In the Narcissistic relationship dynamic, you might often hear the words codependent or codependency. These words are used far too often when referring to abusive situations. But are victims and survivors of Narcissistic Abuse codependent or is it something else?
According to the Mental Health America website, codependency is “an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.” These types of relationships are often found in one-sided or emotionally/physically abusive relationships.
I had heard the words codependent and codependency when I was in Alateen and Alanon. In the world of 12 Step programs, those terms apply to a dysfunctional relationship where the person heavily supports and enables the other person’s addiction, like drinking, gambling or abusive ways.
When I say enable, I simply mean that a person will “allow” the behaviors to continue. A wife who makes excuses for her alcoholic husband. A father who bails his child out of jail with no consequences for the child’s actions. Being an enabler allows for the destructive behavior to continue. Therefore, the unhealthy individual will come to count on the other person to always come to their rescue, so to speak.
Codependency in abuse
I don’t like when the term codependent is used when referring to an abusive relationship. There is a huge difference between being codependent and being trauma bonded. According to Shahida Arabi, abuse victims exhibit codependent traits when exposed to prolonged abuse.
“Codependency was a term historically used to describe interactions between addicts and their loved ones, not victims and abusers. Dr. Clare Murphy asserts that abuse victims can actually exhibit codependent traits as a result of trauma, not because they are, in fact, codependent.”
Notice above I mentioned that codependency can be found in abusive relationships. This isn’t because the victim/target already IS codependent. It is merely as Arabi states – that victims can display symptoms of codependency because of the abuse they endured.
Many times, survivors of Narcissistic Abuse enter into the relationships with the Narcissists as strong, capable, and independent people. It is through the Narcissistic abuse tactics that we are systematically worn down, manipulated and exploited. Consequently, it’s like we become “willing participants” in the abuse. And for that reason, many outsiders lay the blame on the victims for the abuse and just automatically apply the codependent label on us.
I don’t see it as being a willing participant. Like we asked to be abused or something. I see it as a survival tool. Narcissistic Abuse victims become trauma bonded to their abusers as a way to survive. It’s a coping mechanism. (See my post Trauma Bonding for more information.)
So when outsiders say we are codependent, they are blaming us for the abuse! They aren’t placing the blame where it belongs – on the abuser.
As one survivor said, “The danger with the term ‘codependency’ is that we lose awareness of what is going on with the abuser.” What society really should be doing is focusing on the Narcissists. They are the problem. Not the victims. The entire societal view of abuse needs to change. All too often, society asks the victim, “What did you do?” which places the blame on the victim, when the reality is that it’s the abuser who is at fault.
I think in order to un-blur the line between codependency and trauma bonding, we need to bring more awareness to the two terms. And to Narcissistic Abuse in general. That means speaking up about what we endured. I know that it’s painful. I know that it’s scary.
What are your thoughts on codependency? Comment below. And as always, I appreciate you for sharing your stories with me.
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Greetings, my warrior survivor friends! Welcome to my blog. I'm Julianna, the owner and creator of this site. Check out the My Story section to read about why I started this blog. Thanks for stopping in. And feel free to comment on any post, share your own thoughts and stories. I would love to hear from you!
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The content of this site is told from the blog author/owner's personal experience of dealing with a male Narcissist. Narcissists, psychopaths and sociopaths are both male and female, and come from all walks of life. Furthermore, the content contained herein is not intended to be a replacement for medical or legal counsel. This blog's sole purpose is to provide support to those who have endured Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse.