What traits make women vulnerable to becoming unwitting sources of narcissistic supply?
For the most part, certain “human” qualities that most would consider exemplary; and that narcissists** either disdain as weakness — or regard as exclusive entitlements for themselves.
Why? As addicts, narcissists stop at nothing to get their fix.
Their drug of choice? Proving superiority (“false-self”) means they (and their false-self or false-power) exist or are real. Without superiority, he is not a “real” man; therefore, inferior. Superiority, he believes, entitles him to the benefits of preying on those perceived “weak” with impunity. It is a drug for him. And it is why they treat, indeed seek to “fix,” their partner to act as if they and their wants and pain are invisible.
Due to socialization, men are at greater risk of developing this severe cognitive disturbance. Their fear of intimacy is linked to women, inferiority, weakness, everything they were shamed to hate and rage against.
Whereas men are socialized to link traits of caring and empathy with women, and reject them as dangerous and emasculating, women are socialized overall to be unsuspecting and unaware, and to relentlessly believe their continued love and sacrifice will, eventually, transform any cold hearted beast into a caring prince.
Like a house of cards, obsessed with proving superiority, a narcissist is left with a deeply wounded ego, perpetually at war with his “true self” (or human nature).
Of course, these stellar traits are not the problem itself! The problem of toxicity occurs to the extent only one person in the couple relationship seeks to express (however imperfectly!) or attributes value to these traits.
Below is a list of 7 sets of human traits. See if you can find a key difference between items 1 to 4 and items 5 to 7.
1. Are you smart, intelligent, capable, attractive, and so on?
The smarter, more intelligent and capable you are, the more a narcissist is attracted to you as lush turf to prove his superiority, display his skill in taking down big game, to add you to his wall of trophies. A boost to his ego. And remember, narcissists think “it’s a man’s job” to keep women, in particular, among other “inferior groups” in their place. And if you’re also good looking, it’s an added bonus, he’ll exploit this to his advantage.
It’s about getting into your head, to get you to doubt and question your smarts, intellect, looks, adequacy, start comparing yourself to others. He knows tearing you down works in his favor; it gets you to spin your wheels, even more, to please and make him feel secure. Of course, he’ll never be happy and always opt for misery (to do so, after all, would end his game!).
Narcissists know. They’ve studied human behavior. They know humans, at least the “weak” ones in their perspective, yearn to contribute, to feel valued and loved by those close to them. They use this information to elevate your fears. For example, he may publicly shower another woman with affection, the very thing you’ve asked, and have more recently been begging him to give you. And of course, if you get noticeably upset in a public setting, he’ll marvel at his ability to prove what he’s been hinting at, that, you need to get checked for either borderline or bipolar! (Narcissists most always run smear campaigns, from the start; and they know how to skillfully smear, all the while getting sympathy for themselves as “nice” guys “just trying to help”!
So beware. When a narcissist says he admires certain things about you, yet doesn’t back this with consistent action, then you need to pause and think. He knows building you up “works” to disarm and gain your trust, and ultimately helps him hide his wrongs in plain sight! For example, does he repeatedly correct you in front of others? Or, openly stare at women up and down? If you’ve started to question your self, thinking, ability to make choices or have sex to keep him away from other women, something is really off track. Learn how to identify what a narcissist means when he refers to love, and remain aware. If you’re not, this can unwittingly give him access to something that is yours alone to control — your sense of self, confidence and belief in your strengths and intellect.
2. Are you overall a happy person, loving, nurturing and caring of others?
Narcissists study women; like hunters, prey and warriors, the enemy. Love-bombing is a tactic they use, more intensely at the start of a relationship, as part of the larger strategy to keep a woman disarmed, believing in fairy tale norms (toxic femininity) and illusions, rather than her own gut, mind, common sense, wisdom and intuition, and the like!wo
He knows precisely what he is doing, by the way. Narcissistic abuse consists of tactics to intentionally exploit, gaslight, intimidate, and overall, terrorize an unsuspecting person into surrendering their mind and will. They know women are socialized to link their self-worth to the success of their relationships, to proving they selflessly serve others’ needs and happiness, and in particular, the man in their life. The more a woman displays how much she “needs” to care and make others happy (as wonderful as these traits are!), the more a narcissist sees her as easy prey, and lusts to feel superior to the extent he render her feeling ineffective, doubting her self and sanity, blaming herself for his insecurity, unhappiness, even his wrongs or failures to develop strong ties to his children.
Narcissists lack the ability to connect to human traits of empathy and caring — to the extent their early experiences trained them to detest and feel scorn for these traits as dangerous, and linked to women (and other “weak” thus “hated” groups). From boyhood, a narcissist has been shamed, and trained to fear, hate and feel scorn for “traits” that are not manly. And indeed, he’s learned to do so obsessively, as if, he is in danger of human traits of empathy, for example, contaminating their masculinity and manliness.
3. Are you kind and thoughtful, go out of your way to give others the benefit of doubt?
The more a narcissist picks up on thoughtful nature and sense of fairness, the more effective his use of half-truths, falsehoods, and gaslighting. He knows women are conditioned to feel bad for making others feel bad, and swoops in to get a rush of power playing with your mind, for example, by automatically accusing you of being mean or controlling, just because asked for something that doesn’t interest him (i.e.,time together or nonsexual affection).
