One would have hoped that the reporting of different profiles in relationships might have moved on a touch in recent years. However, the polarised portrayal of the codependent-narcissist whirlwind is alive and well on blogs. Many websites make the assumption that all codependents are victims waiting in line to be abused by that “type”, waiting around the corner. “Narcissist Recovery Coaches” give the impression that all dysfunctional relationships contain this polarised view. I often have new clients who start the first session with “ I have just ended a relationship with a narcissist” after hours of diagnosis on the internet. Though this is often to describe their experience of behaviour rather than an official diagnosis. This is also not to dismiss stories of real experiences with people who have been diagnosed.

The public’s perception of narcissists is often negative, and with good reason. (At this point, it’s important to emphasize that the term “narcissist” should only be used when a person has been clinically diagnosed with NPD). Narcissism also comes in varying degrees. Most people assume they are heartless monsters who can’t “love” because they have no compassion or understanding for others. In some cases this is very true and if you have the misfortune of becoming involved with one, your life is doomed to be difficult under any circumstances.

At the very least, common knowledge tells us that codependents are more prone to becoming connected with such types than others due to the principles of human attraction. The expression “give and take” has new significance in this context. Codependents will give to change the view that they feel that others have of them. Coming from an internal mindset of not feeling good enough, being the rescuer to their fabricated view of victimhood helps them feel better about themselves. We all know how self-centered individuals might profit from this.

However, codependents also have a wide variety of techniques at their disposal to keep a partner in line. The “controlling” codependent can sometimes be a nasty, angry individual who some would struggle to distinguish from self-centredness. I have often stated in previous pieces that control is at the heart of codependency, particularly in relationships ( when alone, codependents tend to become counter dependent and are in denial about feeling independent). Though I still believe it to be true, the strategies employed by the controlling codependent take it to a whole new level. It blows wide open the idea that codependents are always victims of the nasty.

Many of the tactics employed would sit well with someone who might be classed as odious enough to be called narcissistic. A mixture of rage, silent treatment and passive aggressive behaviour can all be on the menu. Further, they keep a close eye out for any shifts in the object’s disposition or behavior that could indicate a change in the direction of mood.

You have to understand that a controlling codependent only feels safe when the partner is uncertain and the pendulum swings in his or her direction. Codependency gives the person insecure enough to mend things and please others (to their advantage) a sense that they have to control. They are in charge, agree with their spouse, and do everything they can to make it seem like everything is fine. In most cases, they would rather their partner not feel safe. As a result, they may start to worry that they may eventually be cast aside and left all alone. Many of the cases I have come across where the word “narcissist’” has been used, sometimes describe healthy partners who set boundaries and have some sense of Self. This is threatening to anyone who might see that as a danger to their overall control.

The need to control and control in a drastic manner, is a mirror of childhood dysfunction and the need at the time to manipulate the environment in order to feel secure. The sense of Self is subdued by the need to be everything for everyone in order to be validated. These tactics are taken into adulthood and used in adult relationships.

Nobody could possibly benefit from being with someone who lacks confidence in themselves. I’m currently working with a case where the aforementioned cycles have had a severe toll on a relationship. Unfortunately, we need to go in the same place we always have when codependency arises and this behavior is solidified… Childhood. The perspective of a codependent can be altered by confronting and working through their feelings of loss and abandonment, insecurity, guilt, and shame. It’s not easy, but the payoffs can be worthwhile in the end. No one can honestly claim to be “relationship-ready” until this is accomplished. The first step is realizing you have a problem… When this occurs, it’s time to take swift action to effect change. Though it is never as simple as it sounds.

Subscribe to Dr Jenner's Blog via Email

Dr Jenner creates a wealth of resources, articles and podcasts. Please subscribe to be notified.

Please Contribute