Why Unloved Daughters Fall for Narcissists, and What to Do About It (2023)

If you felt unloved during childhood, there are many reasons why you might attract partners with narcissistic tendencies in adulthood.

Our childhood experiences play a major role in how we navigate life and relationships as adults.

Specifically for daughters who felt unloved as a child, they may fall for partners with narcissistic tendencies. And there are many valid reasons for this.

“From the moment we were capable of understanding the world around us, we begin observing how people, particularly our caretakers, interacted with us and with each other, which become predictors of how we express and respond to love during our adulthood,” explains psychotherapist Susan Zinn, LPCC, LMHC, NCC.

This isn’t meant to place blame on our caregivers. Instead, she says this “increased awareness of our attachment style can help us take those first steps toward improving our relationships as an adult and developing a more securely attached relationship with those around us.”

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition that typically features grandiose self-importance and a lack of empathy.

According to a 2021 study, only 1%–15% of the U.S. population lives with NPD.

But people who don’t have NPD can still express narcissistic tendencies, which include:

  • extreme need for validation
  • low empathy
  • a sense of entitlement
  • a desire to control, gaslight, or manipulate others
  • avoid taking responsibility
  • embody the “perfect” partner or relationship
  • move on quickly after a breakup
  • may push your boundaries or “love bomb” you

Just like feeling unloved as a child can affect women’s adult relationships, childhood trauma can lead to narcissistic tendencies as well. That same 2021 study suggests that NPD can be a result of negative developmental experiences as a child, like rejection or a hurt ego.

(Video) Why UNLOVED DAUGHTER(S) Fall For Narcissists & Struggle To Escape (5 Reasons)

Falling for folks with narcissistic qualities is common for many reasons, especially for daughters seeking the love they may have lacked in childhood. So know you’re not alone, and your experience is valid.

Recognizing these signs can help you become more aware of potentially unhealthy or abusive relationships.

It’s also important to notice how your own tendencies impact your relationships.

Entering unhealthy relationships is never your fault, so try not to feel guilty or ashamed. Instead, try to focus on recognizing how your childhood could affect your adult connections.

Here are potential reasons why unloved daughters might fall for partners with narcissistic traits.

Your need to please others empowers them

“A person who has a deep fear of abandonment might constantly need validation in their relationship,” says clinical psychologist Brian Wind, PhD. “Another person might avoid getting too close to others out of fear of emotional intimacy.”

“Many women who grew up with trauma or neglect develop a fear of abandonment that goes on to look like chronic people-pleasing and focus on accommodating the other,” adds psychologist Justine Grosso, PsyD.

For a partner with narcissistic traits, she notes that this could align with their desire to feel powerful and in control.

You’re empathetic and caring

Empaths and highly sensitive people can be more susceptible to the charm of those who have NPD or narcissistic qualities, says Zinn.

(Video) Why Unloved Daughters May Fall for People with Narcissistic Tendencies;🚩

“Someone who’s highly empathetic may desire validation and love from [them], potentially due to their childhood experience of not having their caregiver or parents meet their emotional needs,” she says.

Friendly reminder from Wind: Your empathy doesn’t make you weak.

“It’s not your fault for falling for someone with narcissistic tendencies,” he says. “[They] tend to go for people who are empathetic and caring, because they want someone who’s available for them.”

You’re used to being manipulated and controlled

“Women who were on the receiving end of gaslighting, coercive control, and other types of emotional abuse as children are conditioned to believe that these behaviors are normal, says Grosso.

She notes that these experiences can lead to the following:

  • low self-respect
  • difficulties with self-trust
  • a lack of knowledge around what healthy relationships feel like

As a result, she says that women may find themselves in relationships as adults that mimic these childhood dynamics.

You may accept verbal abuse as ‘normal’

It’s natural for us to internalize the voices of our caregivers, even when their messages weren’t always kind or loving. “If someone grows up being called names, criticized, and shamed constantly, they may deem this ‘normal,'” says Grosso.

Sometimes, this becomes a long-term pattern (that, rest assured, can be changed). “Starting with low self-esteem and self-compassion from childhood, a woman stays in relationships that fulfill this belief, leading to even less self-confidence,” she adds.