Does he gaslight you the moment you start to talk about a topic important to you, such as romantic gestures or spending more time with the family? Does he accuse you of being selfish for asking him to help with dinner or the kids? Or that you’re being controlling or emasculating when you want to know why he came home after midnight? And so on. Does this have the effect of shifting the focus away from what you wanted to address, and instead, to a long list of reasons, i.e., your nagging, etc., why you should feel bad until you make him perfectly happy (implying, until then, you do not deserve to ask for anything of him)?
Beware of gaslighting. It is a pathological form of lying, a thought control tactic that is scientifically proven to get into another’s mind. It is designed to “train” a victim to increasingly silence herself and feel her own needs, wants, voice have no relevance, feel invisible. It is no mere use of “emotional abuse” — and should not be mistaken for such! Narcissists are cowards at heart that play by gangster rules and regard fair-playing persons as weak and, well, stupid. Their ego is too fragile to see the true power of collaborative human relations, and that treating other human beings with mutual respect, dignity and understanding is a mark of high intelligence.
Keep in mind however that tactics of thought control work primarily on the unsuspecting and unaware! Women are susceptible, in short, because their socialization conditions them to be trusting, nice and selflessly think of others even at their expense. Thus, your awareness and understanding is key to protecting and guarding your mind and heart, health and happiness.
4. Are you accomplished, financially independent or have good credit?
The first 3 sets of traits above make women magnets for NPDs or APDs. Women that exhibit confidence in themselves and their abilities, display an overall loving and happy nature, or show they’re thoughtful and trusting of others put them at risk, if they are unaware of how narcissists operate.
An added risk, similar to the three above, is for women that are considered financially successful and independent, having achieved their education and, or career goals.
Money symbolizes power in our society. Narcissists are rigidly socialized to hold might-makes-right values, and thus to fear and regard women (and other “inferior” groups) as potentially dangerous, fierce competitors vying for power to control and take away men’s entitlements to dominance power. This feels threatening to certain men, as this means women are intruding, in a sense, in what were not too long ago, the 1970s, for the most part, exclusively male domains! It is no wonder that more and more women remain single. They do not view power as something that is synergistically empowering, for example, allowing two persons in a partnership to do far more than could as two individuals!
From their worldview, power is exclusively for those who prove their ruthlessness, and feel no remorse for exploiting or inflicting harm, pain on enemies vying for power etc. The more financially secure and independent a woman is, the more a narcissist may regard her as a fierce competitor for status, and thus, may strategize to eventually get her so exhausted that she turns against her career, education or job, the means of her financial support and independence. Even in cases where a narcissist regards his wife’s career as his trophy, he still uses tactics to chip away and devalue her success in some way. It’s not a secret that abusive males intentionally act women to make their partner feel powerless, dependent, unable to leave or take care of themselves and children.
5. Do you long for a listening ear to validate certain wounds from childhood and, or past relationships?
And who doesn’t, right? Whether you habitually reveal copious details to others about past wounds, or typically deal with them as private matters, most narcissists have the ability to charm victims into spilling their guts, especially at the start of your relationship. In either case, a skilled narcissist knows how to impress you as being the best, most trusted friend and confidant. He wants you to complain, to berate and say negative things about, not only past partners, but also key persons in your life, parents, siblings, friends, that are have been sources of support. This is how narcissists get into the heads of those they prey on, to isolate and turn them against those that were once their main sources of support.
So, while you thought you’d found a great listener who was so into you, in actuality, he was simply collecting data to use against you in the future.
Narcissists study the woman in their life. They have two gains from this. One, they disarm women into thinking their good listeners, empathic, caring and the like! This will help them do wrong in plain sight. Two, they gather data to know what they most want and need, and what they most fear, wounded them in the past. This data allows them to form a customized plan to strip away what energizes and empowers you, while upping the ante on what scares and terrorizes you, so that you increasingly silence yourself, question and doubt your sanity and ability to think clearly, expect little to nothing from him, spin your wheels trying to prove your loyalty, and more. Making you feel crazy, and just plain bad about your self and life are top goals of most of his tactics, such as gaslighting.
Guard your mind and heart! It may be that, the more you complain about your family, friends, or past relationships, the more access they get to control you, to manipulate your actions via emotions? Note, we’re not just talking about mothers who consistently guilt trip us to clean our rooms or visit them during the holidays! We’re talking about persons addicted to tearing at another’s sense of self and dignity as a sport, to get them to participate in their own exploitation and abuse.
Narcissists methodically isolate and tear down their partner’s sense of self, to make her feel unloved and unworthy, and turn against her family and friends, believing they were the ones that never loved her or exploited her. (Narcissists project a lot themselves onto others.) Guard your heart and mind!
