Skip to content

THE NARCISSIST TARGET: The Myth Behind Emotional Abuse and Codependency

Myth Emotional Abuse Codependency

Narcissists and Codependents go hand-in-hand, right? It’s written on multiple blogs, social media platforms, and even in self-help books. But would more narcissistic abuse survivors be insulted by these statements if they were hearing them before the emotional abuse disquieted their sense of self? Here’s the myth behind emotional abuse and codependency.

The term codependency represents a dysfunctional relationship paradigm in which one partner helps to enable the negative behaviors of the other, usually supporting their continued addictions, immaturity or other self-destructive behaviors.

What it insinuates is that the enabling partner is a willing participant, lacks a healthy sense of identity, an absence of confidence in their ability to thrive on their own, and a need to be needed at all costs. It has been rumored to be linked to a childhood trauma or unhealthy parental relationship, low self-esteem, and even a malfunctioning of their very core being.


However, with narcissistic relationships, codependency much less describes the individual characteristic of the targeted victim and is more so descriptive of the phenomenon created at some point in the courtship, in which the framework shifts to one in which one partner is displaying poor decision making and acting out, and the other partner is enabling such behavior. But would this term still be accurate if the enabling partner was unaware of the paradigm shift?

Emotional abuse and codependency

Victims of narcissistic abuse may be emotionally dependent, may have experienced a childhood trauma that disabled their flight response, they may have zero sense of their own self-worth…or they could be none of those things.

The one thing they will all have in common is that they were duped by a charming individual who was skilled at transferring their maladaptive thought processes onto them.

Read 5 Types of Narcissistic Blame Shifting

Narcissistic abuse is subtle and yet speedy, hideous and yet hidden.

Victims do not have the opportunity to examine the abusive nature of their relationship in the beginning, because they will not become aware of their partner’s façade until well into the false reality carefully crafted by the narcissist from day one.

The victim will likely be committed, emotionally and financially invested, and oblivious to how much malevolence is actually occurring behind their back before they even suspect something is off with their new beau.

For anyone who has not experienced this type of abusive interaction, there is no way to describe the momentum, destruction and disbelief that this type of abuse brings upon victims before they even know what hit them.

These unsuspecting partners can spend days, weeks, months, even years trying to figure out if they are even being abused. Wondering if they are losing their minds. Questioning their own perceptions and feelings. In the awakening, they will sense something is not quite right, but they are thinking, “What’s wrong with me?”, and not “I don’t like how my partner is treating me.

As they wait for the fog to clear, desperately seeking answers and emotional clarity, they are enabling the narcissist’s addiction to attention and freedom of impulsiveness, but it is merely a byproduct of the circumstance they aren’t even fully aware of yet.

Read 6 Diversion Tactics Used By Sociopaths, Narcissists and Psychopaths to Manipulate You Into Silence

The target is still trying to catch their breath and figure out what has gone wrong. In a customary sequence of events, they will search for answers where there are no clear answers because the situation they found themselves in was carefully and callously manufactured to impart such confusion and self-doubt.

They likely have never heard of narcissistic abuse, so they will compile a list of possibilities, including the consideration their partner has depression or other common mental health issues, addictions, or unhealed childhood scars. They don’t know about the smear campaign already discrediting them, the constant, intentional jabs at their ego, or the purposeful gaslighting ritual, wearing down the confidence they once had over their own recollections.

The don’t immediately flee the situation, not only because they have yet to put their finger on what is going on, but because they feel guilt at the thought of abandoning someone who is struggling. They stay…out of compassion…and confusion…not out of unhealthy attachment issues.

There may come a point where the targeted partner either realizes what narcissistic tendencies have penetrated their happily ever after masquerade, or they are still confused, but have clued in to the fact that their partner is unwilling to change their now hurtful behaviors. If they started out with a few clear boundaries, and an ounce of self-respect, they will start considering ways out.

This is not an easy contemplation. The victim’s head is still spinning, they have yet to receive any reassuring explanations, and their resources are intertwined with the life they now realize was an act.

Read These Are The 7 Signs Of A Hypocrite And The People They Target

Survivors that eventually claw their way out of the narcissist’s bag of tricks can find themselves leaving behind belongings that they worked hard for, and even those that may have sentimental value.

They may opt for homelessness, live in isolation as they realize their circle of contacts have already been conned by the Narc, and are forced into the realization that they have a story to tell that few can relate to, and most don’t even believe.

They pick themselves up, along with the pieces of their broken heart, shattered self-esteem, and weakened recollections- and put them in their pocket…and they start over…without belongings, without answers, without support, without validation.

Narcissistic abuse survivors do share some common characteristics.

They go on living with nothing more than a sense of who they are, a sense of what they deserve, a desire to seek the information necessary to put the puzzle pieces together, and a commitment to spread awareness to future potential abuse victims. They act from a place of inner power, sincerity and self-preservation.

This altruistic strength is not descriptive of a codependent personality. It is what remains after a strong, healthy personality has fallen victim to a calculated and insalubrious, but unintentional, codependency.

Read Empathic People Are Natural Targets For Sociopaths .

Being blindsided by the guise of the narcissist does not make one damaged, accepting of abuse, or lacking in self-esteem. Needing to be needed and feeling guilt over leaving someone in need are different concepts.

Feeling dazed and confused does not coincide with a reliance on their partner for approval. Having self-doubt about a situation that was designed to defy logic, is not equal to a belief that they cannot do better, or that they do not deserve better.

The relationship between a compassionate person, and one pretending to need help, is not a mutual addiction to the well-plotted, one-sided, intentional and neurotic sequence of events.

Emotional Abuse and Codependency
THE NARCISSIST TARGET: The Myth Behind Emotional Abuse and Codependency
Myth Emotional Abuse Codependency pin

Brandy Fuller Anderson

Brandy Fuller Anderson is a counselor, coach, author and victim advocate from Phoenix, Arizona, where she is a single mother to three amazing children. After ten years of graduate education in clinical psychology, and nearly two decades of experience working in counseling, social work, and other social services, she now dedicates her time to her online and Arizona based private practice, writing on communication issues, conflict resolution, infidelity and narcissistic abuse, and spreading awareness on psychopathy and hidden abuse. She has been deemed a credible author and speaker on narcissistic abuse based primarily on her own encounters with a narcissist and ability to offer therapeutic writings for laypeople.View Author posts

Leave a Reply

Up Next

What Is Parentification: Identifying The Signs, Types, Effects, And How To Deal With Parentification Trauma


Parents and children always should have clear boundaries - parents will protect, guide, and take care of their children and their needs, and children will focus on their growth, development, and focus. So what happens when the lines get blurred or the roles are reversed? Parentification. That's what happens.

Parentification can have several negative effects on a child's psyche and emotional development. Children who are parentified deal with the after-effects for the rest of their life and are seemingly never able to move on from their dysfunctional childhood. Being a responsible and mature child is a good thing, but having to take on the role of the parent is not something they should ever have to do.

So, what is parentification and what does it look like? Let's find out!

Up Next

The 4 Stages Of A Toxic Relationship That Can Break And Rebuild You

Stages of a toxic relationship Break Rebuild You

If you’ve ever been in a relationship, chances are you know what a toxic relationship is like. While not all relationships are toxic, most have some degree of toxicity and some are just downright abusive. If you are trapped in a relationship with a toxic partner, then you should know about the stages of a toxic relationship to know when to walk out. 

Although initially we may not want to believe it, a toxic relationship will eventually reveal itself no matter how much we turn a blind eye to it. Every time we are abused, we tell ourselves that it is an isolated incident. That they will never do this again with us. That they love us. That they were just angry. But regardless of how many excuses we make up inside our mind to protect our false beliefs, the signs of a toxic relationship keep creeping up on us. As the honeymoon stage slowly erodes away and makes way for the toxicity,

Up Next

What Is Dark Psychology: 10 Most Common Techniques and Tactics of Manipulation

Dark Psychology Manipulation

All of us have a dark side, which most of us try to control, suppress and hide from others. We all have a unique relationship with our dark side which can define the type of person we are. Dark psychology enables us to understand this relationship with the dark side of our consciousness. 

What is dark psychology? 

Dark psychology refers to the dark side of the human psyche and is primarily used to manipulate others. It is typically regarded as the psychological study and application of thought control and manipulation. Generally, psychology focuses on human thoughts, behaviors, emotions and actions. However, dark psychology focuses on strategies, tactics and techniques of manipulation, persuasion, coercion and motivation that can help a person to gain what they wish for.

Up Next

Can Abusers Change? 11 Signs Your Abusive Partner Is Changing For Good

Signs abusive partner changing for good

“I promise. This time I will change. Please don’t leave me. Give me one more chance. A last one. I WILL change. You’ll see.” 

If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, you have probably heard this many times before. While abusers usually don’t really change, what if they actually change this time around? Are there any genuine signs your abusive partner is changing?

Can abusers change?

The quick answer is yes. But just like everything else in life, it is a lot more complicated than it sounds. A narcissistic, toxic, abusive individual may genuinely want to change due to certain life experiences. They may

Up Next

How To Stop Workplace Abuse: 3 Strategies For Organizations To Deal With Workplace Bullying

How To Stop Workplace Abuse

Workplace abuse is something that is readily swept under the rug, no matter how serious it might be. In many organizations, it has been normalized to a great extent too. However, workplace abuse can take a heavy toll on victims, which is why it is more important than ever to fight and eradicate it.

Key Points

Workplace bullying, at its core, is a work culture problem, not an individual problem. Bullying transpires in organizations that condone or encourage toxic behaviors such as gossip, manipulation, exclusion, and sabotage. Healthy work cultures provide multisource feedback, assess exposure to workplace abuse, and establish workplace bullying policies.

How Do Organizations Eradicate Workplace Bullies?