The attraction between folks with narcissism and those with codependency can be appealing but could cause harm later on. Take heart — you can take preventive steps.

There is often an attraction between individuals with codependent tendencies and those with narcissistic tendencies.

Initially, a narcissistic personality can be attractive for their charisma and confidence, among other personal traits. A codependent person can come off at first as kind and selfless on top of other individual attractive traits.

This pair may connect for a variety of reasons, including the mutual need to feel needed. The codependent person tends to give continuously, while the narcissistic person tends to take. These two personalities have a lot in common, but their differences can make their relationship unhealthy or even toxic.

If you find that you have codependent tendencies and someone you care about has narcissistic tendencies, it could lead to an imbalance in the relationship. However, trying therapy and setting boundaries can help solve these concerns, perhaps even before they occur.

Being mindful is the first step toward a healthier relationship with both yourself and the person you care about.

If you have codependent tendencies, you might find yourself doing everything you can to please another person. A 2020 study that examined the lived experience of people with codependency found three significant themes present within these individuals:

  • loss of sense of self
  • pattern of imbalance in social, occupational, and emotional aspects of life
  • problems attributed to parental abandonment or parental control in childhood

That loss of sense of self usually comes from not wanting to face criticism. In addition, you may consistently neglect your own needs due to a fear of abandonment stemming from your childhood.

Why people with narcissistic behaviors are attracted to you

If you have codependent tendencies, people with narcissistic behaviors can be attracted to you for reasons including your people-pleasing behaviors.

Research from 2020 that examined living with narcissistic personality disorder found several patterns, including:

People with symptoms of narcissism rely on other people for their self-esteem and self-worth. They might feel down or depressed if they don’t feel like they’re being admired and praised. They might also rely on other people to feel worthy and loved.

Narcissism is different from other disorders because most of the traits are acted upon or solicited from others. In other words, it typically requires a “subject” rather than something that happens when you’re on your own.

For example, a narcissistic partner can:

  • devalue others in their relationships
  • need to feel more special than or sometimes superior to others
  • want to feel important, praised, and admired without offering others the same praise
  • use someone in their family as a scapegoat
  • use tactics when angry or feeling cornered such as gaslighting or narcissistic projection

Eventually, the exaggeration of their self-importance can spur folks with narcissism to take and take, without giving anything in return. And this often causes harm to their partners.

You may be wondering whether you have codependent or narcissistic leanings.

Although codependency has changed definitions over time, Mental Health America (MHA) has identified common traits in codependent people, including:

  • wanting to rescue other people
  • doing more than you can handle for others
  • needing recognition
  • fearing abandonment
  • placing responsibility for others’ actions on yourself
  • depending on a relationship to an excessive degree
  • feeling hurt when you aren’t recognized
  • controlling others
  • lacking trust
  • trouble identifying feelings
  • having difficulty with communication
  • experiencing challenges dealing with change
  • practicing dishonesty
  • feeling indecision
  • feeling a pervasive pattern of anger

If you recognize signs of codependency in yourself, know that it’s common, and unlearning codependence is possible. Setting boundaries and prioritizing yourself instead of consistently putting others first can be pivotal.

If you’re wondering if you have narcissism, there are some overarching characteristics of maladaptive narcissism that MHA identifies, including:

  • fantasies of success and wealth
  • pervasive pattern of attention-seeking behavior
  • exploitation of personal relationships
  • sensitivity to failure
  • feelings of insecurity
  • mood shifts

People with narcisissm can also be codependent

People who have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can also experience codependency, due to the attention they’re getting from their relationship. Since both conditions are rooted in an unhealthy reliance on other people, it’s common to have overlap.

Those with narcissistic traits may fear abandonment from others who give them praise and admiration and could feel lost without relying on another person for validation.

Both types of personalities in this pairing can feel secure when they feel needed.

Because people with narcissistic tendencies can fear abandonment, they often tend to seek out people who will stay close and constantly check in with them. Folks with NPD can feel most comfortable when they’re admired and given plenty of attention.

Folks with codependent characteristics often have a tendency to put others’ needs above their own. If you’re codependent, you may extend yourself above and beyond to please another person fearing criticism or similar feelings of abandonment.

At a glance

If you find yourself in a partnership like this, it may work if both partners can begin the process of healing through therapy and self-reflection.

The lack of sense of self by both the person with narcissistic traits and the one with codependent traits could cause you to get lost in the relationship. This might not be the healthiest pairing without insights and improvements that can be achieved through talk therapy.

In other words, typically both people in this pairing have lost their sense of self due to poor boundaries. In a healthier pairing, the codependent person would set healthy boundaries and find their voice without relying on another person.

In an ideal scenario, likewise, the individual with narcissism would see how their behaviors have been detrimental to their relationships through therapy. But, as one researcher opines, often folks with narcissism don’t take introspection as an opportunity to heal, only modify their behaviors temporarily.

Individuals with codependent and narcissistic traits have a lot in common and may be attracted to each other for various reasons. The giver-and-taker relationship can be very unhealthy for all parties involved if not balanced by:

  • psychotherapy
  • boundaries
  • medication, for diagnosed conditions

There is help available if you find that you have codependent tendencies. Codependents Anonymous offers support worldwide.

Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy, can help. The important thing is sticking with it, because maximum benefit is seen in the long term.

If you want to manage your narcissistic tendencies, you may also consider checking out Project Air for education and peer support to deal with your personality disorder.

No matter which side of this duo you find yourself on, you can form healthier relationships with yourself and others.