To this disenchanted generation, ‘I Love You’ are worn out words. They’re said too much but not enough. They mean different things in different contexts, but they always carry a special significance.
Sometimes, the words are said by people who don’t fully grasp their meaning, by those who are completely self-absorbed, people who cannot love anyone other than themselves.
We all have encountered such dangerously toxic people in our lives, whose definition of love is control and obsession instead of care and understanding. If you have been unfortunate enough to be loved by a narcissist, you will definitely relate to this letter written from the perspective of someone incapable of thinking beyond themselves.
“Dear Codependent Partner,
I will never say these words to you in reality because if I did it would reveal how I deliberately exploit the world for the only thing I care about – my benefit. Since I only care about myself, I need you to carry all the load of the relationship while I reap the benefits of it.
When I say I love you, I really do mean it though. I love how hard you work for me. I love that I have forced you to compromise about everything to keep me happy. I love that you do everything for me but you have given up expecting me to return that courtesy.
I love that I have the power to reduce you to tears, make you feel small and insignificant, and gloat in how powerful that makes me feel. I know you let me walk over you, and I keep pulling you down so that you don’t realize you deserve a lot better than what I give you.
I love how I can blame you for gas-lighting or just call you crazy when you bring up things I don’t want to discuss. Also, I love that I can keep expecting more and more from you while you keep lowering your expectations of me. It makes my life so easy when you let me walk all over you!
I love how I can take your innocence and kindness for granted, using it for my thrill and pleasure. I love how I can always keep all your focus on alleviating my pain and discomfort. Nothing ever is enough; I don’t feel loved enough, respected, admired and cared for enough. And all of this misery I dump on you to fix.
It is not that I don’t know that you need support, love and care; I just don’t think it is as important as my feelings. I am the priority for the both of us, and that is really all I want. It is never about the closeness, empathy or connection you want. It is never about how I hurt you. It is always about how I can control you and make you feel like you are not doing enough.
I am superior to you, and I love you as one loves a precious possession. You are just like all the other nice things I want to own and I love the envy others feel when they see you on my arm.
Since I am constantly hurting others, my brain suffers from self-loathing 24/7. This is why I love spending time with you. I love feeding off your emotional support, and I love hating you for needing you constantly. I love blaming you for my own narcissistic tendencies.
I love you because I am scared and tired of the self-loathing inside me. All the feelings I am too scared to have, the neediness, the emotions, everything I call you weak and crazy for, makes me love you because I feed off of you. I love you because I can treat you like a punching bag when that deep weak part of me threatens to open up. You keep all of it at bay and I take you for granted because I hate that I need you as much as I do.
Of course the day you realize all of this, you will leave me. So, I will never tell you, and I will always keep you hoping that I will become a better person, but in reality I never will. Only if you walk away from me, will my complacency ever get displaced. The day you stop caring, I will fall and I will learn my lesson. Yet I know that day will never come, because I keep you so tangled up in my concerns that you can never think about yours. And that is just perfect for me.
With my endless self-love,
Your Narcissist Other.”
This letter is of course fictional, and a true narcissist would never be this candid even to himself. But if you have had a toxic partner in your life, you will know how important this kind of honesty is to help you forgive yourself and move on.
The Dance Between Codependents & Narcissists
The “codependency dance” requires two opposite but distinctly balanced partners: the pleaser/fixer (codependent) and the taker/controller (narcissist/addict).
Codependents — who are giving, sacrificing, and consumed with the needs and desires of others — do not know how to emotionally disconnect or avoid romantic relationships with individuals who are narcissistic — individuals who are selfish, self-centered, controlling, and harmful to them. Codependents habitually find themselves on a “dance floor” attracted to partners who are a perfect counter-match to their uniquely passive, submissive and acquiescent dance style.
As natural followers in their relationship dance, codependents are passive and accommodating dance partners. So how can they stop being such natural followers?
Codependents find narcissistic dance partners deeply appealing. They are perpetually attracted to their charm, boldness, confidence and domineering personality.
When codependents and narcissists pair up, the dancing experience sizzles with excitement — at least in the beginning. After many “songs,” the enthralling and thrilling dance experience predictably transforms into drama, conflict, feelings of neglect and being trapped. Even with chaos and conflict, neither of the two spellbound dancers dares to end their partnership. Despite the tumultuous and conflict-laden nature of their relationship, neither of these two opposite, but dysfunctionally compatible, dance partners feel compelled to sit the dance out.
When a codependent and narcissist come together in their relationship, their dance unfolds flawlessly: The narcissistic partner maintains the lead and the codependent follows. Their roles seem natural to them because they have actually been practicing them their whole lives. The codependent reflexively gives up their power; since the narcissist thrives on control and power, the dance is perfectly coordinated. No one gets their toes stepped on.
Typically, codependents give of themselves much more than their partners give back to them. As generous — but bitter — dance partners, they seem to be stuck on the dance floor, always waiting for the next song, at which time they naively hope that their narcissistic partner will finally understand their needs.
Codependents confuse caretaking and sacrifice with loyalty and love. Although they are proud of their unwavering dedication to the person they love, they end up feeling unappreciated and used. Codependents yearn to be loved, but because of their choice of dance partner, find their dreams unrealized. With the heartbreak of unfulfilled dreams, codependents silently and bitterly swallow their unhappiness.
Codependents are essentially stuck in a pattern of giving and sacrificing, without the possibility of ever receiving the same from their partner. They pretend to enjoy the dance, but really harbor feelings of anger, bitterness, and sadness for not taking an active role in their dance experience. They are convinced that they will never find a dance partner who will love them for who they are, as opposed to what they can do for them. Their low self-esteem and pessimism manifests itself into a form of learned helplessness that ultimately keeps them on the dance floor with their narcissistic partner.
The narcissist dancer, like the codependent, is attracted to a partner who feels perfect to them: Someone who lets them lead the dance while making them feel powerful, competent and appreciated. In other words, the narcissist feels most comfortable with a dancing companion who matches up with their self-absorbed and boldly selfish dance style. Narcissist dancers are able to maintain the direction of the dance because they always find partners who lack self-worth, confidence and who have low self-esteem — codependents. With such a well-matched companion, they are able to control both the dancer and the dance.
Although all codependent dancers desire harmony and balance, they consistently sabotage themselves by choosing a partner to whom they are initially attracted, but will ultimately resent. When given a chance to stop dancing with their narcissistic partner and comfortably sit the dance out until someone healthy comes along, they typically choose to continue their dysfunctional dance. They dare not leave their narcissistic dance partner because their lack of self-esteem and self-respect makes them feel like they can do no better. Being alone is the equivalent of feeling lonely, and loneliness is too painful to bear.
Without self-esteem or feelings of personal power, the codependent is incapable of choosing mutually giving and unconditionally loving partners. Their choice of a narcissistic dance partner is connected to their unconscious motivation to find a person who is familiar — someone who is reminiscent of their powerless and, perhaps, traumatic childhood. Sadly, codependents are most likely children of parents who also flawlessly danced the dysfunctional codependent/narcissistic dance. Their fear of being alone, their compulsion to control and fix at any cost, and their comfort in their role as the martyr who is endlessly loving, devoted, and patient, is an extension of their yearning to be loved, respected, and cared for as a child.
Although codependents dream of dancing with an unconditionally loving and affirming partner, they submit to their dysfunctional destiny. Until they decide to heal the psychological wounds that ultimately compel them to dance with their narcissistic dance partners, they will be destined to maintain the steady beat and rhythm of their dysfunctional dance.