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Odd Couples: Codependent-Codependent, Narcissist-Narcissist (1st in Series)

Uploaded 6/12/2023, approx. 21 minute read

In his play, "No Exit," Jean-Paul Sartre said, "Hell is other people."

Today I am going to describe to you various types of hell in unusual couplings, unusual couples.

Couples that are not as common as the narcissistic borderline couple, for example.

Each and every one of these couples has its own dynamic.

So a codependent couple, a covert couple, and a narcissist couple.

Jean-Paul Sartre was interviewed in 1964 and recorded an oral preface of his play. He said that his statement, "Hell is other people," is misunderstood. He said, "It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations.

But what I really mean is something totally different.

I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, corrupted, then that other person can only be hell.

It seems that what Sartre meant was that hell for other people is conditional. For other people to be our hell, the relationship with them has to be bad.

If my relations are bad, I am situating myself in a total dependence on someone else, and then I am indeed in hell.

And there are a vast number of people in the world who are in hell because they are too dependent on the judgment of other people.

But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people for each one of us.

The other side of the coin, which no one seems to mention, is heaven is each other.

Hell, according to Sartre, is separateness, uncommunicability, self-centeredness, lust for power, for riches, for fame. Heaven is very simple and very hard, caring about yourself and your fellow beings.


Today we are going to descend into hell, and to describe hellish situations of people who are dependent on each other to the point that they hate each other.

Needless to say that two narcissists of the same type, two somatic narcissists, two cerebral narcissists, classic narcissists, compensatory, covert, inverted, two narcissists of the same kind cannot maintain a stable, long-term, full-fledged and functional relationship.

But they have to be of the same kind. Two narcissists of the opposite kind can and do have long-term profitable relationships.

I will dwell upon this in a few minutes.

Let us start with the covert narcissists.

There is a subtype of covert narcissist, which I was the first to describe, inverted narcissists.

Inverted narcissist is a narcissist codependent, someone who is codependent but also narcissistic.

And for her to derive narcissistic supply, she teams up with a classic grandiose overt narcissist.

She basks in his glow. She enjoys his borrowed light. She is like the moon to his sun.

But not all covert narcissists are inverted narcissists, though all inverted narcissists are covert, they are shy and fragile.

Anyhow, covert narcissists are self-centered, they are sensitive, they are vulnerable, they are defensive, they are hostile, they are passive-aggressive and they are paranoid.

Exactly like the classic variety of narcissists, the covert narcissist has grandiose fantasies and a strong sense of entitlement.

He tends to be exploitative, albeit stealthily and subtly.

And yes, before I proceed, and before you start, he and she are interchangeable, gender pronouns.

There is an equal number of women and men nowadays diagnosed with narcissism.

So please bear with me. I am a Victorian and the literary tradition is to use he.

Now, covert narcissists are aware of their innate limitations and shortcomings.

And so they constantly fret and stress over their inability to fulfill their unrealistic dreams and expectations.

They are constantly frustrated. They avoid recognition, competition and the limelight for fear of being exposed as frauds, the imposter syndrome, or for fear of failing.

They are ostentatiously humble and modest. This is known as pseudo humility.


Now, this is the picture of the covert narcissist externally.

This is how it is to cohabit, live with, form a relationship with a covert narcissist.

It's not the kind of person you could accommodate for long.

Covert narcissists internally often feel guilty and ashamed of their socially impermissible, aggressive urges and desires.

And this sets them apart from the overt grandiose classic phallic narcissist, who is never ashamed and never has remorse.

In this sense, the overt or grandiose narcissist is much closer to the psychopath than the covert narcissist.

This is one of the reasons that covert this guilt and shame.

These are what these are the reasons why the covert narcissist is shy and unassertive and intensely self-critical, perfectionistic.

And this inner conflict between an overwhelming sense of worthlessness, a bad object, and a grandiose false self.

This conflict results or dissonance results in mood and anxiety disorders.

Covert narcissists team up sometimes with classic narcissists, but in secret they resent and envy them.

So this is the picture. This is the unlikely couple of covert and overt narcissists.

One of them dominates, the other is submissive. One of them is envious.

The other one triggers and provokes him, often on purpose and sadistically. One of them is subterranean, subterfugeal, passive-aggressive, cunning, but in stealth and secret.

The other one is openly contemptuous and psychopathic, goal-oriented in many ways.

And this is the combination. It survives only because the overt, classic or covert narcissist generates narcissistic supply, which the covert narcissist then consumes.

Inverted narcissism may be the outcome of arrested narcissistic development.

The formation of the false self may have been disrupted and is incomplete, and the inverted narcissist is forced to resort to, when depend upon, the false self of another narcissist, her partner, in order to regulate her sense of self-worth.

