Let’s dig into the psychology of what happens between a narcissist and a codependent in a toxic relationship. The typical toxic relationship involves trauma bonding. Learn why and how trauma bonding happens in a toxic relationship, plus the psychology of the narcissist as well as the psychology of the codependent during the relationship. And finally, we’ll touch on what it takes to heal after such a relationship.
Trauma bonding is a common condition among narcissistic abuse survivors and their abusers. Thanks to an ongoing cycle of intermittent reinforcement, many survivors of toxic relationships go through this, much like kidnapping victims and hostages do. Trauma bonding is often a bigger issue for people who also grew up in toxic and abusive homes, partially just because it feels like “normal” to them.
A narcissist, in general, is someone with a high opinion of him/herself, but when we’re talking about narcissistic abuse, we’re talking about the type of person who is toxic, verbally (and sometimes physically) abusive. They may or may not also be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. For the record, while it is not considered to be a “mental illness,” but a personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder manifests in an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is complex, but a general definition is that it is a toxic emotional and behavioral condition that makes it nearly impossible to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form and stay in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive. The term originates from Alcoholics Anonymous but fits toxic relationships surprisingly well.
How do you let go of the narcissist when you’re dealing with trauma bonding?
How can you make recovering from narcissistic abuse less painful?
I always say that when you “think like a scientist,” you can significantly reduce the pain – that’s how it worked for me! In this video, I’ll fill you in on exactly what I mean, as well as how you can do it too!
What stage of narcissistic abuse recovery healing are you in?
Do you think you’re being abused by a narcissist in a toxic relationship? Have you dealt with narcissistic abuse in the past? Are you working on narcissistic abuse recovery? If so, you’ll want to know about these resources.
“That’s when I finally got it. I finally understood. It wasn’t the thought that counted. It was the actual execution that mattered, the showing up for somebody. The intent behind it wasn’t enough. Not for me. Not anymore. It wasn’t enough to know that deep down, he loved me. You had to actually say it to somebody, show them you cared. And he just didn’t. Not enough.” ~ Jenny Han
Relationships are hard sometimes, and this is especially true when they’re toxic. And many of us didn’t grow up with a great example.
So, unless your parents had a great relationship and made a point of teaching you the tricks of the trade, you’ve had to go it alone – and you might not have had the best luck in relationships up until now.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve learned the hard way that just “winging it” isn’t always the most effective way to learn something as important and potentially life-changing as relationship skills.
Toxic people are known to use several techniques for dealing with relationship conflict that can appear to be effective, but are in fact the opposite.
These techniques ultimately serve the purpose of making us feel better in the short-term at the expense of the long-term prospects of the relationship.
If your relationship involves the following behaviors, you might love a toxic person.
Common Toxic Relationship Moves
Using gifts to fix everything. Get caught having an affair? Take your partner on a tropical vacation. Are they mad at you for allowing your mother to move in without a discussion? Let them get that sports car they’ve always wanted. Covering up relationship issues with money and exciting diversions doesn’t last. The same problem comes back, only a little stronger next time.
Relying on hints as an effective form of communication. Sometimes, your partner won’t get the message. Other times, they get the message but resent that you’re dropping hints instead of stating your desires directly and when they’re toxic, they’ll often pretend not to “get it” or blatantly ignore the truth when it’s convenient for them. In a healthy relationship, both partners should take responsibility for their wants and needs and state them clearly. If you feel afraid to do this, you might be dealing with an abusive narcissist.
Threatening the relationship. Only the most insecure people would tolerate this tactic for long. When someone threatens to end the relationship as a way of getting what they want, they destabilize the relationship. It puts the other person on notice that they can’t do anything wrong without the possibility of being abandoned. Using drama to get your way increases the intensity and frequency of drama in the overall relationship. Sure, this behavior might help your partner get what they want in the short-term, but there is a huge price to pay – and it’s you who will be paying it. Don’t tolerate this!
Passive-aggressive behavior. This is another way your partner might be dropping hints in order to manipulate you, only the hint is less clear, and you’re being punished in the process. Rather than telling you what they want or need from you, they choose to punish you and make you guess what’s wrong. It’s unhealthy and it puts your partner in a position of unearned power and entitlement. It pushes you into a place of almost servitude.
Tit for tat. You’re familiar with this one. You screwed up by not attending your partner’s last softball game, so they use this as an excuse to skip out on the barbecue with your family. Whenever someone is using past negative events (or even exaggerating and embellishing on not-so-negative events) as an excuse to behave poorly or to in some way manipulate you, you will resent them. And on the other side of this coin, your partner might be keeping track of their so-called good deeds and refusing to do anything else for you until you’ve somehow evened the score. Clearly, this doesn’t create an environment that fosters genuinely healthy relationship growth.
Failing to take responsibility for their own happiness. Does your partner blame you for their own unhappiness or discontent? Do they blame you for their own negative emotions? If you go out with your friends for a night on the town, does your partner pout and blame you for making them feel bad? This is a good example of codependence. You are not responsible for managing your partner’s emotions. Supporting your partner emotionally is entirely different than being blamed for their feelings.
Letting go of toxic people is an act of self-care. – Karen Salmansohn
Are you in a relationship that involves someone who emotionally, mentally or physically damages you? Do you feel like a shell of your former self since becoming involved with this person? After you spend time with this person, do you feel energized and refreshed, or do you feel drained and exhausted?
While toxic relationships are both damaging and devastating to those who are involved in them, they have a much deeper effect than most people realize. Despite popular opinion, most victims of toxic relationships are far from your standard “victim-type” personality; in fact, most are intelligent, attractive and capable. This is part of what attracts the toxic partner.
Are you in a relationship with someone who is making you miserable?
Do you ever feel drained when you spend time with that person?
Do you often find yourself feeling tired and unmotivated or even sort of paralyzed?
Do you find yourself putting that person’s needs before your own?
Do you often feel shocked by someone’s disrespectful behavior?
Does someone in your life make you feel like you don’t matter or like you’re not as important as they are?
Have you ever described the way you feel as emotionally “dead” or numb (or something similar)?
Have you ever found yourself questioning your own sanity?
Have you started to think you’re just not good enough?
What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship is similar to a dysfunctional relationship but less repairable, often due to at least one partner being unable or unwilling to change and/or take responsibility for their wrongdoings. When you’re in a toxic relationship, you’ll find that it involves more negativity than positivity. Most importantly, a toxic relationship does not emotionally support one or both of the people involved. A toxic relationship will also often involve resentment, contempt, communication problems and varying forms of physical, emotional and psychological abuse.
Being involved with a toxic person (or a narcissist) in a toxic relationship will lead to a serious loss of self and a significantly reduced ability to be happy, healthy and fulfilled in your life. These relationships often feel empty or one-sided and leave one or both partners feeling codependent and miserable.
Can a toxic relationship be fixed?
While dysfunctional relationships can often be repaired, toxic ones are less likely to be worth the trouble of trying. That’s because while it does theoretically seem that narcissists and toxic people are capable of personal growth and change, it is rarely seen. So, while most narcissists COULD change, they most often will not, at least not long-term.
In this video, the QueenBeeing coaches share their advice on how to find out if your relationship has become toxic. Are you with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder? You can find out, right here.
What causes toxic relationships?
I know, you’re probably asking yourself, “How did I end up in a toxic relationship?” I get it. It’s almost always a shock when you realize you’re in a toxic relationship, and this may be due to the fact that you’re a strong, intelligent and attractive person who generally reads people like a book. But in many cases, you also had a difficult or traumatic childhood, whether it was a result of abuse, neglect or some other sort of situational trauma.