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How to break the cycle of codependency in a long-term relationship

co-dependency

/ˌkəʊdɪˈpɛnd(ə)nsi/

noun

excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.


In my work as a coach with Nice Guys and people pleasers, the concept of co-dependency commonly comes up. 

While I’m not a specialist on this specific issue, I do want to share some practical guidance for those of you out there who are in a co-dependent relationship, or you have a pattern of relationships like this, and you or your partner identifies as a people pleaser or Nice Guy.

Co-Dependency in a Nice Guy relationship

My clients, typically “Nice Guys”, generally take on the role of caretaker or Fixer in their relationships. So in terms of codependency dynamics, they are the ones who are needed, and they like to form relationships with damaged, chaotic, and needy people who they can “fix”.

This may not immediately be apparent in the early dating phase, though there can be warning signs, like the Nice Guy pays for everything, and is already starting to “counsel” and take responsibility for their new partner’s happiness.

While the Nice Guy thrives on being needed for practical reasons, such as providing an income and managing the finances, or solving practical problems that arise for the couple, like handyman tasks, what he really enjoys most is playing the in-house therapist.

Nice Guy Syndrome is all about control. Specifically, controlling the emotions of those around him so that he can feel comfortable, loved, appreciated and secure.

On the surface, the Nice Guy in a codependent relationship will appear to be “the strong one” emotionally speaking. His partner will look like a hot mess compared to him. He’s the calm, easy-going, steadfastly stoic rock, while she is the raging storm who can’t control her feelings.

In truth, he’s just as fucked up than she is!

And what’s worse, he subconsciously aims to continue this situation. He will actually take steps to prevent her becoming better at emotional regulation and self-sufficiency. Odds are, she was more stable and independent prior to the relationship, and over time has become more dependent, needy and incapable during their time together.

He does this in a number of ways.

Taking problems off her that she could easily solve, depriving her of practice and experience, and subtly gaslighting her into believing that she’s incapable.

Always cheering her up or calming her down, giving her the impression that she can’t manage emotions without his support while also shaming her into believing that she’s emotionally chaotic.

Always portraying a calm persona to give the false impression that he’s confident and superior.

And of course, they were attracted to each other in the beginning because of this dynamic. Nice Guy men and needy dependent women are repulsive to confident secure people, so they must settle for each other, where the Fixer meets the Damsel for a perfect fit.


If you’re ready to smash through this issue and all the other problems of being a people pleaser, check out my Nice Guy Recovery & Social Confidence online course today!


Why does this pattern occur and repeat?

There is a psychological phenomenon known as the Repetition Compulsion. In simple terms, we repeat traumatic and unhealthy patterns from childhood in our adulthood, in the vague semi-conscious hope that we can somehow close the loop by making it “work” for once.

Many co-dependent relationships involve people who are repeating this same relationship style from their childhood connection with their parents and friends. A needy dependent Damsel is generally like this with everyone, as is a Nice Guy Fixer who is generally a people pleaser with everyone.

Fixers may come from emotionally unstable homes, where they had to survive by keeping their parents happy. Damsels may come from helicopter parenting or from being spoiled as kids.

It can simply be all we know. If being the Fixer is what you think it means to be a man, and being the Damsel in Distress is what you think it means to be a woman, you’ll simply repeat this dynamic every time you’re in a relationship for lack of a better idea.

This is also strongly correlated with Attachment Styles. The Avoidant is more likely to be the one who is needed, and the Anxious is more likely to be the needy one. Though this is just an opinion of mine, and may not be rooted in fact.

For many of you, the length of your relationship will create a false impression that this dynamic “works”. You’ll feel that you “need” each other, and that because you’ve been together for a long time this must be a “successful” relationship. This is the same logic as a chronically obese person thinking that they must be healthy because they haven’t died yet.

In my experience as a coach, and in my own life experience (I was the Fixer), I’ve come to believe that one of the main issues is that people are simply unaware that, a) there are healthier ways to be, and b) that their suffering and misery in life is directly related to their codependency.

Why change this dynamic?

Some of you will maintain this dynamic until the day you die, and there’s nothing I can do. In fact, you won’t even be reading this.

But for others, you’ll already be starting to see cracks appear that are caused by this unhealthy connection style.

Resentment is the main problem. Resentment, leading to contempt, is the leading cause of relationship break ups. It is absolute poison to a connection. And when one person needs another, it’s inevitable that resentment will build on both sides.

