Why are narcissists and codependents attracted to one another?
There IS a toxic and magnetic attraction between narcissists and codependents – but WHY? Ross Rosenberg, the author of The Human Magnet Syndrome, explains the truth about why narcissists and codependents are so attracted to each other and why, if you don’t take the time to heal before getting into another relationship, you’ll end up with another narcissist.
Plus, we’ll talk about the chemical attraction between SLDs and narcissists and why we are so likely to want to stick around, as well as why the words codependent and empath are not synonymous.
How does attachment theory relate to the Human Magnet Syndrome?
“I rely on attachment theory in order to explain the process,” he said. “(To put it) simply, attachment theory explains that our psychological health or ill health is caused by the manner in which we were loved, respected, and cared for during our critical ages of development, between birth and up to eight years old.”
“And if we endure psychological harm. abuse, neglect, mental manipulation – or we are deprived or neglected or abandoned, we don’t get to attach to a nurturing parent figure,” Rosenberg continued. “Without that attachment, we don’t develop the potential to be healthy high functioning adults. So if you were raised by a narcissist and loved conditionally and had to mold yourself into the type of trophy the narcissist needed in order to get anything, you will not have experienced positive and nurturing attachment.”
That, he said, will impact your psychological health, while your adulthood experiences would also have an impact on your adult relationship choices.
“So attachment theory explains through my Human Magnet Syndrome book why SLDs or codependents always choose narcissists – because they only experience that type of love,” Rosenberg said, adding that SLDs or codependents tend to respond to and are attracted to people that fit what he calls the relationship template that they experience in their childhood.
“That’s how chemistry is,” he said. “If a child who was brought up by the pathological narcissist and who did not attach in a way that would be healthy is going to find the narcissist as familiar and paradoxically safe because they know and have experienced their whole life living with that person and they know what to do.”
Why did Ross Rosenberg create the term human magnet syndrome?
The book cover on Rosenberg’s The Human Magnet Syndrome is symbolic, he told me, as it features hearts coming together and trapped within barbed wire.
“I came up with the term to explain why codependents or SLDs predictably reflexively fall in love with narcissists,” he said. “Talking about attachment, there it is the matching of relationship templates.”
What is the narcissist/codependent relationship template?
Rosenberg explained that most codependents or SLDs would have an intrinsic understanding that to love someone and to be loved, “you have to be silent, acquiescent, constantly vulnerable, and moldable.”
“You also need to be constantly interested in a person who’s not interested in you,” he said. “That’s just the way you understand relationships.”
“And then a narcissist understands relationships (will believe that) that people want to hear what they have to say. (People want) to enjoy their accomplishments; that they want to be told how great a person is – which of course is not true – but that’s what narcissists think.”
“So when the two people meet their opposites, one gives away love, respect, and caring. And (the other) one needs all the love, respect, and caring, these two opposites, through this unconscious process – chemistry – come together almost all the time,” Rosenberg said.
Codependents, Pathological Narcissists and Chemistry
“Codependents, SLDs, will almost always be attracted to through chemistry to a narcissist and narcissist to a codependent,” Rosenberg explained.
“That pull is the attraction process of two people feeling so comfortable,” he said. “Like a dance partnership, the leader needs a follower, the follower needs a leader, and the recognition of that on unconscious levels brings them together like two magnets.”
Rosenberg explained that he chose to reconceptualize and then rename codependency in a way that actually makes sense to people who are suffering from it. He wanted to identify the problem (of codependency) so that people could intuitively connect with and understand and offer them direction on what to do to deal with it.
Are codependents (SLDs) blameless victims of pathological narcissists?
“One of the things that sets me apart from most of my contemporaries talking about the subject is (that) I hold SLDs or codependents responsible,” Rosenberg, a former SLD himself, explained, adding that, “You cannot solve a problem if you share the responsibility, don’t know it or are in denial about it, and want to just blame the perpetrator.”
He said that focusing on being a victim is not helpful in recovery, so taking responsibility for your part in the relationship is key.
Are all codependents empaths?
Rosenberg strongly stated that not all codependents are empaths. And that, in fact, there’s no true connection between the two. So to understand the difference between empaths and codependents; first, we need to define empathy and codependency.
What is empathy?
There are three different types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. Emotional and compassionate empathy seem to be intrinsic for most people, and anyone can learn cognitive empathy. So an adult empath would be able to logically understand what a person feels and be emotionally affected by what they feel. That person’s emotions would also move them to take action to help them deal with what they feel.
What is codependency?
Codependency is when you are dependent on another person in unhealthy ways. In most cases, it seems to be affected by some form of trauma that often occurred in childhood; it is considered a behavioral condition as it inhibits your ability to have a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship. A good synonym for codependency might actually be relationship addiction because codependents tend to be perpetually involved in one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive relationships.
