How Do The Roles Play Out In Codependency?

As explained earlier, the roles learned by children are usually played out in adulthood.  How would each of the roles adopt the role of codependent?  It’s a little complicated but I’ll try to simplify as much as I can.

Hero becomes the co-dependent in many situations. She finds a man who ‘needs her’ and begins to help him become all that he can be – whether he wants to change or not.  Ironically, the more she focuses on him and not herself, the more he will usually withdraw into the behavior that she wants to change.  Remember,  the hero is about success, as judged by others. So her partner is a reflection of herself and her choices.   Therefore she has to make him perfect, or improved at a minimum.

He will say that he…drinks, uses, works, stays away because she’s always on his case. But in truth, that’s the excuse he uses.   Remember, he sees his behavior as the solution to his problems.  Her changes are anathema to him, because he’s not interested in giving up his perceived answer.

The hero will continue to work at something until they succeed.  So you may see these relationships go on for years and years.  Over time, the relationship becomes a dance and if addiction or mental illness is involved, the addict will get worse and the codependent won’t know how to leave.  They are totally invested in the relationship, in managing the home, business, finances and life. They won’t know how to live, in extreme cases, without the addict to care for or worry about.  It takes a major event to shift her away from him – sometimes she stays until death.

If the codependent is a Rebel, she will hook up with someone worse than she is.  Using more, working more, away more. And even though she’s misbehaving, in her mind he’s the troubled one in the relationship, so she has to save him – whether he wants saving or not. In these situations, you have homes with both adults emotionally unavailable to their children who are often left to fend on their own.

The Lost Child does not often become codependent if they are seriously buried in their childhood role.  Adults who live from these tenets choose to avoid problems and hide rather than connect with them. If a Lost Child happens to hook up with someone who is focused totally outside of the relationship, they are likely to be happy.  They will use the moods and drives of their partner to drive their own emotions, but when the situation gets tough, they will withdraw. Imagine being a child raised by this couple.  He’s focused totally on work and she doesn’t have a clue about identifying or meeting her own needs.  She was originally attracted to him because he had his own life and left her alone.  But as his behavior worsens, she may become bogged down with work and children.  She wants to withdraw as well, but is stuck – children have to be fed, clothes have to be washed, groceries need to be purchased.  So she is often driven further into the open . This backfires for the children who now have two parents completely withdrawn from the family’s and children’s  emotional well being.

The Mascot uses humor to cope with stress.  Because stress at home is normal for them, they will usually seek out someone who can create the kind of stress they’re used to.  Ironically, this might be a rebel but it can also be a hero. Remember, the hero is going to be focused on success.  So their focus may be directed outward from the family.  The mascot will not be overt in their attempts to manipulate their partner but they will have a vested interest to keep things light at home and to make it an inviting place. Using humor to mask their own losses, the mascot will try to get the partner to work less and be more available.

If the mascot partners with a rebel, the stress can be enormous. The mascot will smile and laugh and joke their way through life.  And always, they are more focused on their spouse than their own needs. It always comes back to keeping things light so he wants to reform/change/care.

I think most of us know women who put up with nasty, violent partners.  We wonder why they would tolerate such treatment.  The answer is simple (not pleasant, mind you): they are so focused on keeping their partner happy that their personal well being and safety doesn’t factor into the equation. And neither does the well being of their children (although they would argue with both those statements). And don’t forget, over time, the dance of these relationship normalize – it’s how we interact with each other and how we behave in life. So that becomes normal.  And the cycle begins again.

Adult children of emotionally barren families all bear the risk of becoming becoming too focused on their partner.  Their personality and their resiliency will determine the depth and strength of the codependency, as will their gender and the role they learned as children.

Remember, no diagnosing. This post is intended for education and information – both in your life and in that of your characters. This is fairly complicated, so feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to clarify for you.

About Louise Behiel

Author, coach, therapist, mother and grandmother. I'm on a spiritual journey and consciously work to grow every day.
This entry was posted in ACOA, adult children, Alcoholism, healing, Louise Behiel, recovery and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to How Do The Roles Play Out In Codependency?

