Codependency, a term coined by recovery writer Melody Beattie more than two decades ago, is an issue worth considering when discussing narcissism.
Beattie wrote her first book, Codependent No More, back in the 1980s. It was one of the first to really look at the near symbiotic relationship that very often occurs with an alcoholic and his/her spouse, for example. But instead of only looking at it as though the alcoholic had all the issues, it shone the light on the characteristics–needs and issues of those in relationships with them. Their relationships were often troubling, traumatic, high-drama, and comic/tragic, and chronic with problems/rife with stress–but the other person could not seem to get out of it, or wanted to!
Wikipedia does a nice job of explaining it this way (click here for link to entire entry):
The term codependent originated as a way to describe people who use relationships with others as their sole source of value and identity. It ‘comes directly out of Alcoholics Anonymous, part of a dawning realization that the problem was not solely the addict, but also the family and friends who constitute a network for the alcoholic’.Codependents often end up in relationships with drug (including alcohol) addicted spouses or lovers. In the book, Beattie explains that a codependent is a person who believes their happiness is derived from other people or one person in particular, and eventually the codependent becomes obsessed with controlling the behavior of the people/person that they believe is making them happy.
Another book of Beattie’s that I love is The Language of Letting Go. It’s a daily reader that addresses many of the icky emotions we have likely felt as a result of dealing with a person with narcissism. While some of the entries address addictions of the other person, one will quickly see that substituting the words “narcissist” or “narcissism” works seamlessly.