Enablers and narcissists are two personality types that often find themselves involved in difficult, co-dependent relationships. An enabler is someone who enables another person’s negative or self-destructive behavior by providing them with anything they need to continue this behavior.
Narcissists, on the other hand, have a very high opinion of themselves and lack empathy. The connection between these two personality types lies in the fact that enablers often find themselves drawn to and reinforcing the narcissistic tendencies of another person in an effort to feel needed and appreciated.
Understanding the Role of Enablers in the Lives of Narcissists
The enabler’s role in a relationship with a narcissistic individual can often be complex and fraught with emotional challenges. Enablers may feel the need to constantly prove themselves to their partner in order to maintain their attention and approval, while also trying to ignore or suppress any criticisms or negative behaviour they witness.
This dynamic is encouraged and welcomes by the narcissist, who needs an audience and constant adulation, without needing to do anything to address any of the issues in their life.
As such, they will often manipulate the enabler, encouraging them to provide comfort and support without ever addressing difficult topics or working through problems together.
This creates a dangerous cycle in which both parties become locked into destructive patterns of behaviour, reinforcing each other’s negative tendencies instead of finding healthy ways out of it.
The Psychological and Emotional Dynamics of the Relationship Between Enablers and Narcissists
The relationship between enablers and narcissists is an emotionally charged one, often filled with drama and manipulation. This dynamic allows narcissists to feel powerful and in control, while pushing their unresolved issues onto their partners.
The enabler, meanwhile, finds themselves constantly second-guessing their own emotions and desires as they try to meet their partner’s needs without challenging them or asking for anything in return. This creates a dangerous cycle of codependency that can be difficult to break out of without outside help.
The Most Common Characteristics of Enablers
Enabling behavior is often unconscious and stems from a need to avoid conflict at any cost. The following is a list of 7 common characteristics of enablers.
A Tendency to Avoid Conflict
Enablers often try to avoid conflict or difficult conversations by either ignoring issues or avoiding them altogether. The goal is usually to maintain a sense of harmony in the relationship with their partner, ignoring problems or dissolving them in the heat of the moment, rather than trying to resolve them. This can ultimately create a pattern of unhealthy communication, as these issues are never actually addressed and can come back up later on.
Difficulty Expressing Emotions and Needs
Enablers often put the needs and desires of their partner above their own, leaving them unable to identify what they want from the relationship. This lack of self-awareness can lead to difficulty in expressing their own feelings or getting their needs met.
Additionally, enablers may feel too guilty to ask for help or admit that they need something, leading them to stay in unhealthy situations for far too long.
The enabler’s need for approval from a narcissist can have a detrimental effect on their self-esteem. Since they constantly attempt to please the narcissist, they may come to believe that their worth is tied to how much approval they can get, leading them to feel inadequate and worthless when they fail.
Easily Taken Advantage Of
Due to their passive nature, enablers are an easy target for manipulation and can be taken advantage of by those with malicious intentions. They often feel obligated to sacrifice their own needs and desires in order to satisfy the demands of others, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. This ultimately leads to a lack of assertiveness and can result in enablers feeling unable or unwilling to speak up for themselves or set healthy boundaries.
Difficulty Saying No
Enablers are often unable to say “no” when asked for something by those around them, even if it is not within their comfort zone or something they actually want to do. They may be afraid of upsetting someone or fear repercussions from refusal, leading them to comply with the request no matter what. This lack of autonomy and inability to set healthy boundaries can lead to feelings of being taken advantage of, which can have a damaging effect on their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Fear of Abandonment
Enablers are often codependent on their narcissist partner, due to a deep seated underlying fear that setting boundaries and asserting their independence could lead to abandonment by their partner.
This fear can lead to a vicious cycle of them becoming further entrenched in the relationship, despite it being damaging to them physically, mentally and emotionally.
In order to break this cycle, enablers need to cultivate self-respect and recognize that taking care of themselves is a priority.
Quick To Blame Themselves
Enablers often take full responsibility for anything that goes wrong in the relationship, even when it is by no means their fault. This tendency to put the blame on themselves can prevent them from recognizing situations in which they are being taken advantage of or manipulated.
Enablers need to be aware that taking responsibility only for things that are within their control is an important part of establishing healthy boundaries and setting themselves up for success.
How Enablers can Break Free
Breaking out of an enabling cycle can be incredibly difficult. But with the right tools, it is possible to break free and make positive changes in your life.
The following are some actionable steps that will help you take back control of your life and prioritize yourself above all else.
Acknowledge the problem
Before taking any steps to break free from an enabling cycle, it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge that the cycle is unhealthy.
Acknowledging the reality of the situation can be very difficult, particularly if you’ve been in denial about it for a long time, but this is an essential first step in order to begin making positive changes.
Once you’ve identified that there is a problem, it’s important to talk to someone you trust and make plans for how you want to move forward. If needed, reach out to help services such as therapy or support groups that can provide guidance and resources along your journey.
Your needs should be your top priority. Don’t be afraid to set limits for yourself and for others, meaning you won’t put up with abusive behavior or let people take advantage of you.
Self-care is also essential if you want to break out of the cycle of enabling. Make sure to take time for yourself and do activities that make you feel relaxed and energized. This could include anything from reading a book, meditating, or going on a walk outside. Make sure not to feel guilty when taking time away from toxic influences. It’s necessary in order to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and those around you!
You may be used to being a doormat and staying quiet when your narcissist partner does something wrong or treats you unfairly, but speaking up is key in establishing boundaries and making sure that your needs are met.
Learning how to respectfully confront a narcissist can help you better stand up for yourself and set clear expectations in the relationship.
Make sure to remain firm with your boundaries while still being diplomatic. Focus on expressing how their behavior makes you feel instead of attacking them personally. Even if they don’t react positively at first, reasserting yourself will help them understand that you won’t accept negative behaviors in the future.
Reach Out for Support
The journey to breaking out of an enabling cycle can be tough—reaching out for help can make all the difference when times get tough. Having someone who understands what you’re going through can give you perspective, advice and validation when dealing with difficult circumstances.
Therapy is one way to do this: speaking to a qualified therapist or counselor can help you gain clarity about your issues and learn how to establish healthy boundaries that will prevent enabling behaviors from continuing.
Taking care of yourself is an integral part of breaking out of an enabling cycle. Self-care helps remind you to prioritize your own needs, rather than solely looking after another person’s.
Practicing self-care can help build confidence and encourage personal growth—both of which are necessary in order to break this cycle.
Self-care activities can range from simple things like getting plenty of rest, eating nutritious meals and exercising regularly, to more leisurely activities such as exploring new hobbies or taking a relaxing bath.
Not only will these actions benefit your mental health, but they’ll also give you the strength and clarity to make positive changes on your journey out of enabling behaviors.
Build Healthy Relationships with Empathic People
While catering to narcissistic tendencies may seem like a valid solution in the short-term, it can have lasting detrimental effects on your self-esteem. As you break out of an enabling cycle, it’s important to work on building healthy relationships with empathetic people instead.
Surround yourself with individuals who recognize and validate your feelings, and focus on developing strong, trusting relationships with them rather than feeding into negative behaviors.
Final Thoughts about Enablers
Breaking out of an enabling cycle with a narcissist is a difficult and often painful process, but it can be done if you take the necessary steps.
First, acknowledge that the cycle is unhealthy and talk to someone you trust for support. Then, start taking care of yourself. This will help build confidence, encourage personal growth and give you the strength to make positive changes.
Finally, remember that you are capable of making an escape from this toxic bond. Focus on your own needs and wellbeing. By doing so, you’ll create a better life free from enabling behavior.
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