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The Needy Controlling Codependent Narcissist

In the intricate world of relationships, the dance between codependent narcissist individuals is a complex and often destructive one.

In the intricate world of relationships, the dance between codependent narcissist individuals is a complex and often destructive one. It’s a dance characterized by emotional entanglements, power imbalances, and the struggle for validation. In this blog post, we’ll explore the fascinating connection between codependency and narcissism, delving into the psychological underpinnings and the impact on both partners in these relationships involving a codependent narcissist.

Key Takeaways

  • Codependency and narcissism form a complex web of need, manipulation, and mutual dependence.
  • Codependent relationships can fuel narcissistic tendencies by creating an imbalance of power.
  • Recovering from codependency requires self-awareness, boundary setting, and therapeutic modalities to empower oneself in healthier relationships.

The Intricate Web of Codependency and Narcissism

A codependent person is a trauma bond with someone who has an excessive emotional or mental reliance on their partner or loved ones, often seeking approval and validation at the expense of their own needs and boundaries. Narcissists, on the other hand, are characterized by their inflated self-importance, entitlement, and lack of empathy. When these two personalities become entwined, a powerful and often toxic dynamic ensues. This codependent-narcissist relationship feeds on the mutual need for validation and control, creating a dance in which both partners are perfectly attuned yet ultimately left unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

The Attraction: Why Codependents and Narcissists Gravitate Towards Each Other

Codependents and narcissists are initially drawn to each other due to their reciprocal emotional needs and shared desire for validation and control. Codependents pursue a sense of self-worth, validation, and approval from their narcissistic partners, who, in turn, are attracted to the caregiving and rescuer roles assumed by the codependents, fulfilling their need for admiration and validation. The codependent’s devotion to the narcissist nourishes their ego and helps maintain their grandiose self-image and self-confidence.

As the relationship evolves, narcissists often resort to manipulative strategies like love bombing – a psychological manipulation technique involving excessive admiration, praise, and gifts, to establish control. This serves to accelerate the progression of the relationship, pulling the codependent partner deeper into the narcissist’s web.

In a codependent relationship, the people-pleasers codependent become increasingly focused on meeting the needs of their narcissistic partner, who is self-centered and has a sense of entitlement as they have this fear of abandonment. They may lose sight of their own desires and sense of self, ultimately becoming trapped in a dysfunctional relationship characterized by a lack of genuine connection and emotional intimacy.

The Cycle of Need: How Codependent Relationships Fuel Narcissistic Tendencies

Codependent relationships serve to bolster narcissistic behaviors, leading to a perpetual cycle of dependency and manipulation. The codependent partner gradually loses their autonomy due to the narcissist’s undermining behavior, and the narcissist holds them accountable for it. When a codependent partner is hurt by a narcissist, they tend to internalize their emotions rather than express them and hold their partner accountable for their mistreatment. This passive response allows the narcissist to maintain control and continue their manipulative behavior.

Particularly, covert narcissists often depict themselves as victims to manipulate the codependent. The passive demeanor of the codependent and their failure to set clear boundaries leave them susceptible to the narcissist’s control and manipulation. As a result, the relationship becomes characterized by a lack of emotional intimacy and an unequal dynamic, with the narcissist dominating and exploiting the codependent partner to maintain their sense of superiority and control.

The Narcissist’s Mask: Unveiling the False Self

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) create a false persona to shield their vulnerable ego, projecting an exaggerated self-image of possessing narcissistic traits such as:

  • omnipotent
  • of high status
  • infinite power
  • psychologically invincible

They construct a persona or mask that they consistently present to others, depending on admiration and attention, referred to as narcissistic supply, to uphold their false self. 

The false self of a narcissist, often stemming from pathological narcissism, can have a considerable impact on their personal relationships. It is characterized by grandiosity, entitlement, and a lack of empathy, which can lead to a lack of genuine connections with others.

Furthermore, their relationships may be based on manipulation, control, and the need for admiration, resulting in a lack of emotional intimacy, difficulty in maintaining healthy boundaries, and a tendency to exploit and devalue others.

The Role of Emotional Intimacy in Narcissistic Relationships

Emotional intimacy, which fosters feelings of security, protection, and support, is vital for healthy relationships. Yet, in relationships between narcissists and codependents, emotional intimacy is frequently absent, as the narcissist’s false persona impedes authentic connection and vulnerability. The narcissist is unable to genuinely connect with others on an emotional level and may struggle to:

  • Recognize and accept the emotions of their partner
  • Prioritize their own needs over their partner’s
  • Lack of the capacity to be vulnerable and open in a relationship

This can lead to a lack of trust, emotional distance, and an unequal dynamic in such a relationship.

