You’re at a party and someone catches your eye from across the room. They make their way through the crowd and before you know it, you’re engaged in an interesting conversation. This person is friendly, charming, good looking, and seems to know just what to say. They might even compliment you. It feels good to make this connection. You agree to meet up next week for a drink or coffee or even dinner. You say goodnight and have sweet dreams — not realizing you’ve just been targeted by a narcissist.
It’s hard to recognize a narcissist the first time you meet them. They know just what to say and how to turn on the charm. And if they are a moderately decent looking date, it’s easy to take the bait.
But beware — with a narcissist, things are never what they seem. The scintillating conversation is reserved only for those they want to draw in and once they have you, many a charming prince or princess has turned into a rodent.
Not every narc is looking to harm you, most just want to meet their own needs and use you in the process. While every narcissist is different, there are specific things that can make you vulnerable to a narcissistic mind. If you can understand the narcissist, it might help you avoid falling into their trap.
Your Family and Past Relationships
The first thing that makes you vulnerable to a narcissist is your relationship history. Did you grow up with a narcissistic parent or grandparent? Or a sibling that was a malignant narc? Have you been in a romantic relationship with a narcissistic someone in the past?
We don’t get to choose our family of origin and many people have married narcissistic people without realizing it at the time, but any past relationship with a narcissist can set you up to be abused again.
The longer you’ve endured an abusive relationship— the more likely you are to accept such behavior as normal. That’s why it’s important to understand your past relationships. You’ll want to know yourself and figure out what triggers you into trusting narcissistic people.
If you’ve put up with toxic behaviors in the past, it’s not too late to learn from your mistakes to avoid getting used by a narcissist in the future
Do you have trouble saying no? Are you a people pleaser? Are you willing to give up your dreams to meet the goals of your lover? Are you a follower more than a leader? Do you forgive without an apology? Do you have low self-esteem? Do you struggle with boundaries and self-care? If you answered yes to any of these questions you might be vulnerable to getting targeted by a narcissist.
When selfish people look into your eyes, they are often sizing you up. They’re looking for cracks in your armor to see where they can enter your life. Any type of vulnerability is an encouragement for a narcissist who wants to exploit your pain, insecurities, grief, lack of experience, fear, and desperation to be with another person.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable — it’s all part of being human. Vulnerability often draws people together, but the problem comes when your weaknesses are obvious to a stranger. Most people are nice enough, but be wary of the narcissist looking for someone to exploit. It’s not personal, the narc has an agenda and you don’t want to fall into their trap.
When you meet someone new, try to keep your guard up until you know they’re a safe person. Pay close attention to how they speak about and treat other people. The clues are often obvious. It’s important to observe others carefully before we trust them with our secrets.
We all have weaknesses — the secret is to never allow a narcissist to target us because of them. Don’t let your guard down until you know someone is safe. Don’t cry in public if you can help it. And especially don’t tell stories about the ways someone else has abused you. That’s like providing a roadmap to your own mental hijacking.
When you first meet someone, it’s only normal to put your best face on. Vulnerability might increase intimacy — but you only want to be intimate with kind-hearted people. Even Brené Brown says she won’t tell her stories to people that haven’t earned the right to hear them.
Narcissistic people look for holes in the armor of others so they can use them and call in favors, but it might surprise you to realize your strengths can attract the narcissist as much as your weaknesses.
You might be used to thinking of a victim as someone who was so weak they asked for it, but this isn’t always the case. Many strong and smart people have been targeted and used by a narcissist. This is because the narc wants to use people and they aren’t interested in people who have nothing to offer them.
You might ask if these victims are so intelligent or talented, how come they never realized they were dealing with a narcissist? Personality. Remember narcissistic people can be very friendly — sometimes very funny. When they lay on the charm. most people often don’t see the other side of them until they’ve moved in for the kill. By then the relationship has become complicated with messy boundaries.
The secret to not getting used by the narc for your strengths is having strong boundaries. Your great secretarial skills or financial accomplishments are for you — not the narcissist. Healthy boundaries will help you protect your self and assets from the narcissist. There’s a reason that mixing business with friendship is not recommended — especially if you haven’t known the person for years.
Don’t Be a Target
If you’d like a narcissist free life, keeping these three factors in mind should help you avoid sticky, narcissistic situations.
If someone you meet at a party reminds you of a past abuser, chances are they’re not a safe person for you to confide in or even share a drink with.
Be aware of your vulnerabilities and keep your guard up until new people show themselves trustworthy. Remember time is on your side. The longer you wait to play your cards, the more you can observe and determine potential relationships.
Protect your assets. This is about more than financial matters — it includes your ability to be a good hostess or build a house or sing in the chorale. Your gifts are yours to share as you feel inspired — they aren’t on the bargain rack for the narcissist to sort through and take whatever they want. Beware anyone who suddenly needs your talents or business for free.
If you can keep these three things in mind when you meet someone new— your past relationships, your vulnerabilities, and your strengths, you will have a better chance at avoiding another narcissistic relationship. You are a wonderful, unique, talented person who deserves protection when you’re vulnerable. You deserve to be paid for your time and talents. You are worthy of being in a relationship with someone who is willing to give as well as take. Just say no to the narcissist.
Cherilyn Christen Clough has been preparing for a pandemic her entire life. She knows what it is like to live in isolation. She spent most of her teen years living in the Montana wilderness washing hands with her germaphobe mom, hiding from society with her survivalist father, while baking bread from scratch and canning huckleberries over a campfire. You can read more about her strange childhood in her Memoir Chasing Eden. If you want to know her secrets for surviving narcissistic abuse you can sign up for Little Red’s Survivor Tips.