Narcissism is a behavioral disorder that is manifested by the need for admiration and a sense of importance. People who have this trait think themselves superior, and aren’t able to feel empathy for others. However, behind the mask of self-confidence there actually hides a very low self-esteem and vulnerability to criticism.
Narcissists are usually portrayed very negatively, as those persons who are in a relationship with a narcissist suffer a lot. The truth is, however, that narcissists have developed a survival mechanism to function in their social relationships due to deep trauma and injuries that occurred in their childhood. It is very possible that they have suffered abandonment, neglect by their parents or other forms of emotional deprivation. At maturity, narcissists attract people in their lives who have suffered just as much, but have developed different mechanisms of interaction – they have become codependent. An unconscious yearning for love and understanding will drive such persons into a relationship with a narcissistic individual, right where love can’t be found.
The relationship between a codependent and a narcissistic person is one of the most harmful ones possible. They feel a mutual attraction towards each other due to their desire of inner healing, but end up causing each other even more suffering. One of the most significant reasons for this is that neither of them has the personal experience of what it means to love and to be loved, or to feel safe with someone familiar.
Most psychologists urge the codependent person in such a relationship to give up hope that they can change a narcissist, as these are generally very resistant to self-assessment. If they started evaluating themselves, they would relive the painful aspects of their identity, so they rather prefer to hide behind masks, the illusion of self-worth and devaluing others.
The solution for codependent people is to focus on their healing. The first step would be to figure out whether or not you are in this dynamic, and whether you are one of those people who get into relationships with narcissists.
Unfortunately it is quite difficult, especially in the early stages of a relationship, to distinguish between self-esteem and narcissism. However, here are some signs that may give you food for thought, See if your partner is characterized by many of the following statements:
- Upset or angry when criticized.
- Only cares for own needs.
- Only gives you attention when this suits his or her needs.
- Makes you think he or she is always right.
- Searches constant attention and confirmation.
- Exaggerates achievements.
- Doesn’t talk to his or her friends about you.
- Is willing to enter into intense arguments and fights.
- Spends most of his or her time in activities of addiction or amusement; some narcissists are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
- Has a traumatic family history.
- Makes you feel like being an accessory.
Other questions to ask yourself about your relationship:
Do you feel unloved, unappreciated and invisible in this relationship?
– Is there reciprocity in the relationship, or you are the person who always gives, while the other one only receives?
– Can you become a better yourself in this relationship, or do not feel you shouldn’t expose yourself too much, so he or she doesn’t feel threatened?
– Is there reciprocity in terms of vulnerability in your relationship? Can you talk about your true and sincere feelings?
– Can you talk about your feelings to that person, or you feel constantly “on guard” and fear that you’ll lose him or her?
– Has he or she ever used your feelings to blackmail you?
– Can this person give you empathy and understanding, or just sympathy, which makes you feel inferior to him or her?
– Does this person bring out the best in you? Do you feel good about yourself in his or her presence?
– When problems arise between the two of you that need to be discussed, is this person self-reflective about his or her behavior?
– Is this person capable of self-awareness and self-assessment?
– Do you feel free to develop healthy boundaries with this person? Do you feel like if you distance yourself from this person, you might be at risk of losing him or her?
– Does this person always criticize you for your limitations, or he or she values what you bring into this relationship?
Usually narcissists prefer long-distance relationships or relationships with married people, because that they perceive any relationship as an inconvenience. If you are in such a relationship or an affair, it is where you wonder if this person shows traits of narcissism.
The narcissistic-codependent dynamics is rather common, and it results in some very painful knots. If you suspect you’re in such a relationship, it is recommended to seek the help of a psychologist.