Do you think you are a codependent or maybe in a relationship with one? Want to find out what is going on and how to have a better relationships? This article is for you. Having been in this situation and healed I will explain what codependency is, how codependency and control are linked plus what controlling behaviours are. You will also learn where codependency originates from and how to start healing from it.
Also see Letting Go Of Codependency.
The Codependency and Control Connection
Codependency and control are two behaviors that may seem at odds but actually are related.
A codependent is someone who puts others wants above their own to make sure their own emotional needs are met.
Control is when a person uses manipulation and coercion to exert power and impact the behaviour of others.
A codependent is afraid of abandonment, derives his or her self esteem from doing for others and controlling their behavior. A codependent person also needs someone else to regulate their mood and internal dialogue.
By putting the other persons life over their own life the codependent is manipulating the them to make sure they satisfy her need to feel needed, without which she has low self esteem and will feel powerless.
How a Codependent Exerts Control
Codependents are afraid of abandonment, losing control as well as needing someone else to manage their internal state. They must use manipulative and controlling behaviors to achieve these ends.
These controlling behaviors are a way of dealing with their messed up compass of what a healthy relationship is.
Some Codependent tendencies :
They play the child
They refuse to grow up. This makes the other person feel guilty if they do not do things for the codependent.
They Weaponise Empathy to Control You
They use their own weaknesses, disabilities and vulnerabilities as weapon to coerce the partner.
Codependency and Control Using Emotional Blackmail
They will use emotional blackmail. Saying things like “I am nothing without you” , “I need you to protect me”.
Ostentatious Catering For Others Needs
They will ceaselessly cater to the needs of someone else to coerce them in serving their own need. The underlying narrative is “Look all I do for you, now you have to look after my needs”. By showing obedience to others whims and desires they are hoping for reciprocal treatment.
Codependency and Control Using Drama
Acting out. They make a drama out of a situation. Hoping to Trigger the desired response in the partner. See also Karpman Drama Triangle.
They alternate between periods of aloofness and clinginess. Triggering their partners fear of abandonment. Also acting in other contradictory ways in order to confuse their partner, who will go out of their way to reduce the confusion by catering to the needs of the codependent.
Enabling and Codependency and Control
They enable destructive behaviors in their partner eg. drug use. This way the partner will continue needing the codependent.
They Smother Their Partner To Control Them
They will smother their partner by micro- managing their life. Making themselves indispensable.
They may criticise their partner in order to influence and maintain control of their actions. They may criticise their looks, clothes or job.
Managing their Partners Feeling
They feel responsible for other people’s feelings. They believe the partner cannot resolve their feelings and problems without them. The codependent will convince them she knows what is best for them to feel.
Not All These Behaviors are Used
Which controlling behavior a codependent uses will depend on many factors, least of all who the codependent is in a relationship with. The codependent person will use what the situation and relationship demands.
Why They Use These Behaviors To Control Others
Remember, these unhealthy behavioral patterns are used by the codependent person to manage their anxiety and feeling of loss of control. This is not to make codependents seem like bad people, they are the ones that will often attract manipulative people.
Codependency and Control in Codependent Relationships
The Selfless Codependent
An adult who has grown up in a manipulative environment becomes someone who feels safe with selfish and self centred people. He becomes selfless in relationships, and automatically focuses on others before himself. He denies his own needs, rescues people from their feelings, and becomes proud of their selflessness. All this makes him feel safe because it reflects his relationship with the parent.
Codependent Wants to Feel Needed
The codependent wants to feel needed. When they don’t they feel anxious and helpless.
They Learn to See Only the Good
The codependent imagines there is good in manipulative, selfish and abusive people because that is what they had to do with the emotional manipulative parent. Which child wants to believe their parent is bad? This attracts them to people who are manipulative, deceiving and selfish.
They are Attracted to Narcissists
Because a co-dependent feels like themselves when they are doing things for other people, they will attract narcissistic types. Narcissists want people to do things for them, so it’s a match made in heaven.
Control Is Not Black and White
It’s easy to think the relationship a codependent is in is balanced against them. But, an unhealthy relationship style that it is, the codependent is getting what they need and just as willing to manipulate the selfish partner as the partner is.
