We all agree that narcissists are the absolute worst, but have you heard of narcissist enablers? These support the actions of narcissists and give them the external validation they seek.
You can have them in your close circle or friendship group, and in most cases, they will make you feel crazy for responding negatively to narcissistic behavior.
This article will explore who narcissist enablers are and how to recognize and deal with them accordingly.
Before talking about who a narcissist enabler is, let’s start from the basics: Who is a Narcissist?
Narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition or personality disorder that causes its victims to think too highly of themselves or increase their self-importance. Narcissists feed on external validation and always want attention fixed on them.
A typical narcissist always cares about what others think and, in most cases, uses arrogance and overconfidence to hide intense insecurity. Hence, every aspect of their lives suffers significantly due to a high sense of entitlement.
Now, narcissist enablers are people who support narcissists and encourage their unhealthy, abusive, and egotistical lifestyles. Narcissists thrive with enablers in their circle because they allow them to do harmful things with zero accountability.
Do all narcissist enablers do this intentionally? No. Some of them have no idea that their actions are fueling narcissistic tendencies, while others are fully aware and even adopt some narcissistic traits like manipulation and gaslighting.
It’s quite easy to spot a narcissist, but how do you spot narcissistic enablers?
Here are surefire signs to help you recognize one and know if you’re one yourself:
Narcissist enablers are usually close to the narcissists, either as family members, close friends, or diehard employees. These people have a deep admiration or liking for the narcissist that they can’t seem to pull away from the relationship, no matter what happens.
Most narcissistic enablers build genuine love and friendships with narcissists. That’s not the case with narcissists.
Since they are typically self-centered and enjoy being the center of attention, they only build parasitic relationships with enablers. Narcissists only build relationships with people they can feed off of. If they don’t benefit from you, they’ll cut you off.
But the enabler is too blinded to see the strings attached.
Another solid way to spot narcissist enablers is that they always downplay the severity of the narcissist’s actions. They simply classify their harmful behavior as human flaws rather than call it out for what it is.
When a narcissist damages or hurts you, the enabler will always make you feel like you’re overreacting. If you’ve heard things like these, you’re likely dealing with an enabler:
- You’re taking things too serious
- It’s not that deep
- It’s not that big of a deal
- You’re exaggerating things
- It’s not that bad
- You’re getting worked up over nothing
- Just let it go
- You’re overreacting (The classic)
The goal is to deflect from the narcissist’s behavior and push the blame onto you.
This follows the last point. The narcissist can do no wrong in the enabler’s eyes. Narcissists love to fight and argue to prove their point, and when they do, who better to have in their camp than the enablers?
These people will defend every action the narcissist takes, even to the detriment of their reputation. On the flip side, when they rarely admit that the narcissist is wrong, they are ready to apologize and mend broken relationships on their behalf, thus fostering destructive behaviors.
If the narcissist is wealthy and seemingly influential, they might even chase other people away so that they can appear to be the “most loyal.”
Some narcissist enablers are fueled by fear. They have had profound, traumatizing experiences that forced them to be scared of the narcissist, so they do everything to please them.
Extreme narcissists control their relationships with fear. They make people entwine their existence around them and threaten to cut them off when they don’t fall in line. You’d often find this type of narcissist enabler in romantic relationships, where one of the partners is the narcissist and the other is the narcissist enabler.
They dread feeling alone, being abandoned, or not being in a committed relationship, and that fear often stems from traumatizing familial experiences. Thus, they settle for narcissists and make excuses for them.
What do they say about birds of the same feather? They flock together.
If someone enables narcissistic behavior, the chances that they have also adopted some narcissistic traits are high. They often use similar narcissistic tactics like manipulation, gaslighting, guilt-tripping, coercion, control, or blame projection to justify the narcissist’s behaviors.
Everyone develops some subtle narcissistic traits at some point in their lives, especially during the teenage years. But if those traits don’t fizzle out before they transcend into adulthood, they can easily justify the narcissist’s actions because they can act that way themselves.
Typical narcissist enablers will encourage you to de-prioritize your needs to serve the narcissist as they do. Bonus points if the narcissist is wealthy and influential. They wouldn’t allow you to set personal boundaries or cut off contact entirely for your mental health.
Sometimes, they could have good intentions but don’t know how to go about it the right way. They exhibit self-sacrificing behaviors for the narcissist that cost their happiness.