Common signs indicating a lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship with a narcissist include:

  • Indifference
  • Avoidance
  • Detachment
  • A lack of empathy
  • A lack of genuine emotions such as happiness, sadness, guilt, regret, and empathy

Furthermore, frequent harsh criticism and a diminished sense of self may be indicative of emotional abuse in a narcissistic relationship. Recognizing these signs and seeking professional help can be a crucial step in breaking the cycle of codependency and narcissism and fostering healthier relationships.

The Codependent’s Quandary: Losing Oneself to Gain Approval

In their pursuit of their narcissistic partner’s approval and validation, codependents frequently lose touch with their own identity. They prioritize their partner’s needs and desires over their own, which is not good for their mental health and well-being, and oftentimes neglect other responsibilities and relationships. As a result, they may experience a gradual erosion of their sense of self and autonomy, becoming increasingly preoccupied with satisfying the needs and desires of the narcissist.

The struggle for approval and validation can lead to feelings of self-blame and low self-esteem in codependents. 

The Burden of Self-Blame and Low Self-Esteem

Codependents struggle with:

  • Self-blame
  • Low self-esteem
  • Concealing their true feelings and opinions
  • Feeling incapable of caring for themselves
  • Difficulty with establishing boundaries
  • Looking for validation through relationships

Codependent traits can make individuals particularly susceptible to the emotional abuse and exploitation of narcissistic partners.

Recognizing the signs of low self-esteem and self-blame is crucial for codependents seeking to break free from the toxic cycle of codependency and narcissism. By acknowledging their feelings and taking responsibility for their own needs and desires, codependent behaviors will slowly change and begin to rebuild their sense of self-worth and establish healthier relationships with more balanced dynamics.

The Toxic Tango: Dynamics of a Codependent and Narcissistic Partnership

The interaction between codependents and narcissists can be compared to a perilous tango, in which each partner assumes a unique role in maintaining the delicate balance of power and emotional interweaving. The narcissist leads the dance with self-importance and a need for control, while the codependent follows with a passive and people-pleasing nature. This dance serves to maintain the intricate web of codependency and narcissism, trapping both partners in a cycle of need and exploitation.

As the dance progresses, the codependent partner may experience a gradual erosion of their sense of self and autonomy, becoming increasingly focused on meeting the needs and desires of the narcissist. 

Meanwhile, the narcissist continues to manipulate and exploit the codependent partner, maintaining their sense of superiority and control. This toxic dance is both alluring and devastating, as the emotional entanglement and power dynamics fuel a vicious cycle of need and exploitation.

The Narcissist Dancer: Leading with Self-Importance

The narcissist takes the lead in the dance with a sense of self-importance and a desire for control. Their exaggerated sense of their importance and superiority can manifest in narcissistic behaviors such as seeking attention and admiration, believing they are more special or deserving than others, and having a grandiose sense of self. 

In order to maintain their sense of superiority and control, narcissists may use manipulative communication and actions such as gaslighting, triangulation, and smear campaigns. These tactics serve to undermine the codependent partner’s sense of self-worth, making it easier for the narcissist to exploit and dominate them. As the dance continues, the narcissist’s need for control and self-importance fuels the toxic dynamics of the codependent-narcissist relationship.

The Codependent Partner: Following with Passive Nature

A codependent partner in a relationship with a narcissist may demonstrate passive behavior by consistently seeking validation, evading confrontation, and making the needs of the narcissist a priority over their own. This passive nature, combined with the difficulty in establishing boundaries and expressing their own perspectives and wishes, makes the codependent partner particularly vulnerable to the narcissist’s manipulation and control.

Understanding the psychological reasons behind the passive nature of a codependent partner is crucial for breaking the toxic cycle of codependency and narcissism. Some of the reasons include:

  • Shame
  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of being alone
  • A tendency to be in relationships with dominant partners

These factors may contribute to the codependent’s passive behavior. By acknowledging these underlying issues and taking responsibility for their own needs and desires, codependents can begin to rebuild their sense of self-worth and establish healthier relationships with more balanced dynamics.

