Addictive Relationships

The following is adapted heavily from the work of Terence Gorski in The Players and Their Personalities

There is great interest now, and rightly so, in the topic of codependence. But co-dependence can only function in the presence of its opposite, counterdependence. Relationships formed from one member of each group will intensify the respective tendencies and tend to be especially strife-filled but extremely difficult to end. This is because of four main interlocking trait polarities listed below:

Grandiosity Insecurity
Independence Dependence
Self-Centeredness Other-Centeredness
Intrusiveness Lack of Boundaries

Counterdependents include 'rage-oholics', sociopaths, most addicts, and all narcissists. Some native codependents can function as counterdependents through being addicted. The 'sick role' of having many medical issues can also be a form of counterdependence. Counterdependents appear superficially secure but 'secretly' feel insecure and fearful. Instead of real assertiveness there is a blind demandingness and entitlement.. Codependents, on the other hand, are openly insecure but secretly feel masterful. Both types are emotionally dependent in that they do not take responsibility for situations and results, rather they place that on the partner, or third persons. Counterdependents disguise traits of emotional dependence with bluster or verbal attacks Addictive relationships are a type of fused relationship, but not all fused relationships are of the addictive kind.

Each of the four main polarities are broken down in greater detail below.

Grandiosity -----------Insecurity

Powerful Ineffectual
Self-confident Uncertain
Self-important Insignificant
Entitled Deprived
Special or Unique Unremarkable

Apart from rare episodes of collapse, counterdependents are grandiose. They need a partner that will allow them to maintain their illusion of strength and power. Conversely codependents feel inadequate and "not enough". They seek strong partners who can make them feel complete and effective.

However, both grandiosity and undisguised insecurity are based on emotional dependence. There is a underlying belief that one cannot cope with life naturally. The counterdependent strategy focuses on and exaggerates strengths while denying and blocking discussion of weaknesses. The codependent strategy focuses on and exaggerates weaknesses while blocking awareness of strengths. There is a tacit agreement: the codependent will not challenge the power of the counterdependent, if the counterdependent will not challenge the codependent's excuses of being ineffectual.

The codependent reenacts and maintains deprivation by serving the entitlement of the counterdependent. The codependent may acknowledge the excessiveness of the demands (that is the point-- to be burdened or deprived) but he or she still complies and feels they have no other option. Codependents comply with the wishes of others even when they do not like what is asked or have doubts.

Counterdependents feel confident. This is a positive trait if yoked with realism and tested in the world. Taken to extremes, self-confidence leads to schemes involving control and manipulation that fall apart and leave consequences for other to clean up (without getting the credit.) Counterdependents are often very appealing because they will promise great things, tell others what they want to hear, think big, and engender enthusiasm in others. The counterdependent does not see this as insincere because getting what is wanted is seen as the ultimate truth.

Codependents love the grandiose traits of the counterdependent because they want to be supplied from the outside with the certainty that they lack. They look for an emotional leader to help light up their desire. In the beginning at least the codependent admires the counterdependent. Later they may become the counterdependents greatest critic but the thing that remains the same is that they let the counterdependent set the agenda, and they almost always comply in some way with the demands.

Counterdependents need constant reinforcement and reassurance and codependents supply this instinctively but may also learn to feed the counterdependents ego deliberately to manage his or her mood and keep peace.

Codependents' insecurity drives a compulsion to fix or take care of others. This makes them vulnerable to exploitation. But there is always an edge of controllingness to this help. Conspicuously, however, codependents are unable or unwilling to work hard for themselves. They believe that they really cannot be successful so the best they can hope is to make success available for someone else.

Codependents meet others needs without being asked, and this dovetails with counterdependents who are needy but do not like to admit having needs. Codependents consistently give more than they receive and believe this is noble. They do the thinking for others but do not take the credit. They frequently suffer the consequences of others actions.

Codependents set very low goals for themselves and fail to hone their non-caretaking abilities. They constantly put themselves down and have trouble taking compliments. They live in emotional deprivation. Being with someone that feels terrible about themselves makes counterdependents feel powerful by contrast. Codependents repeatedly come to the counterdependent for encouragement and advice, despite a history of receiving discouragement and direction that has led to trouble.

Codependents have fantasies of being the perfect helper or a stoic victim (as in sacrifice), which is an inverted type of grandiosity. Codependents will also show a certain grandiosity and stubbornness if confronted and asked to take responsibility for their traits--this is a shared aspect of emotional dependence.


Trust Self Trust Others
Distrust Others Distrust Self
Over-identify with Strengths Over-identify with Weaknesses
Deny Weaknesses Deny Strengths
Demanding Complying
Praise Seeking Approval Seeking

Counterdependents seek partners who, whatever they hope for, do not insist on a emotional connection or real intimacy, because counterdependents are oriented to a sexual or practical exchange. It is possible for counterdependents not to be in an official relationship but just use all their tactics to draw out the codependent behavior of neighbors, co-workers, helping professionals, and even strangers.

Counterdependents appear extremely independent. They trust their own abilities and when something goes wrong they attempt to fix it themselves. However, if the fix isn't quick or easy, they will manipulate someone else, usually a codependent, into taking care of it, usually by blaming or sulking. Counterdependents identify with strengths and build not only their identity but their daily routines around them. That is why counterdependents live unbalanced lifestyles where many basic areas are neglected. They also devalue anything they are not good at. Counterdependents are constantly acting like they are proving themselves and are frequently competitive over trivial matters.

Counterdependents have high expectations of others and demand things without hesitation. They are often disappointed (because of unrealistic expectations) and they will use this real if manufactured disappointment as a justification for their entitlement.

