Ever felt like you can’t live without a certain relationship, be it a friend or a romantic partner? Or you find yourself too afraid to be alone or make decisions on yourself? Codependent relationships occur when your life choices, decisions or self esteem is dependent or another person. This can be your best friend, your parents or your romantic partners.
Even though co-dependency categorized as a psychological disorder, it can be a problem in your relationships, whether be it with friends, romantic partners and parents.
In a co-dependent relationship dynamic, there’s often the giver and the taker. The giver is the one that always gives and gives without taking, as he or she feels unworthy of the validation or unworthy unaware of his or her own emotional needs. Co-dependent relationships can also be hard to spot.
The Narcissist and the Co-dependent
- The Narcissist
The taker, the narcissist is the one that always takes and takes because attempting to fill a void: his or her own emotional needs.
The narcissist only cares about his or her own needs. He’s the overly domineering one in social interactions. This is the annoying person who is always going on and on about him or herself and is unable to empathize with the people around him. It’s always him, his stories, his failures or his successes. Hanging out with a narcissist equivalent to social waterboarding.
They always require more because external validation is a temporary high, it feels good it the moment but is still an empty victory.
I’d argue narcissists get more results romantically than co-dependents, just because of their willingness (and blindness) to assert themselves in spite of negative social feedback.
- The Co-dependent
There’s then the listener, the giver, the co-dependent who listens to the narcissist’s troubles quietly and doesn’t give any input. He or she just takes it in and may seem sympathetic to the narcissist’s sorrows. That’s because the only way the listener can feel loved or accepted in that social situation is to tend to someone else’s emotional needs.
Co-dependents find themselves in relationships where their primary role is that of the rescuer. Their happiness is reliant on their ability to meet their partner’s emotional needs and not their own.
The Giver and Taker Dynamic
Co-dependent relationships lack true intimacy, relationship boundaries and are often dysfunctional. The taker, the narcissist is unable to generate self-esteem or self-validation from within and hence strives to take it from everyone around him.
The codependent is unable to generate self-esteem or self-validation from within and hence tries to give to others, in hopes that they may love or validate him in ways that he himself cannot.
They both are unable to accept love and validation, yet at the same time strive for love, recognition and have a desperate need for love and validation from others. They both lack relationships boundaries and they’re highly needy in the behaviour.
Ultimately both the narcissism and codependency is rooted in shame and make dysfunctional relationships.
The Roots of Co-dependency
Codependency may be rooted in our childhood. It could be because our parents never paid attention, or gave us the love we needed when we’re young and we end up constantly attempting to seek out attention, love and validation from people around you.
Parents may see their children as an extension of their own self-esteem and get their self-esteem needs met through their children. This dynamic causes the child to believe that his or her own needs aren’t important. In a dysfunctional upbringing, the child becomes attuned to the parent’s needs and feelings instead of the other round.
Narcissism and co-dependency can play out in other areas of their lives other than your dating life. You may overcompensate and seek out the validation through academic achievements, financial accomplishments and other pursuits.
Of course, as human beings, we’re are bound to rely on external sources of validation. The question to ask yourself is this: are you getting your validated just to scratch an itch, a resolved need or are you doing it also from your personal values.
How Co-dependency affects Your Relationships
Through your relationships, you can ask yourself this:
- Do you have your own life handled or are you merely using your relationship as an excuse?
- You then got to flip it around and ask yourself if your partner has her own life going on, or is he or she living vicariously through her relationship?
- Do both if you depend on each other to for each other’s happiness, or are both of you already happy as individuals with or without a relationship?
Now, I’m not saying you can’t sacrifice for each other in a relationship or that you can’t make sacrifices on your end.
However, there’s a difference between sacrificing for someone and a lack of relationship boundaries.
Here’s the litmus test:
Sacrifice is only unconditional when you want to do it for someone else, and it’s not something that you should feel obligated to.
In a co-dependent relationship, your sense of purpose is rooted in making extreme sacrifices to meet your partner’s needs. They displayed as a sign of unhealthy ‘clinginess’, where one partner does not have enough autonomy. One or both partners are dependent on each other for happiness.
Sacrifices can come in different shapes and forms. Happiness and meaning can be generated from unconditional sacrifice. That’s the feeling of giving yourself to something beyond yourself. That can come in the form of a sacrificing for a long time friend, long-term committed relationships or making sacrifices for your child.
The healthiest form of relationship is not independent, but interdependent. When your relationship is interdependent, two partners support each other unconditionally in their life. It’s two independent individuals choosing to support each other towards aspirations and goals. Happiness then is a natural side effect of both of you support each othering and sharing each other lives.
How To Stop Being Co-dependent: The Co-dependency Checklist
If you find yourself:
- Constantly feeling responsible for meet other people’s needs and not meeting yours
- Feeling constantly anxious about intimacy and separation
- Constantly in toxic/ abusive relationships with partners
- Constantly in relationships that are chemically dependent
You may want to take a step back.
Over the years, I’ve gotten a better sense of how to get my fair share of equity in any relationship. I’m not going to bullshit you like some random life coach telling you to ‘just be kind to people’. It doesn’t work.
If you’re the giver or the listener, you need to be able to say no more often. Healthy relationships are a balance of giving and taking. It’s time to stop being Mr Nice Guy. You’ll need to assert your own needs and get your fair share in your relationships.
When I realized I had been ‘giving’ too much in my closest friendships, I pulled back. It was a litmus test to see who was actually just merely using me, by ‘taking’ and who accepted the change unconditionally.
Unresolved patterns of codependency can lead to other problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, sex addiction, self-destructive and defeating behaviours. Co-dependents also have higher chances to form abusive relationships, stay in stressful jobs or relationships.
True recovery for a co-dependent isn’t to go from co-dependent, to overly selfish or aggressive. It’s to find a balance between caring for their own and other’s people’s needs. It is to step out of a victim mentality: the belief that one is a subject of life events as opposed to being empowered for one’s own life actions.
Unfortunately, I’m not immune to psychological biases, as we all aren’t. In my life, I had my fair share of stories being slightly codependent to a couple of narcissistic assholes.
However, I’m happy to report that today, I’m a lot better at choosing my relationships. One where both partners aren’t vicariously living through each other for self-esteem, but are supporting each other unconditionally towards the path of self-actualization.