Codependency and narcissistic abuse go hand in hand.  The codependent needs to feel wanted and needed.  The narcissist desperately wants and needs that level of attention and commitment to meeting their needs.

It is a toxic dance though.  Where no love can survive.

“Dear Codependent Partner, I will never say these words to you in reality because if I did it would reveal how I deliberately exploit the world for the only thing I care about – my benefit. Since I only care about myself, I need you to carry all the load of the relationship while I reap the benefits of it. When I say I love you, I really do mean it though. I love how hard you work for me. I love that I have forced you to compromise about everything to keep me happy. I love that you do everything for me but you have given up expecting me to return that courtesy. I love that I have the power to reduce you to tears, make you feel small and insignificant, and gloat in how powerful that makes me feel. I know you let me walk over you, and I keep pulling you down so that you don’t realize you deserve a lot better than what I give you. I love how I can blame you for gas-lighting or just call you crazy when you bring up things I don’t want to discuss. Also, I love that I can keep expecting more and more from you while you keep lowering your expectations of me. It makes my life so easy when you let me walk all over you! I love how I can take your innocence and kindness for granted, using it for my thrill and pleasure. I love how I can always keep all your focus on alleviating my pain and discomfort. Nothing ever is enough; I don’t feel loved enough, respected, admired and cared for enough. And all of this misery I dump on you to fix. It is not that I don’t know that you need support, love and care; I just don’t think it is as important as my feelings. I am the priority for the both of us, and that is really all I want. It is never about the closeness, empathy or connection you want. It is never about how I hurt you. It is always about how I can control you and make you feel like you are not doing enough. I am superior to you, and I love you as one loves a precious possession. You are just like all the other nice things I want to own and I love the envy others feel when they see you on my arm. Since I am constantly hurting others, my brain suffers from self-loathing 24/7. This is why I love spending time with you. I love feeding off your emotional support, and I love hating you for needing you constantly. I love blaming you for my own narcissistic tendencies. I love you because I am scared and tired of the self-loathing inside me. All the feelings I am too scared to have, the neediness, the emotions, everything I call you weak and crazy for, makes me love you because I feed off of you. I love you because I can treat you like a punching bag when that deep weak part of me threatens to open up. You keep all of it at bay and I take you for granted because I hate that I need you as much as I do. Of course the day you realize all of this, you will leave me. So, I will never tell you, and I will always keep you hoping that I will become a better person, but in reality I never will. Only if you walk away from me, will my complacency ever get displaced. The day you stop caring, I will fall and I will learn my lesson. Yet I know that day will never come, because I keep you so tangled up in my concerns that you can never think about yours. And that is just perfect for me. With my endless self-love, Your Narcissist Other.”
- Author unknown

How does codependency manifest?

Stages of Codependency

Codependency is chronic with enduring symptoms that are also progressive, meaning that they worsen over time without intervention and treatment. Often codependency begins in childhood due to a dysfunctional family environment. It becomes identifiable and problematic in relationships. According to research there are three identifiable stages leading to increasing dependence on the person or relationship and corresponding loss of self-focus and self-care.

Early Stage

Codependents can become obsessed with the relationship and the person.  This is matched by the narcissist who idolises them and puts them on a pedastool.  This lovebombing can cause the codependent partner to deny, minimise or rationalise problematic behavior, doubt our perceptions, fail to maintain healthy boundaries, and give up our own friends and activities.

Middle Stage

Anxiety, guilt, and self-blame increase. Self-esteem plummets as the codependent gives more and more into the relationship, but does not receive much back.  The narcissist has withdrawn their affection and attention.  The devaluation stage is in full swing.

Frustration, disappointment, and resentment grows. The codependent may attempt to change their loved one by nagging, blaming, or manipulating them. They may lie about their loved one’s behaviour to family and friends thus increasing their isolation and the reliance upon the relationship to fulfill all of their needs.

