Emapths and Codependent Relationships

What happens when you get two empaths or two codependents, or one of each, in a relationship? Is it a match made in heaven or hell? Can they help each other out, or do they just create a toxic mess?

To be honest, that depends on how healed and awakened both of them actually are.

It also comes back to the question an empath must always ask themselves; just because I can, does that mean I should?

Lets unravel this convoluted piece of mind-fuckery.

First of all, what is the key difference between being codependent and being an empath? Are they the same thing?

No, they aren’t the same thing, but they often interweave, overlap, or at the very least spring from the same source: fundamentally messed up relationships with one or more parents or primary caregivers.

An empath is someone who has spent their early childhood having to temperature gauge the emotional environment in their house because at any moment the person in control of whether they live or die might just explode. They develop the skill of feeling emotional waves rolling off other people, processing them through their own body and experiencing the whole thing as though it is their own emotions.

The YouTube channel Empoweress describes it as being;

“…required to abandon your own needs for the sake of someone else’s emotionality.”

Empaths are prone to anxiety, people-pleasing, codependency and sudden inexplicable mood swings, but they don’t have to be. They will need a lot of alone time to detox from other people which may become an avoidance of going out and potentially full-blown anxiety about having to expose themselves to the emotional soup of the outside world.

They will also try to mollify anyone around them in order to quell the emotions flying at them. Conversely they may lash out at anyone bringing their emotional shit-show to the room.

Obviously, none of this is healthy.

All empaths needs to learn about, and develop, boundaries. That’s a whole other subject for discussion at a later date…

So what is a codependent?

Where an empath can function quite happily (and might even be happier) without a relationship, a codependent cannot. A codependent is an empath who feels lost without a close personal relationship. There is no such thing as a healed or awakened codependent because if you do the healing and awaken to the smell of bull-shit, you will stop being codependent.

The clue is in the name; Co = needing a partner in crime; Dependent = needing something or someone in order to do the thing with the thing.

Now, often a codependent will do their crazy little dance with a narcissist because that’s how they were raised and what seems natural. The ensuing abuse feels like love to them.

But can you attract a codependent person without being a narcissist?

The answer is yes. The real question is why?

Because a codependent needs someone with a stronger core to lean on. They’re unable to stand up for themselves or make themselves unagreeable to others in defense of their own boundaries.

But why would an empath who is not codependent end up with someone like that? Because they’re preconditioned to it from a parent dynamic.

What if there is a type of narcissist who is also codependent? What happens if you’re raised by someone like that?

Well, there is. They’re usually referred to as “covert narcissists” or “shy narcissists” and they’re the most insidious and pernicious of the type because they’re less obvious.

What does this type of personality disorder look like?

First, you need to understand what happens when a codependent turns toxic. The features of this are listed below:

  1. Takes responsibility for other people’s problems.
  2. Gives unsolicited advice to others about the above problems which they then expect will be complied with.
  3. Takes personal offence when this advice is not taken.
  4. Goes to excessive lengths to people-please such as extravagant gifts or spending far too much time being personally involved in other people’s lives.
  5. Needs emotional validation from external sources.
  6. Perceives themselves as being unappreciated or used because they have given to others to the extent that their own resources are depleted.
  7. Imagines that other people’s choices and actions in life are attacks on them.
  8. Victim mentality underpinned by the idea that things “happen to them” and they have no control over any of it. Imagining they’re at the mercy of other people.
  9. Controlling of other people by use of guilt, shame or other emotional manipulations such as pity.
  10. Cognitive Dissonance (rationalising their own or other people’s bad behaviour)
  11. Fear of rejection or fear of abandonment underpinned by the idea that they’re not worthy of love and cannot love themselves.
  12. No concept of boundaries.

As you can see, a lot of this looks like narcissism and in a way it is. The premise of many of these behaviours is that this person is at the center of everyone’s lives and that totally unrelated stuff is somehow aimed at them. If that grandiose sense of self gets out of control and if they shut off their empathy you will have a narcissist.

I know that at various times I have been guilty of some of this behaviour, particularly in friendships, mostly because I kept being friends with narcissists.

What causes this?

When one person is saddled with all of the blame and responsibility, and given none of the control.

Essentially, the codependent turns into a control freak to try and make things more normal. This won’t work with a narcissist, so its a never-ending battle and until the codependent understands the mind-fuck, they’ll never stop trying to claw back their sanity.

With normal people you don’t have to constantly be on alert that they’re about to set fire to something and then blame you for it. Having a narcissist in your life is like having an insane, rabid, gigantic toddler with access to money and a car. You’re the parent of this monstrosity, but the reality of your influence over whether they bite someone is pretty minimal. However, child services will still turn up and arrest you for all of the toddler’s collateral damage.