You mistake playing games for excitement

Grosso says it’s important to note that “game-playing” isn’t always conscious. “These behaviors are intermittently reinforcing connection, which is the most powerful type of reinforcement: anxiety about loss/abandonment builds up and is suddenly relieved by the romantic partner reaching out or responding to bids for connection,” she says.

Within this connection, she explains that there are elements of both pleasure and relief. “This anxiety-pleasure/relief cycle is romanticized as passion,” she says.

You experienced gaslighting as a child

According to Grosso, being invalidated or gaslighted as a child can lead to similar experiences in adulthood.

“This internalized process may lead women to minimize their needs and emotions and ignore their intuition about what constitutes healthy patterns of reciprocity, consistency, and reliability in their romantic relationship,” she says.

(Video) The Darker Side of Unloved Daughters of Narcissistic and Codependent Mothers

They engage in mirroring

“We naturally look for people who are familiar to us,” says Wind. And when you find someone with whom you share so much in common, you might feel like you’re soulmates.

But “a person with narcissistic tendencies tends to mirror you so that they appear to have the same interests and habits that you do,” he adds, noting that they may use mirroring as a way to get closer to you. And even though it may feel very real, this connection could be inauthentic.

The relationship starts off like a fairytale

Remember that we all put our best selves forward when getting to know someone. But people with narcissistic traits may present themselves and your budding relationship to be everything you’ve ever wanted and more.

“As humans we’re wired for connection, and for women who have experienced emotional abuse or neglect as children, it’s understandable to be caught up with someone who’s finally giving you what you’ve wanted for so long,” says Grosso.

Zinn’s advice? “If someone comes on too strong at the beginning, be wary,” she says. “We all love to feel lusted for, but mature love takes time and has to be nurtured and grown.”

They unconsciously remind you of home

According to Grosso, the child-caregiver relationship sets the stage for our adult relationships.

“Daughters who were raised by people with narcissistic traits may also be unconsciously picking a partner who is similar to their parents to try and get the validation they did not get as a child,” says Wind.

For unloved daughters, partners with narcissistic traits may feel familiar and remind them of home, leading them to relive these experiences through adult relationships.

No matter what your childhood looked like, it’s possible to form healthier relationships in the future.

(Video) How Narcissistic Mothers Treat Their Daughters

First, remember that entering abusive relationships is never your fault. And on that same note, a mental health condition is never an excuse for abusive behavior.

Your next step is to work on increasing your self-awareness. “Many of us don’t even remember or realize the link between our childhood experiences and our adult relationships, so it’s important to start understanding how our experiences have affected our relationships,” says Wind.

Here are more tips on how to attract healthier, loving relationships:

  • Refine your list of red flags and deal breakers.
  • Learn more about narcissistic personality disorder and related traits.
  • End relationships with people who display these tendencies early on.
  • Practice self-love and self-compassion.
  • Join support groups for survivors of narcissistic abuse.
  • Improve your communication skills (e.g., sharing your needs, wants, concerns).
  • Talk to supportive and trusted loved ones.
  • Reach out to advocates like the Narcissism & Abuse Hotline.

“Practice emotional intimacy and being vulnerable by talking about your relationship to your partner,” adds Wind. He also suggests seeking partners who seem to have secure attachment styles, which may help you feel safer in your connection.

Seeing a therapist who specializes in childhood trauma and/or relationship issues can also help. “If unhealthy relationships [were] and boundaries weren’t modeled in your household growing up, therapy is a great option to help foster and develop the skills needed to have healthy and loving relationships in your future,” says Zinn.

How we received love as children can impact the way we receive love and navigate relationships as adults. So it makes sense that unloved daughters may tend to enter relationships with people with NPD or narcissistic traits due to their childhood experiences.

Some reasons include:

  • Your need for validation makes them feel powerful.
  • Manipulation, control, and gaslighting feels familiar to you.
  • You tend to accept verbal abuse as a norm.
  • You’re caring and sensitive.

Know that you deserve love, and it’s possible to enter healthier relationships as an adult. Practicing self-compassion, joining support groups, and speaking with therapists or hotline advocates can help you heal.

