What kind of a spouse/mate/partner is likely to be attracted to a narcissist?
On face of it, there is no (emotional) partner or mate, who typically "binds" with a narcissist. They come in all shapes and sizes. The initial phases of attraction, infatuation and falling in love are pretty normal. The narcissist puts on his best face – other party is blinded by budding love. A natural selection process occurs only much later, as relationship develops and is put to test.
Living with a narcissist can be exhilarating, is always onerous, often harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a narcissist indicates, therefore, parameters of personality of survivor. She (or, more rarely, he) is moulded by relationship into The Typical Narcissistic Mate/Partner/Spouse.
First and foremost, narcissist's partner must have a deficient or a distorted grasp of her self and of reality. Otherwise, she (or he) is bound to abandon narcissist's ship early on. The cognitive distortion is likely to consist of belittling and demeaning herself – while aggrandising and adoring narcissist.
The partner is, thus, placing herself in position of eternal victim: undeserving, punishable, a scapegoat. Sometimes, it is very important to partner to appear moral, sacrificial and victimised. At other times, she is not even aware of this predicament. The narcissist is perceived by partner to be a person in position to demand these sacrifices from her because he is superior in many ways (intellectually, emotionally, morally, professionally, or financially).
The status of professional victim sits well with partner's tendency to punish herself, namely: with her masochistic streak. The tormented life with narcissist is just what she deserves.
In this respect, partner is mirror image of narcissist. By maintaining a symbiotic relationship with him, by being totally dependent upon her source of masochistic supply (which narcissist most reliably constitutes and most amply provides) – partner enhances certain traits and encourages certain behaviours, which are at very core of narcissism.
The narcissist is never whole without an adoring, submissive, available, self-denigrating partner. His very sense of superiority, indeed his False Self, depends on it. His sadistic Superego switches its attentions from narcissist (in whom it often provokes suicidal ideation) to partner, thus finally obtaining an alternative source of sadistic satisfaction.
It is through self-denial that partner survives. She denies her wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual, psychological and material needs, choices, preferences, values, and much else besides. She perceives her needs as threatening because they might engender wrath of narcissist's God-like supreme figure.
The narcissist is rendered in her eyes even more superior through and because of this self-denial. Self-denial undertaken to facilitate and ease life of a "great man" is more palatable. The "greater" man (=the narcissist), easier it is for partner to ignore her own self, to dwindle, to degenerate, to turn into an appendix of narcissist and, finally, to become nothing but an extension, to merge with narcissist to point of oblivion and of merely dim memories of herself.
The two collaborate in this macabre dance. The narcissist is formed by his partner inasmuch as he forms her. Submission breeds superiority and masochism breeds sadism. The relationships are characterised by emergentism: roles are allocated almost from start and any deviation meets with an aggressive, even violent reaction.
The predominant state of partner's mind is utter confusion. Even most basic relationships – with husband, children, or parents – remain bafflingly obscured by giant shadow cast by intensive interaction with narcissist. A suspension of judgement is part and parcel of a suspension of individuality, which is both a prerequisite to and result of living with a narcissist. The partner no longer knows what is true and right and what is wrong and forbidden.
The narcissist recreates for partner sort of emotional ambience that led to his own formation in first place: capriciousness, fickleness, arbitrariness, emotional (and physical or sexual) abandonment. The world becomes hostile, and ominous and partner has only one thing left to cling to: narcissist.
And cling she does. If there is anything which can safely be said about those who emotionally team up with narcissists, it is that they are overtly and overly dependent.
The partner doesn't know what to do – and this is only too natural in mayhem that is relationship with narcissist. But typical partner also does not know what she wants and, to a large extent, who she is and what she wants to become.
These unanswered questions hamper partner's ability to gauge reality. Her primordial sin is that she fell in love with an image, not with a real person. It is voiding of image that is mourned when relationship ends.
The break-up of a relationship with a narcissist is, therefore, very emotionally charged. It is culmination of a long chain of humiliations and of subjugation. It is rebellion of functioning and healthy parts of partner's personality against tyranny of narcissist.
The partner is likely to have totally misread and misinterpreted whole interaction (I hesitate to call it a relationship). This lack of proper interface with reality might be (erroneously) labelled "pathological".