* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.
Generally speaking, narcissists don’t seek diagnoses, for in doing so, they would contradict their inflated ideals of self-importance.
Unfortunately, that means there are countless undiagnosed narcissists out in the world, capable of wreaking havoc in relationships. So what does a narcissist look for when dating?
Someone with this personality type will do all they can to manipulate you and perpetuate their dominance, and they’re often so good at what they do that you won’t know there’s a problem until you’ve already made a commitment.
But are there any telltale signs that betray a narcissistic personality before a relationship even begins?
For instance, do they, consciously or unconsciously, seek out romantic partners with particular traits in order to maintain a sense of superiority?
The answer is yes, absolutely, but the qualities they look for while dating may surprise you.
A Note Before We Begin
Before we get started here, it’s important to bear in mind that there are five different types of narcissism:
Each of these subsets of NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) can have a different influence on the way an individual feels about themselves and others, meaning not all the traits we’ll be discussing today can be linked to all narcissists.
Still, there’s a good chance that many individuals with NPD will be attracted to certain aspects of a person, so it’s worth studying what these aspects are.
What Are Narcissists Attracted To?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that narcissists seek out those who they believe to be weak, to give them the upper hand when they initiate various manipulation tactics, but, surprisingly, it’s normally the opposite that rings true.
As NPD sufferers see themselves as so vastly superior to those they believe are powerless, they won’t be able to draw any value from a relationship with them.
For instance, if the so-called weak individual gave them a compliment, the party with NPD would take no pleasure from it.
What most narcissists are actually attracted to is someone with a strong will, someone who they have respect for and who has qualities that they perhaps believe themselves to have.
Not only does this make for a valuable prospect in terms of elevation through compliments and winning the desire of the individual, it offers someone with particularly malignant narcissism a greater sense of pleasure when gaining control of and breaking down the individual.
By overpowering someone who they deem a worthy adversary, so to speak, they feel all the more superior, whereas exercising power over an individual who is perhaps not as strong willed will be relatively meaningless to them.
This strength people with NPD are chasing in people can take many forms.
For instance, their target may have steadfast religious morals and beliefs that a narcissist can try to break over time, or it may even be the physical strength of someone who works out a lot that a narcissist zeros in on.
Talent & Success
Seeking out romantic partners with some form of talent is appealing to a lot of narcissists in the same way that strength of character or emotional/physical strength is appealing.
Remember, the more they admire a prospective partner, the more value they can extract from the relationship moving forward.
Success is another big draw for those suffering from various forms of NPD, as they can enjoy the pleasure of association, and, again, will experience more joy in taking control of certain aspects of an individual’s life.
Strangely, narcissists are more likely to pursue romantic partners that enjoy strong, healthy relationships with both their family and friends.
You might think this is a risky move, as those familiar with healthy relationship dynamics might be more aware of those that aren’t considered healthy.
However, narcissists have a number of manipulative tools at their disposal to corrupt their partner’s perception of reality without them ever really understanding what’s happening.
So, we’ve established narcissists can manipulate those with lots of healthy relationships, but the real question is why they gravitate towards these kinds of individuals.
Well, think of it like this… A person with healthy relationships respects the other parties, or to put this same notion into a narcissistic context, their friends and family have power over them and are able to influence them.
Now, being that narcissists enjoy power and superiority over all else, the idea of contending with an existing web of powerful entities for ultimate control of an individual is incredibly enticing.
Through devious methods of manipulation, they can isolate their target from family and friends, effectively “conquering” threats, all while making the victim ever more reliant on them.
Responds Well To Flattery
Have you ever heard the term “love bombing”?
It’s when a relatively new person in your life showers you with compliments, but be warned, this sweet talk may not be coming from a loving place at all.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist, it’s often more of a way to test your susceptibility to manipulation and to fast-track the relationship into a deeper space where they can exercise manipulative tactics.
Ultimately, narcissists want to spend time with people that make them feel good about themselves, which is why someone who isn’t scared to throw out a few compliments here and there will certainly get plenty of attention from potential narcissists.
There’s usually a deep mire of self loathing at the root of narcissistic personality disorder, meaning those with NPD understand on some level that their self aggrandizement is merely a facade and that they’re not as flawless as they try to make everybody believe they are.
With this in mind, the vulnerability experienced in romantic relationships poses something of a problem to a narcissist.
Putting themselves in a compromising position means sacrificing a certain amount of power, and to regain this lost domination, they need somebody that will be forgiving of their flaws.
Not only does this perpetuate their internal fabrications of superiority, it also means that the victim might be less inclined to break off the relationship when subjected to narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists care deeply about what other people think about them, so it’s not uncommon for them to pursue romantic partners considered to be conventionally attractive.
The thought process is that if people see them arm in arm with beauty, onlookers will think very highly of them, or even better, experience jealousy.
Of course, it’s not all about good looks.
A narcissist will feel happy next to anyone that they imagine will make them look better in the eyes of others.
The Thin Line That Separates Narcissists From Everyone Else
You may have noticed that the traits discussed above are all generally considered attractive qualities in an individual, so weighing them up when dating is very normal, and doing so doesn’t make you a narcissistic person.
The factor that distinguishes a narcissist from a healthy individual in this context is how calculating somebody is in terms of the manipulability of these traits.
For example, a healthy person may be enticed by someone who takes well to flattery, because it allows them to fully express their delight at sharing their company.
A narcissist, on the other hand, will be attracted to this quality due to the opportunities it presents to take control.
In the same vein, a healthy individual will enjoy their partner’s looks without necessarily objectifying them, while for a narcissist, objectification is a big part of the appeal.
If you’re worried that something about you is attracting narcissists, you’re right to be wary, but the truth of the matter is that we all have some quality or personality trait that narcissists will find enticing.
Sadly, this means we may well encounter a number of narcissists while dating and entering into romantic relationships, so it’s important to have our wits about us, not just when first meeting someone, but long after we let them into our lives.