Many codependents are in abusive relationships with addicts or people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). The symptoms of codependency encourage the dysfunctional dynamics in these relationships, which in turn worsens codependent symptoms. This makes sense when we consider the definition of codependency and that codependents have a “lost self,” in that their thinking and behavior revolve around someone else.
Due to dysfunctional parenting, codependents have lost touch with their ability to respond to their internal cues. They’ve come to believe that they’re inferior and that what they feel, think, need, and/or want is unimportant. This is their hidden shame. As a result, they hold an unconscious belief that they don’t truly deserve to be loved simply for who they are, but they have to earn love. This causes a basic insecurity and fear of being abandoned.
Codependency originates in childhood, including core symptoms of shame (including low self-esteem), denial, dependency, control (including “caretaking”), dysfunctional communication, and dysfunctional boundaries. These traits set the stage for painful relationships and are explained in Conquering Shame and Codependency.
The Role Codependency in Relationships
Because many codependents have become alienated from their feelings, the drama of an intimate relationship with someone addicted or mentally disordered can feel energizing or familiar if their childhood was similar. Additionally, addicts and people with NPD and BPD are often charismatic and romantic. They can be seductive and shower their codependent partner with compliments, promises, and gestures of love. Codependents yearn for love and connection, and being desired makes them feel lovable. But their dependency and low self-esteem make them susceptible to seduction, and they confuse romance with real love.