After learning about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, you might blame yourself for being in a narcissistic relationship. It is important to remember that being a victim of narcissistic abuse is not your fault. But escaping from, healing from, and rebuilding yourself after narcissistic abuse is something you do have control over . You can start to take responsibility for the direction of your life by understanding why you chose to be with the narcissist in the first place.  

Generally speaking, victims of narcissistic abuse choose to be with a narcissist because they have an unhealthy definition of love or because the narcissist manipulated them into believing that they share a special and unique connection with one another.

This article is going to give you all of the information that you need to identify the reason that you are currently with or were previously with the narcissist in your life. We strongly encourage you to be kind to yourself while reading this article because narcissistic abuse can happen to anyone, experiencing it doesn’t make you any less of a human being. To help remind you of this, we created a short video with 12 affirmations that you can use everyday.

12 Affirmations That You Can Use to Boost Your Self-Esteem

You Choose to Be With a Narcissist Because You Have an Unhealthy Definition of Love

One of the most common reasons that people find themselves in narcissistic relationships is because they have an unhealthy definition of love that originates from an extended period of time in an unhealthy/abusive environment, which is usually one’s family of origin.   

It is really dangerous for children to grow up in an emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent environment for two different reasons. The first reason is that children won’t get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self, perception of the world around them, and to have a healthy cognitive development. 

The second reason is that when a child exists in an unhealthy/abusive environment, they are forced to equate the abuse that they are experiencing with love. Meaning that from a very young age, they are trained to justify, rationalize, and normalize abusive behavior. 

This type of environment can cause a tremendous amount of issues for the child as they grow up. In our article How Are Narcissists Made we explain how this environment can turn a child into a narcissist, but it can also make them extremely susceptible to the manipulation that lands people in narcissistic relationships in adulthood. 

The manipulation that we are speaking of is mirroring, which is when a narcissist absorbs an extraordinary amount of information about their victim’s identity and uses that information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in the victim’s life.

How Does Mirroring Manipulate Victims Into Choosing to Be With the Narcissist? 

The void that is being filled is almost always centered around the victim’s definition of love. The most recognized manifestation of this is called the love bombing phase. For many victims of narcissistic abuse, the love bombing phase follows the characteristics of infatuated love. 

Infatuated love is purely motivated by passion and it is intoxicating, irrational, associated with bad decision making, and usually short lived. It is often described by victims of narcissistic abuse as magical, special, unique, intense, and a once in a lifetime experience. 

To be honest, this is very true. The love bombing phase can make the victim feel really good. The reason for this is because the narcissist is dedicating an extraordinary amount of time to mirroring their victim’s identity. Mirroring is all about the narcissist being exactly who the victim needs them to be. 

With that being said, that is not the only way that love bombing can manifest itself. The depiction of love bombing up above is likely to happen to those who witnessed relationships that were intoxicating, irrational, had a lot of bad decision making, and usually short lived throughout their childhood. But someone who had a different experience with an abusive upbringing could be subjected to a different form of love bombing.

A narcissist love bombing his victim

For example, the love bombing phase for someone who grew up in an abusive environment where they were manipulated into believing that they need to neglect their own thoughts, feelings, needs, and emotions to be loved, will likely be centered around their familiarity with neglecting their own well-being for others. This is most commonly observed among those who feel the need to “rescue” others. 

Many narcissists, particularly those with personality traits and characteristics that are associated with covert narcissism, will love bomb victims who are accustomed to neglecting their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs for others by presenting themselves in a very depressed, vulnerable, and forgotten manner. 

This makes the victim feel as if they are the only one who sees the “greatness” of the narcissist and their need to “rescue” others encourages them to stay in the relationship despite all of the abuse that they are experiencing. Much like those who experienced love bombing that can be characterized as infatuated love, it can make the victim feel like they have a special and unique bond with the narcissist. 

Another example of an “unorthodox” form of love bombing could be if someone who has very low self-esteem from an abusive upbringing could be centered around invalidation, devaluation, humiliation, and degradation because they don’t feel like they deserve anything more than the abuse that they have received their entire lives.

