You Can’t Have A Healthy Marriage With A Sick Soul

As you grow in awareness of NPD and Codependency, what advice can you give to those who are just becoming aware of the dynamics of this relationship?

My view of codependency within a relationship wherein the other person has NPD is that this is the inevitable function of any person who stays with an NPD partner. There is a popular belief, which I believe to be incorrect, that narcissists and codependents often partner. I actually think this combination is rare. Narcissists always seek to attach to a person who is better and stronger than themselves. I think they view the typical codependent as repulsive. Their reaction to a true codependent would likely be immediate devaluation to the point that the pair would not make it past a first date.

On the contrary, the typical pattern of a narcissist’s mating is to seek someone impressive in whatever ways they value—good-looking, intelligent, successful, well-connected, articulate, independent, well-liked, principled, kind, fair, compassionate, etc. The narcissist then seeks to bind the partner to them, after which they being to steal the positive traits from the partner and claim them as their own. Simultaneously, they project their own hideous traits onto the partner. The partner, in their view, and in their descriptions to their tools, become stupid, worthless, lazy, predatory, lousy at whatever it is they are good at (my ex, N#2 ragged constantly on my “delusion” that I write well, or that anyone had ever been interested in anything I had written), dependent, immoral, a liar, cheater, manipulator, jealous, controlling, crazy. They devalue the partner with their own traits.

As they devalue the partner, they disempower them not only by degrading them, but by destroying the health, well-being, confidence, relationships, finances, success, reputation and independence of the partner. Some say that only a codependent would allow this degradation. I disagree. PwNPD are incredibly clever in the manipulations and disempowering tactics they use. Very often, a target has been seriously harmed and trauma bonded before they realize they are in a deep mess. In a relationship with a pwNPD, fair-mindedness, giving the benefit of the doubt, being generous and forgiving, are traits quickly and profoundly exploited by a pwNPD.

In any relationship with a pwNPD, where the partner stays long enough, the partner becomes functionally codependent. There is no other possibility for the partner as the dynamic allows only for that, in terms of the partner’s function. I suppose it is possible to say this does not happen in the case where the partner maintains a totally separate life, but that would be the only case. In that case, the partner is not really living within the NPD dynamic, only encountering it in a limited way.

My advice to those just becoming aware of the dynamics of their relationship with a pwNPD is to not assume that the easy peasy cut-and-dried answer as to their own role is that they are a codependent. One needs to look at their functioning mode prior to the relationship as to their codependency. Also, this functional condition of codependency will continue, as an after-effect of the relationship, for considerable time, perhaps a few years, after leaving the relationship. It will express itself in difficulty making decisions, passivity, a feeling of lack of agency over one’s life, a continuing devaluation of one’s gifts and offerings to the world. a tendency to over-compensate for what one perceives as one’s lacks. This will heal in time if one is not a true codependent.

If one is a true codependent then there are excellent resources and support groups for that.

Someone will reply to my answer, asking how do I explain repeated involvements with pwNPD? That may be due to PTSD, a condition acquired in a previous relationship with a pwNPD. This is not codpendency and it does not appear as codependency to a person with NPD. It appears as holes in that person’s boundaries—an over-allowance of abuse directed at them. NPD’s are attracted to this, so long as their other requirements are first met. A person with PTSD is more likely to accept enough abuse that they will become trauma bonded to an abusive narcissist.

Here is an extremely important article by Shahida Arabi. She says people, including professionals, need to stop gaslighting and pathologizing victims of narcissistic abuse. She states, in this article, that victims are not necessarily codependent, and that telling victims they need to look within themselves for the key to what happened is wrong, abusive and further damages them:

How Society Gaslights Survivors of Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Psychopaths (A Guide for Therapists, Law Enforcement and Loved Ones)

This video explains narcissistic abuse tactics in a way that is important for victims to understand, and in a way that alleviates—I think—the victim-blaming and pathologizing that is so misdirected, wrong-headed, and non-reality-based.

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As you grow in awareness of NPD and Codependency, what advice can you give to those who are just becoming aware of the dynamics of this relationship?
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