I’ve been wanting to write this article for awhile but have been avoiding it simply because it’s such a heavy topic and I don’t want to mess it up. I don’t take my articles about being an INFJ lightly because (and this may sound silly to people who aren’t Myers Briggs obsessed) finding out I was an INFJ was life-changing for me!
I’d always felt different and misunderstood, so when I casually took the Myers Briggs test, reading the results was a surprisingly remarkable (and definitely not casual) experience for me. It was as if I’d stumbled upon a narrative of the inner workings of my brain- one that I hadn’t known existed, and one that brought me so much comfort and joy. I finally felt understood.
If you’re an INFJ, you most likely had the same momentous experience of finally feeling understood. I hope my articles offer more “ah ha” moments that help you feel less alone. Although we’re all unique, it’s extraordinary that this test has made like-minded people aware of others like themselves with some of the same unique characteristics.
(Artwork by the incredible Mari Andrew. You can find more of her relatable artwork on Instagram at @bymariandrew or by clicking on the picture above.)
WHY I’M WRITING ABOUT THIS
So, without further ado, I just want to explain why I’m writing this particular article! I’ve had several people comment on my posts and email me asking me to write about why the INFJ is attracted to narcissists. So, here’s the deal. When a group of people with similar qualities and characteristics are prone to putting themselves in unhealthy situations, I think it’s important to figure out why that is so that it can be prevented.
I’m not a therapist or anything but I am curious about why people do certain things and I have a genuine interest in the welfare of others. So, that my friends, is why I’ve decided to do some research and then share what I’ve learned and also try to convey my own thoughts about what I find.
SO FIRST OF ALL, WHAT EXACTLY IS A NARCISSIST?
“Narcissist” is a pretty heavy word, so I’m going to define it so we don’t go around calling everyone narcissists. Also, I want to mention that I don’t feel totally comfortable giving people negative labels. I think everyone has the capability to change and I think it’s incredibly important to give people the benefit of the doubt and to believe that they can improve, but I think it’s even more important to get out of dangerous situations where your dignity, confidence, happiness, and wellbeing are in danger.
When you’re repeatedly being hurt by someone with narcissistic traits, it’s incredibly important to get out of the situation as soon as possible. They may change eventually but you SHOULD NOT wait around until they do. Your emotional wellbeing should be your first priority (yes, even above your love for other people), so please, please, please get yourself out of situations where you’re being hurt and being taken advantage of. You deserve so much more.
You can love someone and believe in their eventual improvement, without sticking around to be a punching bag for them. They’re currently emotionally unintelligent and incapable of treating you the way you deserve to be treated, so they don’t deserve your patience or commitment to them (the same goes for family relationships).
But what defines a narcissist? A narcissist is someone with an actual personality disorder. This personality disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, simply put, is “a disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance.”
Narcissism can manifest itself in various ways. Below are just a few.
A narcissist is someone:
- who rarely ever takes the blame for their hurtful actions
- who avoids emotions and accountability
- who behaves in a childish manner when they don’t get their way
- who always talks about how much they’ve done for you but rarely mentions what you’ve done for them
- who is critical of others behind their backs (so you can bet they’re critical about you- and they most likely openly critique you as well)
- who has a superior attitude (often talks to you in a condescending or patronizing way)
- who lacks empathy
- who provokes people and then blames them for the argument
- who is only emotionally available when they want something from you
- who will often shut people out during conflict (provokes, then blames you, then stonewalls using the silent treatment)
- who instills doubt in their victims
- who cares more about impressing strangers than they do about treating their only family members kindly
- who openly states their opinions without regard to people’s feelings
- who acts charming and persuasive in order to get their way
MY DABBLES WITH “THE NARCISSIST”
I’ve dated quite a few “losers” in my day, but I think I, myself, could have been considered a “loseress” in some of those relationships as well. A lot of our immature behavior was probably the result of being young and not knowing how to handle such intense emotions, as well as our lack of compatibility as a couple.
BUT, a couple of my ex-boyfriends definitely had prominent narcissistic traits that can’t be excused by their youth or immaturity. They were, at the time (and I have no clue how they are now- they may have changed), simply self-centered ***holes.
I remember one of my most narcissistic boyfriend’s parents even warning me that he was extremely selfish and that he wasn’t who everyone thought he was. This guy came off as the most charming, well-liked, popular guy I’d ever laid eyes on, so to hear his own parents say that at the beginning of our courtship was surprising, to say the least. (And I’m pretty good at reading people, but this boyfriend was a master at putting on a facade.)
You might be wondering if I ran for the hills after his parents gave me this little (actually huge) insight into their sons character. Nope! I kept dating the jerk for 3 whole years until I finally cut things off with him (with A LOT of help from my college roommates- thanks you guys…no, like, seriously…you guys are life savers!)
But why was I so drawn to these self-centered, emotionally draining, (and I could probably even say abusive) men that brought out the worst in me? And why do other INFJ’s regularly find themselves attached to these same types of characters?
WHY THE INFJ IS ATTRACTED TO NARCISSISTS
After doing some research, I’ve concluded that there are 4 main reasons why.
Please read each of these reasons carefully, and more importantly, take my advice for how to avoid narcissists. Once I finally decided that I would NEVER date a jerk again, I stopped settling and was able to free myself up enough to make it possible for me to find my sweet husband (who isn’t perfect but who definitely has NOTHING narcissistic about him.)
1. INFJ’s have a strong desire to “save” and “fix” people.
(Artwork again by Mari Andrew- you can find her other artwork on Instagram at @bymariandrew)
After my ex-boyfriend’s parent’s told me he was a selfish jerk, do you want to know what I thought? I didn’t think, “Oh, I should probably break things off with him if his own parents are telling me this.” No, instead, I thought, “Well, I can change that.”
