Codependency – Narcissist Trap

It’s a Trap!

Understand the connection between a codependent and narcissist. Learn the trap codependents walk into over and over again. It’s a difficult trap but it’s possible to break free.

graphic of a person falling in a hole. Text on the left that reads Codependency and Narcissism, Escaping the Narcissist Trap

What is Codependency?

Codependency is defined by the Webster Dictionary as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.

The term “codependent” is typically identified with Alcoholics Anonymous describing how family members or loved ones interfere in the recovery process by over helping or overprotecting.

Basic signs of a codependent person are someone who feels responsible for other people’s feelings, problems, and behaviors to the point of ignoring their own. Codependents in general, are willing to sacrifice their emotional, mental, and physical health in order to take care of their loved ones.

Codependency, however, does not just happen to those who love someone struggling with addiction. Individuals can become codependent for a variety of reasons. Because codependents are described as people pleasers and have fixer personalities, they are a perfect complement to someone who prefers to take the role as a taker and a controller.

In walks the narcissist…

“Because feeling needed is mistaken for being loved, they experience a wealth of distorted “love” in relationships with narcissists.”

Ross rosenberg

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism is typically defined as the opposite of codependency.

A narcissist is excessively involved with self, as someone who feels entitled to place their own feelings, needs, and desires above anyone else in their life, and who lacks compassion or empathy for other people.

Narcissists and codependents may seem like polar opposites, but they share the same core symptoms, including:

  • Denial
  • Shame
  • Lack of proper boundaries
  • Feel the desire to control others or
  • Dependency on others in order to feel validated or to feel that they have purpose

While the narcissist appears to be completely self-centered, in reality the opposite is true. The only thing that separates them from the codependent (although most codependents do not share the same characteristics as the narcissist) is their basic lack of empathy and their sense of entitlement. Narcissists and codependents initially appear to be warm, charming, and caring in the beginning of the relationship. The agenda behind this behavior for the narcissist is to gain favor, the codependent seeks to pour into the other person. Because of this, it is easy to see why codependents and the narcissist are a match made in misery.

The codependent easily falls for the trap the narcissist sets to gain attention using their charming nature. Then, the narcissist is immediately enamored by what the codependent offers them, complete control.

The codependent will willingly sacrifice boundaries, goals, personal happiness, personal goals, and desires in order to please the narcissist. All while the narcissist lavishes in the feeling of attention and feeling of being everything to the codependent.

The Complete Trap

Once the narcissist has won over the codependent, or the other way around, the narcissist sees no further need to be charming. Their trap has worked, they have won over the love, affection, sacrifice, and care of the codependent. The narcissist feels entitled to them.

The codependent now finds themselves in an all-too-familiar situation… craving the love and attention the narcissist showered on them in the beginning, that they will likely never experience again.

The narcissist has moved into the abuse cycle (idealization, devaluing, and discarding). The more the codependent craves the love and attention the more they try to save or win back or even recreate the relationship they have always wanted. Thus, leaving the narcissist receiving attention they want and need without having to do anything in return.

So how does a codependent escape this trap?

First, as a codependent you must see that ending the relationship is an option.

You are not a failure because you were unable to “win” the love of the narcissist.

You are not a failure because you were unable to “win” the love of the narcissist. Saving the relationship is not your “job.” It is not your responsibility. The narcissist will see the codependent as valuable only as long as the codependent is willing to continue sacrificing their own boundaries to please them. They will continue to string the codependent along and give them just enough attention to keep their hope alive. This means that is up to you to end the relationship.

Working on issues such as low self-worth, ability to handle being alone, learning the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, are all ways that the codependent can find the courage to end the the relationship.

If you believe that any of this applies to you, do not wait until you are at your breaking point to become willing to consider ending the relationship, or seek professional help.

Seek professional help now or attend some sort of psychotherapy support group such as Codependents Anonymous. There you can learn how to set healthy boundaries and understand that the only way you will ever find or create the relationship you want and know deep down you deserve, is by doing the healing work necessary to love yourself enough to end and never get into another dysfunctional relationship again.

The codependent-narcissist trap is easy to fall into and difficult to get out of, however us codependents can break free if we are willing to ask for help and do the hard but necessary work to learn how to love and value ourselves. 

Jessica Pottorff, MS, CADC

Our newest Intern and receptionist, Jessica is a certified alcohol and drug counselor and is now pursuing her licensed mental health counselor credentials. Please use the contact form if you would like to schedule a session with her.

Jessica is passionate about working through codependency issues, guilt and shame, and spiritual issues and allows God and Scripture to empower clients to see their potential and to find their identity in Christ. Jessica is authentic and builds rapport quickly with her clients by being personable, compassionate and Christ-centered. She has a passion to help people develop a deeper relationship with God as they pursue wholeness in all areas of their lives.