The Fixer will resent their lack of freedom, and the weight on their shoulders of always having to be the strong one. They’ll feel like their partner holds them back and drags them down, despite this being a dynamic that the Fixer himself has created and encouraged. Fixers aren’t big on taking responsibility for causing this problem!

The Damsel will resent their partner’s relentless intervention. They’ll feel guilty for always being a “burden” on their partner. They’ll feel patronized and controlled by their partner, who never seems to trust them to handle shit on their own, and always gets involved with advice and support even when he’s not asked or not welcomed. She, too, will refuse to see that she has engineered this dynamic and fuels it herself.

If one of the partners starts to break away from this pattern – i.e. the Fixer starts focusing more on his own life rather than hers, or the Damsel starts sorting her own problems out – the other partner will panic. They will start to question whether they are loved, because in their mind Love is synonymous with Need. So both are trapped in this dynamic, and can remain imprisoned with people they never really loved.

And of course, the very nature of needing each other is a doomed recipe. This relationship must come to an end one way or another (longest term relationship scenario is one of you dies). At this time, the remaining partner will be completely lost and distraught, unable to function on their own.

How to make changes to create a more secure and healthy relationship

The term you’re looking to explore is interdependence.

This describes people who are completely capable on their own and require nothing from others, and yet are also able to rely on their partner and share the load when it makes sense for a healthy relationship.

For the Fixer, this means learning to get their sense of control and worth from their own behaviour. They need to learn to share responsibility, and to gently push their partner to solve her own issues. To be a cheerleader rather than the one who does everything.

For the Damsel, this means trying to figure things out on your own before involving your partner. At least attempt to meet your own needs rather than running to them as a first option. It means learning to regulate your emotions and not make your partner your therapist.

You must both agree that each of you are responsible for your own quality of life. Each of you is the leader of your own lives and emotions. The partner is there to support, not to provide and fix and control and need you.

You must hold each other to account. The Fixer will need to challenge the Damsel to solve her own problems, or at least broker more appropriate support (e.g. tell her to speak to a therapist rather than you). The Damsel will need to challenge the Fixer’s people-pleasing and unsolicited advice.

Together, you can seek to establish a healthy connection. You can research what it means to have a Secure Attachment, and learn to slowly replace your unhealthy behaviours with better patterns.

But you must work on this together. If only one person is on board with the changes, the relationship will not survive.


How you can make massive progress in just a few months!

You can do all this on your own.

Through trial and error, books, courses and online content, you can figure it out slowly piece by piece over time if you dedicate yourself to it and are willing to fail often and get uncomfortable in order to achieve social mastery and build strong self confidence.

Or…

You can work directly with me in your corner for a short period of time and achieve the same results in months that would take you YEARS on your own (or your money back!).

That’s what my confidence coaching is really all about. I accelerate your progress significantly by ensuring you:

  • Overcome your fear of rejection
  • Stop seeing yourself as not good enough
  • Develop easy practical social communication skills while still being honest
  • Unleash your masculinity to make you more assertive and attractive
  • Increase your self-confidence and self-respect
  • Get advanced practical tips to eliminate self-sabotage and give you the best possible chances at career advancement, dating opportunities, and deep connections with quality friends
  • Help you see your blind spots and errors and develop a measurement system that you can use on your own to ensure ongoing improvement for life

It took me about 7-10 years to figure this stuff out on my own. It takes my average coaching client only about 3-6 months to achieve a level of mastery that leaves them able to continue coaching themselves to further success while feeling absolutely certain that they’re on the right path (proven by the results they get).

I’ve turned virgins into fathers.

I’ve created assertive leaders out of meek people pleasers.

I’ve released overthinkers so they become powerfully decisive.

I’ve transformed shy introverts into social connectors.

I’ve moved highly anxious and depressed guys into a world of permanent self-confidence and optimism.

You don’t need to take my word for it. You can test it out for yourself. Fill out the application form below for a FREE trial coaching session with no obligation to continue, and no sales pitch!

My coaching will either blow you away and convince you that it’s worth it, or you’ll simply spend an hour talking to me without losing anything.

>> Click here to apply for a complimentary trial coaching session

Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro

 


 

Wanna escape Nice Guy Syndrome and become a confident authentic man? Take my social confidence quiz now to receive free advanced content: https://theinspirationallifestyle.com/social-confidence-questionnaire-for-nice-guys-and-people-pleasers/ 

 

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