Anyone who identifies as codependent will also know that relationships are the “battle ground” where the dysfunction takes place. As codependency originated as a broken connection to caregivers, it is not surprising that codependents are constantly trying to fix this with others. They are usually in denial, they comply, control, enable and avoid the issues in equal measures. I wrote about this very subject here.
Many codependents are attracted to emotionally distant, sometimes abusive, cold individuals who trap them in a loveless relationship, taking full advantage of their giving nature. I saw two rather alarming articles lately that documented various aspects of codependency. One incredibly, classed a codependent as a “parasite”, obviously written by someone who must be on the other end of the scale. The other, alarmingly was offering advice on how to deal with such a person (narcissist) in a relationship. Let’s run through some of the options presented.
Set boundaries: THEORY: Under normal circumstances, great advice. Boundaries are healthy and anyone with empathy and compassion would respect and accept them if delivered in the right way. PRACTICE: Narcissists have no empathy and see boundaries as a sign of weakness and a challenge. They will never accept them, even if they will say in the moment they will. It is all manipulation.
Discuss and express feelings: THEORY: Emotional honesty is something that all good relationships have and the ability to express feelings openly and honestly without judgment or accusation creates a loving atmosphere. PRACTICE: Narcissists see this process as weakness and are not capable of being vulnerable enough to do it effectively. Any vulnerability is manipulation. Try to discuss how you feel with a narcissist, be prepared for gaslighting, lack of listening and the conversation moving back around to everything being your fault.
Love and understanding: THEORY: Love builds slowly into a union that meets the needs of both parties on a foundation of trust, respect, honesty and effective communication. This does not happen overnight but with work on both sides, it can maintain itself. PRACTICE: Both codependents and narcissists have no real idea of “true love” as described above. Codependents think they love but it is expressed as control as part of the drama triangle. Narcissists, on the other end of the scale, have no idea of what love is. They have never experienced it and have no idea how to give it. They actually detest themselves for what they are and project that onto their victims.
Couples therapy: THEORY: Couples therapy is a healthy, safe place to be able to express opinions and feelings, mediated by a trained professional who will be able to help the couple find answers. PRACTICE: Many narcissists agree to therapy, individually or as a couple but for their own selfish reasons. Firstly, it gives them a chance to be the centre of attention with the therapist and portray themselves as the victim. Secondly, it gives them the chance to blame their partner and throw all the shade on them. Experienced therapists will see this quite quickly but those who let it go further than it should can actually traumatise the codependent. Luckily, most narcissists will finish therapy after a few sessions, blaming the therapist or the process.
Work on the relationship: THEORY: Working on a relationship is a key factor of success if a union is going to last. Making deposits in the “Love Bank” (increasing positive interaction), working on conflict resolution and better communication are always helpful. PRACTICE: Narcissists will always think about themselves above all others and any work done on the relationship will be only with their benefit in mind. Even this will be manipulation in most cases.
So what is the solution? There is only one and it is one that codependents find difficult to implement as they are often in denial about the relationship. They often hope the “good times” they experienced in the “love bombing stage” will return. The cold, hard reality is that this was a mask and that mask has long slipped to reveal the true self underneath. Emotional distancing will be followed swiftly by physical distance, leaving a codependent distraught and feeling like a whirlwind swept through their lives.
The only solution to this to get out as soon as possible, go no-contact and avoid becoming supply in the future.