It’s a theme. Caring, committed person taking care of grumpy cold partner. Perhaps people on the outside see it, perhaps they don’t. At the point of heartbreak, relationship break-up and a gleam of returning sanity, the scenario often plays out something like this:
co-dependent HSP: my partner is really a good person at heart. Things are not so bad. The kids need us to stay together. We’ve invested so much into this relationship, can’t give up now! Perhaps I can just find a way to be o.k. with all this.
Narcissist: None of it is my fault. I need my partner to take care of me, so I’ll change a little temporarily so that they’ll stay. If that doesn’t work I’ll threaten or undermine their self-confidence to make them stay. How dare they disobey me!
While it seems like the problem is all about the partner, the lock and key mechanism actually lies within. It was already present before the relationship started. And, unless it is dismantled, it will attract an endless stream of new “perfect matches” to continue the drama with. The trouble in breaking up with a narcissist does not lie with the narcissist, it lies with co-dependent inner conditioning.
This conditioning tends to start at a very early age. It’s no coincidence that you play the co-dependent role and are attracted to manipulative needy types, the dynamic is oddly familiar. You know exactly what to do. As painful as the dynamics may be, they are predictable. You know your way around the drama, you developed coping strategies a long time ago. The only thing is, these strategies have made you a perfect match for the kind of people you tried to protect yourself from.
While some freedom fighting is necessary for breaking out of a relationship with a narcissist, the hardest and most important work takes place later, on the inside. Without that inner work, you’ll run into the arms of yet another narcissist later. Same game, different face.
Take a look at the table below. Then, replace “narcissist /needy manipulator” with “mom / dad / brother / sister / aunt / uncle / grandparent” etc. See if there’s anything that clicks. Ultimately, our current relationship drama’s reflect the drama we were powerless to change as children. Again, the healing happens on the inside, in actively clearing out the co-dependent beliefs, emotions and attitudes that will keep having you show up as the perfect match for a narcissist.
There are many more lock-and-key beliefs that are applicable here, the point though is to notice the mechanism. If you keep being influenced by a certain type of person, with particular attitudes and assumptions, start noticing what exactly they seem to assume. Then look inside to see if you can find the complimentary opposite of that inside of yourself. For all practical purposes, it’s enough to assume that if someone has a key that works on you, then you are holding the corresponding lock.
The solution is a lot like standard police advice after a break-in: change the locks! While those locks may seem very personal, it’s important to know that they aren’t. You are not your beliefs. You are not your assumptions. You are not your emotional wounds. These are all just the structures you carry around to shape your life. If they aren’t helping, then they need changing!
P.S. there are many techniques that help you let go of inner limiting beliefs and blocked emotions. Two popular techniques are E.F.T. and The Sedona Method, but there are many more. It’s important to know that “getting it” intellectually is the start of the journey, not the end. Once you understand the kind of beliefs and emotional wounds that are holding you hostage, you need to do the actual work of clearing them out one by one. It’s a lot like deleting old programmes from your computer: deciding that you don’t want the programme anymore isn’t enough, you actually have to do the active uninstalling. I now have a programme where I take you through the awareness, understanding and healing & letting go steps. It’s called the No to Narcissists Programme for Highly Sensitive People.