Dealing with a narcissist can be challenging and emotionally draining, but what about the people who enable their behavior?
In this blog post, we delve into the world of narcissistic enablers: individuals who unknowingly (or sometimes knowingly) support and perpetuate a narcissist’s manipulative actions.
We’ll discuss how to recognize this enabling behavior, understand why it occurs, and, most importantly, provide practical tips on how to deal effectively with these enablers in your life—journey with us as we unravel the complexities behind these influential yet often overlooked accomplices to unhealthy relationships.
What Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a type of mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a strong need for admiration.
Individuals with NPD often have an exaggerated view of their abilities or accomplishments and constantly crave attention from others. This can lead to unhealthy relationships as they struggle to empathize with the feelings and needs of those around them.
Narcissists are experts at manipulating others to meet their desires–whether by exaggerating their achievements or feigning vulnerability to elicit sympathy.
Their behaviors can cause significant emotional distress for those who interact with them regularly, making relationships extremely difficult to maintain.
Narcissistic individuals might twist the version of reality in any given situation, putting themselves at the center while disregarding the impact on others.
If left unchecked, these traits may encourage codependent behavior from friends and family members who find themselves enabling narcissist patterns out of fear or misguided loyalty.
What Is A Narcissist Enabler?
A narcissist enabler is an individual who knowingly or unknowingly supports, defends, and empowers someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
These enablers may be friends, family members, coworkers, or even romantic partners of the narcissist. By overlooking the negative behaviors of a narcissist and validating their distorted version of reality, enablers unwittingly contribute to maintaining the toxic cycle in which the narcissist thrives.
The role of an enabler can take on different forms. For instance, one might constantly provide excessive admiration and attention to feed the narcissist’s inflated ego, while another might excuse away their abusive behavior as being misunderstood.
In some cases, enablers may also engage in codependent behavior patterns where they become overly reliant on pleasing and catering to the narcissist’s needs at their own expense. This can lead to unhealthy power dynamics within relationships, further perpetuating harm for both parties.
Narcissistic enablers often lack knowledge about NPD and are trapped in a vicious cycle without realizing it.
One example would be an adult child constantly feeling responsible for protecting their narcissistic parent from criticism or consequences despite enduring years of emotional manipulation from them.
As such situations unfold over time, these individuals struggle with guilt or responsibility for enabling destructive behaviors but find it difficult to break free from this dysfunctional dynamic due to fear or deep-rooted loyalty towards the manipulative figure in question.
Signs of A Narcissistic Enabler
Now you know what a narcissist enabler is, it’s important to be aware of the signs that indicate that you or someone you know may be playing this role in a narcissist’s life.
Common signs of an enabler include:
1) They Make Excuses For The Narcissist’s Behavior
One of the most common signs of a narcissist’s enabler is their tendency to make excuses for the narcissist’s behavior.
This can manifest in various ways, such as rationalizing abusive actions, downplaying the severity of negative behaviors, or dismissing concerns raised by others.
Instead of acknowledging that something may be wrong with how the narcissist treats people, enablers reinforce their version of reality and enable them to continue this pattern.
For instance, if a friend confides in a narcissistic enabler about being mistreated by a mutual acquaintance displaying traits consistent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), an enabling response would likely involve defending or justifying that person’s actions instead of empathizing with the victimized individual.
Excuses might range from claiming that he was under immense stress at work to blaming his poor upbringing for his hurtful words and deeds.
By making these excuses and normalizing destructive behaviors, enablers unwittingly perpetuate cycles of abuse which ultimately harms both victims and themselves.
2) They Ignore Or Minimize The Narcissist’s Flaws
Ignoring or downplaying the flaws of a narcissist is a common behavior of an enabler.
They might make excuses for their actions or try to shift the focus away from their negative qualities.
For example, if the narcissist is always late for appointments, the enabler may say things like “they’re just very busy” or “they have so many responsibilities.”
Minimizing the narcissist’s flaws can also involve drawing false equivalencies, where they compare their behavior with others to justify it.
For instance, if the narcissist insulted someone and was called out on it, the enabler might respond with, “Well, that person isn’t perfect either.” instead of acknowledging that insulting someone is unacceptable behavior.
