Insights from a narcissist magnet
Photo by: Roman Samborskyi
Almost every woman I?ve met has had the same refrain.
Why do I keep attracting assholes?
They look at the people who showed interest in them. They looked at the guys they dated. They looked at the relationships they?ve been through. And they wonder why so much of it is characterized by Grade A jerks.
I?ve asked myself that same question ? a lot. I?m still asking myself that question.
I?ve had some good guys show interest in me. I got involved with a few of them. I ended up marrying a great one. But I still feel like I dealt with an unusually high proportion of narcissists and selfish asses.
There were the men who used me for sex or validation (or validation through sex).
The guys who played mind games, manipulated me, and played with my emotions.
Commitment-phobic men who like to fall in love and don?t give a shit about the trail of damage and broken hearts they leave behind.
Hurtful men who seem to follow every compliment with a put-down, and who don?t know how to feel big without making you feel small.
The fake nice guys, the fake woke guys, the fake feminists. The ones who post all the right memes, say all the right shit, call out all the right people, but still manage to treat the women who get close to them like garbage. The ones who are allies to women in general but to no woman in particular.
And then there are the ones who are overtly emotionally or sexually abusive.
I refuse to believe it?s because all men are like this. But there?s got to be a reason why me and so many other women keep attracting these types of people.
The reason is simple. But I had to wade through a lifetime of shit to figure it out.
The First Asshole in My Life
My experience with narcissists started at birth. My father is one. He was the first man in my life and he set me up for decades of trouble.
He constantly needed to inflate his ego and he did it by putting down the people in his life. I happened to be one of his favorite targets.
When the person who is supposed to love you unconditionally spends all his time either disparaging you or being disappointed in you, it leaves some emotional scars.
I never got much indication that he loved me, and that made me uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I spent a lot of time and energy trying to earn his love.
I chased after his approval. I tried as hard as I could to impress him. And sometimes, it worked. If I did everything right and did it long enough, he would show some appreciation. I could feel what it was like to have a father?s love.
It never lasted. Almost as soon as I got his love, it would fade away, and I?d start chasing it all over again.
Having him as a father gave me some serious daddy issues. And having him be the authority figure in my household groomed me to put up with his treatment.
I was taught to excuse away all of his behavior. If I ever complained about him, the complaint was turned back on me. I was made out to be the problem.
If he blew up at me, it?s because I was a disappointment.
If he was cold toward me, it?s because I wasn?t doing enough to show my appreciation and gratitude for what little he did for me.
If he sighed at the sight of me, it?s because I was too difficult to be lovable.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn?t live up to his standards. It?s not my fault ? they were impossible to meet. But I internalized the message that I just wasn?t good enough. That I wasn?t worthy of being loved. And that if he mistreated me, it was probably my fault somehow.
If I felt hurt, let down, or upset with him, I was taught to second-guess those feelings. I was taught that I needed to fix myself instead of expecting more from him.
Because I learned not to expect more from my father, I never expected more from the other guys in my life, starting with my very first boyfriend.
My First String of Assholes
The first guy I dated constantly pressured me for sexual favors. He routinely negated my feelings. He often put me down, mocked me, and made me feel like shit.
But none of it felt weird to me. Even though it?s obvious to me now, at the time I never once thought he was being a jerk. All the pressure, all the manipulation, all the attempts to push past my boundaries, I just thought that?s what boyfriends did.
It wasn?t a great relationship by any means, but it didn?t matter. I was hooked on him. So hooked, in fact, that when he dumped me because he wanted to date my best friend, I tried my hardest to get him back. I ended up pulling out the only move I thought I had. I gave him my virginity in the hopes that he liked fucking me enough to come back to me.
I didn?t win my boyfriend back, and I didn?t learn my lesson, either. I just saw his decision to fuck and discard me as confirmation that I really didn?t have much value.
After him, there were boyfriends, dates, and one night stands. Among them, there were a fair bit of assholes. There were the ones who pressured me to fuck them or do things I wasn?t comfortable doing. There were the ones who overtly disrespected me. And there were the ones who used me and didn?t really try to hide it.
Then, I fell for James.
James was hot. He was cool. He seemed mature. I looked up to him and I craved his attention.
Unlike some of the other guys, James made me feel wanted. He made me feel loved. But it wasn?t because he loved me. It?s because he was jealous, possessive, and controlling, and I honestly couldn?t tell the difference.
When he told me he hated it when I had guy friends and got upset when guys talked to me, I thought it was sweet that I meant so much to him.
The shorter the leash he gave me, the more loved I felt.
I wanted nothing more than to feel his love, even though being loved by him didn?t always feel good.
He repeatedly accused me of fucking his best friend. He constantly complained that I was going to leave him. He made me feel terrible for things I hadn?t even thought of doing. And I felt awful for not doing enough to reassure him that I loved him.
I often let him do things to me that I wasn?t comfortable with because I thought it would show him just how much I loved him. And he often played on that to get his way ? if I wouldn?t give him head or let him fuck my ass, he would say things like ?Don?t you trust me?? ?Don?t you love me?? And I was so desperate to prove I did that I gave in.
Sometimes, I saw how much he hurt me, but it never occurred for me to be angry with him or to leave. I just felt bad for how damaged he was. Clearly, he must be hurt if he?s hurting me this much. He abused me, and I felt worse for him than for myself.
I?m Still Attracting Assholes
Those were my teen years. I put up with a lot of shit during them, but at least I capped them off by meeting and locking down a great guy.
My husband gives me security. He gives a space to feel safe and loved. But I still find myself attracting the same types of guys I met before him.