Rosenberg on Codependency vs. Empathy
“I completely do not support the term empaths (in relation to codependency) because it’s a candy-coated term that makes the SLD or codependent feel good about themselves, when in fact SLDs have significant psychological problems. Significant!” Rosenberg said. “Without the resolution of that. they will always choose the narcissist – and they will over and over again.”
“They will almost always stay with the narcissist despite the fact that they’re not happy and they’re being hurt,” he said. “And then if they should leave or should be left, they will then choose another narcissist,” he said.
This is why it is so important to understand that self-love deficit disorder or codependency is a psychological disorder that is motivated through volition, he explained, adding that while there’s absolutely no excuse for abuse, as long as people play the victim card and look to books and videos that focus on demonizing narcissists and glorifying “the sacrificing poor SLD or codependent, no one gets better.”
“It holds them accountable in a non-judgmental empathetic, and compassionate way,” he said. “In my book, I explained this is why you are an SLD or codependent. You were hurt badly, and until you saw that trauma that happened when you were a child, you’re going to play out that script for the rest of your life.”
How can you learn more about healing after narcissistic abuse from Ross Rosenberg?
If you’re interested in hearing more about what Ross Rosenberg has to say about healing after narcissistic abuse, please subscribe to this channel and stay tuned for the rest of this series. Of course, you can also visit the Self-Love Institute, get his book, The Human Magnet Syndrome, on Amazon, and attend his upcoming 50 Shades of Pathological Narcissism event.
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And there would be little tells that not everyone would notice – dog whistles in a way. For example, when we first started dating, he would say certain things when he flirted with me that may have sounded innocent if you didn’t know he was flirting. For example, when I would say, “I’m sorry,” he’d say, “You’re gonna be.”
Now if you didn’t know this was a flirt line, you might just think he was trying to be funny. But I knew what was really going on. And when I’d witness him playing this game with my friends or other random women, it caused a lot of conflict. I would not say anything in the moment, but would later confront him. At that point, I’d be told I was crazy and he’d start tearing me down, telling me I was always too jealous and that if I was going to accuse him of it, he might as well go ahead and do it. Of course, this only led me to feel less secure in the relationship and got me walking on eggshells – exactly where he wanted me.
During our relationship, I’d catch him in a lot of somewhat compromising situations, which he’d always explain away. It drove me insane.
I became so obsessed and jealous that I started watching his eyes to see what he was looking at all the time. In hindsight, I’m shocked that I allowed myself to act this way, but it was such a pervasive way to manipulate me that I almost couldn’t see past it. So much so that it followed me into my next relationship and caused drama that didn’t need to be happening. I was eventually able to move past it, thankfully, but it took much longer than I would’ve liked. Can you relate?
Did you have a narcissistic ex who always wanted to make you jealous? Did they seem to constantly have random “mysterious” people to text, or spend a little too much time watching or reading dicey stuff on the internet, or maybe have their eyes on your “competition” too often?
Something you should know: If the narcissist is purposely making you jealous, this is yet another form of abuse. But why do they do this? What in the world could they get out of making you feel jealous? You might be surprised that they get more than one benefit out of it. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – why narcissists seem to want to make you jealous and what you can do to stop feeling that way.
Examples: How Narcissists Try to Make You Jealous
First, let’s talk about some of the ways that narcissists might try to make you jealous, outside of the example I shared. Some common narcissist tactics to incite jealousy might include:
Choosing to spend time without you, doing whatever they like, and not telling you who they’re with, or telling you and not caring how you feel about the company they keep.
Blatant flirting with people of the opposite (or same) sex, whatever y’all are into.
Gawking at people who have certain qualities you don’t, and pointing them out to you, or just ignoring you while they look.
Making you feel invisible.
Constantly talking about their exes and how certain parts of their relationship were amazing, even getting into their intimate experiences in detail.
Sharing too many details about their new supply when your relationship does end, or about the person they’re cheating with this week.
Making sure to tell you and everyone else how much better their relationship is with the new supply than their relationship with you turned out to be.
Suddenly changing their appearance in some way – they lose weight or start dressing better, for example. You wonder who they’re trying to impress.
Where they used to give you all of their attention, they suddenly start to give attention to anyone and anything, while now totally ignoring you. This might be their phone or another human, or certain online people and websites that might bother you.
Ignoring your calls and texts when they’re not with you, leaving you to wonder what they are doing and who they are with.
These are just a few examples, of course. But why do they do this?
Why do narcissists want to make you jealous?
Let’s discuss the reasons that narcissists enjoy making you jealous.
1. The Narcissist Needs to Have Power Over You
You may already know how desperately narcissists feel the need to maintain control over you and other people in their lives. By intentionally making you jealous, they sort of gain control over your thoughts. You become obsessed with figuring out what they’re thinking about, what they’re looking at. You can think of nothing else. Now, the narcissist has exactly what they want: you, focused almost completely on them as you are attempting to be perfect for them. In the meantime, you’re torturing yourself and feeling threatened by everyone who seems to have whatever quality it is the narcissist seems to want but that you just don’t have. Plus, making you jealous is just a way to give them extra power to feed their ego.
