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Codependency, as an Out of Balance, Addictive Relating Pattern, 2 of 2

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Women and men are socialized in roles, codependency and narcissism, respectively, which are unhealthy and toxic for both. In Part 1, narcissism was described as both a destabilizing mindset, and an addictive relating pattern. In different and complementary ways, codependency is also destabilizing and addictive.

Destabilizing patterns

A key difference between these two patterns is how they cause instability in the relationship. Whereas the codependent wants to bring stability, to make the narcissist feeling loved and secure, to such degree that she desperately assumes most all of the responsibility for the other’s happiness, in contrast, the narcissist wants to prove their superiority, rightful power over the other, so desperately that he conducts attacks on their other’s sense of self, esteem and worth, wants, pain, comforts, pleasure, and so on, to intentionally make them feel invisible.

The codependent partner is socialized to take on all the responsibility for providing comfort and pleasure in the relationship, for ensuring the relationship remains in tact. And in practice, holding this belief means that she treats the narcissist as not capable of doing what she does.

The narcissist is glad to oblige, mainly because he sees “her work” as beneath his status, and is socialized, in turn, to feel entitled and to train the spouse to behave in pleasant, nice, selfless ways, and to never complain regardless how he treats her, indeed, to cover for him by making excuses for the his “inability” to express feelings, to understand her needs and wants, and so on.

Both women and men are socialized to think it’s a woman’s job to make a man feel like a man, and that women somehow have magical powers to either make a man feel like a man, or emasculate them.

It’s the codependent’s job to make their couple relationship work, but how can they fulfill their expectation for emotional intimacy, and shared closeness, on their own?

It’s the narcissist’s job to prove his superiority by “fixing” the codependent so that she never demands “unmanly” love and closeness, but how he consider himself strong when he does not even have the backbone to feel vulnerable, to listen to feedback and respond to requests from his partner?

Addictive patterns

Though commonly thought of as passive, codependent persons are addicted to the “drug” of rescuing or ensuring no one gets upset, angry, disappointed, and the like.

The narcissist is highly dependent on the codependent, and uses them like a drug to supply their “neediness” for quick-fix feel goods, in particular, their preoccupation with feeling entitled to be the codependent’s sole focus, thus, to be treated as superior, and infallible when it comes to their choices and actions.

Codependency defines love as a sacrifice of self to prove you are selfless. Codependency invites women to see themselves as self-sacrificing heroes and martyrs who overall feel more comfortable giving, and reject receiving.

A codependent is less controlled by the narcissist than by her own mindset. It is the romanticized beliefs she holds that require her to always put others first and herself last — and never ask for this in return. Deep inside, the codependent believes that somehow, one day, once she has proven her loyalty, and how hard she works to prop up the narcissist’s fragile ego, and that she gives little or no thought to her wants and needs, that the narcissist will some day, magically, realize and fully appreciate all her sacrifice and how hard she works to prop up the narcissist’s fragile ego, and finally, to treat her as someone whose feelings and being is valued and worthwhile.

The problem is that these expectations are totally unrealistic. The game is rigged. He’s socialized to keep her spinning her wheels, believing the only way to keep her from taking control is to keep doubting herself, in emotional pain, feeling confused, and so on. His addiction is to prove superiority.

To heal, balance is their greatest need, in order to heal, they have to stop “hoarding” the giving. Giving is a strength; but one-sided giving leads to imbalances and addictive, toxic relating. They need to connect to their own self-love, wants, needs and get comfortable asking for what they want, and when it’s not available, give this to themselves.

The mindset of the codependent

Codependency is a learned behavior in which a person enters a relationship with another person and seeks to make the others feelings and happiness the sole focus, one that takes away all pain and brings only comfort and ensures the other is pleased, happy and free from pain. Unwittingly, codependency invites others to emotionally depend on them.

Women are socialized to carry the load for the success of their relationship. In a nutshell, this is codependency. Consciously or not, women relate to their partner as they would to their child, taking primary responsibility, to take action that keep the relationship in tact, to make the other feel cared for and secure, to ensure the other’s emotional well being and happiness, and so on.

