7 Things That Leave You Vulnerable To A Narcissist/Narcissistic Abuse)

Narcissists can cause an enormous amount of damage in the lives of people they get involved with, but a key question to ask is “what is it that makes a person open or vulnerable to narcissists and narcissistic abuse? What is it that narcissists see in others that makes them target and exploit those people?”

People might be in the early stages of unpicking the (often considerable) damage left by a narcissitically abusive relationship and wondering “what was it that made me so open to this?”.

Better still though if we can get ahead of the curve on this and make people aware of things that leave them open to narcissists and other exploitative personality types BEFORE they get tangled up with these people, which will save a lot of damage that can take years to unpick afterwards.

That’s what we’re going to explore in this article – some broad level traits and circumstances that can leave people massively more open and vulnerable to attracting narcissists into their life, giving away their power and trust, and then continuing to tolerate their nonsense when other people would have long ago got rid of the narcissist.

1. Being Too Naive & Gullible

This is a really primary weakness almost always found in people who get abused long term by narcissists – they are far too naive and gullible, and not particularly “streetwise” to the fact that toxic people exist, plus how they manipulate and exploit others.

Being too naive and gullible leaves you wide open to a narcissist, who smiles internally and sometimes even externally when they observe this in someone they meet (“this one’ll do. Easy to manipulate and control” will be something of what goes on in their internal monologue).

Some common thinking traps naive and gullible people can get into regarding narcissists and narcissistic abuse include:

  • Thinking the narcissist is a normal person just like everyone else, and believing they can be treated as such.
  • Stubbornly clinging to the belief that’s there really is a real person trapped inside the narcissist that they can reach (there isn’t).
  • Believing that all people are basically good, or have some good in them somewhere (humanistic naivety).
  • Always assuming the best of people in their intentions and motives, that all people basically mean well and would never exploit others for their own gain.
  • Believing the narcissist can be reasoned with, and therefore arguing sincerely based on facts/logic/reason/evidence (which the narcissist actually has no interest in). Wasting days/months/years on this while the narcissist strings you along and winds you up (context vs content split)
  • Trying to engage with the narcissist on an equal, level, mature, horizontal basis as two mature adults would and should, which only triggers them, since they cannot ever do “equal”. Often doubling down on this approach when the narcissist reacts badly, which only makes them worse.
  • Giving your power away far too easily in interactions, conceding things to the narcissist that you never should have.
  • Over-sharing and revealing far too much about yourself early on in relationships, before trust is truly earned from the other person (pathological personalities will always use what you tell them against you at a later date).
  • Not seeing abusive and exploitative behavior for what it is, always rationalizing it away and making excuses for the narcissist.
  • Not seeing that you’re clearly being used and exploited for some gain/resources by the narcissist, often to the amazement of onlooking friends/family.
  • Believing and being taken in by any old “BS” someone spouts out, as long as delivered convincingly and with a glib, superficial charm. Not engaging in critical thinking and healthy skepticism. Not looking past a person’s “front act” and asking deeper questions if things don’t add up or seem right.
  • Giving narcissists second/third/fourth chances they do not deserve. Forgiving behavior that should not be forgiven and being taken in by the narcissist’s “hoovering” act of fake sincerity/contrition.

If you recognize any of these thinking processes in yourself, it’s advised to wise up and get a bit more savvy to the fact that bad people do exist, and will pounce on any naivety and gullibility they see in others.

2. Not Having Been In A Relationship For A While (Or Inexperienced)

This is a HUGE one that often gets left out of the discussion on this. If you haven’t been in a romantic relationship for a while, and it’s still something you really want, a narcissist knows very well how to play on your ego, compliment you, make you feel 10 feet tall.

A narcissist’s initial charm act can be very seductive and alluring to someone that’s been “out the game” for a long time in terms of dating/romance (or never been in it), and perhaps lonely and in need of connection/intimacy. If you have this desire to be in a relationship without having some kind of detachment and “checking yourself”, you can end up diving in head first without taking proper precautions.


It’s important to have the necessary detachment and self awareness to walk away even from things you really want if something doesn’t feel right, or your boundaries are being violated. It’s also good for self esteem to practice this – actually practice or “rep out” walking away from something you really want a few times if someone is rude or not treating you well. Your self esteem will grow, because you’re showing to yourself you have boundaries and standards that you stick to, regardless of what you want – self respect.

Same thing for sexually or romantically inexperienced people. Again, especially for younger people who have yet to lose their virginity but really want to, this is cannon fodder for a narcissist/psychopath to manipulate and control you and use what you really want against you.

Young people are also naive and gullible, and you usually can’t tell them anything – they have to find out for themselves the hard way by diving in head first and getting hurt. A narcissist will see an overly naive and inexperienced person as someone to be “toyed” and played with for their own amusement. A lot of the nonsense of narcissistic abuse (cheating, triangulationsocial media toxicity etc). goes on in the late teens and early twenties – watch out for these people at college especially.

Same thing for “bedroom fun”. Without getting too graphic, if sex is an important part of your life, and you haven’t had any for a while, a narcissist/psychopath knows very well how to quickly read and “figure out” people sexually, giving them what they want and often. This will bond and addict you to them more intensely, making it harder to detach once the abuse starts.

To boil this all down into a bottom line answer, it’s about having some detachment from your wants/needs/desires/impulses rather than being 100% caught up in them, so they can’t be played on to manipulate and exploit you. Self awareness and mindfulness is generally how you can do this.

3. Poor Boundaries (Co-dependency)

Much as with overly naive and gullible people, almost all people who get tangled up with narcissists are co-dependent to some extent, which is precisely what made them so vulnerable.

In fact, codependents and narcissist/psychopaths fit in a dysfunctional hand-in-glove dynamic – the codependent has weak or no boundaries and is “wide open” to exploitation and abuse, and the narcissist/psychopaths love to exploit and erode other people’s boundaries. They fit together, but in a toxic way.

Codependency has slightly different definitions in different circles, but here are some general traits that characterize codependency:

  • In inability to know one’s own identity clearly. A sense of a lack of clear identity.
  • An inability to know and state one’s needs clearly, and get those needs met (lack of assertiveness)
  • An inability to recognize and “see” toxic behavior for what it is, and call it out. Very weak and/or diffuse boundaries (versus a neuro-typical with strong boundaries who knows full well when their boundaries have been violated and would never put up with a narcissist’s nonsense).
  • An inability to express hurt, anger and dissatisfaction to other people. Often “held in” and “bottled up” instead of being healthily expressed.
  • An inability to know where others end and where you begin psychologically (perfect for a narcissist who likes to erode and push boundaries anyway)
  • An excessive need for the approval and validation of others
  • An excessive fear of negative reaction from others when expressing one’s own needs or setting one’s own boundaries, and therefore a desire to act to please others first rather than address one’s own needs (people pleaser mindset)
  • A tendency to get over-involved in things, taking on other people’s problems/dramas on as your own.

Again, if you recognize any of these traits in yourself, be very careful, as these are exactly the type of people narcissists swoop in on, because they know how easy to control they’ll be. It is better to work on boundaries and codependency with a skilled therapist BEFORE meeting one of these exploitative personality types, rather than unpick the damage after they’re wreaked havoc in your life. Our books section also has a specific section of recommended reading on boundaries/codependency, because it’s such an important issue.

4. A “Fixer” Mindset

This is a huge trap in thinking that again leads people to not so much draw in narcissists, but STAY with them long past the point of no hope. Lots of well meaning people have a “fixer mindset“, meaning they stubbornly cling to the belief they can “help” or “fix” or “cure” the narcissist once they see they are clearly a troubled and pathological person.

This is very common when getting tangled up with the so called fragile or vulnerable or covert narcissist, who will often put on acts and sob stories of how terrible their childhood was, how hard they’ve had it, interspersed with their vicious abuse. This leads the person to think that the narcissist really means well, and just need to be “fixed”, and stays trying to do so, destroying their own sanity and stability in the process.

They ignore the “abusive” side and see only the “troubled” or “traumatized” side they seem to display, and keep clinging on to the belief the person can be saved. They give the best of themselves away trying to fix someone that’s unfixable. It is very sad.

