The Danger of Codependency

Michael has always had a thing for attractive redheads with sob stories. Every one of his love affairs starts the same way; he meets a “redhead in distress”, feels obligated to save her, and ends up falling hard for her in the process. His most recent entanglement is no different. Michael and Nicole met each other at a nightclub about a year ago. Nicole, who was dressed in a flattering red dress, showing off her hot legs, was on her second shot of vodka when he walked into the club. Charmed by her appearance, Michael walked over to exchange pleasantries and perhaps complimentary cards. They instantly hit it off. Nicole shared her recent woes over a few more shots of vodka, revealing she was fresh out of a relationship. Michael who was also fresh out of a relationship at the time was quite empathetic, and they spent the evening in each other’s company. Over the next few months after the drink at the club, they grew fonder of each other. Michael being a multimillionaire who was extremely successful in his career as an executive, could afford to take time away from work to be with her. He enjoyed her company so much that he considered starting a relationship with her to see where it leads. Nicole, on the other hand, wasn’t as much invested in Michael’s affairs, as he was in hers. She was merely intrigued to have a man of his caliber paying close attention to her, a welcome distraction after her recent woe. She also welcomed his attention because she was in a bad place financially and had been thrown out of her home some weeks after she met Michael. Her parents who knew Nicole’s tendencies to avoid responsibilities refused to let her back into the house. “You need to be more responsible, Nicole, and pay your own bills. Men love independent women.”, they said. Her friends also couldn’t afford an extra burden in their lives since Nicole already has a poor responsibility track record. When Michael found out that she was going through these problems, he offered her one of his houses. He felt compelled to offer help, not because of his growing interest in her but because he understood rejection. He remembered how he was also turned away by his family. While growing up, his mom who was a drug addict was never present to meet his needs. She was too involved with herself that she didn’t have time to entertain her son’s needs. Michael’s father was never in the picture as well, and none of his relatives paid any attention to him. So, Michael figured that he could help Nicole get back on her feet. He had always been the “stable” person in his relationships so he thought he could be a great influence on her. Their relationship blossomed for the first three months until the first wave hit. Michael tried to secure a job for Nicole so that she could have some level of security. Nicole rejected the idea. Since her boyfriend was rich, she didn't see a need to "stress" herself at a job. Instead, she preferred pampering herself and the new friends she made, going on shopping sprees, and taking excessive trips around the world. Michael was distraught. It felt like history was repeating itself over again. His previous relationships had gone the same way; they all saw his status, dedication, and wealth as a means to explore a lavish lifestyle. The money was not much of a problem for him, however, he wished they would at least choose to do something more productive with it. Of all the women he had been with, he cherished Nicole the most because she had a special way of lighting up the room with her smile whenever she walked in. He was afraid to say no whenever she asked for more money to fund her lifestyle. Whenever he delayed in giving her what she wanted, Nicole would fire guilt trip shots and barely ever expressed gratitude for all the ways he helped her out. Secretly, he felt cheated. His energy was being developed day by day as it felt like he was dying in silence. He wished she could see how much her actions hurt him. He had so many needs that no one knew about. Many times, he'd return from a business trip with a heavy heart, hoping that this time Nicole would notice he was struggling and at least show concern. Each time, the result was the same. She was self-absorbed, mumbling him a distracted hello while chatting away with her friends. He had contemplated breaking up with her but he really wanted this to work so he buried his feelings deeper into his soul… Where did he go wrong? How did the sweet-loving Nicole become an oxygen-sucking monster who prioritized her desires over his? How couldn't she see that he had problems of his own, and he didn't want to be the rock all the time?

The Danger of Codependency

Does this story sound familiar? Let's look at the character Michael critically. He is a rich guy who can have any lady he wants. Any lady at all. However, he is trapped in a web of codependency in his relationships. Deep down, subconsciously, he desires to be in a relationship where his partner is as invested in the relationship as he is. However, his weakness for redheads with sun stories gets him every time. Why does he seem to get the opposite of his desires? Well, that's because there is a difference between a want and a need. A want is something we desire that we can do without but a need is something we desire that we must have to be fulfilled. For Michael, his want is his desire to have a picture-perfect relationship with a beautiful redhead. However, he forgets that beauty alone does not carry a relationship. What he needs is a woman who isn't weak and completely dependent on him to the point where he is unable to express his discomfort for fear of being alone. So, all of his relationships start with an attraction based on their beauty and signature sob stories, and they fail after a period of three to six months. Codependents, just like Michael, are people who experience a self-esteem boost whenever they are needed by the enabler. In Michael’s case, the enabler was Nicole. She got satisfaction from having Michael meet her every need, not minding the "extreme" sacrifices he made for her. A codependent naturally feel fulfillment whenever they are needed. They have no personal interests, and they are invested in discovering and meeting the other person's needs, at the expense of their own needs.[1]

How Codependency is Formed

In most cases of codependency, one person loses their self-worth and ability to communicate their true feelings just to make the other person comfortable. Some male adults who are codependents grew up in homes where the father was absent and the mother was self-absorbed, perhaps an addict. So, they learn to become the "fixer" at a tender age. They learn to repress their emotions because of the inconsistencies in their parents' attitudes towards them. They grow up wanting to shower love on others at the expense of experiencing burnout.[2] Also, they struggle with insecurities. Due to the inconsistencies in their relationship with their parents, they struggle to find balance in life, making security and stability far from their reach. As such, they are unable to trust anyone since they grew up witnessing so much dishonesty. It's difficult for them to communicate their true feelings or recognize what true love is as they are wired to give love, not receive love. Michael’s relationship with his mother as well as the rejection he faced as a child from his immediate family played a significant role in his adult life. He saw and interpreted love through the lens of codependency rather than from the lens of dependency. As a result, it was difficult for him to attract the right woman because it is as the saying goes, who you attract is a reflection of you.[3]

Getting Help

To work through codependency issues, you need to learn how to cope with life on your own before involving anyone else. You can stop denying the problem, accept it, and stay away from the dating field while you seek professional help. There is nothing wrong with helping people, however, situations like this reveal a lack of well-defined boundaries. If you spend your energy helping others, who will help you? Now is the time to focus on you, establish proper boundaries by learning to use the primary boundary word, “No”, and be there for yourself. [1] [2] [3]