Because of the kind of stuff I write, I routinely get hit up for sex. I ignore almost all of it, but there are a few I?ve let into my life because I developed a crush on them.
It?s through them that I learned that adult assholes are just like the teenage ones, but they?re more strategic and subtle about their bullshit. Instead of brash morons, they?re more like wolves in sheep?s clothing.
Things always start off great. They?re sweet and thoughtful. They?re progressive and likeable. They show interest and are attentive.
But once I?m reeled in, everything changes.
I start to feel like they?re constantly playing games instead of just approaching me like normal adults. I start to question their behavior and wondering why they?re being cold and distant one day and acting like they?re in love the next. I find myself making a lot of excuses for their behavior.
It usually makes me question myself and doubt my value. I wonder what I?m doing to scare them off. I wonder what I should be doing to keep them interested. I start comparing myself to the other women they?ve been with and taking stock of the ways I fall short of them. I tell myself they?re probably going cold because I?m just a frumpy housewife who can?t measure up to the hot hipsters and chill models I picture them dating before me.
Eventually, I snap to. I cut them out of my life. I lick my wounds and I move on. Too late, usually, but better than never.
Each time, I take stock. I try to learn new lessons and relearn some old ones. And it?s helping. I?m getting better at noticing the behavior when it starts. I?m getting better at leaving them behind and moving on when things get hurtful. I?m learning to trust my gut instead of justifying their behavior.
But every time, I still end up having to ask myself the same question: why do I keep attracting guys like this?
We All Attract Assholes ? But Only Some of Us Put Up with Them
If there?s one thing I?ve come to realize over the years, it?s that I?m not special. Everyone attracts narcissists, jerks, and assholes. Those guys cast a really wide net. They need a constant supply of women to use for sex or to drain validation from, and to move to new targets when their current ones realize what games they?re playing.
It?s a scattershot approach and we?re all in their crosshairs. But only some of us get gunned down.
And the reason for that is simple: we?re the ones who put up with it.
When I take stock of my life so far, I can see that the reason there were so many jerks in it is because I opened the door to them.
I did it because I wanted what they gave me. I soaked up their attention and affection like it was crack. I never felt like I deserved anyone?s love or affection, so even when all I got was crumbs it felt like a big deal.
It?s always been hard for me to pull away from toxic people because the little bit of validation they give me counts for so much.
And I did with all of them what I was taught to do with my father. I ignored every red flag. I came up with excuses for everything they did. And I blamed myself for the way they treated me.
I?m getting better at all this. Having a supportive guy at my side helps, and so does the small community of women I?ve met through my writing. But these issues are deep inside my bones and I still find myself getting too close to the wrong people.
First there was the guy who seemed so kind and understanding. We had long exchanges where he would treat me like I was the most important person in his life. I fell for it, and fell hard.
But then he would disappear for days without a word. I?d spend that time overanalyzing what I wrote to him last. I wondered what it is I said that made him lose interest in me.
I should have bowed out then, but I didn?t. And when he?d come back, I would act like everything was fine, because I didn?t think I had a right to wonder why he kept me waiting.
Then, there was a guy I had a major crush on. I liked and admired him. When our conversation went from flirty to sexting, I felt excited that I managed to reel him in. I locked my door, set myself up, and got ready for a sexy evening. But then he kept disappearing for extended periods of time between texts.
I stuck around for hours waiting for him. Every time I went to leave, he?d be back again. I finally got so frustrated that I just gave up, but later than I should have.
The next day, he texted me again. I was pissed that he had wasted my time. But I couldn?t bring myself to say that. Instead, I took the blame. I apologized for being too shy to move things ahead faster. Then, I found out the real reason he kept disappearing: he was sending me those dirty text messages while he was on a date with someone else. I hid how that made me feel. I should have quit him then and there, but I let him into my pants (digitally) that night.
We kept things going for a bit. But talking to him was always awkward. He would flirt with me while bragging about all the other women who had his attention. He would brag about the women he fucked in between our conversations. It turned me off and made me feel terrible. But it also made me feel like I needed to work harder to keep him interested in me.
His words kept pulling me in ? he has a way with them. And even when his private self didn?t live up to the public persona I fell for, I just sat with that disappointment and tried to make excuses for him. I finally stopped and pulled away when I found out he?d been pulling the exact same shit with other writers. When they told me stories that were almost identical to mine, I realized that none of what he did was about me ? it was all him.
All I Can Do Is Build Strength
I attract these assholes because I feed their egos instead of protecting myself. I keep attracting them because I put my value down so theirs looks high by comparison. I attract them because I look like an easy target for them, and because I am.
If you feel like you keep attracting assholes, it?s probably because you put up with them because you don?t recognize your own value. And I feel confident in saying that because no one deserves to be treated the way these losers treat us.
Assholes go after strong women, too. But strong women don?t hold the door open for them. Strong women don?t put up with being treated like a low priority. Strong women don?t let some guy define their value.
I?m not a strong woman yet, but I?m working on building some strength. With every mistake, I get better at spotting these guys before they get too close. With every bad relationship, I get one step closer to not putting up with this kind of shit anymore. And with every red flag that?s waved in my face, I get better at just turning around and walking away.
I know I?m not to blame. I know the only one responsible for all this hurt and disrespect is the one who deals it out. But I have to acknowledge the fact that these guys exist, that they?re on the prowl, and that they seem to like to go after women like me. It only makes sense to put my guard up, to watch my back, and to keep the door shut when these types of men push against it.
So, the next time some guy sends me dirty texts while he?s on a date with another woman, I?m not going to let him fuck me. I?m going to tell him he can go fuck himself instead.
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