A few weeks back while I was at the premiere of Pamela Anderson’s documentary, she shared a lot about her relationships, her dad, and how she would pick her men.
As I sat there listening intently, I resonated so much with a lot of the things she said, like:
“From the beginning, I’ve been drawn to different types of bad guys.”
I know a lot of therapists would agree with me when I say that what draws us to the so-called “bad guys”—and let’s face it, they’re the definition of narcissists—is what we saw as children. I truly feel it’s less likely that loving and stable fathers would raise girls who jump on the first bad guy they meet.
Of course, each guy is different and should be taken on a case-by-case basis, but you know what I mean. Abuse doesn’t have to be visible, physical, or tangible to be real and create patterns of harmful, dysfunctional behavior, or someone who enables such, in someone. This behavior might not be immediately identified as toxic or unhealthy per se, but it can cause serious damage over time, both to men and the girls they date… and the men girls find themselves drawn to.
Essentially, all those “boys will be boys” moments shouldn’t be dismissed as such or left unchecked.
Perhaps, that’s how a narcissist is born—one baby-enabling-step at a time. And that’s how their future partners are subconsciously trained to be ok with it. We’ve been trained to justify this behavior with parental one-liners like “you know it’s not his/her fault,” and eventually it becomes the norm.
These patterns become totally accepted as out of their control because it was inflicted on them, instead of gently corrected so as to not repeat them. Families impact us way more than we think. They program us.
“Maybe because of how I grew up and how I saw my parents and because of some of the relationships I had, I didn’t equate being in love with being nice, maybe,” Pamela went on, her words sinking deeper into my chest.
If you’re used to being around abuse, lies, and trauma, you subconsciously seek that out because it’s most familiar. The narcissist will repeat that cycle of abuse by creating a trauma bond, locking those hooks in place.
“Tommy was so jealous. I thought it was cute, and I thought that was what love is…” A feeling many, many of us can relate to.
As a result of this, the moment we start dating someone less toxic who is not so over-the-top in how they express themselves, we start to question if they even like us at all. Their seeming lack of passion doesn’t give us the same panicked dopamine rush that we would feel with the professions of a typical narcissist.
That’s the very tricky part—not getting attached to that behavior. It feels extremely good, almost like a high, and it can be very challenging to let go of. The crazy thing is, when you start realizing you’re dating a narcissist, you either get more intimate and enmeshed because you’re not ready to let go, or you just want to run away as fast as possible because it starts to feel scary.
But fleeing isn’t always enough. Why? Because the next time you start dating someone new, you’ll gravitate to the same type of person with a different face.
I heard this somewhere, and it really stuck with me: “It’s not just cutting off the people or person that hurt you, but you also have to cut off the version of you that allowed those things to happen.”
So powerful, and yet so much self-work. We have to break our own patterns of enablement in order to build something truly healthy with someone stable.