And a friendly reminder from Zinn: “If you’re feeling down, you can always put your hand on your heart, breathe through your heart, and remind yourself that you deserve healthy and loving relationships no matter what happened in your past,” she says.

(Video) Not good enough. Daughters of narcissist mothers


What childhood trauma causes narcissism? ›

Narcissism tends to emerge as a psychological defence in response to excessive levels of parental criticism, abuse or neglect in early life. Narcissistic personalities tend to be formed by emotional injury as a result of overwhelming shame, loss or deprivation during childhood.

How do I get my daughter away from a narcissist? ›

Is Your Daughter With A Controlling Boyfriend? 11 Ways To Get Her Away
  1. Let Her Know You're There For Her.
  2. Listen to What She Has to Say.
  3. Don't Push Her to Leave Him.
  4. Don't Try to Manipulate Her.
  5. Maintain a Regular Presence in Her Life.
  6. Be Polite but Vigilant.
  7. Encourage Her to Spend Time with Others.
  8. Build Her Confidence.
Oct 25, 2022

Who falls for a narcissist? ›

People with low self-esteem, often as a result of abusive or devaluing childhood experiences, including physical and sexual violation, are vulnerable to narcissists. You have been taught that you don't deserve decency, affection, boundaries, stability, or unconditional love.

How do you emotionally detach from a narcissist? ›

How to Disengage
  1. Stop all communication – take a break from social media, do not answer your phone or text messages from the narcissist. ...
  2. Have a plan – know when you are going to leave and where you are going to go. ...
  3. Find support – work with a therapist or counselor experienced in supporting people leaving narcissists.
Feb 1, 2021

What kind of parents cause narcissism? ›

To summarize, overparenting, lack of warmth, leniency, overvaluation and childhood maltreatment have all been associated with higher levels of narcissism. However, these parenting behaviours have often been examined in isolation or in different combinations, with mixed findings.

Does narcissism get worse with age? ›

Summary: For most people, narcissism wanes as they age. A new study reports the magnitude of the decline of narcissistic traits is tied to specific career and personal relationship choices. However, this is not true for everyone.

How do you make someone realize they are a narcissist? ›

Four ways to talk to a narcissist about narcissistic behavior.
  1. Ask Clarifying Questions. A good way to diplomatically call someone's attention to his or her narcissistic behavior is to ask clarifying questions. ...
  2. Use Humor and Wit. ...
  3. Separate the Behavior from the Person. ...
  4. Ask Directly Whether the Individual Is a Narcissist.
May 28, 2017

What not to say to narcissist? ›

8 Things You Should Never Say to a Narcissist
  • Don't say, "It's not about you." ...
  • Don't say, "You're not listening." ...
  • Don't say, "Ina Garten did not get her lasagna recipe from you." ...
  • Don't say, "Do you think it might be your fault?" ...
  • Don't say, "You're being a bully." ...
  • Don't say, "Stop playing the victim."
Dec 15, 2017

Who is a perfect target of a narcissist? ›

Narcissists often look for victims who struggle with insecurity and low self-esteem. People who think less of themselves and struggle with the “I am not enough” mindset tend to attract toxic partners.

What type of woman does a narcissist target? ›

In fact, narcissists are often attracted to strong, confident, and self-assured women. While this may seem counterintuitive, it is important to realize that the narcissistic traits of grandiosity and confidence are really a mask for deep insecurity.

What attracts someone to a narcissist? ›

Primarily, narcissists are attractive because they think of themselves as the top prize, and that factors into to how other people see them. They believe in their own value (on the surface, at least), so their charisma and confidence often makes them the life of a party.

How do you break a narcissist trauma bond? ›

Although the survivor might disclose the abuse, the trauma bond means she may also seek to receive comfort from the very person who abused her.
  1. Physically separate from the abuser. ...
  2. Cut off all lines of communication as far as possible. ...
  3. Acknowledge you have a choice and can choose to leave the relationship.