6. Do you feel overall lonely, yearn for a trusting friendship, or a soulmate to share joys and pain?
Similar to number 5 above, narcissists gather data on what a woman most needs and her fears and insecurities. Do you watch Hallmark channel, or swoon for those guys who seem to say just the right thing, to understand a woman deeply, and who want to become her soulmate as much as she does?! Do you yearn for a man that totally gets you, understands the pain and hurt, and loneliness, you experienced? Do you believe you’re incomplete in some ways without a partner who makes you feel secure and safe, protects you from ever feeling lonely or insecure again? Do you give him extra details of what really tore you apart in a previous relationships, just to make sure it’s not repeated?
Interestingly, this therapist is hearing more clients bring up Hallmark. More specifically, women in relationship with a narcissist … who watches Hallmark channel with them. In fact, he even does so on his own! Hmmm. Why do you think? Likely to see what makes women swoon and surrender themselves, mind and heart, body and soul. Protect your hearts and minds! Remember, narcissists are predators who study and seek to know their prey. Not to love them, but because they fear, and regard them as dangerous emasculating influences, fierce competitors vying for power to subjugate them.
You may say, what really poses a danger to women being unwitting sources of narcissistic supply is not the narcissists themselves, rather the fantasies they’ve been socialized to believe. It is the “rules” of toxic femininity (codependency) that deceive them to project their own “always be nice” socialization onto others — even narcissists.
This makes it easy for narcissists to hide in plain sight! And it leaves women clueless as to what men are really after and what they mean when they say ‘I love you,’ and other disarming things.
(And, similarly, what really poses danger for men to get stuck in miserable states of arrested emotional development are the rules of toxic masculinity.)
7. Do you take his words at face value, blindly “trust” and seek to give him he benefit of doubt?
In effect, the last item above is the achilles heal, or real culprit! It feels so wonderful to give and receive trust from another! For human beings, that is. For women in a relationship with a narcissist, someone who has little if any ability to receive or return love, it can have a crippling effect on her brain, keeping her hooked on believing she’s the star in a beauty-and-beast-type fantasies — and that sacrificing herself will end in a happily ever after love relationship! (In the fairy tale, after all, it was beauty’s sacrifice that transformed the beast into a caring prince with a human heart!)
Is it a coincidence that these fairy tale fantasy beliefs make it easy-peasy for narcissists to exploit women to get a false-self “superiority” fix? Guard your heart and mind.
While it makes sense to trust and want to give one another the benefit of doubt, this only works between two persons that embrace human values overall (however imperfectly). It is this refusal to believe the narcissist is telling you who he is by what he does to hurt you … that keeps women locked in believing or being in love with a “fantasy” man and relationship. Narcissists identify themselves by the outcomes their pathological intent to harm produces.
Does he treat you and your wants as invisible and expect you to change, i.e., just “accept who he is”?Do you work harder and harder to selflessly please and make him feel secure, making your wants and needs more and more invisible? Do you refuse to believe you may be experiencing narcissistic abuse? And, that he knows exactly what he’s doing? For example, when he accuses you of infidelity to get you to spin your wheels explaining your loyalty and love? Or, how hard you work and want him to have what pleases him? Or, how many books you’ve read to learn to stop “nagging” or being a “controlling” nag?
In conclusion, narcissists seek out women with certain amazing,”human” qualities! Reality check, ladies! Guard your heart and mind. He is not you! He’s socialized to adhere to might-makes-right values. When he says he loves you, he’s talking eroticized dominance talk! Become aware of the impact of “toxic femininity” norms and how they cripple the capacity of human brains of women from childhood, with lies and fantasies, that blind them from “seeing” their way out of the fog. Awareness is prerequisite to making conscious choices and taking actions that end any participation in their own narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists hold might-makes-right values, the same values that cults and cult leaders impose. It is only in cult, secular or religious, where some are granted status and entitlements to abuse others, emotionally, physically, sexually, and so on, with impunity.
Finally, did you note a key difference between items 1 to 4 and items 5 to 7? Items 1 to 4 are traits that narcissists and groups led by narcissists, i.e., cult leaders, regard as exclusively male. Items 5 to 7 are ones that set up women (or “empathic” groups) to acts as “straw men” so that men can easily prove (“false-self”) superiority and dominance, entitlements to exploit with impunity, etc., are “real” things.
** The term narcissist, or narcissism, refer to persons that fully meet the criteria (as opposed to mere tendencies) for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) — or its more extreme version on the spectrum, sociopathology or psychopathology, labeled as antisocial personality disorder (APD) in the DSM. These character disorders are cognitive disturbances that, unlike other mental health disorders, predispose persons to intentionally act out their rage and scorn on others, in characteristically patterned behaviors (known as narcissistic abuse).
**** The use of male pronouns is supported by decades of research showing that domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, mass shootings, pedophilia, and other acts of “false-power” violence are not gender neutral. They are rooted in rigid adherence to gendered might-makes-right norms for “toxic masculinity” for men (and “toxic femininity” for women). These norms idealize violence and intimidation as means to male establish status and dominance.
Note: Though comparatively fewer in number, female narcissists exist; they too self-identify with “toxic masculinity” norms, in my experience. In many cases, women are mislabeled narcissists, for example, when they are targets of a narcissist’s smear campaign; or “groomed” accomplices (another form of narcissistic abuse). See also post on 5 Reasons Narcissistic Violence Is Not Gender Neutral.