Late Stage

Now the emotional and behavioral symptoms begin to affect the codependents mental and emotional health. They may experience stress-related disorders, such as digestive and sleep problems, headaches, muscle tension or pain, eating disorders, TMJ, allergies, sciatica, and heart disease.  Obsessive-compulsive behavior or other addictions increase, as well as lack of self-esteem and self-care. Feelings of hopelessness, anger, depression, and despair grow.  At this point the narcissist has completely discarded the codependent and the behaviour of the narcissist is labelled as crazy, unstable, obsessive and abusive.  In fact it is a trauma bond and the codependent partner needs helps to recover.

No matter what stage you are at, support is available.  Janine, our narcissistic abuse and codependency recovery specialist therapist can help you untangle the relationship, recover yourself from the trauma bond and begin to break the cycle of codependency.  Book a free consultation with Janine to find out the next steps for your recovery.

Symptoms of Codependency

The following is a list of symptoms of codependency and being in a codependent relationship. You don’t need to have them all to qualify as codependent.

  • Low self-esteem.
    Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only a disguise — they actually feel unlovable or inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame.Guilt and perfectionism often go along with low self-esteem. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself.
  • People-pleasing.
    It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.
  • Poor boundaries.
    Boundaries are sort of an imaginary line between you and others. It divides up what’s yours and somebody else’s, and that applies not only to your body, money, and belongings, but also to your feelings, thoughts and needs. That’s especially where codependents get into trouble. They have blurry or weak boundaries. They feel responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else.Some codependents have rigid boundaries. They are closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to get close to them. Sometimes, people flip back and forth between having weak boundaries and having rigid ones.
  • Reactivity.
    A consequence of poor boundaries is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words, because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realize it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.
  • Caretaking.
    Another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone else has a problem, you want to help them to the point that you give up yourself. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.
  • Control.
    Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. Everyone needs some control over events in their life. You wouldn’t want to live in constant uncertainty and chaos, but for codependents, control limits their ability to take risks and share their feelings. Sometimes they have an addiction that either helps them loosen up, like alcoholism, or helps them hold their feelings down, like workaholism, so that they don’t feel out of control.Codependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, codependents are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.
  • Dysfunctional communication.
    Codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Of course, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, this becomes a problem. Other times, you know, but you won’t own up to your truth. You’re afraid to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset someone else. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay or tell someone what to do. Communication becomes dishonest and confusing when you try to manipulate the other person out of fear.
  • Obsessions.
    Codependents have a tendency to spend their time thinking about other people or relationships. This is caused by their dependency and anxieties and fears. They can also become obsessed when they think they’ve made or might make a “mistake.”Sometimes you can lapse into fantasy about how you’d like things to be or about someone you love as a way to avoid the pain of the present. This is one way to stay in denial, discussed below, but it keeps you from living your life.
  • Dependency.
    Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. They’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship, because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped.
  • Denial.
    One of the problems people face in getting help for codependency is that they’re in denial about it, meaning that they don’t face their problem. Usually they think the problem is someone else or the situation. They either keep complaining or trying to fix the other person, or go from one relationship or job to another and never own up the fact that they have a problem.Codependents also deny their feelings and needs. Often, they don’t know what they’re feeling and are instead focused on what others are feeling. The same thing goes for their needs. They pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy. Although some codependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy.
  • Problems with intimacy.
    By this I’m not referring to sex, although sexual dysfunction often is a reflection of an intimacy problem. I’m talking about being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship. Because of the shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left. On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness.
  • Painful emotions.
    Codependency creates stress and leads to painful emotions. Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure; feeling trapped by being close or being alone. The other symptoms lead to feelings of anger and resentment, depression, hopelessness, and despair. When the feelings are too much, you can feel numb.

(from: https://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-of-codependency#1)

No matter what stage you are at, support is available.  Janine, our narcissistic abuse and codependency recovery specialist therapist can help you untangle the relationship, recover yourself from the trauma bond and begin to break the cycle of codependency.  Book a free consultation with Janine to find out the next steps for your recovery.