How do you mentally escape a narcissist? ›

If you're in this type of situation, it is crucial to have a planned exit strategy.
  1. Realise this is abuse. This is abuse. ...
  2. Gather information. ...
  3. Get support. ...
  4. Don't announce you're leaving. ...
  5. Remind yourself why you left.
May 28, 2020

How do you let go of a narcissist you love? ›

  1. Go no-contact—absolutely no-contact.
  2. Just go. No lingering goodbyes.
  3. Consider blocking common friends.
  4. Write down why you left.
  5. Assume that the narcissist will move on quickly.
  6. Give yourself time to grieve.
  7. Keep yourself busy.
  8. Copyright 2016 Sarkis Media. stephaniesarkis.com.
Jun 16, 2016

At what age does narcissism develop? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder affects more males than females, and it often begins in the teens or early adulthood. Some children may show traits of narcissism, but this is often typical for their age and doesn't mean they'll go on to develop narcissistic personality disorder.

What is the typical childhood of a narcissist? ›

The development of narcissistic traits is in many cases, a consequence of neglect or excessive appraisal. In some cases, this pathological self-structure arises under childhood conditions of inadequate warmth, approval and excessive idealization, where parents do not see or accept the child as they are.

What childhood creates a covert narcissist? ›

A covert narcissist may present as self-effacing or withdrawn and it's thought to be caused by genetics, childhood traumatic abuse or events, emotional unavailability of caregivers, and personality and temperament.

What are the signs of narcissistic collapse? ›

For the person on the receiving end, someone experiencing a narcissistic collapse may look out of control, extremely angry, and vindictive. In some cases, it may look like someone withdrawing altogether and giving them the silent treatment.

What happens to an aging female narcissist? ›

Older narcissists become increasingly closed-minded.

They have an inner urgency to blame somewhere for the loss of their personal power or their inability to get the attention they feel they deserve. Narcissists tend to dump all their animosity on scapegoats.

How do narcissist treat their parents? ›

In many families, a narcissistic sibling or child slowly takes over by demanding the most attention and loyalty, insulting everyone (even parents), violating the family's rules, and manipulating its decision-making.

How do you beat a narcissist in his own game? ›

How to Beat a Narcissist at Their Own Game
  1. Recognize and Acknowledge the Abuse. A relationship with a narcissist often has a façade of normality. ...
  2. Don't Stoop to Their Level. Narcissists thrive on drama. ...
  3. Don't React to Their Abusive Tactics. Your reaction is exactly what they want. ...
  4. Remain Mindful of Your Needs and Emotions.

What happens when a narcissist knows you figured them out? ›

When a narcissist is exposed or when the narcissist knows you have figured him out, they will never admit the truth even if it is staring them in the face. A narcissist will lay several false accusations and try to make him right. They will say things you didn't utter and misinterpret all your intentions.

What does a narcissist do when they realize they can't control you? ›

Narcissists also gaslight or practice master manipulation, weakening and destabilizing their victims; finally, they utilize positive and negative emotions or moments to trick others. When a narcissist can't control you, they'll likely feel threatened, react with anger, and they might even start threatening you.

What scares the narcissist the most? ›

Rejection, humiliation, and even the tiniest of defeats can shake them to their core. This leaves narcissists wholly focused on their image.

What is the biggest fear of a narcissist? ›

Although narcissists act superior, entitled and boastful, underneath their larger-than-life facade lies their greatest fear: That they are ordinary. For narcissists, attention is like oxygen. Narcissists believe only special people get attention.

What scares a narcissist away? ›

There's nothing a narcissist fears more than being left alone. Block their phone number, unfriend them on social media, and don't even acknowledge their presence if you're ever in the same room with one another. This won't just scare a narcissist—it will devastate them.

What turns a narcissist off? ›

When you don't depend on anyone to make money and you use your abundance to take care of yourself and not predators, you will always have the ability to control your own future. This is power, and pathologically envious narcissists are often turned off by it because it means they cannot easily control a victim.

What does a narcissist value most? ›

They demand respect, and give none in return.

For a narcissist, their needs must always be put first, and they will never reciprocate those feelings for anyone else. The world revolves around them, and everyone who happens to be part of that world should go along with it.

What do narcissists need the most? ›

Narcissists need constant food for their ego, so they surround themselves with people who are willing to cater to their obsessive craving for affirmation. These relationships are very one-sided. It's all about what the admirer can do for the narcissist, never the other way around.

