Article written by and full credit goes to: Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

Regrettably, the term “codependency” has been overused, misused & often misunderstood. It has become a caricature of its original meaning. To the general public, the term now implies that a person is weak, needy, clingy & even emotionally sick. Like the term “dysfunctional,” it has been lazily & conveniently reshaped to fit our mainstream lexicon. A revised definition has long been overdue. And here it is!

“Codependency is a psychological condition that is manifested in relationships. Codependents give a great deal more love, care and respect (LRC) to others than they expect, request and ultimately receive. Even though they are resentful and angry about the LRC inequality, they do not terminate the relationship. They convince themselves, that they alone, can change the narcissistic nature of their loved one. In the event that they or their partner do end the relationship, codependents perpetually find themselves on the giving end of a new relationship.”

Codependency Subtypes: Passive and Active

There are two sub-types of codependency: passive and active. Although all codependents are habitually and instinctively attracted (and later bonded) to severely narcissistic partners, one is more active in their perpetual but unsuccessful attempts to obtain their emotional manipulator’s love, respect, and care (LRC), while the other is more passive. Although both try to control and manipulate their narcissistic partners into meeting their LRC needs, they go about it differently.

Passive codependents are more fearful and avoidant of conflict. For complicated reasons, mostly related to their extremely low self-esteem, fear of being alone and tendency to be in relationships with controlling, dangerous and/or abusive emotional manipulators, the passive codependent attempts to control or influence their narcissistic partner through carefully, if not meticulously, executed control strategies – most of which are intended to fall under their emotional manipulator’s radar (awareness). Because of the secret and hidden nature of their control strategies, passive codependents are perceived as more manipulative (than active codependents).

Active codependents, on the other hand, more boldly and overtly attempt to manipulate their narcissistic partner into meeting their LRC needs. Being less afraid of conflict and subsequent harm, they are prone to initiate arguments and confrontations with emotional manipulators. Active codependents are often mistaken for narcissists because of their more openly controlling demeanor. Even though they are caught in a never winning cycle of trying to control someone who is neither interested nor capable of meeting their LRC needs, they are typically not able or motivated to end the relationship. Like the passive codependent, they believe that “one day” their pathologically narcissistic partner will realize their mistakes and wrong-doings and finally give them the love, respect and care they so desperately want and need. It just never happens…

Although different “on the outside,” both the passive and active codependent share the pathological “others” self-orientation. They both remain with pathologically narcissistic partners while being unhappy, angry and resentful at the lack of reciprocity, mutuality, and fairness in their relationship. While the active codependent may seem stronger, more in control and more confident, both share the same deeply embedded insecurities and feelings of powerlessness. Both are unable to break free from their dysfunctional relationship.

Codependency Anorexia (Codependency Turned Off)

Codependency Anorexia occurs when a codependent surrenders to their life-long relationship pattern to destructive pathological narcissists. It occurs when they hit bottom and can no longer bear the pain and the harm meted out to them from their malevolent pathological narcissists. It is paradoxical in a sense, as it occurs during a moment of clarity, when the codependent realizes that they are completely powerless to stop their attraction to lovers who, in the beginning, feel so right, but shortly thereafter, hurt them so badly. In an effort to protect themselves from the long line of “soul mates,” who unexpectedly convert to “cellmates,” they flip their vulnerability switch to “off,” which results in a complete shutdown of their emotional, relational, and sexual machinery.

To maintain their codependent anorexia, codependents ultimately have to divorce themselves from their emotional and sexual selves. As a result, they “starve” themselves from the very human need to connect romantically, intimately, and sexually. Such deprivation often leads to long-term mental and relational health problems. Read Codependency Anorexia Full Article: here.

Codependency Recovery Induced Narcissism

When the over-zealous (and excited) recovering codependent goes overboard in setting boundaries and showing the world their new sense of empowerment, personal power, and heightened self-esteem. Many people, especially those who are narcissistic will accuse this codependent of being narcissistic. Many mistakes and judgment errors can occur during this temporary transition toward better emotional and relational health.

Two humorous examples are from the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)