3) They Sacrifice Their Own Needs And Wants For The Narcissist
Narcissistic enablers often sacrifice their own needs and want to ensure the narcissist feels happy and supported.
They prioritize caring for the narcissist, even if it means neglecting themselves.
This can manifest in many ways, such as canceling plans with friends or family, putting work on hold to attend to the narcissist’s demands, or making significant life decisions based on what would benefit the narcissist.
For example, a partner who is an enabler might give up their hobbies, interests, or dreams because they feel guilty for doing something that doesn’t involve the narcissist.
The enabler may also accept abusive behavior from the narcissistic partner because they believe that it’s necessary for maintaining harmony in the relationship.
Such behaviors can be destructive over time and lead to resentment and burnout for the enabler.
4) They Accept Blame Or Responsibility For The Narcissist’s Actions
One noticeable sign of a Narcissistic Enabler is that they accept blame or responsibility for the narcissist’s actions.
They often cover up their loved ones’ mistakes to ensure everything appears just fine in front of others, especially in social situations.
For example, if a narcissistic partner behaves rudely towards someone at an event, the enabler will apologize on their behalf and explain away their behavior as being stressed or overworked.
The enablers take on this role because they fear further conflict with the narcissist and believe that taking responsibility for things will prevent future arguments.
However, this pattern can have disastrous consequences since by accepting liability for actions they didn’t commit; enablers allow the narcissist to avoid accountability altogether.
5) They Make The Narcissist The Center Of Attention
Narcissistic enablers often make the narcissist the center of attention in social situations.
They might constantly talk about the narcissist, share their achievements or accomplishments, and steer conversations toward them.
This behavior reinforces the idea that everything revolves around narcissists and feeds their egos.
For example, during a family gathering, a narcissistic father may want to discuss his professional success and how much he is admired at work.
The enabler might jump in to add more praise, encourage others to ask follow-up questions, or bring attention back to him if someone else tries to speak up.
Enabling this behavior validates the belief that everything should revolve around one person, reinforcing an unhealthy dynamic where others’ opinions are dismissed.
6) They Enable The Narcissist’s Addictive Or Destructive Behaviors
Narcissistic enablers often forget that their actions are critical in fueling the narcissist’s addictive or destructive behavior.
They inadvertently contribute to the narcissist’s downward spiral by accommodating and supporting these unhealthy tendencies.
For instance, if a narcissistic friend constantly indulges in alcohol abuse or another form of addiction, an enabler may ignore the negative effects and actively prevent others from intervening or criticizing the friend’s behavior.
Additionally, enabling can lead to severe consequences for both parties involved. Enabling a codependent partner who struggles with substance abuse can result in them spiraling out of control while making it difficult for you to maintain your mental health boundaries.
7) They Deny The Negative Impact Of The Narcissist’s Behavior
A narcissistic enabler often denies the negative impact of the narcissist’s behavior.
They may downplay or dismiss concerns from others and brush aside any criticism aimed at their partner or loved one with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
In some cases, they might even justify or defend the harmful behaviors of NPD individuals.
For example, if someone complains about being abused by a partner with NPD, an enabler may suggest that the victim is too sensitive.
This denial can create a dangerous situation where abuse is perpetuated, enabling narcissists to continue harming those around them without consequences.
The enabler may rationalize this behavior by convincing themselves that they are protecting their loved one’s feelings or maintaining peace in their relationship.
However, recognizing and addressing these behaviors is crucial for supporting healthy relationships and breaking free from toxic patterns.
8) They Believe That The Narcissist Cannot Change
Narcissistic enablers may believe that their toxic partner cannot change or improve.
They might enable the narcissist’s behavior by convincing themselves and others that nothing can be done to alter them.
This belief often results in the enabler tolerating and supporting abusive or destructive actions.
This belief also limits the potential for growth, preventing any meaningful help or intervention from taking place.
Why Do People Become Narcissistic Enablers?
People become narcissistic enablers due to a variety of reasons. Here are some common motivations:
1) They Have Low Self-esteem
People with low self-esteem are more likely to become narcissistic enablers.
They may feel they do not deserve better treatment or believe that the narcissist is the only one who truly understands and loves them.
The need for validation from the narcissist can also drive enabling behavior in those with low self-esteem.