Do narcissists target weak people? ›

A common misconception is that narcissists go for the weak, because they are easier to manipulate. In fact, narcissists prefer to try and hook someone in who is strong-willed, and who has talents or characteristics they admire. That way, they feel more accomplished if they succeed in tearing them down.

What does the Bible say about dealing with narcissists? ›

1 Corinthians 7: 15 tells us that if an unbeliever (this includes a narcissist [you can read my article about whether someone is a believer here]) can't live with you in peace, then let them live without you.

How does a female narcissist dress? ›

Narcissists are more likely to wear expensive, flashy clothing, have an organized, neat appearance requiring a lot of preparation, and (in females) wear makeup and show cleavage.

What does a female narcissist act like? ›

While male narcissists might be more outwardly recognizable, female narcissists do exist. They tend to be more manipulative socially and can be just as vindictive as a male narcissist. They tend to play the victim, be overly jealous and competitive, superficial, and overbearing.

How do narcissists choose their victims? ›

Narcissists love to find partners who are self-sacrificing. Narcissists dont have any desire to focus on the victims needs. He/she needs a partner who is willing to have no needs, that way, he/she can always make sure only the narcissist is taken care of.

What is attractive about a narcissist? ›

Their Confidence Is Attractive

A key trait of narcissists is confidence – they are attractive because they think of themselves as attractive. They believe in their own value, so this confidence and charisma become qualities that pull others in, that makes them the life and soul of the party.

Why are narcissists so loved? ›

Narcissists are masterful impression managers: Thanks largely to their intense self-obsession and self-adulation, narcissists excel at managing initial impressions. They care a lot about their appearance and dress to impress, which signals status and makes them attractive.

What are the seven stages of trauma bonding? ›

First, we will explore the 7-stages of trauma bonding.
  • Love Bombing. At the start of the relationship, did they shower you with excess love, appreciation and gifts? ...
  • Trust and Dependency. ...
  • Criticism. ...
  • Gaslighting. ...
  • Resigning to Control. ...
  • Loss of Self. ...
  • Addiction. ...
  • Stop the Secret Self Blame.
Dec 13, 2021

How do narcissists deal with heartbreak? ›

How to get over a narcissist
  1. Stop obsessing.
  2. Avoid trying to rationalize.
  3. Find ways to cope with your anxiety.
  4. Keep busy.
  5. Don't blame yourself.
  6. Focus on self-love.
  7. Prioritize your pleasure.
  8. Acknowledge your jealousy.

How do you finally outsmart a narcissist? ›

How to Outsmart a Narcissist
  1. Separate yourself to cut off their narcissistic supply.
  2. Take time to heal.
  3. Take responsibility for your part in a conflict.
  4. React with empathy and respect.
  5. Act unresponsive around them.
  6. Disengage from their conversations.
  7. Set and enforce clear boundaries.

How do you completely let go of a narcissist? ›

  1. Go no-contact—absolutely no-contact.
  2. Just go. No lingering goodbyes.
  3. Consider blocking common friends.
  4. Write down why you left.
  5. Assume that the narcissist will move on quickly.
  6. Give yourself time to grieve.
  7. Keep yourself busy.
  8. Copyright 2016 Sarkis Media. stephaniesarkis.com.

Why is it so hard to walk away from a narcissist? ›

Fear of being alone – Narcissists are skilled at destroying their partner's social circles and relationships with family members. The prospect of leaving may equate to a feeling of being truly alone; Fear of reprisals – The narcissist may have created a culture of fear and anxiety in their partner's life.

Do narcissists get jealous? ›

They get jealous about everything

They talk a good game, but narcissists actually have very low self-esteem. Low self-worth/confidence/esteem is at the core of a narcissism. This low sense of self naturally makes it extremely easy for them to become jealous – very jealous.

What happens when you let go of a narcissist? ›

Narcissists hate losing their supply of attention, so they won't let you go easily. Prepare for them to promise "to change." They might suddenly start doing things for you that you'd been complaining about. They may say "you'll be lost without me," or "you'll never find someone like me." Don't listen, Orloff advises.

Why can't I let go of a narcissist? ›

After falling victim to abuse, many do not want to leave a relationship with the narcissist. Many find it hard to leave a relationship with a narcissist because they are blinded by the hope that they can change their partner or fix them, hoping to get back the person they met, at the love bombing phase.

