It is wrong to assume that if codependency is identified as an issue, the person concerned is codependent with everyone in his or her life. There is usually only one or a number of people (or thing, e.g work, substances) but the typical behaviour associated with codependents does not necessarily get projected on everybody. The “object” of codependency is usually a very strong (mostly negative) influence on their lives and all focus is placed there. They are very resistant to realising this as it often defines them as people. Their struggle is them. Their “object” is their whole life and only by fixating on this, will they get what they need. Until a point of real awareness occurs, they will defend their object with all they have and even though they will incessantly complain about the “object”, no one else can. In fact, they can be fairly resistant and sometimes quite nasty to anyone else who complains. These people often drop out of therapy quite quickly and end up back where they started. As with most human practices, the easy way out is the chosen way. I once heard it described as a form of Stockholm Syndrome, which I would not argue with.
It is mostly only after the inevitable happens and things breakdown, that the light is seen. This can take a while considering the fact that codependents often need to “fix”. Sometimes, this even goes to the extent of trying to interfere in their “object’s” new relationship. Some come up with the idea that they must “save” the new partner by helping or warning them.
Once such case I remember well is an elderly woman who only wanted to talk in therapy about how badly she was treated by her husband and son who were “taking advantage of me”. Her 35-year-old son who lived with them never had the chance to become independent because his mother did everything for him, including making his bed as soon as he eventually got up. When I suggested that maybe she might want to allow the family to do some more for themselves, she took me to task “but they won’t love me then!”: an extreme case but a glaring example.
In therapy, this attitude can cause problems. However, most therapists who are experienced with treating codependency will see this resistance as part of the solution, not the problem. The total sacrifice to the object is a pattern that has probably repeated itself since childhood. Relationships are seen by codependents as a way of resolving old issues, broken and dysfunctional early bonding with caregivers. They are on a continual mission to resolve these early relationships.
In therapy, it is extremely important to work with a therapist who understands codependency and has worked through any such issues he or she may have had. Codependency, essentially, in relationships, is often misunderstood. According to many articles that I have read, some therapists and observers still doubt that it even exists. They put it down to the “fad of the moment”. However, I have seen enough in my practice to recognize it as a disorder that affects many people. How can it be said that our adult relationships can in any way be functional when as children, we felt insecure and abandoned? By questioning this, the theory of attachment styles can be also questioned.
The bottom line is that codependents are often very resistant to being shown that their relationship with their “object” is dysfunctional and the attention they are giving “it” needs to go to themselves. For all the time they are fixated on someone else, they are fulfilling an old need to seek validation, resolve issues and be loved. The problem is…. they are looking in the wrong place. In addition, they are avoiding the hard work needed to recover.