Codependent Women and Narcissistic Men: The Toxic Relationship

“We would break up repeatedly and I would feel like it was my fault.”

“The relationship became about making him happy, and even though I tried harder, it wasn’t enough.”

These are just a few of the relationship dynamics I’ve seen in my clinical work between codependents and narcissists. These two personality types have historically been attracted each other, like a starving wolf drawn to the scent of blood.

I want to shed some light on these personality types and the maladaptive cycles that persist between them. These personality types exist on a continuum from having some of the traits to a full-blown personality disorder.

If you recognize any of the following patterns in your relationships, I’m going to focus on the relationship dynamics between codependent women and narcissistic men, but have you ever fallen for the charm of a narcissist and later felt lifeless?

Let's start off by defining a few things...

*Codependency:* Is a personality type that draws you into relationships with people who need and demand love, respect, and care, but cannot give the same back. Yet you stay in that relationship, no matter how upset you are.

*Narcissism:* It’s an over focus on your own needs, while diminishing the needs of others, and others get hurt. They can’t bear to think there’s something wrong with them, so they deny and blame someone else. This leads to anger and rage. They point out what’s wrong in others, act superior and entitled, to give themselves pseudoself-esteem, to feel a sense of superiority because they have very low self-esteem and don’t know it.

Narcissists will be attracted to people who will take care of their needs....Those are the codependents.

The narcissist has a lack of boundaries, lacks self-love, and lacks the healthy expression of emotions.

There’s a passive and active codependent personality type.

The passive type is passive and plays the martyr role.

The active type tries to change the narcissist, attempting to find out what they are doing and catch them doing something wrong. Both types of codependents cannot break the relationship off!

The codependents survival is to then become completely attuned to what the other person does and doesn’t do.

These codependent and narcissist personality traits are continually drawn to each other to where it’s an addictive cycle.

(The above diagram, showing the substance use addiction cycle, has many parallels to relationship addiction that codependents experience).

Even though the relationship is going to kill the codependent, she gets drawn back in. She promises to herself that she won’t go back into the relationship, but loneliness sets in and the urge to go back to the narcissist arises, which eventually leads to feeling shame and regret when she does go back.

**It’s like an addiction; loneliness is the withdrawal and going back to the narcissist is like the relapse.

The codependent comes across as the “good guy” whereas the narcissist comes across as the “bad guy.”

What's similar about them? Because “like attracts like,” it is the absence of self-love that is similar for both. Both are afraid of being alone because loneliness is like a withdrawal symptom, which drives them together. This loneliness is connected to trauma they both felt in childhood. They both felt abandoned, abused, and neglected as children.

Their personality types are adaptations for survival in their childhood environment. The codependent had things missing and the neediness, the emotional starvation, is what they are missing now.

It’s a dance where you need one to follow and one to lead.

Until we’re in a state of wholeness, we’re looking for another person to make us feel whole.

(Dancing with the Devil)

When the codependent starts getting better and breaks free from the narcissist, he will get mad. You will hear apologies, which will be enough to bait and hook the codependent back.

Narcissists are experts at emotional manipulation. The codependent ironically feels comfortable there because it’s similar to the family environment they experienced in childhood. They may have had a narcissistic parent and, in order to emotionally survive, took on the belief that being loved meant taking care of people. Children sense their parents and adapt to get the love they need. The child that will become codependent learns that he or she will get the love that they need if they can make their parent feel good about themselves. The child who will become the narcissist did not get love.

(The “Parentified Child” takes care of his or her narcissistic parents' needs but they rarely have their needs met)

The codependent and narcissist both come from narcissistic parents. However, they have different adaptation styles.

Codependents confuse healthy boundaries and self-care with selfishness. They have the mantra, *“I can’t do that. That’s selfish.”

The child who will become narcissistic was probably colic/crying a lot, inattentive, his temperament was a bit rambunctious, and didn’t receive love.

(Are you being selfless but being taken advantage?)

*What to do:* Understand that codependency is a symptom of deeper problems, attachment issues. The way that we can heal the trauma and to develop self-love is by connecting the emotions from early childhood, the intensity of the loneliness, by going back to feeling all the thoughts, memories, and emotions.

Validate those emotions and challenge/change the distorted interpretations about your self-worth and relationships that were made by your young mind. This is best done within a safe therapeutic relationship, where the the process of self-love begins.

**Ask yourself, “What is it about me that keeps repeating this pattern?”

Codependents typically lose the fight with their emotional manipulator. Getting pulled into their argumentative and aggressive world is like wrestling a pig in mud. The pig likes it and will win.

Detach by observing the narcissist. Participating in the argument is when you get absorbed in his drama. You need purposeful emotional detachment. Don’t let the narcissist get under your skin. Practice observing, not absorbing. Imagine that you have a white lab coat on and are observing with curious wonderment. Watch that they can’t manipulate you when you don’t react. Watch and listen. Don’t react. Watch what are the tactics they use to pull you into the fight, what are the facial expressions, body posture. The more you can see the narcissist as a person with psychological problems trying to manipulate you, the more you can step outside of your reaction and just observe, the more you keep your power.

Ask yourself, “What is he trying to do to get a reaction from me?”

The more you can answer this question, the more you can stay neutral, be non-reactive, and you won’t absorb the manipulators toxins.

Say to yourself “I am strong and in control.” If you absorb you fall prey and become a victim. Don’t respond emotionally. Keep your emotions even, keep your tone even, breathe deeply. Stay detached and relaxed. Be proud that you are maintaining your power by staying detached and not absorbing the toxins of the emotional manipulator.

I hope this article was helpful!

If you want help with relationship difficulties, or a looking to create a beautiful relationship, email me at ** and we'll set up a coaching call.

Talk to you soon!

-Dr. Chris

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