Narcissism and Codependence Checklist

10 Jul
 

If you are caught in a cycle of fighting with your partner, the terms

Narcissism & Codependence may be very helpful for you to understand

Symptoms of Narcissism

  1. Bullet ‘Two faced’ putting people down (including family and friends) behind their back.
  1. Bullet  A tendency to Blame their lack of success, disappointments and failures on others.
  1. Bullet  A different person in private than in public.
  1. Bullet  Irresponsible and unreliable (often trading off others hard work).
  1. Bullet  Arrogant, acting superior to people close to them (often putting their family down).
  1. Bullet  Lives in a fantasy world which may include porn, romance novels, flirting and/or affairs and/or dreams of unlimited fame and success.
  1. Bullet  Will often be addicted to this fantasy oriented behavior.
  1. Bullet  May have other addictions such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, drugs, shopping, computer games and/or sex.
  1. Bullet  Will lie and distort facts and change the events of history to suit their own agenda.
  1. Bullet  May misappropriate funds and be irresponsible with money.
  1. Bullet  Distant and emotionally unavailable unless they want something.
  1. Bullet  Will lack empathy for others, especially people who they exploit.
  1. Bullet  Will be very controlling and often unable to relax.
  1. Bullet  May appear very charming and even humble in public.
  1. Bullet  May regularly provoke people and them blame them for the fight.
  1. Bullet  Will have trouble admitting their mistakes.

Symptoms of Codependence

  1. Bullet May need help from others to deal with their emotional states – needing help to “cheer up” and feel good about themselves or to get over setbacks and disappointments.
  1. Bullet  Will take a long time to calm down after becoming upset.
  1. Bullet  Will need their partner’s approval to feel good about themselves or feel able to move on with their own goals or plans.
  1. Bullet  May not know how to handle people who disrespect them or put them down.
  1. Bullet  May expect people (who they obviously shouldn’t trust) to be kind and play fair.
  1. Bullet  Will often misinterpret and/or be at the mercy of their moods and emotions.
  1. Bullet  May be addicted to alcohol, tobacco and/or prescription medication and drugs.
  1. Bullet  May blame their addictions on the abusive behavior of others in their life.
  1. Bullet  May be obsessed with their relationship with their partner.
  1. Bullet  May complain a lot and expect their partner to take the lead in improving their life.
  1. Bullet  May long for a hero to ‘save’ them.

Please Note: These are not diseases and there are no drugs specific to treating the conditions above, nor should the descriptions here be used for any kind of professional diagnosis.

Narcissism (Describing the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder)

A person with these tendencies will be two-faced; charming and polite in public, while critical, rude, arrogant, sarcastic and passive/aggressive in private; usually to the people who are closest to them and who give them the most love and care.

This person will pretend to have high standards, but in reality will be low in perfectionism: resulting in them being flakey, hypocritical or even an outright phony or fake. They will not follow through on promises and may trade off others’ hard work or reputation. They will spend most of their energy seeking people who will admire them or who they can vent their negativity and aggression on, either directly by put downs, sarcasm or passive/aggression (trying to provoke a fight so they can vent their own aggression) or  by talking people down (friends included).

A person with narcissistic tendencies will shift blame and may become aggressive if anyone attempts to hold them accountable for their actions. They will not accept responsibility for their own failings and instead blame their mistakes and/or bad behavior on the shortcomings of others.

Sexually they may seduce and abandon partners including the person they marry; this may also be a cover for performance anxiety. There is often a pattern of seducing and abandoning lovers, friends or people they can make their ‘fans’. (Note: some narcissists are completely cerebral and will think themselves “above sex” altogether and instead pride themselves on their intelligence and academic achievements or they may pride themselves on being ‘unwinable’).

A lack of empathy, combined with high self interest and mixed with a particular cunning charm and ability to manipulate others will make a person with these tendencies a difficult and potentially abusive person to live with. They will think nothing of exploiting their partner financially, sexually or otherwise, while blaming their own weaknesses and shortcomings on this very same person.

