This is a common question as it relates to how one perceives their attachment to the Narcissist in their life. In the beginning, it seemed they’d finally met their soul-mate. The Narcissist showered them with “love”, praise, validation, understanding, and compassion. They believed they’d finally found a blissful paradise with a partner whom they could grow old with.
This made it all too easy to sweep the first jabs under the rug. And the next ones, and still the next, until finally, the rug no longer resembled its original flat and sleek form, but a covering for a mountain of debris.
Yet targets of narcissistic abuse try repeatedly to reshape the rug, spreading and evening out the debris to get a semblance of what it first looked like, instead of realizing the rug is ruined and should be thrown out. When friends and family point out what an eyesore it is, victims remember what it first looked like, exclaiming, “I can’t throw it out! It’s the best rug I’ve ever had! No one has a rug like that!”
Targets of abuse don’t want to let go of that person they knew from the beginning of the relationship. They endure untold misery, over-forgiving the person who claimed to love them and made them feel so special. Even when the relationship comes to an end, they are left reeling with feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and guilt. They confuse their feelings for love. And though love does play a part, the real reason they feel attached to their abuser is much deeper.
What they’re really missing is feeling loved, accepted, validated, and taken care of – things they never felt before, often as far back as childhood. The false lover they knew from the beginning of the relationship seemed to love them for who they are, with all their faults and weaknesses. Yet, at the same time made them feel flawless. In other words, they felt loved unconditionally.
Unconditional love…what victims always give, yet never seem to get in return.
It’s because of this yearning for unconditional love that victims of abuse stay in toxic relationships far past reasonable limits. What many don’t realize is that they are trying to heal wounds from childhood. They learned that they had to be perfect and forgiving in order to receive acknowledgement and/or praise. Otherwise, they were neglected and ostracized. And so this is what they learned about life and carried into their adult lives, and is what led them straight into the arms of the Narcissist.
What Codependency Looks Like
Although not universal, many codependents go a large part of their lives without really knowing they are, in fact, codependent. This plays out in ways such as:
- Feels uncomfortable accepting compliments – Ex: When receiving a compliment on a blouse, the codependent might say, “This old thing? I only paid a dollar for it at the Goodwill”, or, “Thanks, but I think it makes me look fat”.
- Has a hard time saying no; gains feelings of worthiness through helping others – Ex: Agreeing to babysit a neighbor’s child even though it would mean giving up personal plans to do so, simply so the neighbor won’t think they’re mean or selfish.
- Rarely shows feelings of anger or displeasure in order to show others how agreeable they are – Ex: Agreeing to go to a restaurant one doesn’t like in order to avoid seeming inflexible (puts others needs before own)
- Always seems to be putting out fires for other people – Ex: Covering up a spouse’s alcoholism; calling in sick for them, excusing their unacceptable behaviors at parties.
- Not trusting their own perceptions – Ex: Believing undue criticism from a shady co-worker or jealous ex of their partner (this is often why victims of narcissistic abuse believe the disparaging comments and accusations made by their abuser)
What to Do
If any of the above sounds like you, there’s a high likelihood that you are Codependent. The first thing you’ll need to do is leave your abusive partner. There is absolutely no way to heal while inside of an abusive relationship.
If you’ve already left, Kudos to you! You can begin taking charge of your life and overcoming your powerlessness through using appropriate tools such as:
Visit Codependents Anonymous to find a meeting near you.
Check out these various tools for Inner Child Healing
Have you done Inner Child Healing with positive results? Please share your tips and comments below!