I have combined the experiences with those women into a composite for the purposes of this article, and I have attempted to disguise their identity. This composite is the female narcissist. There seems to be a notion that narcissistic behavior is usually perpetrated by men.
I hope this article helps to counter-balance that stereotype. Narcissism and codependence are both diseases of responsibility. The narcissist takes too little responsibility, while the codependent takes too much responsibility. In a healthy system, responsibility is well aligned with response-ability, so that adaptive action can be taken.
When ability to respond is decoupled from responsibility, people start to get disabled. The result is disability: The couple spiral into hopeless despair together. I have stuck around many times when I really should have left. A benefit of not leaving is that I get to tell you some weird stories about what happened next. We want to jump in and save the victim from the perpetrator. The polarization of the system pulls us into the third role: The reality is that in a relationship between two consenting adults, the responsibility for continued dysfunction is shared between both people.
You might recognize some of them. Please tell him to call me at work. My work number is —— Her: Your work number is —— Have you ever called my work number?
How do you know? The ultimate knowledge of reality lies with the narcissist. They must create and maintain a model of the world that pleases them. They will assert this reality onto the codependent, and others, insisting that the other believes it. Often, the aspects of reality that are being asserted are subjective and arguable, but sometimes they are beliefs that do not match easily verifiable facts.
I feel sadness Her: How do you know that? I thought I felt sadness. I need you to do something about your anger. I feel frustrated now. The narcissistic process, needing to maintain a perfect self-image, will project all negative qualities onto others, particularly the codependent. After enough of these relationships, it becomes possible to know what is happening inside the narcissist, or in their world, simply by listening to their accusations.
This example also demonstrates projective identification, where the codependent enabler actually starts to take on the projected role. How are you feeling? What do you feel scared about? I feel scared that you might start yelling at me. How am I emotionally abusing you?
What should I do? To the narcissist, your feelings are not important. Since the narcissist takes no responsibility for their experience, including feelings, any negative experience must be your fault. Sally told me that you hit her. So what if I did! She hit me first! You should never hit a child. You made me angry. How did I make you angry? I thought about something you said and that made me angry! This example is at the extreme end of the spectrum of narcissism.
There is an absolute decoupling of action from the assignment of responsibility. I got hurt too. A relationship is doomed to failure under these conditions. Some relationships last while both people are crushed under the weight of dysfunction, but eventually such a brittle system snaps.
Why were you talking to that girl? She came over and asked me a question. Were you attracted to her? Not really, I guess. You were hitting on her! I could tell you were! You know I feel kind of stressed right now. I was just trying to read my book and then this happened. Oh, it always has to be about you! This is another instance of projection. The enabler must warp themselves to fit the needs of the narcissist.
Any attempt to assert the self as an independent entity is met with strong resistance. Conclusion I hope that with these examples I have helped you to spot the signs of narcissistic behavior. Perhaps, like me, you tend towards codependence. Perhaps you have been immersed so long in your current situation that you have not noticed these dynamics ramping up. Perhaps this is a wake-up call.
Support My wife, Cindy Riach, is highly experienced at supporting people who struggle in relationship with women who are on the narcissistic spectrum.
I recommend that you contact her for a free consultation.