How Codependents Can Stop Enabling and Controlling
1. Understand what codependency is: Being aware of the signs of codependency can help you identify when you are engaging in codependent behavior.
2. Make a habit of observing your own behaviour in a relationship: With knowledge of codependency you can spot where you are behaving in a unhealthy codependent way. This article will show you how to develop relationship awareness: Four Branches of Emotional Intelligence.
3. Learn what is healthy caring is versus codependency.
4. Have Boundaries: Learn to say “no” when you need to, setting limits on what you are willing to do for others, and being clear about your needs and expectations.
5. Increase time spent on your own needs: Making time for healthy activities like exercise and meditation. Do things you enjoy and hobbies you like spending time on. Just for you.
6. Develop a stronger sense of self: Codependents have a weak sense of self. Explore your own interests, values, and goals. Learn what your beliefs and stories you tell yourself are. this article shows you how, Life Scripts: the Hidden Patterns that Control Your Life.
7. Seek support: Codependency is developed in childhood, so it won’t go away easily and can be like negotiating a minefield of emotions and ingrained beliefs. Get support from a mental health practitioner and join a group if necessary. They will give the understanding, compassion and tools to heal.
Origin Of Controlling Behaviors In Codependents
Codependency is rooted in childhood. Where one or both of the parents were emotionally manipulative.
The Child as an Extension of Self
The manipulator believed the child was there to fill their own lack and make them feel good about themselves. To them the child is was an extension of self. This put a heavy unfair expectation on the child.
The Child Learns Quickly to be a Giver
The child learns to please the parent and make them feel good about themselves. They get punished when they don’t, either by being ignored, dirty looks or aggression. The child learns that giving is the way to get love and safety. The child never experiences unconditional love.
The child quickly learns to respond quickly and accurately to the demanding parents commands and becomes sensitive to their moods and becomes an expert in predicting them. He or she becomes a master at blending into to what the situation needs by being what the situation demands. Hoping this help will avoid the wrath of the parent(s).
The child has learned by watching that when people say no to the manipulative parent bad things happen. It terrifies them, so they mold their personality to make the parent happy.
They learn to increase their parents confidence as way to get love from them.
The Child Suppresses True Emotions
Since anger and sadness trigger the emotional manipulator they child learns to pretend they are happy. They pretend to be calm when frightened, happy when angry, lovable in unlovable situations.
Childhood is Cut Short
Their childhood is cut short because they get their identity and self esteem from being their for others before themselves, controlling their emotions, listening rather than talking. Also they become patient and compassionate. In short they sacrifice their childhood in order to makes the parent happy. For more on this see: The Fawn Response: A Hidden Trauma Response that Keeps You Stuck in Toxic Relationships and The 4Fs Trauma Model: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn- Which One are You?
The parent relies on the child to meet their emotional needs, this too much for a child who has not developed healthy boundaries. This is known as emotional incest.
They are likely to be attracted to narcissistic types. A codependent fantasies about others and a narcissist fantasies about himself. In addition codependents are attracted to people who are confident, overt in their sexuality and are braggadocio, in other words the the traits of someone with NPD. You can see how these opposite behaviors are complimentary.
Codependency and Control :Conclusion
Codependent behavior is learned in childhood because of a manipulative parent(s). They taught the child to put their needs before the child’s own. They were either incapable of caring for the child’s emotional needs or unwilling to.
These learned codependent behaviors carry on into adulthood and result in dysfunctional relationships. Often the codependent will be drawn to people with Narcissistic Personality disorder (NPD). A NPD is center of the world to themselves and the codependent wants to put someone else at the center.
Codependency and control are linked. Codependent personality disorders do not result in extreme power imbalance as some believe. There is an imbalance, however the codependent person needs to have their own needs met therefore also uses controlling behaviors to keep their partner relying on them.
From playing the vulnerable helpless person to smothering the partner with caring, there are several ways a codependent will try to exert control.
Both Codependency and control are unhealthy ways to relate to people. In order to heal from a codependency a person needs to get in touch with their own feelings, wants and needs. They must learn to set boundaries and learn healthy supportive behavior.