But in all types of covert narcissists, there is a sense, a deep-set sense of failure and inferiority. Moreau's self-doubts, a marked propensity towards feeling ashamed, fragility, a relentless search for glory and power, which is constantly frustrated, hindered and obstructed, a marked sensitivity to criticism and to realistic and anticipatory setbacks.

There is an inability to genuinely depend on other people, to trust. There's a chronic envy of other people's talents, possessions and capacity for deep object relations or success. There's a lack of regard for boundaries of any kind, including generational boundaries and a disregard for other people's time.

And there is passive aggression. For example, silent treatment, the refusal to communicate, is much more common with covert narcissists. There's a readiness to shift values in order to carry or gain favor.

And in this sense, covert narcissists are very similar to borderlines.

There's identity disturbance, but in the case of the covert narcissist, the shift from one identity to another is very much conscious, while in the case of the borderline, it's triggered automatically and unconsciously.

There's pathological line in covert narcissism, a materialistic lifestyle, delinquent tendencies and irreverence towards authority, contumaciousness.

Covert narcissist is unable to remain in love, though there are studies that indicate that covert narcissists, as opposed to grandiose overt narcissists, are capable of loving. They are capable of getting attached and bonding, but it never holds water. It never survives.

It's very short-term and short-lived. And in this sense, again, they're very similar to borderlines.

There's an impaired capacity to view the romantic partner as a separate individual with his or her own interests, rights and values. There's an inability to genuinely comprehend taboos, such as the incest taboo.

And there's a lot, in the case of covert narcissism, there are many, many unusual, non-conventional sexual behaviors, anything from kink to paraphilias.

The covert narcissist tends to change the meaning of reality when he's faced with a threat to his self-esteem.

And so when a covert narcissist teams up with another covert narcissist or with an overt narcissist, the dynamic is a bit different.

A covert which teams up with another covert is going to force the other covert to become overt.

So one of the covert in a covert-covert relationship will push his intimate partner to become grandiosely overt a classic narcissist.

It's like we push the other partner to go out and bring home the bacon of narcissistic supply.

This is the most prevalent dynamic in covert-covert relationships.

When the covert teams up with an overt, then I described it before.

OK, this is very similar to what would happen if two codependents were to create a dynamic, a relationship. It would be unsustainable.

Codependents are people who depend on other people for their emotional gratification and regulation. Other people perform for the codependent ego functions and daily functions, including reality testing.

And so in this sense, the codependent is almost indistinguishable from the borderline.

Codependents display immature behaviors in an effort to maintain the relationship with their companion or with their mate upon whom they depend. They demand parenting or they themselves parent.

So there is a strong element of parentification in codependent relationships. And it is exclusive when there are two codependents in a relationship because both of them compete for the parental role.

And when they fail, one of them infantilizes and regresses dramatically and becomes, in effect, highly narcissistic.

Now, exactly like dependents, people with dependent personalities or codependents depend on other people for their emotional gratification and regulation, but also for the performance of both inconsequential and crucial daily and psychological functions.

The codependents seek to fuse or merge with their significant others by becoming one with their intimate partners.

Codependents are able to actually love themselves by loving via loving others.

So it's very similar to the Hall of Mirrors dual mothership shared fantasy dynamic with a narcissist.

In effect, codependents convert forcefully, convert their partners into narcissists. The same way a convert or the like converts her partner to a narcissist.

Stronger communication or signaling of expectations. This is what I want you to be. If you love me, you're going to do this for me.

Codependents are needy. They're demanding and they're submissive. This is called control from the bottom. The controlling from the bottom.

They emotionally blackmail their intimate partner. They suffer from abandonment anxiety. To avoid being overwhelmed by it, they cling to other people. They act immaturely because they want to provoke, for example, maternal or paternal instincts in the partner. And they emotionally blackmail by telling the partner, "I can't survive without you. I'm going to die if you leave me."

These behaviors are intended to elicit protective responses and to safeguard the so-called relationship with their companion or mate upon whom they depend.

Codependents appear on the surface to be impervious to abuse. No matter how badly they are mistreated, codependents remain invested and committed.

In extreme codependency, this fusion and merger with a significant other leads to in-house stalking by the codependent.

She strives to preserve the integrity and cohesion of her personality and the representations of her loved ones in her mind by constantly being present in their lives. She stalks them. She monopolizes their lives. She doesn't let go. She wants to document every single minute and witness every occurrence and development.

And this is the co- in codependents. This is where it comes into play.

By accepting the roles of victims, codependents seek to control their abuses and manipulate them.

"Control" from the bottom, as I say. It is a dance macabre in which both members of the dyad collaborate profitably.

Codependents sometimes claim to pity her abuser. She casts herself in the grandiose roles of her abuser's savior or redeemer.

