QUESTION: I realized, after a complete disaster of a date, that I have only ever been attracted to/got engaged to/married narcissists! What the fuck? This is a huge realization. What is wrong with me?!

I don’t necessarily feel like a victim. I just feel like I’m used to giving other people all the attention and not expecting anything for myself. It’s strange, not in a very negative way, but more so as: “Okay, you have all the attention now because you need it and I’m fine without it”. I guess it’s that caretaking you talk about with me. It feels like I’m taking care of the other person. But now I’m sick of it! I’m sorry; I’m not asking a specific question am I? I guess I’m wondering what you think in general?

ANSWER: Good on you, you did have a big realization. Nothing is wrong with you, you are becoming aware of a coping mechanism that started many decades back. Go deeper: you are used to giving people all the attention for what reason? You touch on a piece of it by saying “because they need it and I’m fine without it”. When basic needs are not met as a child, we mask our need by projecting it on another and deny its existence in ourselves. But there is a deeper piece here that gets more convoluted.

We deny the need in ourselves because it was not met, and we hide it by being the caretaker. Concurrently, there is a desire to be taken care of, so we give care to feed the other so that when they are fed they will, in turn, feed us. Except that we do not know how to get fed due to the mask of denial that says we have no needs. So it becomes a vicious circle: we give, expecting to receive, but are incapable of taking it in - if it ever did, in fact, come back in. This builds frustration, anger, and ultimately destruction of any possibility of intimacy.

This is where practicing vulnerability comes in. Put it out there as soon as you get involved with someone: “This is my shtick, this is how I hide. I am afraid of being intimate, so I do this caretaking thing as a way of hiding”. And practice constantly examining your motives. It takes serious effort to break this pattern.