So I Dated a Narcissist: Codependency + Trauma Bonds Do Not = Love
If you’ve ever experienced the colossal torture that stems from dating a narcissist, I feel you. I feel your pain and suffering, your confusion and overwhelming anxiety that’s left you feeling suffocated and alone. You are not alone! Unfortunately there are many of us who have blindly fallen into the malicious and deceiving web of an abusive individual disguised as a lover or friend. As tragic as these relationships might be, they exist to guide us along the path towards self-discovery. To teach us of our worth so that we can protect ourselves against future perpetrators and put an end to abusive cycles once and for all.
I’ll be the first to admit that my track record when it comes to dating is an absolute nightmare! But let’s be real, whose isn’t? I am notorious for attracting all of the wrong people into my life and sticking around far longer than I should in hopes that I might just be the person that can enlighten and inspire my partners to change (this is NOT a thing). In fact, I only recently started attracting positive, like minded people in the last 9 months after a very drastic lifestyle change and countless hours of therapy. Never underestimate the power of communication my loves!
But cutting off a narcissist can feel like you’re trying to pry a leech off the bottom of your foot. No matter how hard you try to release yourself from that blood sucking parasite, it is relentless and determined to drain you of your life source until you finally manage to break free! Narcissists are no different. They enmesh themselves so intricately into your life while hiding behind a false persona until they’ve dug their teeth so deeply that you become a prisoner with no way to escape. I promise you, there is hope! Acknowledging that you’re dealing with a narcissist is the first step towards setting yourself free.
What is a Narcissist?
A narcissist is someone who possesses an inflated sense of self importance and requires an excessive need for admiration from others. They lack empathy and the ability to take responsibility for their actions and are resistant to changing their behavioural patterns. If there is a problem, it’s certainly not their fault!
This personality disorder in particular (NPD) can pose a serious threat to your mental and emotional health if you’re continuously exposed to acts of abuse and manipulation. So how do you know if you’re dealing with a narcissist? What are some of the early warning signs that you might be in trouble?
- They come on very strong in the early stages of a relationship
- They drop the L word almost immediately
- They start prematurely talking marriage (red flag)
- They shower you with gifts, vacations + grand gestures
- Wedge themselves between your relationships with family and friends (isolating you or trying to convince you that your support group is toxic)
- Constantly talking about themselves
- Bragging about their accomplishments and success
- Talking over others and hijacking the conversation
- Acting out to receive attention (whether positive/negative)
- Fishing for compliments and demanding you notice them
ie. “Tell me you love me” or “Why don’t you ever tell me I look nice?”
Disguise Cruelty as Humour
- Making rude and hurtful comments about your appearance
- Pointing out your flaws
When you react or become upset, this behaviour is often followed by “I was joking” or “relax, I was just kidding”. Narcissists can be quite insecure and will do this in an attempt to fuel their own self-esteem.
- Everyone else is the problem (unable to hold themselves accountable)
- Unable to apologize when they have done something wrong
- Intentionally try to cause you emotional pain and upset
This is particularly common if you’ve managed to cut off all contact with your abuser. They may try reaching out to your friends and family in an attempt to convince them that you were the problem, you are crazy, and they are the victim.
- Manipulate you into questioning your own sanity
ie. “That’s not what happened, you’re not remembering it right”
- Dishonest (often compulsive liars)
- Dismiss your emotions
ie. “You’re too sensitive”
- Deny situations and events that have taken place
So how can a seemingly selfless individual be a narcissist? How could someone who appeared to be so loving and caring turn out to be manipulative and emotionally abusive? This is exactly the illusion the narcissist has created, that’s what they want you to believe in order to gain power and control of the situation. After all, they have mastered the art of manipulation which makes determining their power plays extremely challenging. Once you catch on to their behaviour it threatens their ego and you must tread lightly…very, very lightly.
What’s worse? When we become codependent on the person that is causing us nothing but pain and upset, we are quite often unable to see the situation for what it really is.
When two people become codependent on one another, they often lack the ability to function in the absence of the other person. Oftentimes this is more common for those suffering from a mental or physical illness or addiction. Codependency prevents healthy relationships from forming because we shift the responsibility of our happiness on to someone else. We deflect ownership of our feelings and emotions and rely on the behaviours and actions of others to feel worthy and fulfilled, to feel whole.
For years I’d been subconsciously manifesting toxic people into my life in an attempt to fill the aching void inside my heart. I felt worthless, inadequate, and alone. Narcissists pick up on this “damsel in distress” energy. They jump at the opportunity to swoop in and “rescue” their victims because it makes them feel superior and provides them with a sense of purpose. Steer clear of these types of people!
Codependency in a relationship may show up as a result of childhood trauma or abandonment. My ex and I certainly checked off both of those boxes. We struggled with addiction and mental health issues which can be very dangerous if both partners aren’t actively seeking treatment and committed to working on themselves. I was a beautiful train wreck in desperate need of saving and she longed to feel valued and needed. We were a perfect match! Or so I thought…
Neither one of us truly loved ourselves. We were reliant on the other person to fill a void and unknowingly recreated our past experiences in our relationship with one another. As a result, we became extremely codependent.
What is a trauma bond? How does it manifest itself in a relationship? Trauma bonds generally stem from our childhood experiences with our parents or primary caregiver. We learn the very definition of love and how to obtain it through previous conditioning engrained at a very young age.
Whether we suffer from abandonment issues, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, we associate feeling loved with the behaviour of those responsible for making sure our basic human needs were being met. As adults, this often means we attract abusive partners that fit the description of a “lover” because we believe that this is what love is supposed to feel like. It’s not.
Being trauma bonded to a narcissist can feel exceptionally confusing and all consuming. Their repetitive and abusive cycle is an addiction! They will manipulate you into believing that their toxic behaviour is normal and you are the one with the problem (classic narcissist).
Signs You May Be Trauma Bonded
- You know he/she is toxic for you but you don’t feel like you can leave or cut ties with them
- You defend their behaviour towards you even when you know it is wrong
- You are constantly fighting to defend yourself in an attempt to feel understood and heard
- You feel unworthy and engage in self-sabotaging behaviours
- You lose confidence in yourself
- Your sense of reality becomes skewed
Codependency and trauma bonds do NOT equal love. Love is supposed to make us feel safe, supported, and comfortable expressing ourselves in any given situation. Love is compassionate and warm, flooding our hearts with joy and abundance! Toxicity does not exist where true love is present. The two can not coincide.
I may not be a relationship expert, but I’ve been around the block enough times to know when someone isn’t healthy for me. I’ve spent the last 13 years of my life in and out of relationships with toxic people, searching for “the one” in hopes to feel adequate and whole. In fact it wasn’t until my most recent breakup that I finally began to understand the true definition of love.
We can not open our heart to anyone else if we neglect to show up for ourselves. If we put our wants, our needs, and our desires on the backburner to appease others, we end up doing ourselves a major disservice. Loving ourselves, flaws and all is the first step, and let me tell you, it’s no easy task. It takes time, patience, and forgiveness to come to terms with the person we’ve fought to become. Be gentle with yourself during this cycle. I promise you the fog will gradually begin to dissipate.
Loving ourselves, and I mean truly, genuinely loving who we are allows us to show up differently. We stand tall, we set boundaries, and we exude confidence that can not be infiltrated by anyone with ill intentions because we know our worth and refuse to settle for anything less! Narcissists don’t stand a chance against self-love.
Beautiful Train Wreck