By now, most people are familiar with the concept of different personality types and which combinations attract each other. Terms like “narcissist” and “codependent” have become part of our larger cultural conversations. So, it’s no wonder that people often come into psychological counseling treatment with some idea of the role they are playing — and a story about why they always seem to attract the wrong partner!

Someone with more narcissistic traits will often be attracted to someone with more empathic, perhaps even codependent traits. Just think about the sweet, caring girl who walks tentatively into a bar and is naturally drawn to the strong, alpha male. It’s a little bit like the classic stereotype of the football captain and the cheerleader.

With all the cultural awareness and stereotypical references, you would think we wouldn’t keep falling into the same relationship potholes again and again… right? So why is this combination so common in romantic relationships, and who’s to blame?

When we look at the empath-narcissist combination, the selfless person is typically empathic and the selfish person is usually narcissistic. Selfish is the opposite of selfless, and narcissistic is the opposite of empathic. We tend to attract our opposite and, a lot of times, this can build excitement and chemistry. Too much opposition, though, can lead to a completely imbalanced relationship. In short, empath-narcissist is the perfect combination for the ultimate lesson in love.

Another classic example of how this can play out in relationships is the tale of the addict and the codependent. The addict is the taker and the codependent is the giver. The addict will continue to take, the codependent will continue to give, and the relationship falls completely off balance. It’s a toxic, never-ending tango.

Since this combination revolves around self-love versus romantic love, people often “lose themselves” in the relationship by giving all they have to the other person. While being selfless can be a kind gesture, to this extreme it’s downright toxic, as the codependent one tends to give away all of their power. Think of Selena Gomez in this context. She’s shared how she had to lose herself to love herself — a common relationship theme for people who are more empathic. 

The lack of balance happens once attachment takes place. Early dating can be misleading even as relational roles start to develop. The “honeymoon phase” blinds us initially, but once we attach our energy to another, the relationship shifts. Have you ever heard someone say, “The beginning of our relationship was amazing. My person showed up all the time and showered me with love and affection”?

We’ve probably all heard or experienced that. What happened to that person we met? Once two people become attached, the selfless person can end up trapped in an endless role of pleasing in order to receive. This is where individuals can become stuck, unconsciously trying to resolve their need to be loved by giving to someone, all in hopes of getting what they had in the beginning. This can be extremely tiresome and draining, like a broken record on repeat.

So, who’s to blame for this toxic tango of attachment? The truth is, no one is to blame. There are toxic relationships, yes, but for the most part, relationships are simply mirrors for us. They constantly point out where we have more work to do.

If you’re the type that overextends yourself in your relationships, it’s not your partner’s fault. In fact, you can change this behavior by becoming self-full.

From Selfless to Self-Full

Being self-full means learning to meet your own needs and deeply understanding the fears that are driving your behavior. If you shift to a healthier state with more internal awareness and healthier boundaries, you’re more likely to put up with less. Let’s face it: You are what you put up with!

Focusing on yourself and being self-full is not about being selfish; it’s about committing to yourself first and learning to make healthier relationship decisions from this place of internal awareness rather than constantly seeking resolution from a partner… because, guess what? That partner could simply not have what you need. And to find this out requires a little bit of time for self-reflection, time for getting back in touch with your core.

When you become self-full, you can see clearly what fears are operating in your relationships. Then your relationships, and the people you attract, will change because you have changed. You’ll be more likely to attract a person who is much less selfish.

No matter what, though, remember that — regardless of where you are in your journey to becoming self-full — there are no mistakes. Every relationship is an important lesson that leads you back to yourself.

Sustainable and long-lasting love happens when you find and keep your center and understand that your truth, feelings, and boundaries are all top priorities. When you allow yourself space to heal, you redirect your energy back inward where you need it most. You finally become self-full.