When you hear someone use the word “codependent,” often the first thing you think about is someone who is in a relationship with an alcoholic or drug addict. That’s because the term was developed specifically for this kind of relationship – initially.
According to my research, the term was developed by therapists who observed that family members often took on the psychological defenses and survival behaviors of the alcoholic or drug addict, thereby extending the disease from the individual to the entire family.
Our Working Definition of Codependency
“Codependency” is defined as an unhealthy relationship where partners are overly reliant on one another. As a result, a dysfunctional pattern of living and problem-solving develops between the two.
Codependency and Narcissism in Relationships: A Toxic Combo
As you might expect, this is also a common phenomenon among people who are in relationships with narcissists. This is because the narcissist has such unreachable standards in any relationship that the “supply” is treated as an extension of the narcissist’s self, when it’s convenient – and as nothing, when it’s not.
Does that make any sense? The narcissist and the codependent have no sense of self – so they need to have a connection to someone else (the narcissistic supply) in order to sort of siphon off their energy and personality.
Are You in a Codependent Relationship with a Narcissist?
When two people have a very close relationship, it’s natural and mentally healthy to depend on each other for certain things. However, if one of you loses sight of who you are, in order to please only the other person, the relationship can become very unhealthy. One of the most troubling relationship elements is codependency.
Not sure? Ask yourself these questions – and be hones when you answer them. This will help you understand if you’ve fallen into a pattern of codependency in your relationship.
- Are you afraid to express genuine feelings to your partner? If you notice you often hold in your feelings for fear of how your partner will react, that’s a sign the relationship is not as healthy as it could be.
- If you do express feelings honestly, do you then feel guilty? Perhaps you think “I shouldn’t have said anything... it just made matters worse” after you’re open with your partner.
- Is much of your day taken up with trying to do everything for your partner? If you’re completing numerous tasks for your loved one that could easily be done by them, you might be caught up in a dysfunctional, codependent relationship. These chores are done at the detriment of your own life.
- Are you leery of asking for help from your partner? If you can’t seek assistance from your partner, it’s very frustrating. In a healthy relationship, partners freely and regularly ask for a hand.
- When you do ask for help, how does your partner react? Hopefully, your partner is open and willing to help you out whenever you ask. However, if you’re codependent, you might not feel comfortable with asking or with your partner’s response.
- Do you find yourself feeling hurt or angry because your partner doesn’t notice your needs? Although you try to take care of everything, you’re disappointed that your partner does not spontaneously see what’s going on with you. You wait and wait for your partner to recognize your needs but they rarely do.
- Do you believe you can’t have a friendship independent of your relationship? Because you’re busy doing chores and errands for your partner and he’s rarely satisfied with how you do them, you don’t have time to maintain a friendship.
- Do you have hobbies and activities to enjoy separate from your partner? To maintain a healthy individual identity, it’s important to cultivate your own hobbies and interests, apart from the relationship. If you don’t, it could be a sign of codependency.
- Do you try to control things to make yourself feel better? Because you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, you don’t want to upset your partner. Therefore, you take steps to control situations however you can.
- Would you describe your partner as needy, emotionally distant, or unreliable? These qualities often draw in partners who are seen as “caretakers.” Thus, the codependency begins.
- Do you have a perfectionistic streak and try to get things exactly right? After all, if you get things perfect, then maybe your partner will be happier, more satisfied, and less angry, disappointed, or annoyed with you. If you feel this way, your relationship is likely codependent.
- Do you trust your partner? If so, maybe your relationship is not codependent. If you wonder what you’re partner’s doing or suspect they’re not telling you the truth about something, there could be codependency in your relationship. On the other hand, there may be just some trust issues you might want to resolve.
- How is your health as it relates to stress? Often, people involved in codependent relationships experience health issues that might be related to stress like asthma, allergies, out-of-control eating, chest pain, and skin disorders. Of course, if you experience any of these symptoms, it’s wise to see your doctor.
The good news is that if you believe you’re in a codependent relationship with a narcissist now, you can begin changing your behavior right away to gain back a healthy sense of who and what you are – and that is what will lead to your healing from this abuse and pain.
Use these questions to guide you in correcting your behaviors and emotional expressions in your loving relationships – and as you grow stronger, you can work toward removing the negative influences from your life.
If you feel you need additional help, seek out a professional trained in helping those with codependency. Depending on your particular situation, you might benefit from Narcissism Support Coaching, or you might do better with a therapist. You have to decide what to do from here – if you’re not sure, check out my Narcissism Resources page.
Now it’s your turn! Are you or have you been in a co-dependent relationship with a narcissist? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.