Narcissists often prey on individuals with low self-esteem, using charm, flattery, and love bombing to manipulate and control them.
The enabler may then overvalue the attention and approval they receive from the narcissist to boost their own sense of self-worth.
2) They Fear Abandonment
Narcissistic enablers may fear abandonment, which can keep them trapped in the cycle of enabling the narcissist’s behavior.
They may avoid confronting or setting boundaries with the narcissist out of fear of being abandoned or rejected by the narcissist.
This fear can be rooted in their experiences with abandonment and rejection, making it difficult to break free from enabling behavior.
Enablers’ fears are often exploited by narcissists, who use love, trust, and emotional manipulation to control their enablers into supporting their abusive actions.
3) They Feel Guilty Or Bad For The Narcissist
Enablers of narcissistic behavior can often feel guilty or feel responsible for the narcissist’s actions.
They may believe that by enabling their behaviors, they are protecting them or helping them to cope with their insecurities.
This guilt can stem from a fear of confrontation or abandonment, resulting in behavior that supports and excuses the narcissist’s harmful actions.
For example, an enabler may feel guilty when the narcissist becomes upset or angry, even due to their abusive behavior. Instead of holding them accountable for their actions, they may make excuses or try to placate them to avoid conflict.
This enabling reinforces the idea that whatever negative consequences arise from their bad behavior will be absorbed by others.
4) They Lack Boundaries
Narcissistic enablers often lack boundaries, which means they cannot establish healthy limits between themselves and the narcissist.
They may not realize where their identity ends and where the narcissist begins, making it easy for them to accept blame or responsibility for the narcissist’s actions. Enablers may struggle with saying “no” to the narcissist, even when it goes against their needs and desires.
Lacking clear boundaries can make someone susceptible to enabling a narcissist, as they may be more likely to prioritize the needs of the abuser over their well-being.
In some cases, enablers may even start adopting parts of the narcissistic behavior themselves to maintain a sense of connection with them.
For example, an enabler might become overly critical of others or exaggerate their accomplishments to mirror narcissists’ behavior.
5) They Are Codependent
Codependency is a common reason why people become narcissistic enablers.
Codependent behavior is characterized by excessive caretaking, enabling, and controlling of others at the expense of one’s own needs and wants.
In this case, codependents prioritize the narcissist’s needs over their own, often to their detriment.
Codependents tend to have low self-esteem and fear abandonment, making them vulnerable to narcissistic manipulation.
They may also feel guilty or bad for the narcissist’s behavior and believe they are responsible for fixing it.
This mindset traps them in a cycle where they enable the narcissist’s harmful behavior, reinforcing the negative pattern.
How To Deal With Narcissistic Enablers?
Dealing with narcissistic enablers can be a challenging task. It’s essential to recognize that you cannot control or change their behavior, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Set Boundaries: It’s essential to set clear boundaries with narcissistic enablers to protect yourself. This may involve limiting the time you spend with them or cutting them out of your life altogether.
- Be Direct: When communicating with narcissistic enablers, be direct and honest. Avoid sugar-coating your words or making excuses for their behavior. Stick to the facts and assert your needs firmly.
- Don’t Engage in Power Struggles: Narcissistic enablers thrive on power struggles, so avoid getting into arguments or trying to compete with them. Instead, focus on maintaining your emotional stability and refuse to engage in their manipulative tactics.
- Seek Support: Surround yourself with supportive people who can offer you a safe and understanding space to share your feelings and experiences. Therapy and support groups can also be helpful.
- Practice Self-Care: Dealing with narcissistic enablers can be emotionally draining, so prioritizing self-care is important. Engage in activities that bring you joy, eat healthily, exercise regularly, and take breaks when needed.
Final thoughts on Narcissistic Enablers
Dealing with narcissistic enablers can be a challenging and emotional experience, but it is essential to recognize the signs and take action.
Enablers may unintentionally support and validate the damaging behavior of narcissists, perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
It’s important to understand that enabling behaviors stem from deep-seated issues, such as fear of abandonment or guilt.
We can break free from this toxic dynamic by setting boundaries and holding the enabler accountable for their actions.
Remember that healing is possible when you prioritize your mental health and well-being by surrounding yourself with supportive people who bring out your best self!