The Key-and-lock of HSP-co-dependency and Narcissism

by Caroline van Kimmenade

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 dramas 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 complementary 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.

These are all just the structures you carry around to shape your life. If they aren’t helping, then they need changing!


P.S. It’s important to know that “getting it” intellectually is the start of the journey, not the end. Once you start to get an inkling of the kind of beliefs and emotional wounds that are holding you hostage, you need to do the actual work of processing and 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 any more isn’t enough, you actually have to do the active uninstalling and you need to know how to do it step by step to get lasting results.

If you’re serious about wanting to break that key-and-lock mechanism of narcissist attraction, and you’re ready to do the deeper work but you’re not sure how, I’ve got good news! I’ve received many, many requests from HSPs struggling with how to break free from this pattern, and I’ve created a programme to teach you exactly how to do it. Check it out here.


no to narcs banner timeless


Share to spread the happy sensitive inspiration
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on twitter
Share on google
Share on pinterest
Share on print


1 Terry May 19, 2013

This is EXACTLY what happened in my 20 year marriage with an alcoholic narcissist. It took me so long to get past it and unfortunately, I lost a lot in the process — my home, financial security and my children. But at least I now know what happened and have moved on to a happier life. Wish this information had been available to me before my divorce so that I could have been better prepared and have more confidence to fight it.

2 Holly July 31, 2013

This happened to me in my past 3 yr relationship with a narcissist. I lost site of who I was and what I was worth and my own independance…including finances. Though I know I have moved on to a better life, it doesn’t quite feel right, I met a better man that I have been seeing for 6 months but something about him has me guarded…I get a STRONG sense that he isn’t ‘as’ in love with me as he claims to be. So now I am facing all new senitivites :/ and have no idea how to prtect myself from getting hurt by someone who I do have genuine emotions for.

3 Caroline van Kimmenade August 3, 2013

Hi Holly,

Protecting ourselves from getting hurt is a bit of a losing/impossible battle. What I hear you say is that you are sensing that you WILL be hurt by him. In that case, better get out sooner than later and deal with the hurt already inflincted, but hence protect yourself from future hurt. When you know you have a pattern of attracting narcissists, it’s important to take a good chunk of time to flesh out and heal that pattern solo, otherwise you’ll keep attracting the wrong kinds of relationships. It’s worth trusting your own intuition, really. In the end, that’s what will save you big pain, even if it means you have to face uncomfortable truths right now.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: