People who are codependent often find themselves in relationships with narcissists, because they each fill a complementary role to one another. The codependent person needs to be needed, and supplies the narcissist with the devotion and attention the narcissist requires. And the narcissist has the codependent to serve her, putting her needs first.

The relationship dynamic becomes unhealthy when the codependent puts the other’s needs before his own needs, sublimating his desires, sometimes to his detriment. Meanwhile, the narcissist exploits the other, taking advantage of his need to please. The narcissist simply doesn’t care about the other’s feelings because she has no empathy. The relationship soon becomes unbalanced and dysfunctional.

Codependents Can Take Back Their Power From Narcissists Nancy'S Counseling CornerWhen a Codependent/Narcissist Relationship Goes Bad

Sometimes these relationships go on for a long time. The codependent is happy to follow the narcissist, to give up his power and let the narcissist control him. That’s because the codependent lacks self-worth and mistakenly believes he gets it by filling the narcissist’s needs. But sooner or later, the narcissist will go too far—because all she does is take. That’s when the codependent begins to feel used and bitter, and rightfully so.

The codependent, people pleaser that he is, will often put up with this emotional abuse. Eventually he may try to get the narcissist to treat him more fairly. To understand his situation. But the narcissist doesn’t really care how the codependent feels—she only cares that he keeps on supplying her with the dedication she requires. The codependent does this, all the while confusing love with sacrifice. He never gets the same kind of devotion in return. The narcissist can only love him for what he can do for her, not for who he is.

A Codependent Can Decide to Take His Power Back

A codependent deliberately chooses a narcissist partner because that is the kind of relationship he is comfortable and familiar with, probably because he had a similar relationship in his childhood. Yet when he discovers that his endless devotion is not returned, and that his desire for an unconditionally loving partner is thwarted, he may get fed up enough to make a change.

When a codependent decides to heal his wounds and stop the dysfunction in his life, he can make a change. The fact of the matter is, the codependent actually has more power than the narcissist. He just doesn’t know it, and therefore doesn’t use it. The moment he decides to declare his independence and live a healthy emotional life is the moment the narcissist begins to lose her grip and her power declines. Codependents must be persistent, because a narcissist will not willingly give up her power and will repeatedly try to engage her codependent, but he must resist.

Therapy Can Help

Narcissists seldom seek help from therapists. Why should they? They already think they’re superior just the way they are. Codependents, however, know they lack self-esteem and eventually realize they are in an unhealthy situation. A therapist can help them understand the origin of their insecurity and break free from a dysfunctional relationship for good.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: