My kind of Crazy – Narcissists and Codependents

| Similarities Between Narcissists and Codependents & Trauma Bonding | September 10th, 2015 |

After a considerable and revelatory walk around historic downtown Buffalo, we took the long way back towards the apartment. This brought us along a meandering path by the lake and into the back of the big parking lot, near the library. We crossed the lot and were cutting through the narrow alley between the Buffalo Hotel and the tax preparer’s office when Tina said, “sometimes I worry that I’m crazy.”

That seemed to come from nowhere. “I don’t know about that,”  I replied after a moment, “But if you are, you’re my kind of crazy.”

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The words sounded sweet and appropriate when I said them but I didn’t give it much thought. Maybe they sprang from deep rooted instinct. Those words were far truer than I realized.

Certainly a big part of what made Tina and I fit together so well for a while was that we both suffered psychological problems born from childhood trauma.

I grew up with an alcoholic drug-using father.  My parents were in an on-again, off-again relationship that was more than a little destabilizing to the home life.

Actually, I was so worried about not making the same mistakes as my father had that I didn’t even think to keep an eye on avoiding my mother’s pitfalls. She was codependent. And like my mother, I adapted to my uncertain surroundings by fawning, freezing, denial and other unhealthy codependent tendencies. My brain was already wired up with defense mechanisms, including a tendency to forget certain traumas and unpleasantness and right around that time in my relationship with Tina, those subconscious tricks and trapdoors started activating. I couldn’t tell anything was amiss. If anything, my bond to Tina seemed stronger and more familiar because of it. It began to feel like somehow, I’d always known her and we were meant to be together.

Narcissists fit with codependents like a key in a lock. The initial stage of love bombing and mirroring was beginning to give way to trauma bonding, triangulation and periodic ghosting. Intermittent reinforcement and minor abuses were beginning, but I was blissfully overlooking them as I swallowed the hook ever deeper.

Back in the apartment, Tina opened her mail and was disheartened. There was a notice from the county that her recently obtained food stamp benefits were about to be revoked unless she either obtained part-time work or began participating in a job-readiness program.

Her mom worked and paid all the bills. She also bought Tina cigarettes, alcohol, medication, and an abundance of marijuana. Some help with groceries via Wright County Human Services and keeping the apartment reasonably clean was Tina’s contribution to the household.

Tina had various reasons for being unemployed. Some seemed reasonable. She told me she had a genetic defect that compromised her immune system so she didn’t want work that involved frequent contact with the general public (like cashiers, receptionists and bank tellers). She was a recent transplant to Buffalo, but simultaneously dwelt in Farmington and at her Dad’s house in Cold Spring. She was largely beholden to her mother for transportation and without me around to afford her some travel freedom was often compelled to tag along to wherever Maura felt like being. She didn’t have a car of her own, but kept insisting that her dad was eventually going to give her one of his fleet of Saturn sedans he’d collected since the company stopped manufacturing them.

I hated to see Tina unhappy and I was a natural problem solver. I had a solution in mind almost immediately and it was brilliant in it’s elegance.

I was the president of a non-profit political organization. It was fairly well known and had been well-funded until recently. I’d been falling behind on fundraising, because I hated it, wasn’t terribly good at it and I’d been unable to keep anyone I hired in that role for long.

One of the stipulations for Tina to keep getting her full (rather generous) food benefit from the county was that she work no more than 20 hours per week.

Fundraising for my outfit was a part time job we could easily keep under the limit and also avoid the need for the job-readiness program that Tina definitely didn’t want to participate in.

Tina had been complaining that her laptop had stopped working. She had an outdated cell phone and there was no internet at the apartment unless I was there with my hot-spot-enabled smart phone.

I drafted a fundraising agreement and put together papers to register Tina with the state attorney general’s office as a permitted fundraiser. I had a spare smart phone with a wi-fi hot spot capability that I could activate and give her, as well as a spare work laptop that she’d need to do the fundraising work from the corporation’s donor database. I solved so many problems at once, I’ll admit I was pretty damn proud of myself. It looked like it would be win-win-win for both of us.

I added the other smart phone to my own cell phone plan, unburdening Tom of the need to keep paying for Tina’s phone (I thought), which finally hooked Tina up with internet.

I started training Tina by showing her the script I loosely followed for fundraising calls and Then I made a call to show her how I go about it, logging the results on my own computer. I was going to pay Tina on commission and from my first sample call, I garnered a $1,000 donation, which would have been $150 in Tina’s pocket just like that, so I gave her that commission as encouragement. I’d gotten lucky. It usually takes more effort than one call to raise a thousand dollars, but I thought it was a good demonstration.

When I left for home that evening, I thought our future was looking bright.

Tina texted me later to let me know that I’d left my coat behind. The weather was nice so I hadn’t thought of it when I packed up to leave. “Since your coat is hanging up here, Jim’s going to count this as you moving in and raise my rent,” she joked.

Related reading: Escaping the Codependent-Narcissist Trap

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