When We are Codependent, Our Need for Enmeshment Begins With Us

“I used to spend so much time reacting and responding to everyone else that my life had no direction. Other people’s lives, problems, and wants set the course for my life. Once I realized it was okay for me to think about and identify what I wanted, remarkable things began to take place in my life.”            Melody Beattie

“I need to learn to recognize and identify these danger signs when I see them, and not brush them off as “eccentricities,” “lovable oddities,” or “a sign that he’s crying out for help and the comforting of a codependent nurturer that only I, Princess Enabler, can provide. Bad boyfriends don’t disguise themselves; their girlfriends do it for them. ”               Laurie Notaro

He keeps me in his pocket
for a rainy day;
he swears I’m not an object
as he yo-yo’s me away.

A friend is what we’ll call it,
but my friend, he does not know,
each time it rains I love him—
so to his pocket, I must go.

He thinks he’s being clever,
but I am not a fool;
his love ain’t worth a penny,
so to my heart I must be cruel.”
― Coco J. Ginger




Overcoming the codependency/narcissist dynamic

The narcissist needs to uphold the “false self” at all times. They must be seen to be charming, strong-minded and accomplished to outsiders. At home, they require their partner to reflect this positive self-image to avoid the insecurity that they may feel deep down. If the partner fails, the narcissist will resort to manipulation or gaslighting to get what they want or simply ignore their presence. The upshot is that the narcissist experiences physical and emotional freedom, because they never have to worry about upsetting someone because of their off-putting personality traits, which they deny having. For the narcissist, this is what the relationship feels like:1. Everything is great. (“I’m getting what I want.”)
2. Everything is wrong. (“They committed a crime.”)
3. Withdraw until amends are made.
4. Return to the top.

Here’s example of the false self: Narcissists may act empathetic and supportive of others but will simultaneously harbour disgust and contempt for the vulnerable person close to them. They will often use a situation (say, a narcissist’s wife is depressed, and he is unsympathetic) to reinforce their specialness by offering acquired knowledge and support to a friend in a similar situation.

The codependent, however, is always walking on eggshells. They feel overly responsible for others and take on what is not theirs. They do this to avoid their own feelings of inadequacy. They learn to fit into the narcissist’s “self-serving” world and gets used to living in an emotional desert. For the Codependent, this what it the relationships feels like:
1. Everything is great. (“They are getting what they need.”)
2. Everything is wrong. (“You committed a crime.”)
3. Working to gain approval.
4. Return to the top.

Surviving Codepenedency…#Real Talk

For the longest time, I could not make heads or tails between codependency and love. I thought that when you love someone, you put that person’s needs before yours and make their happiness your personal mission. Love is patient love is kind, right? Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. How do you possibly reconcile this self-sacrificing kind of love discussed in the Bible with a healthy relationship? It made no sense to me.

Take this one step further- how in the heck do you learn to have a healthy (read: not codependent) relationship when you’re at the point in your life when you’re having children? For any codependent, who needs to be needed, having children is the ultimate test.

I will never forget talking to an ex a few years ago right after I had my son and he said, completely jokingly, “Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine how much you love being needed 24/7.” He didn’t even say it in any way that was meant to be rude or insulting, just as we were laughing over the topic generally. But OH MY GOSH- how right was he? I didn’t even make that connection until well into my codependency recovery journey that having children is the ultimate fuel to the fire for codependents. Sign me up for little people that need me 24/7; you found your volunteer here!

Codependency: A Self-Destructive Crime of Passion

And that’s another huge problem with codependency:

You give another person the role of knowing and also being what it is that you need to feel loved, happy, important, worthy.

And not because that person goes on a power hungry, manipulative control tip becoming some dominant personality type trying to suppress your natural being for their own personal gain; rather, this person cannot even begin to understand how to keep someone happy or make it work with someone who doesn’t have a clue where they stand, in the world, or in themselves.

There is no relationship, for a person like this, that can ever be genuinely fulfilling.

At first, when you are pretending and changing inside everything you can to relate and make the other happy- that is not happiness, that is relief.

Relief when he/she gives you that smile of approval.

But sheer panic yet again, once they look away too quickly for you to feel confident enough in.

It’s maddening.

Loving yourself and realizing your own worth is never going to be easy.

It’s never going to be POSSIBLE, attempted time and time again, through the lens of any individual who is not your own self.


  1. Thank you for writing this beautiful article! Amazing how much I recognize my codependency and my specific choice for narcissistic men. My last few relationships were of the toxic kind with a narcissist. I really chose them and hunted them down. I needed to be needed 24/7. Otherwise I were to look at myself. I hated myself back then. Full blown alcoholic as well. Looking back now, I have learned to love myself in recovery, I have hurt myself most of all in these toxic relationships. The amends for this were with myself.


    • How lucky we are to be able to create a new life for ourselves. after all these years, I discovered one of triggers this week. I love learning about myself and being able to make new choices. Thanks for sharing. Kathy


  2. Wonderful article, and thanks for the link back to my blog post and featuring my thoughts on Surviving Codependency. Look forward to reading more that you write!


    • Thanks, I have written this blog since 2004. Have about 15 other ones. As I am 78 and in my 43rd year of recovery, I have a lot of information written. So I am moving stuff to 6 standalone blogs. Each will have one topic only. One of them will be how to recover from being a doormat which I am calling Codep Recovery at this time. Took me many years to learn that recovery only means knowing your triggers. Plus 5 other practices.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you I feel honored to see my blog post about Codependency mentioned here, and am glad you felt a connection to it! This is definitely a sign that i need to keep writing, thank you for your support. We are all on this healing journey as long as we live, and its encouraging to know that there are still genuine people in the world. People who understand and care.


    • Thank you. I believe, after 43+ years of recovery, that most everyone needs codep recovery. IMO, it has been marginalized to protect those fragile selves that believe it couldn’t mean them.


      • It seems like most people, especially older generations (no offense intended, it is the younger generations as well, but i think therapy and psychology of the mental health is becoming more accepted in society now, thankfully) are unaware of many of these very common issues. We all have mostly all the same types of problems at our core, but we hurt ourselves by denying that. At the same time, it seems like many out there dont even know there is a different way to live life. Its very unfortunate.


  4. I loved the line “that is not happiness, that is relief”. I can so relate to the relief feeling that comes when my approval seeking finds it’s target. I’ve had over five years in recovery and still struggle with approval addiction. I realized recently that when I chameleon to get the other person’s “love”, it’s not my true self that ends up with it anyway. Thanks for sharing your experience, strength and hope!


    • I still do also, Roxanne. My clue is when I start to feel rushed. That is my old controlling self trying to take over. I have to say No out loud sometimes to return to my peace.


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