This is how I grew up dealing with my mother. It forces a child to mature way too quickly, without any of the actual power in the dynamic.

Luckily I was never someone who needed to be needed. Mostly I enjoyed being left alone, possibly because I had to adapt to changing schools 11 times which meant that I had gaps in making friends and didn’t always *fit in.

*Usually didn’t fit in.

So I became very resilient, independent and self-reflective. I was not afraid of going against the grain, standing up for myself and others, or calling bull-shit when I saw something which wasn’t right.

Of course I still attracted narcissists, because I was still awakening to what was really going on and finding my way out of the mental woods, however I knew I didn’t want a narcissist as a partner. At least I was smart enough to look at my chaotic narcissistic friends and realise I didn’t have the patience to live with that.

So how did I always end up in toxic relationships?

Turns out I have been attracting codependent men all my life.

How did I do that?

Well, at first I considered the possibility that I might be a narcissist myself, but the very fact that I questioned it precluded me from that category. Apparently a complete lack of self-awareness and responsibility are hallmarks of the type.

I’m definitely an empath. That much was obvious from the way I would randomly feel sad for no reason, or instinctively know when someone was angry without them saying anything, or become overwhelmed in shopping centers.

But I never went into a relationship with the mindset of trying to change someone, or control them, or get emotional validation from them at any cost. I didn’t want to “fix” my partner, but apparently they wanted to fix me.

The number one phrase I kept repeating in every relationship was this: “If you’re so unhappy with who I am, why are you dating me?”

They never really had an answer…

What Did My Last Relationship Look Like?

I say last with half a mind to mean both senses of the word.

My ex was (or probably still is, I mean, he’s not dead) a fun-loving guy who never got mad about anything and was always willing to do stuff for others. He came from a lovely, very traditional nuclear family which is miraculously still in-tact and is an intelligent hard-worker who achieved the Dean’s List at university.

If you’re already relationship-woke you’ve probably spotted about 3 red-flags right there.

He was chronically codependent with his friends, family, neighbours and workplace. In fact, everyone except me. As his partner, I was an extension of him rather than a separate person with whom he should be maintaining a relationship.

In his quest to people-please he worked dangerous hours at his job, sometimes a 20-hour day, 7 days a week and seemed unable to say no to his boss (no, he wasn’t having an affair, the sad fuck was actually working). At Christmas we would go broke buying presents for his family and friends, but mine were almost irrelevant (also, it would have made my family uncomfortable to be given obscene amounts of gifts which they couldn’t reciprocate).

He would volunteer to help people fix their houses, throw big parties, shout his friends on a night out and spend the grocery money on concert tickets which I was not invited to, but he wouldn’t help me change a tyre or take me to hospital when I needed it.

With one friend of his he would not assert his boundaries and this dude would turn up every Friday evening and not leave until Sunday evening. I literally begged my partner to say no and tell him that he can’t just camp every weekend. In the end I had to scream and threaten to get personal space, which of course made me look crazy.

He felt entitled to everything which was mine from my money, time and energy to my personal space, ideas and body. Whenever he came up against my boundaries, he would take it personally and accuse me of not loving him.

Among his friends I had a reputation because I was the big bad bitch who told him no. And he was such a nice guy…

In fact, being “nice” was so important to him that when I had to assert my boundaries with friends, he decided that I was a terrible person and actually broke up with me. Later on, he found out exactly how far those friends had pushed me and lied to him, but by that point I had no love left.

The label of being the “crazy, cold-hearted bitch” was something I just had to wear if I wanted to stand up for myself.

Was he a narcissist?

No, he isn’t. I’ve met those people and he isn’t one of them. However, he is toxic. He’s particularly toxic to himself. He abused me the way he abuses himself.

And that’s the thing; someone doesn’t need to be a psychopath to be toxic. They can be the most caring people you know and yet be completely detrimental for you.

That was my biggest problem; it was so hard to reconcile how terrible I felt in that relationship with how “great a guy” he was.

Being codependent is no joke. They can do just as much damage to another person as a narcissist can. If you have a tendency to people-please or martyr yourself or try to “fix” others in your life, you need to understand that this is extremely toxic.

If you try to usurp another person’s sovereignty, autonomy and responsibilities you will potentially stunt their development, steal their power or just generally piss them off.

Instead, you need to remind yourself that other people are separate from you in every way; have the right to make choices (even bad ones); and should be respected to determine their own lives without you putting in two cents.

Your partner included.

As for myself…

What I am now looking for in a partner and what I need most in a relationship is this:

Someone who respects my boundaries and who is capable of dealing with their own shit.

I do not want someone to “fix” me or “save” me. I am perfectly capable to doing that for myself if I determine that it needs doing. And I have no time for baby-sitting grown men who won’t stand up for themselves.

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