Because the narcissist, the addict and the codependent have a lot of traits in common and they share dysfunctional patterns in different ways – for example boundaries, it can be confusing how they differ.
However, there are some VERY clear differences and I’ll list some of them here.
- A codependent will say yes when they mean no. A narcissist will not.
- A codependent thinks about others all the time. The narcissist does not think about other people unless it is beneficial to the narcissist.
- A codependent will have a hard time accepting help from others without feeling guilty. The narcissist will not. They will be angry if they don’t get the help they feel they deserve.
- A codependent will break rules when bullied or manipulated to do it. The narcissist will break rules because he/she feels entitled and better than.
- The narcissist sees themselves as a good person, whereas the codependent sees themselves as someone who is trying to be good – and often failing.
- The codependent will feel all relationship fails are their fault. The narcissist will never feel it is their fault.
- The codependent will want to work on their issues and attend therapy or coaching, whereas the narcissist will show up for appointments 2-3 times and then stop.
As you can see, there are some clues that makes it easier.
It can be a little harder when we talk about the covert narcissist, who can be abusive by omission. They can be very passive aggressive, same as the codependent. They are both scared of anger – in themselves and others, so they will try to avoid being angry and hurt their surroundings with unclear communication.
The way to spot the covert narcissist is to look at what you are thinking about what they say or do – or rather what they DON’T. They are not there for you. The codependent lives their life through others, so to them, it is really important to be there for you, but the covert narcissist will avoid being there for you in some way or other. You will have to ask for love, support and understanding. And you should never have to ask for that once you get to know each other.
If you are part of a mess with dysfunctional people like these, seek counselling and work on your own issues. That is the best way to learn to deal with it.