The Co-dependent Friend

Can you truly be “friends” with someone in a co-dependent relationship? I can already feel some people getting defensive, so just hear me out.

Many of us know someone who is co-dependent or addicted to a significant other, or have been there ourselves. We have watched someone we cared about be engulfed into the shadow of another human being. This person goes from happy-go-lucky to addicted-and-unavailable in the blink of an eye.

I once had a roommate named “Sarah”, who desperately needed money but would only apply for jobs after 3pm. Her boyfriend worked second shift, and she would meet him at his house every night after work. Of course he never gave her a key, so she would rush there only to have to wait outside in the cold. Sarah would hang out until he left for work the following afternoon, coming home to shower, which gave her little time between then and business closing. I watched this go on for over a year and half, wondering where her friends and family were. Happenstance, a full-time day job fell into her lap. I seriously wonder how that worked out, as those were “prime” visiting hours that her boyfriend granted her.

So what does a co-dependent relationship look like from the edges of the atmosphere, where your friends and support team helplessly watch? If your friends were being blunt, here’s what they would say. Listen up buttercup.

The co-dependent person can’t seem to make a move, take a breath, or have an independent thought, without checking in with their prison cell mate. When you call this friend on the phone to catch-up, you only hear about their girlfriend or boyfriend and what they have been up to. Your friend has nothing to add to the conversation, about themselves, because they don’t actually exist. They solely orbit the other person’s world. And if the significant other happens to be standing near them, everything your friend says will be edited or filtered according to their swoon’s current state of mind.

If you are lucky enough to schedule a friends’ night out, prepare to have it canceled or cut short, based on whether their significant other’s availability has suddenly changed. Don’t even bother pulling out your calendar to reschedule, it will probably just happen again. For those few precious minutes you actually get to spend together, it will consist of catching up on their relationship or you end up being the relationship counselor for the evening. You may even get to share some of your current affairs, only to have your friend check for texts or phone beeps while you are talking (even though she has ignored most of your texts since she was last seen falling into the gravity of planet Yo-Yo and crashing).

This person constantly makes themselves available to the other, foregoing any sense of independence and individuality. Her self-worth and self-esteem is causally related to his mood and whims. The co-dependent person puts the needs of his significant other before his own, because his needs evaporated in the wind after meeting her. Never mind that everyone else in his life has fallen away and he is just a shell of his former existence, no logic or reason gets through. And you, my friend, have been left out in the cold. This person has disappeared from your reality. You’ve been shelved.

All of this makes you wonder if you ever really had a friendship with this person to begin with. Didn’t he used to be single and have a personality of his own? Did you imagine those long conversations about work, love, and life, laughing at how the world turned? Didn’t she pretend to care about your well-being at some point, or was it just the red wine? If you really needed him or her, would they still be there for you?

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