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C - Codependency and Friendship

From the outside looking in, it can look like I excel at friendships. I seem to get to know people pretty easily. And I have quite a few friends.

But I have a secret.

I have carefully crafted each of my friendships to make sure I become indisposable.

Growing up, my responsibility was to take care of my family. I watched my siblings after school and did most of the chores. I catered to the adults' emotions. I had to make sure to be ready for any possible consequences, and keep my siblings away if the adults weren't in a good mood.

I began to equate my worth with how helpful and perfect I was. I learned that if people depend on you then they'll treat you better and are less likely to leave. I learned to be needed.

Thirty years later and I'm repeating these patterns in my relationships. Every time I make a new friend, I try to be as helpful to them as possible. This means that I will make time for them even if it causes me stress. I will help out when they need a favor. Most importantly, I become someone they can depend on emotionally.

It makes me happy to know that people come to me with their problems. In fact, if they don't, I'll assume we're not friends. In every single one of my friendships (save one) I am the shoulder to cry on. If they don't come to me with their problems I feel offended, especially if they've gone to someone else instead. I'll assume the other person is mad at me or doesn't trust me. Not only should I be someone they come to, I should be the main someone.

This is not a reciprocal relationship though. I will not go to them with my problems. I won't go to anyone with my problems. Most people won't even know I'm dealing with anything.

There are a few reasons for this. One, I've learned that if I am a low-maintenance friend, then people are less likely to leave me. I have a lot of problems, and if I dump all of them on someone then I'm afraid they'll run the other way. I've also made some attempts to tell other people, but find that I am usually ignored. Admittedly this is probably because I've already established the friendship as an unbalanced relationship. So the other person isn't used to me needing anything.

Deep down, I don't feel like I deserve to have a shoulder to lean on. Like I said, I feel like I have a lot of problems. I'm too much for anyone to deal with. And if I'm strong enough I should be able to deal with it on my own. I view myself as weak and needy, and I try very hard not to let people realize the same thing.

But I am human. Eventually I become enraged about the imbalance in the friendship. I'll feel like the other person doesn't care about me because they never try to see deeper. They never look behind the "fine". To be fair, even if they did I probably wouldn't accept it.

I refuse to tell anyone when something is wrong, but expect people to know when something is bothering me. I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for, since even if they guessed something was wrong, I wouldn't admit it.

I've read enough about codependency to understand that there's an element of control at play. My ultimate goal is to not be abandoned. So I will situate myself so that it's hard to end the friendship. I put in way more effort than I demand. All I ask is that I am your main go-to person. Oh, and tell me how grateful you are for our friendship. I won't accept the compliment, but I need it nonetheless.

That's not to say I don't value my friendships. I do. And I acknowledge that I am the one that created the one-sided relationship. I'd like to say I'm learning to be more open, but everytime I try and get ignored or dismissed, it makes it that much harder.

I'd like to not be codependent, but I fear the alternative is to be alone.


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