Counterdependents seek praise and recognition from others. If they do not get the 'correct' response from their partner they will seek it from others. If they receive criticism they respond with rage, shame, and humiliation (which they attempt to hide). Codependents find it meaningful that they detect the weakness which the counterdependent attempts to hide.

Codependents have an exaggerated sense of the importance and abilities of others. They may trust others even when it is irrational to do so. In fact codependents are usually very competent in in practical matters. This is demonstrated by one, how smoothly they take care of themselves when the counterdependent is 'out of action' (in jail, in hospital, on a spree, pursuing a scheme) and by two, how they take care of unglamorous details on a daily basis for the counterdependent. Despite this codependents are known for professing incompetence. Codependents use the vehemence of the counterdependent to substitute for their will, which fits into the reluctance of an emotionally dependent person to take responsibility for decisions (but within this context, codependents make many smaller decisions on how to implement what is demanded from them).

Codependents seek approval. Because of this they are constantly coerced by the possibility or actuality of disapproval. They share with counterdependents the felt need to be perfect, but unlike the counterdependent they feel they will always be insignificant.

Codependents are in fact very good helpers--they do tasks no one else wants to. If criticized, they usually assume it is accurate. They will try harder at a task even if it is unsatisfying or impossible.

Self Centered------------Other Centered

Insensitive Oversensitive
Selfish Altruistic
Exploitative Nurturing

A counterdependent does not worry about the codependent leaving. If this happens, which is rare, the counterdependent usually quickly finds someone who will cater to his or her needs. The codependent constantly worries about the counter-dependent leaving. However neither party hardly ever actually leaves, threats aside.

Counterdependents demand attention. They depersonalize others and make them into objects. Counterdependents don't know what other people are thinking and feeling and typically don't care because they are pre-occupied with their own needs. To recognize the feelings of others would require recognizing their own feelings which is avoided strenuously. Counterdependents are skillful with dealing with things, they have trouble dealing with real people who have feelings and values. Counterdependents manipulate and bully others to achieve their own ends, styling this behavior as obtaining justice or "what is right."

Codependents have an excessive tolerance for inappropriate, annoying, or inconveniencing behavior. They are oversensitive to the needs of others and will do anything to make others comfortable. Codependents are preoccupied with the needs of other and this distracts them from personal problems or introspection. They tend to comply with demands automatically and are attracted to demanding people. When asked what they want or what they feel, codependents frequently reply with a narrative of the actions of their counterdependent.

Codependents are comfortable with self-centered people because they don't expect empathy, attention, or caring. They find it acceptable to be ignored and have their needs ignored. They hope for a reversal of this in the future (which never comes). Counterdependents are uncomfortable with any discussion about unmet needs or wants because they feel their presence and actions should already be ensuring the satisfaction of those around them. Codependents, on their part dislike putting forth their needs, so the combination usually ensures that the codependent's needs and wants never get discussed. Codependents can only relate by giving something, counterdependents can only relate by getting something. Of course both can conceptualize an exchange but neither can conceptualize mutual satisfaction, for different reasons.

Codependents are over-sensitive to the needs of others and will do anything to make others comfortable. Codependents sacrifice for others but have difficulty accumulating things for themselves, including simple comforts and common conveniences. Codependents will feel gratitude for scraps or small tokens. Codependent readily share but also confuse sharing with giving everything away. They protect themselves by giving others what they want.


Rigid Boundaries Lack of Boundaries
Well Defended Poorly Defended
Aggressive Passive
Intrusiveness Lack of Boundaries

Counterdependents frequently invade the the privacy of others without a thought. They think they are entitled to be as close as they want, but also free to break it off when they want. Counterdependents have rigid psychological boundaries that keep others at a distance. It's not possible to get close to them unless they want one to. Counterdependents are well-defended, meaning the opinions of others do not hurt or affect them (unless they are criticized directly) Counterdependents go after what they want aggressively. They treat life as a battleground

Codependents lack boundaries. They allow others to invade their privacy and perhaps believe even their thoughts cannot be kept private. They are used to merging with others but always feel abandoned when the other breaks it off. Even when they set the boundary (because of an extreme situation) they feel abandoned. Codependents let others get real close real fast. Codependents are not well-defended, when others express displeasure the codependent tends to conform or comply or feel great guilt.

Codependents are passive when it comes to getting things in the world against resistance. They often attempt to get things by overwork and excessive contribution but this is not real aggression. Codependents hope that the aggressiveness of the counterdependent will serve them eventually, and they may act quite aggressively or even 'out of character' at the counterdependent's behest and urging, perhaps even doing the 'dirty work' or seducing others.

Counterdependents are always setting the agenda (sometimes called 'defining reality'), and codependents may argue or resist (ineffectively) but always within that agenda. Counterdependents frequently will speak for the codependent, who will not only allow it, but may even feel relief.

Counterdependents often have cyclical behavior, basically alternating periods of civil behavior (during which tension slowly rises) with periods of acting-out, dominating, and abusive behavior (during which tension is released). Codependents often fail to recognize the cyclical nature, responding repeatedly to the civil periods with hope and plans ("we've finally turned a corner") and responding to abusive periods with crisis management and enabling ("we just need to get through this")

The only feelings counterdependents are interested in are excitement, passion, and intensity. All other feelings hurt and are avoided. Those people or events that trigger other feelings are attacked. Secretly codependents crave excitement and passion too, but cannot seek them directly and are hoping to be lead there by the counterdependent. This communicates to others that their job is 'turn on' the counterdependent. For both codependent and counterdependent, there is an inability to experience real pleasure, the sharing of which is the basis for true love. The relationship becomes a refuge from the world with increasing isolation from other people.