The Complex Relationship Between the Narcissist and the Enabler

A narcissist’s enabler is someone who unknowingly supports or sustains the unhealthy behavior of a narcissist. This codependent relationship is often complex and difficult to break free from. In this document, we will explore the dynamics of a narcissist-enabler relationship and how one can effectively end it.

narcissist enabler

Understanding the Narcissist-Enabler Relationship

The enabler in a narcissistic relationship is usually someone who has a close personal connection with the narcissist, such as a family member, partner, or friend. They are often drawn to the charismatic and charming qualities of the narcissist and may even believe that they can “fix” or change them. However, this only perpetuates the unhealthy dynamic between them.

The narcissist, on the other hand, sees the enabler as a valuable source of admiration and validation, providing them with the narcissistic supply that they crave. The enabler’s constant support and lack of boundaries also reinforces the narcissist’s belief that they are superior and entitled to special treatment.

The enabler in a narcissistic relationship often plays multiple roles, such as a caretaker, mediator, or even an apologist for the narcissist. They take on these roles out of a sense of obligation or guilt, trying to appease the narcissist and avoid their anger or manipulation.

Moreover, the enabler is likely to have low self-esteem and codependent tendencies. They may feel responsible for the happiness and well-being of others, including the narcissist, and have a hard time setting boundaries or saying no. This allows the narcissist to continue their toxic behavior without consequences.

The Main Characteristics of an Enabler

An enabler plays a crucial role in sustaining the narcissist’s behavior, often without realizing the impact of their actions. Understanding the main characteristics of an enabler is essential to grasp why they find themselves in such relationships and how these traits contribute to the dynamic.

Low Self-Esteem

Enablers often struggle with low self-esteem, which makes them vulnerable to narcissistic manipulation. They may rely on the relationship with the narcissist to feel a sense of worth or validation.


Enablers typically exhibit codependent tendencies, where their sense of identity and self-worth is heavily tied to the approval and happiness of the narcissist. This makes them put the needs of the narcissist above their own, leading to an unhealthy and imbalanced relationship.

Lack of Boundaries

A lack of personal boundaries is a hallmark of an enabler. They find it very difficult to say no or stand up for themselves, allowing the narcissist to take advantage of their kindness and generosity.

Caretaker Mentality

Enablers often assume the role of a caretaker, trying to “fix” or help the narcissist. They believe they can change the narcissist’s behavior through their support, which only perpetuates the unhealthy dynamic.

Avoidance of Conflict

Enablers try to avoid conflict at all costs. This often means acquiescing to the narcissist’s demands and ignoring their own needs, which only fuels the narcissist’s sense of entitlement.

Sense of Obligation or Guilt

Enablers feel a strong sense of obligation or guilt towards the narcissist, believing it is their responsibility to keep them happy or stable. This can stem from past experiences or deeply ingrained beliefs about relationships and loyalty.

Emotional Dependency

A narcissistic enabler is often emotionally dependent on the narcissist. They rely on the narcissist for emotional support and stability, despite the often one-sided nature of the relationship.


Enablers can become defensive when others criticize or express concern about their relationship with the narcissist. They will rationalize or excuse the narcissist’s behavior, believing that outsiders do not truly understand the situation.

Difficulty Acknowledging Reality

Enablers have a hard time acknowledging the toxic nature of their relationship. They are usually in denial about the narcissist’s behavior, or its impact on their own mental and emotional health, clinging to the hope that things will eventually get better.

pretending not to see

How Enablers Feed the Narcissist’s Behavior

The relationship between the narcissist and the enabler is symbiotic but destructive. The enabler provides the narcissist with the admiration and support they crave, while the narcissist offers the enabler a sense of purpose or belonging.

Unfortunately, this dynamic only serves to perpetuate the narcissist’s behavior, leaving the enabler feeling increasingly drained and unfulfilled.

The Impact on the Enabler’s Mental Health

Emotional Toll

Constantly catering to someone else’s needs while neglecting your own can lead to feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. The emotional manipulation and gaslighting commonly employed by narcissists can totally erode an enabler’s self-esteem.

Psychological Impact

Over time, the stressful environment created by the narcissist-enabler relationship can lead to significant psychological issues. Enablers may experience anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. The constant need to appease the narcissist can create a state of chronic stress, affecting both mental and physical health.

Physical Consequences

The impact of being an enabler isn’t limited to emotional and psychological tolls. Chronic stress and emotional strain can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances. The constant state of tension can weaken the immune system, making enablers more susceptible to illness.

enabling a narcissist

The Road to Recovery

Recognizing the Problem

The first step in breaking free from the cycle of enabling a narcissist is recognizing the problem. Awareness is crucial; many enablers don’t realize the extent to which they are contributing to the narcissist’s behavior. Acknowledgment is the first step towards change.

Setting Boundaries

Setting and maintaining boundaries is essential for anyone looking to break free from the narcissist-enabler dynamic. Boundaries help protect your mental health and ensure that your needs are also considered. They can be challenging to establish, especially if you’re used to putting others first, but they are necessary for personal growth and well-being.

Seeking Professional Help

Professional help can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of the narcissist-enabler relationship.

Therapists and counselors can provide strategies for setting boundaries, improving self-esteem, and managing stress.

Support groups can also offer a sense of community and shared experience, making the road to recovery less daunting.



Navigating the intricate dynamics between a narcissist and an enabler can be incredibly challenging. The emotional and psychological toll can be significant, affecting all aspects of life. However, recognizing the problem, setting boundaries, and seeking professional help can pave the way for recovery. Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone—support is available, and your mental well-being is worth the effort.

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