Due to the first blueprint for romantic relationships being molded by their toxic fathers, daughters of narcissistic fathers run the risk of engaging in a trauma repetition cycle and ending up in unhealthy relationships or friendships in adulthood.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers may find themselves being retraumatized by predators who are very similar to their first male ‘role model.’ This is not their fault: anyone can be targeted by a malignant narcissist regardless of their trauma history and anyone can be affected by the effects of trauma.
Yet it is important to consider that childhood abuse survivors may be especially vulnerable to grandiose, narcissistic types not only due to their deeper core wounds and beliefs but also the narcissist’s own predatory behavior.
Toxic narcissistic types tend to find a great deal of narcissistic supply in those who have empathy, compassion, and resources, as well as psychological resilience built up from trauma (Frankenhuis & de Weerth, 2013). The resilience of survivors may, at first glance, seem like an odd trait to pinpoint in this context, but it is actually one that the abusive narcissist depends on in the abuse cycle.
Consider that the children of narcissists may not have learned how to implement appropriate boundaries, but they learned how to survive while subjected to extreme duress. These essential skills of survival might have been necessary in childhood to avoid the threat of emotional and/or physical harm, but in adult relationships, they become the very factors that can make us susceptible to predators in adulthood.
How Resilience Plays a Factor in the Trauma Repetition Cycle
That is why daughters of narcissists who have been ‘primed’ for abuse may find themselves encountering one predator after another without understanding why. They blame themselves for staying or getting into these relationships, not realizing that two of their greatest strengths – the ability to be resilient and their empathy for others – are being unfairly exploited in a dangerous power play.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers can fall prey to exploitation in adulthood because they learned early on how to be caretakers, adept problem-solvers, and multi-taskers: they learned how to juggle detecting threats in their environment while responding to them in a way that mitigated the danger. They are extremely competent at performing emotional labor for others as well as picking up on nonverbal cues that signal potential threat or abandonment.
In an abusive relationship, this gets translated into people-pleasing, walking perpetually on eggshells and an entrenched sense of powerlessness.
In a healthy relationship, with healthier boundaries and an expectation of emotional reciprocity, daughters of narcissists have much to offer their partners.
Their maturity, emotional generosity and attentiveness to their partner’s needs can be assets in a healthy relationship after they have developed a healthy sense of self. In an abusive one with a malignant narcissist, however, her willingness to see her partner’s perspective and meet his needs gets taken advantage of and used against her.
What may be surprising for others to learn is that it is not just her vulnerability that makes her a target; it is also her resilience.
The more resilient the daughter of a narcissist is from the violations of her childhood, the more likely she will ‘bounce back’ after incidents of abuse, and continue to try to ‘fix’ or solve the problems of the abusive relationship, much like she did in her early childhood.