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When A Codependent Leaves A Narcissist: What To Expect

Do you often feel deeply hurt when your partner ignores your effort? So much so that it drives you to the point of (what feels like) insanity?

Or, maybe you’ve found that you’re unable to enjoy a day out with the girls like you used to. Instead of laughing together and catching up, you constantly check your phone for missed calls or texts – anxiously on the edge of your seat. 

If you’re beginning to realize your life is not your own anymore, I have both good and bad news for you. The bad news is that you may be suffering from codependency with a narcissistic partner.  

The good news? Recognizing these toxic behaviors is the first step in your healing journey. 

So, if you’re a codependent thinking of leaving a narcissistic relationship, you may have loads of questions. What even is codependency? How do I know if my partner is a narcissist? How do I leave? 

We have the answers for you. 

What Is Codependency?

In any relationship, there’s a level of compromise. When two people with different backgrounds, perspectives, childhoods, trauma, values, and ideas come together, opinions are bound to differ. 

In a healthy relationship, both partners can communicate and come to a resolution that serves each person. In a codependent relationship, one person often does much more of the giving than receiving. 

A codependent partner is often so afraid of being left or abandoned they begin sacrificing parts of themself to satisfy their partner. They give up wants, goals, or needs to keep the peace. 

In addition, codependent partners often lose themselves in the relationship to keep the other person happy. 

A sad couple sits back to back outside. A red broken heart sits between them. The title reads When a codependent leaves a narcissist
When A Codependent Leaves A Narcissist

Here are a few signs you may be suffering from codependency:

  • You have a difficult time holding boundaries
  • You’re a people pleaser 
  • You have a hard time saying ‘no’
  • You feel incredibly guilty when you do say no 
  • You have low self-esteem 
  • You have an innate ‘caretaker’ personality 
  • You feel the need to ‘fix’ your partner
  • You enable your partner’s self-destructive behaviors
  • You have a hard time making decisions without your partner
  • You self-sacrifice often 
  • You rely on your partner heavily to feel happy in life

If you feel your needs and desires aren’t important, or you truly believe you couldn’t possibly live without the other person, you may be codependent.

Given the harsh contrast in the personality of a narcissist, it’s no surprise this can be an incredibly toxic dynamic. 

Related: Can A Narcissist Be Faithful?

Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist:

The word narcissist is thrown around often these days. While only a small portion of the population truly suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a larger percentage still carries many traits that mirror NPD. 

Just as you can be depressed without being formally diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, you can still be a narcissist without the formal title. 

Individuals with narcissistic traits believe they’re far superior to everyone else. Even if they don’t openly vocalize it, their actions paint a different picture. 

Narcissists view themselves as completely unique and important and demand to be treated as such. They often have few friends as they lack empathy for deep friendships.

Was your partner incredibly charming at first? Only to find out you’re dating quite the opposite months down the road? 

Do they often hog the entire conversation at the dinner table, only talking about themselves? 

Does your partner seem to feed off your compliments and need an excessive amount of them throughout the day?

You may be dating a narcissist. 

A few more signs include:

  • Your partner has frequent conflicts with others 
  • Your partner has a difficult time understanding the way you feel
  • Your partner doesn’t often see the way their actions hurt you 
  • Your partner often gaslights you or invalidates your emotions
  • Your partner rarely engages in a conversation about you
  • Your partner often exaggerates their accomplishments when talking to other people
  • Your partner has an obsession with success, fame, or wealth 
  • Your partner rarely asks about your needs or desires
  • Your partner never apologizes 
  • Your partner always feels as though their opinion is right 
  • Your partner rarely tries to compromise with you 

Why Do Narcissists Like Codependents?

When we have a codependent on one hand that wants to constantly please others to the point of abandoning themselves and a narcissist on the other that thrives on being treated like royalty every day, we get an incredibly problematic situation. 

Think about it like this: you have an individual that believes the sun, moon, and all other planets revolve around them, and another individual who is so terrified of being left behind they’re willing to dote and care for someone – no matter how badly they’re treated. 

A couple sits on a couch looking crestfallen. The title reads Why narcissists like codependents
What happens when a codependent leaves a narcissist

Their Personality Attracts Codependents:

Not only this, but a codependent often lacks self-confidence. The charming charisma of a narcissist (at the beginning) can be a major draw for someone that struggles with their own self-esteem. 

However, what many fail to realize about narcissistic personality disorder is that many narcissists struggle with low self-esteem too. Yet they overcompensate to make up for this internal struggle and eventually believe it.

More>> Traits of Manipulative People Who Pretend To Be Nice

They Share A Mutual Need To Be Needed:

While a narcissist and codependent differ in many ways, they both share a mutual, deep seeded desire to be needed. 

Narcissists crave being needed because they feel they should be, given how rare and remarkable they are. On the other hand, a codependent craves being needed by others because they feel it’s the only way they are “enough.” 

They Use a Codependent As a Target:

An aspect of narcissism that differs from other personality disorders is that the most toxic of their behaviors are inflicted upon other people. Narcissism shows its colors loud and proud when there is a subject to direct them upon. 

This is why narcissists and codependents become entangled together.

