Most of us know who is a narcissist and have met at least a few in our lives. Some of us have had the misfortune to get into a relationship with one.
On the other hand, the term “codependency” is not so well-known. It is not commonly used in everyday language. If you have met a narcissist, you probably have met a codependent person as well. You just may not have recognized the person as such because you have never heard about it.
This article delves into the topic of narcissism and codependency and offers a checklist of symptoms for you to identify both. You will find here answers to questions like “Can a narcissist be codependent?”.
Who is a narcissist?
A narcissist is a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. Narcissism is a character flaw involving a pattern of arrogant and self-centered thinking and behavior. They display a genial external personality but are selfish, demanding, and patronizing in private. They show no consideration for others and lack empathy. They have an inflated ego and an epic sense of self-importance.
A narcissist is best described as two-faced – a polite, charming, humble, and helpful person in public and an arrogant, rude, sarcastic, and critical person in private. They reserve their vicious side only to people closest to them, such as a partner or children – people they think they can control and are dependent on them emotionally, physically, or financially. Unfortunately, these are also the people who do the most for a narcissist.
Symptoms of narcissism
A narcissist is someone who is:
- A two-faced personality – different behavior in public and private
- Charming and humble in public, while insincere, deceitful, and back-stabbing in private
- Tends to blame others for their failures, disappointments, or lack of success
- Superiority complex, coupled with arrogance and rudeness
- Distort facts and lie to get what they want
- Are emotionally distant and unavailable unless it suits their agenda
- Lack empathy, especially for people they can control and abuse
- Provoke others and instigate fights and then shift the blame
- Monumental ego prevents them from admitting their mistakes
- Unreliable and irresponsible, taking undue credit for the hard work of others
- Are often addicted to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, or gambling
- May display symptoms of fantasy-prone personality and lives in a fantasy world of their own creation
- May misappropriate funds entrusted with them to support their fantasies
Who is a codependent person?
Unlike the definition for a narcissist, defining codependency is not so simple because of the variety of characteristics and behaviors involved.
One of the easiest ways to identify a codependent person is as the partner of a narcissist. Despite the hardships, trials, and tribulations of being closely associated with a narcissist, they continue in their role believing their help is needed and they are responsible for the feelings of others.
When someone is angry or upset with a codependent, they consider it as a reflection of their own failures and inadequacies. They will have difficulty focusing on their own life and try to do everything to make up for their perceived faults and insufficient acts. They continue to make excuses for the rudeness of the other person, never for once taking their own side.
The successes and happiness of a codependent are closely linked to the people they are associated with and their perceptions. They constantly seek approval, validation, reassurance, and encouragement to make them feel happy, fulfilled, and wanted.
Unfortunately, the people they associate themselves with are often narcissists. So, they end up not receiving any of the above, as narcissists lack empathy and are least likely to support their codependent partners.
Symptoms of codependence
A codependent may:
- Seek help from others to feel emotional fulfillment
- Seek approval and validation from their partners
- Need constant support and encouragement to pursue their goals
- Be clueless about how to handle people who abuse them or pull them down
- Have a distorted sense of their role in the relationship
- Be obsessed with their relationship despite complaining incessantly about their partner
- Expect their partner to sense their needs and fulfill them without being told
- Get upset when they are ignored and take a long time to recover
- Fall prey to addictions and blame them for the abusive behavior of their partner
- Wait for a knight in the shining armor to come to the rescue
Codependent vs narcissist
Narcissist and codependent relationships go hand in hand. While narcissists rarely seek help and blame others for all their problems, codependents tend to blame themselves and try to fix their own problems. Their behaviors and tendencies are so well-matched as if they are made for each other in the negative sense of the term.
Men are stereotyped as the narcissists in a relationship and women as their codependent partners. However, this need not be so. In a narcissist-codependent relationship, both partners have character flaws that prevent them from seeking help and blaming the other instead of taking steps to rectify the defects and ultimately see the situation for what it is and grow up.
Can a narcissist be codependent?
This may surprise most people as these two personalities are considered polar opposites. Codependency and narcissism run parallel in a relationship but there are times when they come together and merge. If you care to study the narcissism and codependency checklist, you will find many commonalities in their personality.
Both are far removed from the real world and are not in touch with their real feelings. They relate themselves with the identities they have created for themselves in their minds. Though dependency is often associated with a codependent, a narcissist is also dependent on the attention and adulation from others.
Narcissism and codependency have their origins in childhood trauma as a result of abuse or mistreatment. Both behaviors arise from internalized shame, helplessness, and inferiority complex though they come out in polar opposite ways. Both are in denial of their feelings and need for help. While narcissists mask their feelings with displays of anger and arrogance, codependents give priority to the needs of others over their own saying they can handle their affairs and don’t need help.
Codependents and narcissists want to control the narrative in their own way. Narcissists do nothing to hide it, while codependents manipulate, lie, engage in people-pleasing and emotional blackmail to get their way. Both groups lack communication skills and struggle to express their feelings or show respect for others.
With so many common points in their personalities, a narcissist can easily slip into the role of a codependent without even themselves noticing it. In fact, most narcissists come with overwhelming codependent traits of the need for being loved, appreciated, adored, respected, or feared.
Whether you are a narcissist or a codependent, the basic modalities for recovery remain the same. Travel down the path of introspection to get to know who you really are and what you want by removing the fake exterior persona.
To overcome codependency while continuing in a relationship with a narcissist without their active support and involvement may not be productive. Healing codependency is possible only when you detach yourself from toxic relationships and unhealthy environments. This means if your narcissist partner is not ready for the transformation, you may have to walk out of the relationship.
Codependents and narcissists can make full recovery and lead normal lives with timely and right kind of intervention.
You may also want to take a look at our guide on Strategies for Dealing with Narcissistic Mother.