me personally, my father leaving was true abandonment and something I did not want to relive. But as my counselor pointed out I did. The sense of feeling out of control and the unpredictability of my dad’s drinking was also something I somehow repeated.
I find this incredibly frustrating since I intentionally and deliberately sought to avoid these things.
Certainly, anyone who has fallen into the snares of a narcissist will have moments of desperation. We chose them — these charming yet emotionally corrupt beings.
But there is emancipation in seeking the truth to our relationship choices.
It drives the victim out of us. It empowers us. It emotionally expands us. And most importantly, it frees us to make better decisions.
I am the adult child of an alcoholic. I am the ex-wife of a narcissist.
My life does not fall neatly into the black nor does it fall neatly into the white. I will never allow myself to be that rigidly defined.