Codependance and the Codependant Relationship
What is codependency? Wikipedia defines codependency as “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (typically narcissism or drug addiction); and in broader terms, it refers to the dependence on the needs of, or control of, another. It also often involves placing a lower priority on your own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships. Codependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, or control patterns. Narcissists are considered to be natural magnets for the codependent.”
After reading this, I was angry with myself for being so stupid to be drawn to someone like my narcissist. But then, I realized that I was most likely repeating patterns that I learned through childhood. I learned that codependancy is treatable. I know I will be a better person for recognizing this flaw in myself and working on it. Without this narcissistic experience, I wouldn’t have grown as I have and am continuing to do as I reflect on this sometimes-traumatic time of my life.
Codependency is often applied to the families, especially spouses of alcoholics. My father was an alcoholic. I am happy to say that he hasn’t had a drink in well over 20 years. However, that experience could possibly have an effect on me in some way that I need to recognize. I never felt that his drinking harmed me. I never knew much about it for the most part, except for walking in on him drinking a few times. I knew my mom didn’t like it but she knew about it. We told her a few times, probably not always, but it only happened a few. We tried to be loud and announce our presence. He hid his drinking. He kept his alcohol in a secret place. We kids stumbled upon it a few times, but I never really felt it had much of an effect on me. Still, it is something I will keep in the back of my mind while studying this phenomenon with you.
Some symptoms of codependance are:
- Low self-esteem: Comparing yourself to others, feeling that you are not good enough, feelings of guilt, shame, or perfectionism. It is often said that abused people have low self-esteem. I don’t feel that to be true. I don’t feel I have low self-esteem. I do feel that I am aware of myself and my flaws. I don’t feel more flawed than others, actually, I feel pretty good about myself when compared to others. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things that I do or make, but I don’t feel guilt or shame on a regular basis. There are times I feel these things but I don’t think that I feel them regularly.
- Poor boundaries– Allowing others to invade your space such as your personal belongings, money, space, time, body, feelings, thoughts, needs, etc. Codependents have a problem with unclear boundaries, setting and maintaining boundaries, etc.
- Caretaking– Putting others’ needs above your own and ignoring your own needs and opinions in favor of others. Codependents often try to help others, even when the help is unsolicited.
- People-pleasing-Feeling an overwhelming need to please others, putting your own needs, opinions, desires on hold in order to make others happy. A normal relationship requires give and take, but when there is an imbalance, trouble can set it.
- Reactivity– This includes reacting to others opinions without realizing that is just, in fact, an opinion. Some examples would be feeling defensive after someone exerts his/her opinion or changing your mind frequently and thinking that they are right based on their opinion. In short, not having trust in yourself.
- Denial- I definitely don’t have a problem with this one! (Just kidding.) Denial in this sense refers to not communicating or even KNOWING your needs and wants. Denial of your own feeling and not expressing what you want or like in a healthy way is a sign of codependency. I have definitely seen this pattern in my past relationship with my narcissist. It was there before, but much worse with the narcissist. I seem to know what I want much more now than ever and seem to be carrying into my new relationship. Of course, it helps that my current boyfriend is very interested in what I want and making me happy. After reading this, I believe he has codependent traits as well. I encourage him to express what HE wants. I let him know that what he likes and wants is okay with me and that I enjoy knowing what he thinks.
- Control- Codependents often need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, those with codependance are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.
- Dysfunctional communication- Those who exhibit codependance traits often have trouble communicating truthfully about what they want. They may be in denial of their feelings or needs. Other times, they know, but won’t own up to the truth. They’re afraid to be truthful, because they don’t want to upset the other person. Instead of disapproving, they might pretend that it’s okay with them. This can cause confusion within the relationship because of their dishonesty.
- Obsessions- One of the things is denial. Those with codependance can’t see that there’s a problem. I don’t have this problem… just kidding. Codependents deny their feelings and needs and sometimes don’t know what they’re feeling and are focused on what others are feeling and needs. They often pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy. Although some codependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and they have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy. I can see some of myself in this description. I definitely look to others’ needs more than I do to my own. I deny my own need for space and autonomy. I have a problem asking for help. I give more than I take.
- Dependency- Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. They fear rejection or abandonment. Others need always to be in a relationship. They often feel depressed or lonely when they’re on their own. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped. I fell into this category, though I was not afraid of being alone. I was initially afraid that I’d never get married. This was a big factor in ending up with the guy that I did, and once I was involved, I felt bad leaving him based on a bad feeling. I felt sorry for him. I didn’t feel I needed HIM at all. I felt he needed ME.
- Problems with Intimacy- Because of shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left by your partner, parent, etc. I definitely felt this with my ex. He was very intimidating, not asking or caring what I though, only whether I agreed with HIM. You may also fear being smothered in a relationship and “losing yourself”. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness. I feel this way with my current boyfriend. I feel very inclined to maintain my autonomy. I love being with him but I fear being too close. With him, I feel comfortable being myself, don’t feel I have to explain my decisions, and don’t feel judged. It brings me to a point that just occurred to me:
ARE NARCISSISTS DRAWN TO CODEPENDENTS OR DO NARCISSISTS MAKE IT MORE LIKELY THAT ‘NORMAL’ PEOPLE WILL DEVELOP CODEPENDENT CHARACTERISTICS BECAUSE OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT (LIVING WITH A NARCISSIST)?
- Painful Emotions: Shame and low-self-esteem can cause feelings of anxiety, which can fear of being judged, rejected or abandoned. I definitely felt shame from regular everyday activities that I didn’t feel shame from before, even early on in my life with the narcissist. (ie. For liking a particular movie (Old School)) I felt rejected when I didn’t agree with his opinion or when my daily everyday activities didn’t meet his approval (ie. I didn’t clean the house good enough, didn’t cook supper, made it too unhealthy, etc.); and I definitely had feelings of anxiety when confronted with his rage for the first time. I was scared it would “happen” again. It was always because of a small thing, so I’d never know what would set him off. I felt abandoned when he would threaten to leave me if I didn’t sell my animals, stop talking to my mother, etc. This is strengthening my new theory. Can codependance be cured? I believe it simply takes awareness and a willingness to change. Good luck!
Codependance and the codependant relationship