Last Updated on April 16, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester
Can a narcissist’s partner also be a narcissist? Many partners who have stayed with their narcissist have questioned whether they themselves were selfishly staying with him or her (because they liked the fame, success, wealth, etc).
Many individuals who do stay with a narcissist- but not all- tend to be codependents. One specific type of codependent is, indeed, a narcissist.
They are called ‘covert narcissists’, ‘inverted’ or ‘mirror’ narcissists, or ‘narcissist- codependent’ or even an “N-magnet” (narcissist magnet). Inverted narcissists are codependents who emotionally depend exclusively on classic narcissists. Narcissists and inverted narcissists are, in many ways, two sides of the same coin, or “the mold and the molded” (Sam Vaknin) – hence the terms “mirror narcissist” or “inverted narcissist”.
Inverted narcissists are much rarer and harder to identify than the boastful, arrogant “classic” narcissist. Surprisingly for a narcissist, the inverted type is self-effacing and/or introverted. Let’s take a closer look at what we mean by some of these terms.
Codependents are people who depend on other people for their emotional gratification. They are usually needy, demanding, and subservient. Like the classic narcissist, they fear abandonment. They tend to be clingy and will engage in immature behaviors to maintain this “relationship”. Codependents will stay with their partners despite whatever abuse is inflicted upon them. Also like the classic narcissist, they seek to control their partner; they do this through being an eager victim.
Codependency refers to excessive and unhealthy caretaking behavior or feelings. This doesn’t just occur with narcissists but also with partners of alcoholics, drug, sex, or other addicts. Codependents often play the role of martyr. They persistently put others’ needs before their own and are not likely to take care of their own needs. This makes them feel “needed”. Codependents are also likely to set themselves up as the “victim”, especially in arguments or disagreements. On occasion, they do stand up for themselves but are then wracked with guilt.
The classic narcissist has ‘overt’ or obvious/unconcealed behavior. The inverted narcissist has ‘covert’ or concealed narcissistic behavior. The inverted narcissist is a type of codependent who depends exclusively on narcissists. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-Love, describes the inverted narcissist this way:
To “qualify” as an inverted narcissist, you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists and ONLY with narcissists, no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person.
Inverted or ‘covert’ narcissists are “intensely attuned to others’ needs, but only in so far as it relates to [their] own need to perform the requisite sacrifice“. An inverted narcissist makes certain that in true martyr fashion, they will readily provide unlimited supplies of gratitude, love and attention as well as caretaking that is almost compulsive in nature.
Vaknin theorized that “the inverted narcissist is a person who grew up enthralled by the narcissistic parent … the child becomes a masterful provider of Narcissistic Supply, a perfect match to the parent’s personality.”
On a day to day basis, the inverted narcissist is extremely shy, introverted and uncomfortable with any attention being paid to him or her. He or she has extreme feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem as indicated by:
- Possesses a rigid sense of lack of self-worth.
- Lacks empathy. Is intensely attuned to others’ needs, but only in so far as it relates to his/her own need to perform the required self-sacrifice, which in turn is necessary in order to obtain Narcissistic Supply from the primary narcissist.
- Feels that he/she is undeserving and not entitled.
- Is selfless, sacrificial, even groveling in her interpersonal relationships and avoids the assistance of others at all costs. Can only interact with others when she can be seen to be giving, supportive, and expending an unusual effort to assist.
- Pre-occupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance and beauty or of an ideal of love.
- Believes that he or she is absolutely un-unique and un-special and that no one at all could understand her because she is innately unworthy of being understood.
- Displays extreme shyness, lack of any real relational connections, is publicly self-effacing in the extreme, is internally highly moralistic and critical of others; is a perfectionist and engages in lengthy ritualistic behaviors, which can never be perfectly performed
- Envies others. Cannot conceive of being envied and becomes extremely agitated and uncomfortable if even brought into a situation where comparison might occur. Loathes competition and avoids competition at all costs
- Demands anonymity (in the sense of seeking to remain excluded at all costs) and is intensely irritated and uncomfortable with any attention being paid to him/her
Do they also have narcissistic rages?
Like the classic narcissist, the inverted narcissist will indeed react with narcissistic rage to what they perceive as threats or narcissistic injury.
The inverted narcissist may respond with rage whenever her lack of self-worth is threatened, when envious of other’s achievements or happiness, or when her sense of self-worthlessness is diminished by a behavior/ comment/event.
Thus, this type of narcissist might react angrily to good things: a kind remark, a successful accomplishment, a reward, or a compliment. They might also rage when they believe that they have failed or are imperfect, useless and worthless.
During their rage, the inverted narcissist can become verbally and emotionally abusive. He or she ruthlessly attacks her victim but then immediately goes into an unbelievable calm, described as “thundering silence”.
The inverted narcissists then regret their behavior and apologize profusely. They gather these negative emotions and use them as weapons for further self-destruction. “It is from this repressed self-contempt and sadistic self-judgment that the narcissistic rage springs forth”.
Relationship with the Narcissist
Although inverted narcissists can have non-narcissists as friends, significant relationships are only with other narcissists. These relationships are usually spousal relationships but can also be significant friendships with other narcissists.
In a love relationship, the inverted narcissist attempts to re-create the parent-child relationship. By mirroring back the narcissist’s own grandiosity, the inverted narcissist obtains his/her own Narcissistic Supply (which is the narcissist’s dependence on them).
The inverted narcissist ensures that the narcissist is happy, cared for, adored, and has plenty of Narcissistic Supply. They suffer narcissistic devaluation with poise and composure. They handle narcissistic rage by managing every last detail in their environment, closely supervising and controlling all situations, so that they minimize the inevitable narcissistic rages of their narcissist.
The inverted narcissist only feels loved in a relationship where their life is totally engulfed by the narcissist. They are not likely to abandon the relationship with the narcissist.
The relationship usually doesn’t end unless the narcissist decides the inverted narcissist is no longer useful, and refuses to supply him/her with any more Narcissistic Supply. Only then does the inverted narcissist halfheartedly move on to another relationship.