Why Codependents Attract Narcissists

The role a narcissistic mother can play in codependency.

Posted Sep 04, 2019

One of the most common issues with narcissism is the central focus on self. Narcissists can fake caring and empathy towards others. The truth is they are selfish, with a true need to put themselves first, even to the detriment of those who depend on them for emotional support and well-being.

The Early Years

Children raised by narcissistic mothers, and particularly daughters of narcissistic mothers, are raised in a hostile and damaging emotional environment. In these types of relationships, the narcissistic mother sees the daughter as a personal reflection, which means the child is expected to be perfect in all she does, which is ultimately impossible. 

The mother is unable to care for the emotional needs of the child but instead sees the children as an extension of herself. There are literally no boundaries in the mother's mind between herself and her child or children. The mother attempts to create a miniature version of herself, which is impossible due to the developmental stage of the child. 

No matter how hard the child struggles, she cannot be what the mother demands. This creates anger and hostility toward the child as the mother sees the child's inability as a failure. Punishment, emotional isolation, and even threats of leaving the child are all common. At the same time, the narcissist is quick to spot any signs of independence or individuality in the daughter, which is seen as a threat or a negative reflection on the narcissist.

Coupled with this is the inability of the narcissist to be there emotionally for the child. The child simply does not have a sense of being cared for and loved, and the relationship with the parent is often described as cold, clinical, or distant. This is often in stark contrast to the relationship the child may have with the other parent or grandparent. If the child reaches out to make the emotional connection, it is immediately rejected by the mother, the very person the daughter feels the need to connect with most. 

Older Children 

With older children, and, again, with a heightened impact on daughters, the narcissist mother undermines the child and teen with regard to self-esteem. This is done through constant shaming for not living up to the standards set by the mother, which are often a reflection of her personality deficits. 

In addition to the ongoing shame and blame, the narcissistic mother also maintains control over all aspects of the daughter's life, further reducing the girl's ability to be autonomous and independent from her mother. The girl must like what the mother likes and live her life as the mother sees fit. At the same time, the mother may physically abuse the daughter, or lavish all of her attention on a male child in the family. The mother may actually see the daughter as a competitor, taking away from the full and complete love and attention of a husband or partner, as well as other children.

Unfortunately, fathers or partners in the family are often dysfunctional as well, and may be extremely passive so as to avoid confrontation with the narcissist. This leaves a young girl without any emotional support or someone to counterbalance the negative and hostile emotional environment. 

With this type of emotional experience, children of a narcissistic mother often move into codependent relationships with a narcissist. The partner simply replaces the mother, not because the individual wants the continued negativity, but because this is all she or he has ever known. 

References

Arabi, S. (2017, December 16). The Psychological War Zone: The Children of Narcissists Face These 5 Consequences In Adulthood. Retrieved from Self-Care Haven: https://selfcarehaven.wordpress.com/2017/12/16/the-psychological-war-zone-the-children-of-narcissists-face-these-5-consequences-in-adulthood/

Rossiter, S. K. (2004). Narcissism And Codependency.ProWest Dissertations Publishing.

Villines, Z. (2018, August 7). Codependency and Narcissism May Have More In Common Than You Think. Retrieved from GoodTherapy: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/codependency-narcissism-may-have-more-in-common-than-you-think-0807187