Overwhelming empathy imprisons the codependent in these dysfunctional relationships, and she feels guilt either because she believes that she has driven the abuser to mistreat her, she has provoked him somehow, or because she contemplates abandon.

There's a sub-variant of codependents known as "counterdependence".

Counterdependence rejects and despises authority, their contumaciousness.

And they often clash with authority figures, such as parents, the boss, or the law itself.

But if a counterdependent, that is a codependent, if there's a codependent that is dependent upon her defiance, her rejection of the partner, so if this type of codependent, the counterdependent, perceives her intimate partner as an authority figure, for example, a father figure, she would attack him viciously, she would try to destroy him, she would be defiant, contumacious, hateful, impulsive, and reckless in her attempts to disintegrate and dismantle her intimate partner, she would become her intimate partner's worst enemy.

The sense of self-worth of the codependent and their very self-identity are premised on and derived from, in other words, dependent onthese acts.

The self-identity and the self-worth of the counterdependent is a direct derivative and outcome of acts of bravura and defiance.

These counterdependence are personal autonomy and personal agency, militants, and fundamentalists.

They are fiercely, uncompromisingly independent, controlling, self-centered, and aggressive.

Many counterdependence are antisocial, and they use projective identification. They force people to behave in ways that buttress and affirm the counterdependence view of the world and his or her expectations.

These behavior patterns are often the result of a deep-seated fear of intimacy.

In an intimate relationship, the counterdependent feels enslaved, ensnared, and captive.

Counterdependence are locked into approach avoidance repetition compulsion cycles. Hesitant approach is followed by avoidance of commitment and sometimes vitriolic malevolent rejection.

Counterdependence are lone wolves, they are bad team players.

And if all this is reminiscent of borderline, it's for good reason.

Same dynamics exactly operate in borderline personality disorder, where there is a push and pull between the twin anxieties, abundament anxiety on the one hand, separation insecurity, and engulfment and enmeshment anxiety on the other hand.


Now, let's consider two other types of narcissists.

The somatic narcissists and the cerebral narcissists.

These types were first, I was the first to describe these types or subtypes of narcissists in 1995. I gave them the names also. I coined the phrase somatic narcissists and cerebral narcissists.

The somatic narcissist relies on his body and his sexuality as sources of narcissistic supply.

The cerebral narcissist uses his intellect, his intelligence, and his professional accomplishments to obtain the same narcissistic supply.

So narcissists are either predominantly cerebral or overwhelmingly somatic. In other words, narcissists either generate the narcissistic supply by using their bodies or by flaunting their amazing pyrotechnic minds.

The somatic narcissist flashes his sexual conquests, parades his possessions, puts his muscles on ostentatious display, brags about his physical aesthetics or sexual prowess or exploits, and is often a health freak and a hypochondriac.

The cerebral narcissist is a know-it-all, haughty, and contemptuous and hyper-intelligent computer-like person. The cerebral uses his awesome intellect or knowledge, real or pretended, to secure adoration, adulation, and admiration.

To the cerebral narcissist, his body and its maintenance are a burden, a distraction, a mere container for his amazing, unprecedented brain.

Both types of narcissists, the somatic and the cerebral, are auto-erotic. They are psychosexually in love with themselves, with their bodies, and with their brains.

Both types prefer masturbation to adult, mature, interactive, multidimensional, and emotion-laden sex.

The cerebral narcissist is often celibate. Even when he has a girlfriend or a spouse, he avoids or shun sex to the best of his ability. He prefers pornography and sexual auto-stimulation to the real thing.

The cerebral narcissist is sometimes a latent, hidden, not-yet-outed homosexual.

The somatic narcissist, on the other hand, uses other people's bodies to masturbate with.

Sex with the somatic narcissist, pyrotechnics and acrobatics aside, sex is likely to be an impersonal, an emotionally alienating and draining experience.

The partner of the somatic narcissist is often treated as an object, an extension, a toy, a warm and pulsating vibrator.

It is a mistake to assume type constancy, though.

In other words, all narcissists are both somatic and cerebral.

In each narcissist, one of the types is dominant.

So the narcissist is either largely cerebral or dominantly somatic.

But the other side, the recessive, the side that is manifested less frequently, this type is there.

It is lurking, waiting to erupt.

The narcissist swings between his dominant type and his recessive type, which manifests mainly after a major narcissistic injury or life crisis.

The cerebral narcissist brandishes his brainpower, exhibits his intellectual achievements, basks in the attention given to his mind and to its products.

He hates his body, he neglects it. The body is a nuisance, a burden, a derided appendix, a decried inconvenience and a punishment.

The cerebral narcissist is asexual. He rarely has sex, often years apart. He masturbates regularly and very mechanically.

His fantasies are homosexual or pedophilia or tend to objectify his partner, group sex, for example. He stays away from women because he perceives women to be ruthless predators who are out to consume him and what's his.

