Passive and Active Codependents

As many many already know, my book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us, has been selling well.  We are in the process of putting together the second printing.  I am very pleased to add an endorsement by Melody Beattie.  Melody is a a codependency pioneer, is the author of over 18 books, including best-selling Codependent No More and Language of Letting Go.

Also, in the new edition I added a section in the Codependency chapter that delineates two types of codependents: active and passive.  What follows is the portion of the book that describes active and passive codependents.

An Excerpt from CHAPTER 10 – Codependency

Passive and Active Codependents

Codependency is a problematic relationship orientation which involves the relinquishing of power and control to individuals who are either addicted or who have one of the three emotional manipulation personality disorders. In other words, codependents habitually find themselves in relationships with egotistic, self-centered, selfish, and/or addicted individuals. Codependents are habitually and magnetically attracted to people who neither seem interested nor motivated to participate in mutual or reciprocal relationships. Additionally, codependents willingly participate in relationships in which there is an unfair distribution of love, respect, and care, both given and received. By habitually choosing narcissistic or addicted friends or romantic partners, codependents consistently feel unfulfilled, disrespected and undervalued. As much as they resent and complain about the inequity in their relationships, codependents feel powerless to change them.

There are two subtypes 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 imbedded insecurities and feelings of powerlessness.  Both are unable to break free from their dysfunctional relationship.

Many readers and seminar participants have asked why I only consider emotional manipulators to be emotionally manipulative, not codependents.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is where it is important to remind the reader that the diagnostic term used in this book, “emotional manipulator,” is specifically defined as an individual who fits the diagnostic criteria for one of three personality disorders: Borderline, Narcissistic, or Antisocial and/or is addicted to a drug or process (e.g., sex or gambling).  Emotional manipulators, as defined in the book, are pathologically narcissistic.

The phrase “emotionally manipulative” or “emotional manipulator” is just one of countless personality descriptions that could fit almost anyone, including codependents.  All of us, healthy or not, have the capacity to be emotionally manipulative.  Hence, codependents can also be emotionally manipulative or described as emotional manipulators.  However, the diagnostic term “emotional manipulator” is only used for the aforementioned pathological narcissists and/or addicts.

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC

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