Here are some articles we’ve produced to help people out of this “fixer” mindset and stop wasting time trying to save un-saveable people and not be so vulnerable to people tugging on your heartstring talking about their “trauma”:

  • Our article on how narcissists can be BOTH troubled victims AND vicious predators at the same time, so you don’t get caught in either/or thinking.
  • Our article on how there ISN’T a real person (inner child) trapped inside a narcissist that can be “reached”, and a detailed breakdown of how to arrive at this conclusion.
  • Detailed article on whether narcissists can ever change, capturing the nuances of narcissistic traits vs full blown NPD.

5. Some Kind Of Life Upheaval or Turmoil

This is another huge life scenario that leaves people very vulnerable to attracting narcissists, and seems to be a VERY common factor in people that got tangled up with them, when we compare accounts of people looking back on what happened.

Often, there was some kind of de-stabilizing or stressful life upheaval or turmoil just preceding meeting the narcissist, that left you open to letting in someone who was (seemingly) so charming, warm, friendly, funny etc.

Such things could include:

  • A nasty breakup or divorce
  • Moving to a new country or city and being pretty much alone, without friends or family or support systems.
  • Moving to a new, unfamiliar job, again possibly combined with moving location.
  • Breaking off or falling out with family/friends (or an abusive family of origin).
  • A long period of loneliness, being single or celibacy.
  • Moving away to college (especially if your first time away from home).
  • Workplace stresses (job loss, firings, bullying, legal cases etc)
  • More generally, a lack of any kind of support system very commonly leaves people open to narcissists, since they can slide in and be the only effective voice and source of feedback in the other person’s life.

It often happens that you’re feeling either low or isolated, lacking connection or something else in your life, and in swoops the narcissist to seemingly offer you exactly what you’re missing (at first).

That’s why it’s again important to a) be self aware and realize ‘OK, I’m lacking XYZ, but I realize that, and I’m not going to jump in at first sight at someone who appears to be offering these things’, and b) work on addressing lack/need in healthy ways with healthy people.

6. Having Just Got Rid Of Another Narcissist

This is a newer one I had to put in. We can sometimes make a healthy conscious choice to get rid of one narcissist from our life for whatever reason. This can be in an intimate context, but it can also be parents, other family members, friends or anyone else.

But with many people there can still be a strong unconscious choice to “replace” them with another narcissist right away.

Why do some of us do this? Because it can be what feels “normal” and “comfortable” if it’s what we’ve generally known in terms of relationships growing up. Even if it’s actually toxic and dysfunctional. If it’s what we’re used to on a very deep subconscious level, we’ll seek it out all over again.

If you have this “repetition compulsion” to always have a narcissist in your life, it’s important to recognize and work through this, or you’ll keep drawing in the same thing over and over again.

7. Unresolved Childhood Trauma

This is another broad level point that underpins some of the other ones, especially co-dependency and boundaries. Many people who are open to, and get tangled up with, narcissists, already have pre-existing unresolved trauma from childhood (C-PTSD), which the narcissist can very quickly “see” and exploit for their own ends.

For sure, sometimes narcissistic abuse relationship can create things like co-dependency that weren’t there before. But many times, the co-dependency was already there, which was precisely why the narcissist “found” the person, and why that person let them in.

Co-dependent people are definitely vulnerable to attracting narcissists/psychopaths, and co-dependency itself stems from unresolved childhood wounds that leave the person with weaknesses in their boundaries.

See the excellent video below by Richard Grannon for more on this fundamental point – it is very important to be aware of these weaknesses, and also that pathological personalities like narcissists/psychopath have the “glasses” on to very quickly and very easily pick up on what these wounds are and start exploiting and playing on them.


Insecure attachment, which stems from childhood parental deficits, is something that will leave you particularly open to narcissists/psychopaths. These are things that need working through with a professional, not with a pathological personality who’s just going to exploit these weaknesses and toy with you for their own amusement.

Thankfully there is hope – resolve your own emotional wounds and you take away the narcissist’s ability to exploit and poke at those wounds. You leave them nothing to feed off.

Use this page to find a suitable therapist trained in trauma (PTSD/Complex PTSD) who can help you do that.


Using my personal experience and research to educate others about narcissists and other pathological personality types

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