What do Codependents and Narcissists have in common?

“white swan on water” by Fabio Jock on Unsplash

Like peanut butter to jelly, like pen to paper, like the military industrial complex to the Middle East, some things just seem to naturally link with others, for better or for worse, and the relationship between the codependent and the narcissist is no different.

The codependent, the selfless soul, the one who has to save people from themselves and are always trying to please others because they cannot stomach the notion of not being loved, these people always seem very loving and that is exactly why they are always taken advantage of.

They are taken advantage of by the narcissist, the selfish, self-absorbed one, the person who has an inflated self-image and feels entitled to people’s time, talents, energy and resources. When they’re around, the codependent can see the wound inside such a soul and seeks to help.

I’m not a relationship expert but there’s something uncanny about these two. They seem to be so different but to be honest, are they not just two sides of the same coin?

The codependent does a lot in order to be loved and appreciated. The narcissist simply assumes an adoration that they may not deserve. These are really just two responses to the subconscious notion of “I am not loved.”

But it gets even deeper than that. Ultimately, another thing that these two are thinking is, “People are responsible for the feelings of others.”

Here’s the difference: The codependent thinks that they are responsible for the feelings of others and low-key hopes/believes that other people would treat them well because they treated them well. On the other hand, the narcissist believes that other people are responsible for their feelings.

They are both manipulative with the codependent’s actions going undetected to many, including themselves. They do what they do because they lack love, not because that’s really what they want to do. The narcissist, however, is famously manipulative, trying to bend people to their will though gaslighting, not respecting boundaries, etc.

“People are responsible for the feelings of others.” Is this true? I think a lot of us maybe would agree with this. I know I used to think this. But, I don’t think it is. I think people are responsible for their own feelings.

Someone could step on my toe, be rudely sarcastic or hit me. These actions will have an effect on me, just like a loving act would. However, if one were to subscribe to the idea that people are responsible for each other’s emotions, I would demand an apology. Why? Because you’re responsible for how I feel and therefore only you can resolve it.

But of course, this can’t be the case. And yet, this is how many of us live. “You hurt me, so you have to make it better” And what if they don’t? What if they don’t do the thing that would cause you to feel better? Are you going to sit in suffering or fight them or plot revenge?

If someone stepped on the toe, was rudely sarcastic or was hit by someone who believed that people are responsible for their own emotions, they would probably say something but I don’t think they’d demand an apology. What’s that gonna do? The power to let the altercation go resides within the individual, not in the offending party.

“Oh yes, you apologized. Now I can feel good because you know you were wrong.”

That would mean that you’re at the mercy of the person who doesn’t apologize, who can’t see that what they did was wrong, who thinks that they were in the right and who might not even be aware of what they did.

The codependent and the narcissist alike would be pretty upset about being offended or hurt. Maybe they wouldn’t respond in the same way, but they both would feel unloved, the very core of both problematic traits. The codependent would withdraw their love (if they can) and the narcissist would go on the war path to get the respect (read: love).

But the one who knows that people are not responsible for the emotions of others, who would therefore have no need to manipulate people into loving him or her, who does not lack self-love and knows that they are loved, they can be hurt but they would not withdraw love (maybe they’d create distance to protect themselves) and they would not go on the offensive either. They are not so easily triggered and can therefore think more level-headedly.

Again, I’m not saying that such folks are impervious to suffering. When people do actions through love or hate/fear, you’ll always feel the intention behind it. The question is, how do you respond? Do you act out because this is another act of non-love, or can you let it go because you know you’re loved and don’t need it from every and all people?

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”