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Author Topic: Codependent v's Unselfish?  (Read 360 times)
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Posts: 184

« on: December 08, 2014, 08:30:22 AM »

Where does unselfishness become co-dependency?  I'm struggling with this concept a bit since in most apparently healthy relationships both people bring different sets of skills to a relationship.  E.g. One might be good at picking out wallpaper and the other may be better at putting it up, one may be efficient at shopping, the other may be more efficient at making a meal out of the shopping, etc. 

In one of my unhealthy relationships for example (when dating) my ex was good at decorating which I wont attempt, so I asked him to do some stuff for me and I cooked nice meals for him in return, which he appreciated as he would have just had takeaway (or with hindsight bummed off someone else).  Further into the relationship of course I was making his GP appointments, finding him a dentist to register with, sorting out his paperwork etc whilst he suddenly had waaaay too many issues to be bothered decorating the family home he now shared.  By the end of the relationship I was working, cooking, cleaning, shopping and being a selfish b***h for leaving our son with him whilst I did the shopping to cook said meals, and nowhere needed decorating at all, and anyway his knee was giving him problems so how dare I ask him to climb a ladder, Laugh out loud (click to insert in post).  Obviously, I was having affairs with people from work too, or random people I met in the supermarket if I dared to look in any other shops, other than for food.   

So how can you really know this is what is happening/likely to happen until you are too enmeshed to make a swift (and in this case, safe) exit? 
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Ex-romantic partner
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« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2014, 09:01:15 AM »

I would say co-dependence is based on obligation, self esteem issues and giving when it's very bad for you, or when you have nothing left to give, disregarding your own emotional needs. Being unselfish is when you are concerned for the happiness and well being of others  and don't resent it, while still regarding your own emotional needs.
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Gender: Male
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Ex-romantic partner
Relationship status: Divorced Oct 2015
Posts: 10388

« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2014, 09:48:21 AM »

Codependent Relationships are One-sided

Family therapist and WebMD contributor Tina Tessina, PhD, LMFT says, "It's kind of a weird term [codependent], and it doesn't sound like it means a one-sided relationship, but often that's what it becomes. The codependent enabler often finds themselves trying to make their relationship work with someone else who's not."

Codependency and Codependent Relationships

Do you have a T or P? Take a look at the article.


"Let go or be dragged" -Zen proverb
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Ex-romantic partner
Posts: 2253

« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2014, 10:22:00 AM »

Where does unselfishness become co-dependency?

a very good question. in r/ss such as the ones we on this board have been in, there is often a line to find between things like unselfishness and co-dependency, or sympathy and enablement, or patience and self-disregard, or acceptance and abdication. the situation you've described sounds horrible, frankly, and i might ask, what allows you to tolerate it? what's good about the r/s? does the good override these episodes?

So how can you really know this is what is happening

it's probably impossible to suggest a metric apart from one's internal experience. if you're thinking on the one hand "this is objectively unacceptable" and on the other hand "i want to stay", how do you square those?


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« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2014, 11:13:21 AM »

Codependency exists in a dynamic with another person, the "dependent".  The dependent is unhealthy and does most of the taking in the relationship, putting unhealthy burdens and unnecessary demands on the other person, and under threat of the relationship ending (or something bad happening to them), they control the co-dependent person.  However, the co-dependent person, in a sense, wants to be controlled.  They feel an unhealthy need to rescue, and for whatever reason, they are willing to continually put themselves on the chopping block, while allowing terrible, unhealthy, destructive, and usually abusive behavior and situations to continue, simply because they believe they cannot live without the person or cannot let them go, for fear of what will happen to them.

While a co-dependent may appear to be "unselfish", the truth of the matter is that what motivates a co-dependent is usually a combination of fear and a distorted view of themselves, as being inferior or unlovable, and needing to "rescue" someone in order to feel worthy.  So, while it probably isn't helpful to call this "selfish", the motivation behind the co-dependent's constant need to rescue is not necessary for the good of the other person and really has more to do with their own fears and low self-esteem.

This is evidenced by the fact that the co-dependent often comes to the point where they realize, intellectually at least, that they are enabling unhealthy and wrong behavior, and that they are helping to further a sick and unhealthy dynamic that keeps two people unhealthy and shields them from the need to get help, they still "can't" let go of the relationship.
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