And I tried my very best to do so, to no avail.
But that’s what the INFJ wants to do. They want to treat their partner as if they’re a patient in their therapy clinic when that’s not possible. Why won’t that work? Because the way their partner behaves has a direct effect on them- every day, all day. They can’t approach their partner in an unbiased manner when there’s feelings, attachments, and relational expectations in the mix.
And besides that point, nobody has the ability to completely change someone’s entire character- no matter how hard they try. The person the INFJ wants to change has had a lifetime to nurture these unhealthy and manipulative characteristics. These characteristics have become an innate part of who they are, and it will take much more than a few months or years to change them.
WHAT THE INFJ NEEDS TO REMEMBER:
As stated above, you can’t change these traits that are deeply ingrained in the narcissist, so don’t try to. Instead, find someone who’s emotionally mature and capable of loving you and treating you the way you deserve to be loved and treated!
2. Although the INFJ has an impeccable ability to see past impure motives and facades, they let their idealism get in the way when they’re romantically interested in someone.
INFJ’s feel everything intensely- including romantic connections. When, on rare occasion, they feel they’ve connected at a deep level with someone, they don’t want to let that connection slip away. This often leads them to giving people the benefit of the doubt or trying to “save” or “change” someone, even when they know that the person isn’t a good fit for them (as mentioned above).
If they’ve felt that strong connection, they’ve most likely already spent a lot of time envisioning what the relationship could look like and how strong it could potentially be. To give up this unique connection (that’s hard for them to find) is very difficult for them.
INFJ’s are introverted, which means that they often turn inward to protect themselves from the overwhelm of the outside world. This in turn, can lead the INFJ to have pent-up energy that lands on one person or one thing, which is why many INFJ’s become “obsessed” with a love interest, a passion, a place, or an idea. This obsession can be considered almost an “addiction” and can be a tough one to break. Because INFJ’s become somewhat “addicted” to a love interest, it can seem almost impossible for them to break off an attachment that’s already been formed intensely- even if they know it’s an unhealthy attachment to have.
The INFJ’s idealism, intense feelings, and desire to latch onto deep connections are a few of the reasons why the INFJ is attracted to narcissists, but there’s still two more!
BUT FIRST, WHAT THE INFJ NEEDS TO REMEMBER WHEN IT COMES TO IDEALISM:
Things aren’t always going to be perfect in a relationship, but your vision of a pretty “ideal” happy relationship is possible, so don’t settle for something less. Don’t idealize a relationship with a narcissist, because it’s not going to get better. It’s only going to get worse.
Make sure that you vent to a trusted confidant or to your journal regularly so that you keep track of and process your feelings as they’re happening instead of bottling them up to explode later. If you’re noticing a pattern of being unhappy in your relationship or of narcissistic traits in your partner, terminate the relationship instead of continuing a cycle of “keeping the peace,” then blowing up, then “keeping the peace,” then blowing up. You’re worth far more than that kind of unsatisfactory relationship!
3. The INFJ is prone to self-doubt.
Because INFJ’s feel misunderstood, take things very personally, and never feel as though they’re doing enough, they may put a narcissistic partner on an undeserved pedestal. In fact, the INFJ puts a majority of the people in their life on a pedestal because of their own self-doubt, insecurity, and sensitivity. They often go through life thinking that everyone is better than them, when that’s definitely not the case!
This can be extremely dangerous for the INFJ when they’re involved with someone who doesn’t deserve their love and attention, but whom they think is far better than them. The INFJ already has trouble with these feelings, so the narcissist takes full advantage of this weakness. The narcissist will end up making the INFJ feel as though they’ve won some sort of prize by being with them, when in reality they’re losing out BIG TIME and they need to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
WHAT THE INFJ NEEDS TO REMEMBER:
You are good enough. You are worthy of love and wonderful treatment and you will find someone who treats you well and brings out the best in you! Never ever settle! Life is short, so don’t spend it with anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself, manipulates you, or who has any of the narcissistic traits that can’t be changed (which is all of them).
4. The INFJ wants to “keep the peace” and therefore looks past terrible behavior.
INFJ’s avoid confrontation and want to keep the peace in relationships, but because they’re also aware of their own needs and are very independent, this “keeping the peace” thing doesn’t always hold up for long. Eventually, the INFJ will explode in rage and the relationship can turn into a constant battle- full of blame, arguing, and overall unhappiness.
Even though the INFJ usually knows that they’re being mistreated and may even get upset about it regularly, they’re prone to look past these behaviors because of their own self-doubt, attachment, idealism, and desire to “keep the peace.” They usually think that things will eventually get better with time. They’ll also blame themselves for the argument or for standing up for themselves and excuse the other person’s behavior, even though deep down inside (and they’ve probably been told by close friends and family), they’re the one who’s being mistreated.
They’ll go through phases where they’re a quiet punching bag that tries to keep the peace and other phases when they’re having a difficult time losing their voice and will speak up for themselves.
The INFJ should remember that a narcissist will bring out the worst in ANYONE and that they aren’t a bad person for fighting back. They should also realize that this entire situation isn’t healthy and that it’s 10000% worth it in the terminate a relationship that isn’t bringing out the best in them and that isn’t healthy, even if they’re incredibly attached to their partner and believe that things will change.
WHAT THE INFJ NEEDS TO REMEMBER:
The reality of it is that things most likely won’t change- at least not for a long time, and you shouldn’t waste your precious time on someone who isn’t making you happy or treating you right. A relationship should make a person happier far more than it makes them sad and confused, so if this isn’t the case for your relationship, than it needs to come to a close. It’s especially difficult to end a relationship with a narcissist and you may need the help of friends, family, or even a professional to get through the manipulation from your partner and the emotional turmoil it will indefinitely cause you.