Narcissist enablers always reveal your secrets, desires, and routines to the narcissist, even when you bluntly instruct them not to.
The enablers may or may not have good intentions toward you, but their allegiance to narcissists forces them to use all the information they have to attract goodwill. If you’ve cut off the narcissist but haven’t caught off their enablers, you’re still at high risk.
What makes narcissist enablers act the way they do? Here are the top 5 motivations:
A typical narcissist enabler needs validation from the narcissist to feel whole.
They truly believe that by encouraging the narcissist’s behavior, they will receive tons of approval and validation, even if it means compromising their personal values, beliefs, or mental health. That’s why they will never acknowledge the harm narcissists cause.
Many narcissist enablers are codependent on narcissists.
Psychologically, codependency creates an imbalanced relationship where one person enables the other person’s destructive behavior for something in return. In this case, the narcissist enabler relies on the narcissist’s emotional support for their self-worth. They truly believe their emotional strongholds will collapse if this person doesn’t validate them.
You’d often find this trait motivating several imbalanced romantic relationships.
As mentioned, many narcissist enablers are operating out of fear. Since narcissists love to get what they want and control their victims through manipulation, control, and emotional/verbal abuse, the narcissist enabler fears that the negative consequences meted out to others will be given to them.
They believe that the narcissist will retaliate if they don’t adhere to his wishes, so they stay in line.
Narcissists can spot people with unresolved trauma from a mile away, so they recruit them into their circle because they are malleable. Narcissist enablers often have unresolved trauma or personal issues that expose them to the narcissist’s terrible behaviors.
These unresolved trauma can include emotional wounds, abuse, anxiety, constant depression, or low self-esteem. When narcissists spot these, they exploit them in exchange for a sense of belonging.
Sometimes, the narcissist can spot a healthy person and begin to shatter their self-esteem to provide self-pleasure.
In rare cases, the narcissist enabler recognizes and acknowledges the narcissist’s actions. However, they still enable it for the false hope that the narcissist will change. They believe that the narcissist will adopt more empathetic traits through their behavior and compliance.
This scenario often plays out in solid familial bonds, like mother-son relationships. The mother may know that the son exhibits narcissistic tendencies, but she shields him from any accountability to the outside world, hoping that he will change over time.
Now that you know the signs of a narcissistic enabler, how do you handle such a person?
The first step to handling a narcissistic enabler is to recognize the signs. Does this person defend narcissistic tendencies or cover for them? Once you do, self-reflect and find out the negative traits you exhibited that attracted them to you.
When confronting a narcissistic enabler, never lose your temper or raise your voice in front of them. A typical enabler will capitalize on that by pushing the blame on you or attacking your reaction, not the problem. Always respond calmly.
Cut off any relationship or association with the narcissistic enabler, especially if you’re trying to avoid the narcissist. Don’t interact or share any personal information with them. Block them on your phone or social media accounts.
If you can’t completely avoid them, ensure you set personal boundaries. State firmly what you will or will not tolerate from them.
Don’t dread saying no, and never explain your choices. Whenever they want to exert narcissistic traits, resist the urge to engage in drama. Walk away quietly. Finally, don’t take any negative thing they say too seriously.
Always keep the narcissist enabler accountable. Look for ways to reverse their actions and ask them why they behave the way they do. For instance, if they tell you to de-prioritize yourself to suit the narcissist, ask them how they would feel if you turned the tables. Keep them on their toes whenever the mind games begin.
Narcissistic enablers fuel narcissistic actions without minding the repercussions. Once you’ve identified someone who’s always adoring or defending the narcissist, take personal steps to protect yourself.
Also, if you’ve discovered that you exhibit these tendencies, search within to discover the traumas that motivate that behavior. You can also seek the help of a trusted friend or a licensed therapist to guide you through your recovery stage.
The enabler parent is the narcissist’s partner, who sits down and allows the abuse to happen. They may recognize the traumatizing effect it has on the victim, but they do nothing about it.
Most narcissistic enablers lack empathy because they have narcissistic tendencies themselves. They enable abusive actions by exhibiting certain narcissistic traits like gaslighting, manipulation, or coercion.
In most cases, narcissist enablers know the truth about narcissists but choose to ignore them due to several factors- low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, abusive childhood, etc.
Narcissist enablers encourage abusive behaviors by defending the narcissist, exposing their victims to them, and shielding the narcissist from any form of accountability.