The list can go on and on but the point is that many victims of narcissistic abuse choose to be with the narcissist because the dynamics of the relationship reflect or “mirror” their own abusive upbringing. It is for this reason that those with an unhealthy definition of love are extremely vulnerable to the manipulation that narcissists use to gain power and control over others.

You Choose to Be With a Narcissist Because They Manipulated You Into Feeling a Special and Unique Connection

For those who came from an abusive upbringing but were able to heal and obtain a healthy definition of love and for those who had a healthy upbringing and therefore a healthy definition of love, there is still a possibility of them finding themselves choosing a narcissist to share their life with. 

When a narcissist comes across someone who has a healthy definition of love but doesn’t set and maintain healthy boundaries with them, they often subject them to a manipulative cycle of mirroring and future faking to gain power and control over them.

Mirroring

As we mentioned before, mirroring is when a narcissist absorbs a ton of information about their victim’s identity and uses that information to create a falsified identity that is designed to fill a void in the victim’s life. However, when a narcissist comes across someone who doesn’t have an unhealthy definition of love, they effortlessly reflect or “mirror” characteristics of promising healthy relationships. 

They will subject their victim to a love bombing phase that portrays them as someone who is capable of trust, growth, mutuality, respect, and emotional closeness. This will help them disguise warning signs of forthcoming abuse like their need for constant communication, jealousy, paranoia, and lack of boundaries.

Future Faking 

Once they sense that they’ve got their victim hooked on this persona that they’ve fabricated through mirroring, they will take things a step further by future faking them. When a narcissist makes a false promise in the future to get what they want in a present, it is called a future fake.

All victims of narcissistic abuse are likely to experience future faking, regardless of  the reason that they choose to be with the narcissist. But under these circumstances, narcissists will pay an extraordinary amount of attention to the information that they gathered about the victim during the mirroring/love bombing phase to create the perfect future fake that manipulates the victim into envisioning a happier and healthier future with them. 

A narcissist future faking his victim

For example, if a victim of narcissistic abuse were to express to the narcissist that they need to finish school and planned on moving to another state for work so that they could save enough money for tuition. A narcissist might future fake the victim by making a false promise to pay for their victim’s tuition just to prevent them from moving to another state for work.

What future faking does is it turns the idea that the victim has of the narcissist being someone that they can grow, be happy, and be a better version of themselves with, into something much more tangible. This is particularly true for victims of narcissistic abuse who don’t have realistic expectations for the relationship and often make decisions based on the word of others, not their actions.  

What Does Mirroring and Future Faking Do?

Narcissists can be really charming, charismatic, intelligent, and persuasive. Mirroring and future faking takes all of those “qualities” and allows them to manipulate their victim into envisioning a happier and healthier life with the narcissist. So, one reason that you have chosen to be with a narcissist could be because they manipulated you into feeling proud to be with them, being a believer in their perceived qualities, and feeling inspired to be the best version of yourself for them.

What Should You Take Away from This Article?

A large majority of the time, people find themselves in a relationship with a narcissist because they have an unhealthy definition of love and/or because the narcissist manipulated them into believing that they share a special and unique connection with one another. It is important to remember that regardless of the reasoning behind the relationship, the abuse that you are experiencing or have experienced in the past is not your fault and doesn’t make you any less of a human being.

7 Daily Affirmations From Dr. Natalie Feinblatt

  1. I can work on liking myself more day by day
  2. I have inherent worthiness
  3. I am a capable and intelligent person
  4. I am healing a little more every day
  5. I can learn to enjoy my own company
  6. I value self-approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over the approval of others
  7. I perceive myself as equal to others

All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Halperin, David A. “Group processes in cult affiliation and recruitment.” Group 6.2 (1982): 13-24.

Malinosky-Rummell, Robin, and David J. Hansen. “Long-term consequences of childhood physical abuse.” Psychological bulletin 114.1 (1993): 68.