Codependency can occur in friendships just as it does in relationships. Similar to many toxic relationships, the usual pattern is that you become fast friends, not taking the time necessary to get to know each other and this serves both parties. The more ‘giving’ person is eager to move the friendship along so that they can begin looking after their new friend and care-taking. The ‘taker’ is happy for the friendship to move quickly so that they can begin using their friend.
It is most likely that these dynamics occur on a subconscious level, but due to the personality of each person they just fit together comfortably and become enmeshed in each other’s lives.
Having been in a codependent friendship before it felt like such a great connection we just clicked on every level. Looking back I can see that I spent much more time with this friend, than with other friends who I had known for longer. I was there emotionally for my friend, always supportive and offering a listening ear, but I soon noticed that this was not mutual. When she had something going on in her life I would drop everything to listen and be there for her. But when things were happening in my life, especially good things, she became sullen and distant. It did not feel like I had a cheerleader in my corner, in the same way that I felt I was for her.
As the years went by our friendship began to fizzle out, especially as I became busier and had different responsibilities, not being able to talk on the phone for hours any more.
The good thing is that as I began to work on myself, raise my self- esteem, my relationships and friendships naturally changed. I did not need to make a parting speech, or inform my friend of how things would be going forward, the friendship just naturally dissipated as I was expecting more and giving less.
Now that I am more aware of codependency and toxic friendships, I proceed with caution. At first I would say that I was hyper-vigilant and very cautious of new friends, which almost strangled new friendships before they got off the ground. Any signs of something that I deemed to be controlling or a red flag and I would cut the person off. Now that I have boundaries, I am less judgemental and tolerant of different personalities, I welcome new friendships, but I just know not to lose myself in the friendship or neglect the friends that I already have.
Have you assessed your friendships? A good rule of thumb is to check in with how you feel after speaking to your friend, or spending the day with them. Everyone has days when they just need a listening ear and a friend to lean on but this can be very draining if it is a pattern in the relationship, or if things are very one sided. I would love to hear your thoughts.