The Destructive Attraction Between Codependents and Narcissists
Have you assessed the relationships in your life, both past and present, and wondered why you attract the same type of man or woman over and over? There has been a lot written in the field of psychology about the attraction between codependents and narcissists.
Basically, narcissists focus on themselves; codependents focus on others. For purposes of definition, a narcissist is a person who displays abnormal self-love with an exaggerated sense of superiority. They often seek attention and admiration from others and believe that they are better than others and are therefore entitled to special treatment. A narcissist is very charming in order to seduce people into liking them. Their ability to seduce is amazing. They want you to fall in love and bond with them so they can finally emerge as their true selves without being abandoned. The narcissist is attracted to the codependent who feels perfect to them because they are allowed to take the lead which makes them feel powerful, competent, and appreciated. Narcissistic Personality Disorders (NPD) is a personality disorder which can be diagnosed and treated by a mental health professional.
Codependency is a learned behavior in which a person enters a relationship with another person and becomes emotionally dependent on him or her. Codependent people maintain an exaggerated sense of responsibility toward the other people in their relationships. They tend to do more than their share in their relationships and are hurt when they do not get recognition for it. Codependents confuse caretaking and sacrifice with loyalty and love. They are proud of their loyalty and dedication to the person they love, but they end up feeling used and unappreciated. They often are sensitive to criticism, are inflexible to change and have problems with intimacy.
Codependency is not considered a mental disorder. However, it is a set of unhealthy behaviors which can cripple and sabotage the lives we desire because it involves manipulation, decision making and confrontation avoidance, over controlling, lack of trust, and perfectionism.
Codependents find narcissistic partners deeply appealing. They are attracted to their charm, boldness, and confident personality. When the narcissist and the codependent become partners, the romance sizzles with excitement in the beginning. But the narcissist fears a loss of identity and is sensitive to everything that leads to bonding. They might pick fights and uproars to avoid bonding, use seduce and withhold behaviors, and many other ways to sabotage intimacy and bonding. Eventually the thrilling romance transforms into drama, conflict, feelings of neglect and feeling trapped.
Codependents confuse care taking and sacrifice with loyalty and love. They are proud of their loyalty and dedication to the person they love, but they end up feeling used and unappreciated. Codependents desire harmony and balance but they consistently chose a partner to whom they are initially attracted but will eventually resent. They are resistant to leaving their partner because of their lack of self esteem and self respect. What they fail to realize is that without self esteem or self respect, they are incapable of choosing a mutually giving and unconditionally loving partner. Their fear of being alone, compulsion to fix the relationship at any cost, and comfort with the martyr role is often an extension of their yearning to be loved, respected, and cared for as a child. Although codependents dream of an unconditionally loving and affirming partner, they submit to their dysfunctional destiny until they decide to heal the psychological wounds that ultimately compel them to pick narcissistic partners.
Both forms of dysfunction are often the result of childhood experiences. The narcissist has often experienced excessive pampering, neglect, or abuse. The codependent has usually learned the behavior from other family members. It is important to note neither condition is gender specific. A narcissist can be a man or woman and likewise a codependent can be a man or woman. Narcissists are often sex addicts or love addicts. In the past male narcissistic sex addicts have been referred to as “Don Juan or Casanova” and females as “black widow spiders”.
In psychotherapy narcissists are encouraged to develop more realistic self-esteem and expectations for other people. Codependents benefit from group therapy to help them rediscover their identity and stop self-defeating behavior.
Bonnie Harken, NCLC, Founder and CEO of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction and passion. Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non denominational Christian perspective. Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you.
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 Article references available upon request