2. The Narcissist Needs to Feel Secure in the Relationship
Your average narcissist might seem to exude confidence, but under all of that bravado is often a desperately insecure person. One thing they desperately seek is some level of security in their relationships. They want to know for sure that you want them and that you won’t leave them. So if they can make you feel and behave like you feel jealous, it is just one confirmation that you want them and that you are not going anywhere. This makes them feel secure in the relationship, which is ironic considering it leaves you feeling quite the opposite.
3. The Narcissist is Testing You
Narcissists have a way of wanting to test you constantly. Whether they’re trying to test their bond with you to see how strong it really is or they’re trying to see if you’ll retaliate (or something else), this is a common reason they want to make you feel jealous. They want to know if you REALLY love them, and often, if you don’t react strongly enough, they will up their game and push even harder to get the reaction they so strongly desire from you. Of course, once you do react, they get the confirmation they need – they feel that you really do want them and you have “passed their test.” Even so, they will never let you feel like you’ve passed. In fact, they’ll probably complain that you’re SO jealous and controlling that they can barely breathe. Manipulation at its finest.
4. The Narcissist Wants Revenge
Let’s say someone flirted with you at the checkout counter at the store, or the server gave you some free bread or something at the restaurant you went out to last week. Your narcissist, in their insecurity, most likely felt very threatened by this, even if you didn’t react. And God help you if you were even remotely friendly to the person in question – this would lead the narcissist to spiral into the need to get revenge on you. If they have any reason to feel jealous or threatened, then their first move would be to intentionally make you jealous in an effort to get some sort of revenge. Again, even if what you did was completely innocent, it would not matter. Even just by ignoring them when you have to work or by smiling at a stranger, you might be flirting or at least trying to make them jealous as far as they’re concerned. Remember: It does not take much to make the narcissist jealous. And this leads them to try to get you back by making you jealous, too.
5. Narcissists Need Narcissistic Supply
It is a known fact that beneath that grandiose front that most narcissists have that they are deeply insecure. They have very low self-esteem and they need a partner for approval. In fact, many narcissists feel invalid without a partner to prop them up. So, even if they’re not being faithful to you, they want to be sure you’ll be faithful to them. Since they don’t see you as a real person, they don’t see any reason to be faithful, ironically enough. And a sure way to confirm that you really do care about them is if they purposely make you jealous and you react as a result of it. Your jealous reaction feeds their ego and gives them a false sense of pride. This is what we call narcissistic supply, and the narcissist needs it like a vampire needs blood.
6. Narcissists Need to Tear You Down
A lot of us do our best to conform to the narcissist’s rules in these toxic relationships because we grow tired of fighting and begging them to understand us. So we kind of numb out and we do what we have to do to get through the days. This can reduce the level of drama in the relationship significantly, and the narcissist gets bored. They need something to tear you down about, so they will often use jealousy to incite conflict in the relationship. See, the feeling of being jealous of your partner paying attention to other people can be likened to an evolutionary behavior. Back in the caveman days, we needed our partners for safety, security and to be able to have children – all of which are very primal instincts and needs. The narcissist probably doesn’t realize it cognitively, but by making you jealous, not only are they playing on one of our biggest human fears (the fear of abandonment), but they are also giving themselves a sure-fire way to make us feel bad (or worse) about ourselves. Then we begin to obsess and research and figure out what is wrong with US – and that definitely takes our focus off what is wrong with them.
So how do you deal with this?
What can you do to stop feeling jealous when the narcissist is actively cultivating jealousy in your relationship?
Truthfully, the best option is to end the relationship and start over. But I know that isn’t always an immediate option. Still, outside of simply going no contact and trying not to feel connected to them in this way, anything else you do will simply be a bandaid that will only temporarily relieve your stress.
You’ve got to remember something really important here. Any narcissist in your life never has the best intentions for you. It is all about them, all the time.
So, in general, you can try to focus on building your own self-esteem, and on not reacting to the narcissist’s attempts to make you feel jealous. You can attempt to do a lot of things, but remember that you’re dealing with someone who just isn’t like a normal, healthy person.
Just think about it. In normal, healthy relationships, low self-esteem can affect how you feel about your partner, but in those relationships, the partner doesn’t foster your jealousy or attack you for it – instead, they will reassure you, and your jealousy will go away in time.
When your partner attacks and belittles you for feeling jealous, especially when they’ve actively fostered that jealousy in you, it should be a huge red flag for you – this is abuse. You have to recognize that the narcissist is doing this on purpose, and do your best to avoid taking it personally. With that being said, it can feel nearly impossible to stop feeling that way when you’re in the middle of it. So again, aside from becoming emotionless and just ignoring their behavior, you can work on your own self-esteem. And if you’re lucky in that process, you’ll recognize that you deserve SO much better than someone who would intentionally cause you to feel so small and insignificant.