The cerebral narcissist typically goes through a few major life crises. He gets divorced. He goes bankrupt. He does time in prison. He is threatened, harassed and stalked. He is often devalued, betrayed, denigrated and insulted. He is prone to all manner of chronic illnesses. Invariably, following each life crisis, the somatic narcissist inside the cerebral narcissist, the somatic side of the cerebral narcissist, takes over.

The cerebral narcissist suddenly becomes a lascivious lecture, a philanderer.

When this happens, the narcissist maintains a few relationships replete with abundant and addictive sex. And these relationships are going simultaneously.

He sometimes participates and initiates group sex and mass orgies. He exercises. He loses weight. He hones his body into an irresistible proposition.

And this outburst of unrestrained primordial lust wanes in a few months and he settles back into his cerebral ways.

No sex, no women, no body.

These total reversals of character stun the cerebral narcissist, mates and intimate partners.

His girlfriend or his spouse find it impossible to digest these eerie transformations from a gregarious, darkly handsome, well-built and sexually insatiable person that swept them off their feet to the bodiless, bookwarmish hermit with not an inkling of interest in either sex or other carnal pleasures.

The cerebral narcissist misses his somatic half, but finding a balance is a doomed quest.

The satire, the satiric side with a Y, that is the somatic narcissist, this sexually insatiable part that is the somatic narcissist is forever trapped in the intellectual cage of the cerebral one in the brain.

And so if both members of the couple are cerebral narcissists, for instance, if both of them are scholars, the resulting competition prevents them from serving as ample sources of narcissistic supply to each other.

Finally, the mutual admiration society crumbles and envy, pernicious envy, sets in and then malevolent and vicious attacks on each other.

Consumed by the pursuit of their own narcissistic gratification, two cerebral narcissists or two somatic narcissists have no time or energy or will left to cater to the narcissistic needs of their intimate partners.

Moreover, the partner is perceived as a dangerous and vicious contender for a scarce resource, narcissistic supply and its sources.

This may be less true if the two narcissists work in totally unrelated academic or intellectual fields, but this is a mild amelioration and mitigation.

If the narcissist involved are of the same type, the relationship devolves into acrimony and worse.

But if the narcissist involved are of different types, if one of them is cerebral and one of them is somatic, for example, a long term relationship based on the mutual provision of narcissistic supply can definitely survive.

Example, if one of the narcissists is somatic, uses his or her body as a source of narcissistic gratification, and the other member of the couple, the other, the intimate partner, is cerebral, uses his intellect or his professional achievements as a source.

There is nothing to destabilize such a collaboration, nothing to destroy such a relationship. It is even potentially emotionally rewarding.

The relationship between these two narcissists, between a somatic and a cerebral, resembles the one that exists between an artist and his art or a collector and his collection.

This can and does change, of course, as the narcissist involved grow older, flabbier and less agile intellectually.

The somatic narcissist is also prone to multiple sexual relationships and encounters. They're intended to support his somatic and sexual self-image.

But these constant dalliances, these constant affairs, these constant cheating may subject the relationship to fracturing strains.

This is why typically cerebral and somatic narcissists, when they are in a couple, they agree on having an open relationship, an open marriage, polyamory, swinging or something like that.

And so, all in all, a stable and enduring relationship can and often does develop between dissimilar narcissists, narcissists of different types.

This rule of thumb and opposites attract does not apply to the classic inverted pairing.

Cerebral narcissists tend to pair with inverted cerebral narcissists, who can appreciate their intellectual accomplishments and appropriate them as, precariously, their own.

Similarly, somatic narcissists bond with their inverted somatic counterparts.

Though content to derive her narcissistic supply from the odd reactions to her intimate partner's accomplishments, the inverted narcissist, being of the same type, still feels envious and frustrated by her relative obscurity.

In the long run, the inverted narcissist in the couple succumbs to her self-defeating urges and seeks to ruin the fount of her frustration, her intimate partner, despite the fact that he also serves as a prime source of narcissistic supply.

So, let me recap this for you.

Narcissists of the same type can never survive in a relationship. Cerebral and cerebral, somatic and somatic. Forget about it.

Narcissists of opposing types, cerebral and somatic, overt and covert, can and do survive in the long term, profitably, in a relationship.

Narcissists and inverted narcissists can have a long-term relationship, but with growing envy and acrimony, because the cerebral narcissists would tend to attract cerebral inverted narcissists.

The somatic narcissists would tend to attract inverted somatic narcissists, and this would create competition and a lot of envy and a lot of wish to destroy the frustrating object, the intimate partner.

And this is the summary of these bizarre couplings in the cluster B universe. I hope you had fun, and I hope I did not take you too far into hell and back.

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