  1. asraidevin says:

    I have a mild fascination with who people choose as partners. The dysfunctional dynamic that a lot of people choose someone like their parents, so that they can continue creating the situations they grew up in and become comfortable with. And it’s rarely one partner who does this, Both partners are usually playing out the their childhood dynamics. Because the dysfunction is more comfortable than happiness.
    Gay and Kathy Hendricks have some really great stuff on relationships and spirituality. Their prevailing theme is that relationships make us face our spiritual issues. They also write about the upper limit problem,where if we get happy with our relationships and it’s above our comfort level, we’ll sabotage things with fights or fall ill.

    • Their work is wonderful and I couldn’t agree more. It’s like we emit pheromones that are attractive to the people who mirror our childhood experience. and they are also correct, from my observation abot sabotage in a relationship. thanks for sharing their great work.

  2. Jill James says:

    I love the idea of using your lessons for character development. It is easier to write a difficult character if you know the underlying reason why they are the way they are.

  3. forestfae says:

    Back for a second read of the above, today. You give me loads to think about, Louise.

  4. Jennette Marie Powell says:

    Like Asrai, I often wonder why people choose the partners they do – especially useful as a romance writer! As always, good info on delving into our characters’ backgrounds, and why they might have made the poor choices in their past. Thank you!

    • If we think about characters, a hero might have an ex wife who was an addict etc etc. he’s tried everything and then for some reason gave up and left – maybe to save their child. so he’ll be supersensitive for any signs in another woman, but he will also be attracted to her. That’s the push pull we all love. fun isn’t it?

  5. Hmmmm. How to fix such things? Oh . . . call Louise! I’ll have my husband call you. He needs some mental manipulation to straighten him out. Lord knows I’ve been trying for 10 years now! (I’m kidding of course.)

    Thanks for more good information.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  6. Interesting. In an interview last week, I heard the phrase ‘Checked-out parents’ I wasn’t entirely sure what was meant by that phrase – but perhaps you’ve described it above with the Lost Child to a lesser extent? Great post.

  7. Debra Kristi says:

    I have often thought people pick their partners looking to complete something within themselves, although they don’t realize they are doing it at the time. I found this read fascinating. I had a very thorough discussion with a friend once about my son, his personality (Aspergers), and what she saw for his future relationship (she tends to have a sense for things). The part where you said, “He’s focused totally on work and she doesn’t have a clue about identifying or meeting her own needs.” totally spoke to me. That’s what I fear could be in his future because he has trouble connecting and gets so wrapped up in himself and his “things.” Someday his wife may feel very lonely. 😦

  8. Lots of great information to absorb, Louise. I find it so interesting how these roles play off each other. Thanks for the wonderful post!

  9. Oh boy… YES! I can relate to so much of this (I am trying HARD not to diagnose me…) I left codependent relationships to end up in…. you guessed it: codependent relationships OF ALL KINDS! not just love but friends and work too. I still really need to keep an eye out. Man! I am SO certain I KNOW how to fix everything. THAT is when I KNOW I need to get to a meeting.

    thank you Louise for taking the time to show us this information. YOU put it all so well.

    XO Jen

    • Jen, I am so glad you’re finding value in this material. yes, we tend to find our relationships all over the place – we’re like two pieces of the puzzle and we look and we look and we look and then wow. we have a person who zigs where I zag and i’m involved. only my zigs are sometimes not too healthy. LOL

  10. iamnotshe says:

    I think i found a hero, as a mascot.
    This is such interesting and helpful info. I see my relationship with Don fairly clearly in Hero/Mascot. He is private, sane, strong, stable, and a great leader. I am his lighter half who says anything and does most anything. It seems to work. We aren’t changing each other … we disagree, but we love the differences we bring to the table. I guess we’re not in a “sick” relationship, just one that happens to have some of the characteristics explained in your post.

    I tend to have few friends that get me, like Jen. I have a lot of friends that need a lot … and i get a bit drained.But that hasn’t happened with Don. So that’s good news for me and a happy life.

    Excellent post as always.

    • I am so glad you’ve found a partner that allows you to be you. and that you’re happy with. being willing to accept our partner for who they are is very important in a relationship. and it’s not necessarily ‘sick’ to be in this kind of relationship it just is. I never think of people or relationships as sick but sometimes they are less than optimum and that’s what I hope people find.

  11. Joan Leacott says:

    I know a couple; he’s an alcoholic, she’s a hero like you described above. Reading these posts of yours makes me glad she very deliberately chose to never have children. She’s wiser than I give her credit for.

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