Someone with these traits may also hinder any attempt by their partner to regain their sense of strength or self worth and try and stop them getting back on their feet or on with their life (or getting away). They may even encourage their partner but then ‘knock them down again’ when they get back on their feet (like Lucy is towards Charlie Brown in ‘the Peanuts’).

NPD is a disorder and not a disease. There is no blood test for Narcissistic Personality Disorder and three different professionals may diagnose the same person in three different ways. The description is useful as it describes a familiar pattern of behavior in an individual which can be very pervasive.

Most importantly a Narcissist is a human being acting in a particular way and should not be treated like a monster, or worse, as an ‘it’ rather than a person. As unfair and damaging as a relationship with this type of person may be, we believe it more useful (and healthy) to use straightforward descriptive words about their bad behavior, rather than relying on this term generally to describe them. It would be more correct and useful in most situations for instance to say “Lucy lied to me”  than “Lucy is an N or Lucy is a narcissist.”.

As common as the suggestion is that you must run or “get away” from this type of person, we believe it is important for family members of someone with these tendencies to learn to stand up for themselves and hold their ground. This response can be highly beneficial for the person with narcissistic traits as well. This behavior will not improve on it’s own however and it is a big mistake to expect the narcissistic partner in a relationship or family to be the one responsible for ‘changing’.

Codependence

Codependence is a term used by psychologists to describe a whole range of characteristics and behaviors and many disagree on exactly what this term describes.

We have found the term codependence useful to describe the following characteristics;

Someone with these tendencies will feel responsible for the feelings of others and believe that they need to be involved in helping resolve the negative feelings of the people they are close to.

If someone is upset with them (or in a bad mood) a codependent will have trouble staying focused on their own life and goals and may feel that their partners unhappiness reflects that they have somehow failed (“If he loved me he would be happy all of the time”).

A person with codependent tendencies happiness and goals will be very closely tied to others estimation of them. They will look for validation, reassurance and encouragement in anything they take on and will often seek this from people who are the most unlikely to give them this type of support. They may also expect support from a partner without asking and be angry if their partner does not guess what they need. They may also believe that someone guessing their needs is a sign of love.

Codependence is about emotional dependence and someone with these tendencies will have a hard time functioning if they are not in a relationship and will often put their need for a relationship with a life partner before their own needs, security and goals.

A person with codependent tendencies will also have trouble processing their own emotions and will expect help to feel better after becoming upset and will often fail to take the time to honestly take notice of what their emotions are signaling about things that may require work or attention in their life.

They may have worked hard at ‘keeping a parent happy’ while they grew up, while never being allowed to talk about the real cause of that parents emotional instability (e.g.. alcoholism, depression, gambling or drug addiction). This conditioning will leave this person an easy target for abuse as they grow older.

Summary

Most abusive relationships feature a dance of Narcissism and Codependence between the two partners (to some degree). Stereotypes portray men as more generally narcissistic and women codependent but this is certainly not always the case. The two sets of behavior (which we believe are both forms of immaturity) play into each other and each partner blames the other instead of facing their own need to grow up.

A couple may also (in different situations) swap roles. Alcohol for instance will trigger narcissistic behavior in some people.

Narcissists rarely seek help and instead blame others for their problems, where codependents tend to know that something is wrong and will blame themselves (more than they should) and spend a lot of time working on ‘fixing’ themselves. For this reason, our advice focuses primarily on helping people learn to deal with their codependent tendencies and learn to set better boundaries and hold their spouse accountable, while also working on their own emotional maturity. It is our experience that these changes can in fact help both partners. It should be stressed however that this does not mean that the codependent is responsible for their partner’s bad behavior or abuse or that a person with narcissistic tendencies cannot work on improving the way they relate to others. We do have material available to help with this too.

We feel very strongly that this is the best first option in helping abusive couples resolve their fighting because a couple separating will usually leave the underlying problem unresolved and after separating in many cases each partner will end up in another abusive relationship and the terrain may then become even more dangerous and difficult for themselves and their children.

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