A dependent person has a variety of ways to fill the voids they fee. While they may choose a something to hold off the terror of self, they will also often choose a someone. When a dependent person chooses a someone to fill the void, they create relationship dependency. Through their relationships, they cry out, “I am unable to love myself, so you must love me for me.”
Choosing a someone when you don’t feel worth of that relationship in the first place is precarious; that relationship is built on a shaky foundation. Relationships do best when there is room to move as people and change and grow. If you are dependent on a relationship, however, you may be terrified of that relationship changing and growing. Could change and growth result in losing that relationship? With such fear, you may determine you are safer and more secure when the relationship stays the same.
Who would enter into a relationship with a shaky foundation? Sometimes a dependent person will seek out someone who has an appropriate sense of self. A so-called healthy person can be attractive to a dependent person. A dependent person can modify their behaviors, especially in the beginning of a relationship, so that they’re able to function. However, over time, the healthy person may become aware that there is something shaky about the relationship. Words such as clingy, suffocating, or controlling may be used to describe the relationship. When dysfunction becomes too extreme, the so-called normal person will often end the relationship.
If so-called normal people resist staying in a dependent relationship, who is left? Sometimes two dependent people will enter into a relationship, but these are extremely shaky, because neither person feels competent or capable to provide direction. This leaves dependent people vulnerable to another personality type. They can be susceptible to people with arrogant and narcissistic personality types who believe they always know the right answer. Certain types of people will seek out a dependent personality because of their need for power and control. The dependent person cries out, “Please, tell me what to do!” and the abusive or arrogant person is all too willing to do just that in every situation.
There are also people who seek out a dependent personality because they need someone to support and enable their lifestyle. An alcoholic or drug addict needs people who will contribute to and enable the addiction and not ask questions or object. People who are addicted to their own power and control over others will seek out a relationship with a person who doesn’t trust himself or herself. People who need compliance for behaviors will seek out people who need to comply. This is the nature of codependency.
Because dependent and codependent relationships are dysfunctional, they carry the seeds of their own destruction. These relationships can limp along, sometimes for years, under stress, requiring large amounts of effort and energy to maintain before they finally fall apart. When they do, the dependent person can be left feeling betrayed, abandoned, vulnerable, and desperate to find a new relationship to latch on to for safety. In that desperation, the dependent person may be even more vulnerable to another dysfunctional and potentially abusive relationship.
When patterns of behavior are so deeply embedded into who you are, how you were raised, and how you view life, how can you come to recognize the truth? If you are already seeing the pain and problems with your relationships, you are beginning to see the truth.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE
and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years
ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities
for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center •
A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington,
creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health
issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and