Note: Narcissists and the codependents can be any gender. In a majority of cases, narcissists are men who seek female codependent counterparts. For the sake of this article, the narcissist will be referred to as “he” and the codependent will be referred to as “she”. These labels are not intended to be limiting.
The world of psychology uses “the codependency dance” to describe the intimate relationship between two very broken, dysfunctional, opposing, but balanced people: the fixer and the people-pleaser (the codependent), and the controller and taker (the narcissist).
The destructive behaviors that each one has formed throughout their childhoods and into their adult lives seem to complement each other perfectly. The two of them mesh together in a seductive and dysfunctional dance where the codependent individual will give up her power and the narcissist will thrive on that control and power so that no one’s toes get stepped on.
Codependent individuals are enamored with the needs and desires of other people. They were groomed in their childhood to be servants and later in life they find themselves on a dance floor where they are attracted to people who are a perfect pairing for their submissive dancing style. They are natural followers, and most of them find narcissists extremely appealing because of their charm, confidence, boldness, and dominant personality.
The perfect dancing partner for a narcissist is someone who lacks self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem. A narcissist looks for a dancing partner who he can manipulate, so that he can control the dance. He looks for someone who has a warped sense of reality and codependent people fit this role perfectly.
Individuals who have grown up knowing who they are, who are confident in their capabilities, and who are strong-willed (or normally-willed) rarely stay with the narcissist long-term, because they are able to see the red flags of the narcissist’s selfish personality early on. (ie: they don’t put up with crap, like gaslighting).
Codependent people confuse caretaking and sacrifice with true love and loyalty.
They are dedicated to their partners but feel used, which makes them bitter later on. Her hunt for love is ultimately an unconscious motivation to find someone who is “familiar”. (Familiar isn’t always good) It stems from childhood trauma and the lack of healthy love, respect, and being cared for by adults.
She fears being alone and her compulsion to control and fix things at any cost motivates her. She is comfortable in her role as a martyr who is endlessly loving, devoted, and patient. She dreams of dancing with somebody who loves her unconditionally. She believes that she must sacrifice herself in order to obtain this love because it is the only way that she has ever known how to express love.
First Dance, Honeymoon, and Return Home
In her eyes, at first sight, the narcissist is the embodiment of Prince Charming. He woos her and caters to her every whim, makes her feel like she is the center of the universe, pours out excessive expressions of love (love bombing), and he does his best to figure out what it is she likes and what she is looking for in a mate so that he can wear that mask for her, in the beginning.
The honeymoon phase of the relationship lasts anywhere from a handful of weeks to about six months (but for more experienced narcissists, they could keep up the act for years) and after this threshold is approached the good graces of the narcissist start to dwindle swiftly. Complements and catering to his new love have been replaced with gaslighting and correcting, and she takes the criticism because she believes that he loves her and that he knows what’s best for her. If she argues with him, he will convince her that she is wrong, and because of her weak self-esteem and trust in him, she will slowly start to adopt his mindset and become the image that he wants her to be.