Breaking Free: Strategies for Healing and Recovery

The process of healing and recovery from a codependent-narcissist relationship necessitates extricating oneself from harmful patterns and reclaiming one’s true identity. In order to overcome the negative effects of codependency and narcissism, it is essential for both partners to:

  • Recognize the dysfunctional dynamics at play
  • Take steps to establish healthier relationships
  • Seek professional therapy or counseling
  • Educate oneself about narcissism and codependency
  • Focus on self-care and self-love

Setting boundaries with the narcissist, engaging in self-reflection, and working on self-esteem and identity are also crucial components of the healing process. By addressing the underlying psychological issues and developing healthier coping mechanisms, both partners can break free from the toxic cycle of codependency and narcissism and work towards creating more balanced and fulfilling relationships.

From Entanglement to Empowerment: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self

The journey towards self-discovery and empowerment following a codependent-narcissist relationship requires recognition of the emotional entanglement and active steps towards reclaiming one’s authentic identity and values. This may involve:

  • Becoming self-aware
  • Validating oneself
  • Reparenting and nurturing oneself
  • Using affirmations
  • Ceasing overly helping others
  • Establishing boundaries

By focusing on personal growth and self-care, individuals recovering from codependency can begin to rebuild their sense of self-worth and establish healthier relationships with more balanced dynamics.

In addition to individual self-discovery, psychotherapy can also play a crucial role in healing from a codependent-narcissist relationship. Therapeutic techniques that can help individuals gain insight into their behavior patterns, create healthier coping mechanisms, and form boundaries include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Trauma-focused therapy

These techniques can provide valuable support and guidance in the healing process.

By engaging in these therapeutic modalities, both codependents and narcissists can work towards healing and recovery, breaking free from the toxic cycle of codependency and narcissism.

The Family Echo: How Dysfunctional Family Dynamics Breed Codependency and Narcissism

Dysfunctional family dynamics can profoundly affect an individual’s self-esteem, emotional regulation, and relationship dynamics, potentially fostering the emergence of codependency and narcissism. Narcissistic parenting, substance abuse, and dysfunctional attachment styles may contribute to the emergence of codependent and narcissistic patterns of relating. As a result, the toxic cycle of codependency and narcissism may echo through generations, perpetuating the destructive dance of emotional entanglement and power imbalance.

Research has indicated that individuals with narcissistic personality traits are prone to developing substance use disorders. Substance misuse may be used by narcissists as a way to gain attention and cope with their need for admiration and approval. 

Furthermore, substance abuse in households with narcissistic parents can further exacerbate the existing negative dynamics, intensifying the dysfunctional family roles and contributing to a toxic and unstable environment for all family members.

The Role of Substance Abuse in Perpetuating Negative Behaviour

Substance abuse can exacerbate the negative behaviors associated with codependency and narcissism, further complicating family dynamics. In households with narcissistic parents, substance abuse can intensify the dysfunctional family roles, such as the narcissist, the enabler, the golden child, and the scapegoat. Children growing up in these environments may experience significant psychological effects, including emotional and behavioral problems, low self-esteem, trust issues, and an increased risk of substance abuse in later life.

Addressing the role of substance abuse in codependency and narcissism is vital for breaking the toxic cycle and promoting healthier family dynamics. By seeking professional help, engaging in therapy and support groups, and focusing on self-care and self-compassion, individuals can begin to heal from the effects of substance abuse and its role in perpetuating negative behaviors. In turn, this can help to create a more stable and nurturing environment for all family members.

Cognitive Empathy vs. Affective Empathy: Understanding the Narcissist’s Emotional Landscape

Distinguishing between cognitive and affective empathy can offer a deeper understanding of the emotional experiences of narcissists during therapy. Cognitive empathy involves comprehending how others think and feel, while affective empathy involves experiencing and expressing another person’s emotions. Narcissists, however, often struggle with both cognitive and affective empathy, which can impede their ability to genuinely connect with others and foster healthier interpersonal relationships.

In therapy, the objective is to assist narcissists in cultivating a more profound and sincere sense of empathy, which can lead to enhanced interpersonal functioning and emotional development. However, it is important to note that the degree to which narcissists can cultivate empathy through therapy may differ depending on their readiness and motivation to change.

By understanding the nuances of cognitive and affective empathy, therapists can better assist narcissists in navigating their emotional landscape and working towards healthier relationships.


In conclusion, the dance between codependents and narcissists is a complex and often destructive one, characterized by emotional entanglements, power imbalances, and the struggle for validation. By understanding the intricate dynamics of codependent-narcissist relationships, individuals can begin to break free from the toxic cycle, reclaim their authentic selves, and work towards fostering healthier relationships. With the help of therapy, support networks, and self-discovery, both codependents and narcissists can navigate the stormy waters of their emotional landscape and move towards a brighter, more balanced future.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the 4 D’s of narcissism?
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