Why Codependents Often Think Narcissist Abuse Is Because Of Them

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Sometimes the hardest task for a therapist is to convince a codependent that they have actually been abused by their narcissist (ex) partner. Look at some of the statements I have heard:

“If I had not been so needy, maybe it would have worked”

“It must have been me. All other relationships I had were fine”

“He was so loving at the start. What did I do to change him?”

“I ruin every relationship I have because I am difficult and expect too much”

Much of this is, of course, is down to a codependent’s natural tendency to take responsibility for everything. Part of it is the fact that the narcissist partner has taken full advantage of this and has convinced and conditioned the codependent to take the blame. This is done through constant subtle and not so subtle criticism and put-downs. It might also be a lack of knowledge concerning narcissism and its effects. Many codependents I see are surprised that they might have been in a relationship with one.

I have been offering online therapy for over 10 years. During that time, I have built up a speciality in many areas of psychology (especially Codependency) and helped many clients move forward. Contact me for a free consultation. I engage fully with my clients to ensure the best possible chance of recovery. I firmly believe that awareness is important but action is the decisive element of recovery. I accompany my clients along that road not only by offering sessions focusing on their issues but as a resource between sessions too.

However, another reason persists that is very common. The narcissist has done such a good job in the first adulation phase that the codependent (or anyone) has come to believe that this is the “true” person. When the mask drops and the “real true” person emerges, they tend to think that the change in character is to do with them, their needs or something they did. One thing to keep in mind is that if you become involved with a narcissist type, it is inevitable that your relationship is doomed. They will have control over that process and there is nothing anyone can do to change it.

The adulation phase is very powerful for codependents. Even though it is just an illusion being built by the narcissist, it might be the first time that a codependent has had so much attention paid towards them. While this attention is false and used to hook the codependent in, it hits deep to the core and is difficult to let go. I wrote some time ago about this:

“There is an old saying which is especially relevant here and one that codependents might do well to remember. That is “You learn more about a person at the end of the relationship than at the beginning” . With a narcissist, this is especially true. The adulation stage (the beginning), is an illusion, a mask, that convinces the victim that they with someone who is capable of empathy, compassion, understanding and love. The world is totally in order and all of their needs are being catered for. Maybe for the first time in their life, they feel totally appreciated. There is more fun, sex, and connection than they have ever known before. The problem is, as they will soon find out, it is not real and reality will bite them.”.

Convincing a codependent that they have been, targeted, used and discarded is difficult as the narcissist has fostered an emotional bond in this stage. The later stages are defined by his or her emotional and physical withdrawal, which leaves the codependent thinking they must have done something.

In the end, it pays to be cautious in any relationship. You can only commit when you have the evidence that it is safe to do so. The ability to recognise “red-flags” and not ignore them is essential as well as the ability to set boundaries. Even if you have “Prince Charming” in front of you, be aware that this might not always be the case. In some instances, you could have a version of Jekyll and Hyde!

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dr. J,

    You write, “In the end, it pays to be cautious in any relationship. You can only commit when you have the evidence that it is safe to do so.”

    This is sound advise.

    My early years in childhood at the hands of my sociopath brother, unwitting groomed me for further victimization in adulthood. I later unconsciously re-enacted the very trauma which had occurred.

    My childhood trauma left me was as it were, the proverbial sitting duck, bleeding and sitting in an open field. I was an easy target to all predators. I was uneducated, naive, and unsuspecting. I was not looking for red flags or as you so aptly put, waiting to see if a relationship was safe. The injuries I sustained from childhood were so severe and I was so starved for love and attention which were absent in my childhood, my desperation was a pheromone that any predator could detect. This is true for all victims of childhood trauma. We are all sitting ducks.

    Once engaged with a narcissist and/or sociopath, and one has been discarded. One enters that period of cognitive dissonance. Not having understood the original person one met was illusory, one’s heart must play catch up with their intellect that it was all a sham on the other person’s end. The person that claimed to love them, indeed abused them and lied. One must grieve not only the person for having lied, but the loss of the relationship and dreams one would have had. There is now complex trauma and complicated grief. Dr. J would you please write a post about these topics. Wonderful post as always.