More than ever before, people speak in terms of ‘working on’ relationships. This means if they are not happy in the relationship, be it a marriage, friendship or family connection, they care enough to try to make it better. This is a good thing, most of the time. No one can argue with putting some energy into making it work. If both people are emotionally healthy, respectful of the individuality of the other, and able to maintain healthy boundaries, they should see good results.
Unfortunately, sometimes the best of intentions can backfire, for reasons beyond your control. This can happen when you are involved with someone who needs to use you to fulfill deep emotional needs, but may or may not be consciously aware of it.
Let’s look at an example. You meet someone with whom you have a lot in common. A friendship develops, and you feel very positive about it. Things go well for a while, but then slowly at first, your friend may become cold and distant. At first, there may be denial that anything is wrong. Ultimately, you find that the friend is hurt or angry, because you did not meet some expectation that they had. You may feel badly, and redouble your efforts to be a good friend. You then start to anticipate how the friend will feel about things, and alter your behavior accordingly.
You are now trapped in the sticky web of codependency. This web requires one person who truly wants others to be happy, perhaps even more than they want that for themselves, and another who expects others to make him or her happy. Resentment begins to build within you, because what once was freely given, now seems to be demanded, and in even greater amounts. Because you are one who likes to make things work, you find yourself spending more and more time ‘processing’ the relationship with this person.
What neither of you may recognize is that you have become the unwitting victim of another’s need to play out unresolved hurts from the past. When you begin to feel the frustration of the unrealistic expectations placed upon you, and try to pull back from the relationship, you enter another level of craziness. The codependent may suddenly become very friendly, loving, even remorseful. You may even be told that you are the only one who really understands him or her. There is a promise that things will be different. They will: but just until you are lulled into falling back into the trap again.
The cycle repeats again and again, often with more intense confrontation each time. You may not understand why, but the codependent thrives on the confrontation with you. It gives them the opportunity to vent all of their hurts and anger from the past. For some, emotional entanglement is better than feeling ignored. Look for Part 2 of this article next week.
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CDs You May be Interested In:
When Relationships Break Down
Conflict Resolution in Relationships
Trust and Fidelity
Codependency and Projection