Relationships are never as smooth as they could be and a major amount of hard work has to go in to keeping the ship afloat. If you read the many articles online about being in a relationship and what you might have to master to make it work, you would never bother. Relationships are the best and worst of times.
For a codependent, this is more complicated. They are not able to see a relationship as “equal or balanced” and more likely to control and be controlled. They use manipulation tactics such as victimhood, anger and silent treatment to force their partner to see their way. Relationships for them are about a constant quest for connection whether they are in a relationship or not. As such, they are very likely to meet people who will take advantage of them and become enmeshed during the process. That is, to be involved in a relationship where boundaries are porous or non-existent and emotions are mirrored and anticipated.
It still amazes me that the concept of codependency is still debated. Many therapists and other professionals question its existence as it is not a recognised disorder in terms of DSM. It is clearly a huge issue and anyone in their forties and fifties will remember the strict authoritarian way they were parented. Much of this has lead to the codependency epidemic we have today. This is where we see the more traditional parenting. The traditional breadwinner father whose only responsibility was to earn money and discipline the children and a “homemaker” mother overwhelmed by looking after children. Emotions were not spoken about and not allowed to be expressed. It was “do as I say” parenting. Children were taught to work for affection and validation. This is without factoring in abuse, neglect , addiction or children being caretakers.
It is just the scenario described above that leads to issues in adult relationships as the problem conveys itself from one relationship to the other; The codependent will always approach the new relationship in just the way they approached dealing with their childhood, by making themselves noticed and indispensable. They throw everything into the relationship (no matter who it is) tring to fix and manipulate their object into a place where they will feel secure.
When that relationship is with a self-centred individual, the quest for connection can be a constant process that may never come to an end until it does in a messy manner. The codependent will feel the pain of abandonment and rejection falling upon them together with the fear of being alone. This will often force them to increase controlling methods to stay in the relationship, thus opening the door to further abuse. Therapists often say that the relationship with a narcissist is doomed from day one but codependents will never feel this. Hooked in totally by the love-bombing adulation stage, they cannot believe what comes next (usually devaluing and discard). However, for them, the more distant (and sometimes abusive) the relationship is, the more they put into it in terms of emotional effort, often never seeing or believing they are being abused and will be thrown aside eventually.
Codependency is like a fog. When those old familiar feelings come up…the fear, anxiety, the panic that the chosen one is changing course, it sets of a reaction to fix, sacrifice, adopt a victim mentality. Anything but let them go.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.