They’re well aware that they can treat a codependent individual however they want without retribution. Narcissists often go after what they need and want without feeling guilty about the means it takes to get there. 

This means a narcissist can:

  • Devalue them to make themselves feel superior
  • Get consistent compliments to feed their ego
  • Receive praise or acknowledgment from another person without having to return the same 
  • Have someone to use as a scapegoat when problems arise in their own life
  • Use tactics like gaslighting or projection when angry 

What Triggers Codependency?

Like many issues in adulthood, codependency stems back to childhood. While this isn’t always the case – it’s an overwhelming majority. 

Our relationships with our parents or guardians can follow us well into adulthood, impacting how we behave in romantic relationships.

Someone with codependency problems may have been raised by either overprotective or under protective parents. 

If they were raised in a home where their parents were overprotective, they might never have learned to survive in the real world on their own.

They were likely coddled and given everything they needed whenever they faced an obstacle. Because of this, they likely never learned how to self-regulate their emotions – needed the help of others as adults.

In addition, they may never have learned how to separate themselves from others and therefore have an incredibly difficult time being alone and independent. 

On the flip side, if an individual was raised in an under protective home, they may have a deep-rooted fear that their needs won’t be met.

Therefore, they do whatever it takes to keep their partner around, fearing they’ll abandon them and leave them to fend for themselves.

This type of codependence is rooted in the fear of being left behind and can often be traced back to early childhood. 

More>> My Husband Misinterprets Everything I Say. Is It On Purpose?

How Does a Codependent Leave a Narcissist?

Choosing to leave a narcissistic relationship as a codependent individual can initially seem terrifying.

Not only are you choosing to separate from someone you love, but you’re also now facing many obstacles that were tying you to the relationship in the first place. 

Not only this but leaving a narcissistic relationship can be even more difficult than leaving a healthy one because you’re dealing with someone willing to use any manipulation tactics possible to keep you from leaving. 

There are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re thinking about leaving your narcissistic relationship:

Educate Yourself:

It’s important to research what things may feel like during/after the breakup. This way, you’re not blindsided by the intense emotions that may follow afterward.

Narcissists are incredibly manipulative and will often try multiple different tactics to get you to come back. Reading up on what techniques they may try to throw your way can help you set up a plan of action when they arise. 

Find a Support Group:

Since many victims of narcissistic abuse are left in a shattered emotional state, support groups have popped up worldwide to provide a safe space of understanding.

Unless you’ve been through a narcissistic relationship, it can be difficult to relate to someone who has.

Support groups are an excellent way to get guidance and advice from someone who has walked this road. 

Build Your Own Life:

Becoming self-reliant is a major step in leaving a relationship with a narcissist.

Being codependent is difficult, but when dating someone with narcissistic tendencies, they’ll often remind you how much you ‘need them’ and ‘wouldn’t be able to survive without them’.

This is a manipulation tactic used to keep a codependent stuck.

Find hobbies that don’t involve them, join classes or groups to learn a new skill, or pick up a second language.

Build your life for you. 

Be Assertive:

This is much easier said than done, and narcissists hate boundaries.

If you’ve spent months or years with a narcissist, constantly letting them cross lines you’ve placed in the sand, they’ll likely throw an adult-sized temper tantrum when you suddenly put up a wall.

Stick your ground and do not waver. Narcissists can smell even the slightest scent of weakness. 

More>> How to Disarm a Master Manipulator

Practice The ‘No Contact Rule’:

This may hurt worse than the actual breakup itself, but like ripping off a bandaid, it’s going to hurt like hell at first but be beneficial for your healing in the long run.

If you need to block them, do so. Don’t check up on them. Don’t stalk their social media. Even on the nights you miss them, find something to distract you.

If you need to text them one last time, try the 48-hour rule: wait 48 hours, and if you still need to send that message, you can (spoiler alert: you most likely won’t). The longer you prolong the breakup, the longer it will take for the narcissist to let you go.

Bottom Line: When A Codependent Leaves A Narcissist :

While being in a codependent / narcissist relationship may feel like running a marathon in quicksand, overcoming the trauma and pain it can cause is entirely possible. 

Nobody deserves to sacrifice their entire being for another person. No matter how you feel on the inside, this is your life to live: nobody else’s.

You have the power to create a happy life for yourself. It’s not going to be easy, and in some cases, it may require professional help, but there are many skilled therapists ready to help you overcome your breakup and the baggage it may have brought. 

Remember to educate yourself on what might happen during and after the relationship ends.

Don’t let yourself be blindsided and make the mistake of getting trapped back in the toxic cycle of abuse.

Find a support group of those who have dated and broken free from a narcissist, they will help you far more than your friends or family. 

End the relationship and allow yourself the peace of walking away. The narcissist will likely try and gaslight you, manipulate you, or tear you down into coming back but just remember: you are the writer of your own story, not them. Everyone – yes, even you – deserve healthy love. 


You don’t have to figure this out on your own.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a qualified therapist who gets you, try BetterHelp. Get 10% off your first month when you click the link below.

An image of a woman breaking up with a man. The title reads When A Codependent Leaves A Narcissist
When a codependent leaves a narcissist PIN

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