Fairy tales have encouraged young girls to believe that love means being saved from a life of hardship. Prince Charming saved Cinderella from a life of slavery to her step mother and ugly step-sisters, Snow White from being servant to seven dwarves, Sleeping Beauty from endless sleep, and Rapunzel from the witch’s tower. Young women who grow up with healthy role models and self-esteem mature in their perceptions of relationships. For the co-dependent there remains no difference between love and need.
The abuser and the co-dependent have exactly the same problem. Neither of them has any self-esteem. Neither of them have any belief that love is sustainable through trust, affection, respect and labor. Neither of them believe that they are lovable in a sustainable way through the ebb and flow of life with all its challenges. They have to ensnare and enslave “the beloved” to force them to stay.
An abusive man damages the woman he thinks he loves to prevent her from leaving him. He makes her pathetic and needy and anxious to ensure that she feels unable to survive without him. His fear of loss makes him brutal, demeaning and savage. Then he loses respect for her because she became what he created.
The co-dependent tries to make him need her as much as she needs him – for the same reason. His dependency would make him a prisoner in the relationship in the same way that the abuser makes her a prisoner in the relationship. The abuser needs her weakness and the co-dependent needs his weakness. Both are dependent on the inadequacy of the other to feel safe. Both believe that without that weakness they are destined to be deserted.
The abuser acts like the Beast and the co-dependent acts like the saint. She will run around him, feed him, serve him, adore him, forgive him, obsess about him, and applaud him. The co-dependent feels sick when he isn’t around. She craves him and yearns for him – surely that means she loves him? She tells herself that even if he doesn’t know it yet, he needs her. One day he will realize that. If he needs her and stays with her, surely that means he loves her?
Both are destined to bring into being the very thing they fear most –abandonment. The abuser is angry and mistrusting. He assumes that she is lying and cheating and using and abusing him. Everything she does will be viewed through the eyes of a man who knows that women are untrustworthy. Love is untrustworthy.
The co-dependent does the same but differently. She cannot be attracted to a man who doesn’t need her or who is stable. What will she do? How will she create sufficient need to ensure that she is indispensable? How do you prop up a man who is steady on his own feet? Without his need she cannot feel safe. Without the drama she cannot be sure that love is alive and well. If she was secure she wouldn’t crave his attention or feel adrift in his absence. How then would she be sure that she loved him?
There is a formula.
DEPENDENCY BREEDS FEAR.
FEAR BREEDS RESENTMENT.
RESENTMENT IS LOVE’S ENEMY.
The co-dependent will inevitably live a life of resentment, no less than the abuser will. The abuser will create dependency and thus fear and with the fear comes the corrosion of love. He will inadvertently create the very thing he fears most – the loss of her love. The co-dependent is already afraid of loss. Her fear will create resentment. She resents him for not loving her enough because he doesn’t need her enough. The very instability that first drew her to him will result in his pathological behavior that will feed her fear and her resentment. She loves and hates his weakness. She loves and hates the selfishness that she created by not setting standards. She loves and hates the drama she created. She loves and hates his contempt for her. It makes her work harder and keeps her driven and she hates how he makes her feel. She is deep in the trap of fear breeds resentment and resentment is love’s enemy.
Both the abuser and the co-dependent share a common belief system. Love is not real.