codependency definition


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 imbedded 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.

Codependency Anorexia Full Article:

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 judgement errors can occur during this temporary transition toward better emotional and relational health.

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

copyright-symbol-for-web-2 2015, Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

Clinical Care Consultants Owner and Advanced Clinical Trainers Owner

Psychotherapist, Author & Professional Trainer

Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us


Ross Rosenberg

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT, is an international codependency, narcissism, trauma, and sex& love addictions expert who provides psychotherapy, training and consultation services. Ross is a keynote speaker and trainer, presenting in 27 states and 3 countries. He owns Advanced Clinical Trainers and Clinical Care Consultants, an Arlington Heights IL counseling center. He wrote the best-selling book, "The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us." Ross’s YouTube channel contains 75 instructional/educational videos, which have over 2.6 million views and amassed 24,000 subscribers. He has been on ABC Late Night, a ABC "Swiped" documentary, Fox News and WGN News. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune & Publishers Weekly and he blogs for The Huffington Post, &

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