What personality disorders are caused by childhood trauma? ›

Children who had experienced such verbal abuse were three times as likely as other children to have borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive or paranoid personality disorders in adulthood. High reactivity. Sensitivity to light, noise, texture and other stimuli may also play a role.

What kind of children do narcissists raise? ›

The children of a narcissist are often children who grow up to be codependent, people-pleasers, and have low self-esteem. They may never feel good enough for their parents or themselves. This blog post will explore the effects of growing up with a narcissistic parent on children into adulthood.

What is the root cause of covert narcissism? ›

Causes of Covert Narcissism

Genetics. Childhood abuse and trauma. Upbringing and relationships with caregivers. Personality and temperament2.

What kind of parents do covert narcissists have? ›

Covert narcissist parents rely on cultural assumptions to hide their abuse and neglect, and they gaslight their children about their behavior by leaning hard into their unimpeachable status as "loving" parents.

What age does narcissism peak? ›

According to mean scale and item scores analyses, narcissism increased significantly from age 14 to 18, followed by a slight but non-significant decline from age 18 to 23.

Does the Bible talk about narcissism? ›

Often narcissism is not mentioned in Christian theology, sermons, or Bible Studies because term is not explicitly found in the Bible. Yet, the concept of narcissism and the dangers it poses to the human community is fundamental to scripture.

What does God say about a narcissist? ›

1 Corinthians 7: 15 tells us that if an unbeliever (this includes a narcissist [you can read my article about whether someone is a believer here]) can't live with you in peace, then let them live without you.

What are the first signs of a personality disorder? ›

Common signs of a personality disorder include:
  • strange or erratic behaviour.
  • suspicion and distrust.
  • taking risks.
  • extreme mood swings (angry outbursts)
  • difficulty with relationships.
  • problems at school or work.
  • need for instant gratification.

What kind of parents causes borderline personality disorder? ›

Maladaptive Parenting. Maladaptive parenting including childhood maltreatment, abuse and neglect, exposure to domestic violence and parental conflict are found to be prevalent psychosocial risk factors for development of BPD in children and adolescents [10, 11].

What causes a wounded inner child? ›

In some cases, that wound to our inner child could be the result of trauma, abuse, or abandonment. In other cases, the source of the pain may be more subtle – experiencing unmet emotional needs, the illness of a parent or sibling, growing up in a broken family, or even a childhood friend moving away.

What happens to the golden child of a narcissist? ›

Golden children cannot explore their identities because they spend all their time obeying their narcissistic parents. Since narcissists can only provide conditional love, golden children feel a severe amount of pressure to please their parents to be accepted and loved.

Who is most likely to be a narcissist? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder affects more males than females, and it often begins in the teens or early adulthood. Some children may show traits of narcissism, but this is often typical for their age and doesn't mean they'll go on to develop narcissistic personality disorder.

How does a narcissist treat their parents? ›

In many families, a narcissistic sibling or child slowly takes over by demanding the most attention and loyalty, insulting everyone (even parents), violating the family's rules, and manipulating its decision-making.


1. Stop Falling for Covert Narcissists
(Craig Malkin)
2. This Is Why Unloved Daughters Attract Narcissists
(Honey darling)
3. 5 Ways Your Narcissistic Mother Harmed Your Life
(A Renewed Life)
4. The Unloved Daughter's Narcissistic Mom has Similar Traits as Her Romantic Partners
(Luminousz Ztarr Channel)
5. Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers
(Prof. Sam Vaknin)
6. Narcissism Why do Narc Mothers hate their Daughters?
(Narcissism Survivor)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Foster Heidenreich CPA

Last Updated: 02/15/2023

Views: 5257

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Foster Heidenreich CPA

Birthday: 1995-01-14

Address: 55021 Usha Garden, North Larisa, DE 19209

Phone: +6812240846623

Job: Corporate Healthcare Strategist

Hobby: Singing, Listening to music, Rafting, LARPing, Gardening, Quilting, Rappelling

Introduction: My name is Foster Heidenreich CPA, I am a delightful, quaint, glorious, quaint, faithful, enchanting, fine person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.