From their mindset, codependency compels women to behave in ways that prove they are selfless and not selfish, accommodating and not controlling, kind, nice, never angry or bitchy. They approach the relationship, at least initially, as tenderly as a mother does with a child, tending to any needs with a sense of urgency that makes the codependent feel quite valued and alive, loving the power to bolster their partner’s ego to make them feel like the center of their world, protecting them from any feelings of disappointment, watchful for any potential outbursts to avoid an dangers anger, hatred, rage, etc.

In codependency, success means to never ask a partner to do things that make them feel uncomfortable, such as show affection, express or listen to her feelings about their relationship, participate in a romantic activity, in other words, anything that would “womanly” and therefore not “unman.”

Human versus dehumanized love patterns

While the dance for each couple may be as unique as a thumbprint, codependency and narcissism correspond overall to how women and men are socially expected to behave in relation to one another — ultimately — to gain social approval overall, but also to prove their worth as persons, deserving of love.

In truth, women and men are socialized to define “love” as if they live on different planets!

Women are conditioned to define love in ways that more closely resemble what human beings yearn for, by nature, on our planet Earth — not Venus. Love on this planet, and the universe as we know it is, no doubt, the greatest power, some say it’s who we are! It’s only through the power of love, in action, that we can create meaningful lives together. More than an emotion, love is expressed through consistent acts of kindness, mutual caring, empathic connection, compassion, emotional intimacy and closeness through shared communication, and the like. Codependents understand the power of love, they just have to realize they are not a mythical goddess, such as Venus, and don’t have to be.

In reality, being fully human and authentic is infinitely more powerful than mere illusions and fantasies. Human love relationships, however, takes two persons, each fully willing to participate in their own and one another’s growth, wellness, health and happiness.

Sadly, we raise our boys to deny their ability to empathize with their own and other’s feelings as “proof” that they are strong, superior to women, will be approved as “real” men some day, and so on. In other words, men on earth are conditioned to define love in ways that idealize relations on Mr. Spock’s fictional planet — Vulcan —  which views “love stuff” and emotions as weaknesses, never exhibited by superior-intellect beings!

From boyhood, men learn that they must deny their own human response, that it’s unmanly to express nonsexual love and affection, tenderness or other emotions of vulnerability, and that they must block and regard weak emotions with disdain, so that they do not contaminate their masculinity, and prove they are “real” men on the basis that they do not feel “pain,” not their own or their partners.

And thus it’s not unusual for men to define “love” in their couple relationship as feelings of pleasure and closeness that are physically expressed through sex (and providing for your family). Physical acts prove men are “real” men, and emotions are a nuisance, a weakness, and proof of the inferiority of women and children.

Never mind that Vulcan is not earth, and it’s only a fictional planet, men continue to be bombarded with messages, perhaps even more so in the last two decades, that they must regard and treat their partner’s emotions and feelings, with the same disregard and callousness that they have proven “works” on them.

In conclusion, for centuries, men and women have been immersed in romanticized or eroticized beliefs about our human nature that set them up to fail in their couple relationship.

At the same time, both men and women are socialized to think it’s a woman’s job to make a man feel like a man, men learn to dodge their partner’s attempts for emotional closeness, which they’ve been condition to regard with disdain, as  “emotional craziness,” or at best “childish” behavior. Some men perform the role knowingly and “overtly” with pride, while others do so unknowingly, or “covertly.” In any case, both patterns are destabilizing and addictive, and set women and men up to fail in establishing a healthy, vibrant couple relationship.

It’s no wonder so many women feel confused, learn to increasingly doubt or second guess themselves; it’s also no wonder many men risk their sexual (and mental) health by turning to pornography. In their mind, it’s a woman’s job to make a man feel masculine, and apart from being “providers,” the only thing men are socially permitted to “give” women, that is, without feeling emasculated, is: sex).

We need life enriching stories that hold us responsible for the words we speak, and the actions we take, that put us, and get behind the drivers seat instead to change our self to live the fulfilling life we’re wired to live. There is no greater gift to men and women than being fully human, and learning to love with their whole hearts.



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Codependency, as an Out of Balance, Addictive Relating Pattern, 2 of 2

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2020). Codependency, as an Out of Balance, Addictive Relating Pattern, 2 of 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Sep 2020
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