Broadly speaking, in codependent relationships, one person’s help supports (enables) the other’s underachievement, irresponsibility, and immaturity while making the helper feel better about themselves.
Left unchecked, in codependent relationships, a pattern of relating develops in which one person becomes the helper rescuing the other from predicaments that they should learn to deal with themselves. Instead of seeing the predicament as an issue that they need to take responsibility for and thus develop more mature, independent and creative ways of functioning, the helper encourages the person to collapse and lean on them. In doing so the helper accepts and accommodates the person’s poor ways of behaving. This creates a downward spiral leading the person to create more problems that they then fail to manage and so rely on the helper even more. Instead of developing independence, they develop unhealthy codependence. The poorly functioning person exhibits distress, and the other rescues, and so enables them to continue in this vein. Over time this creates a pathological symbiosis where crisis and rescuing become experienced as shared experience, as love, in this way the codependent pair become bound to each other. It covers over the person’s incapacity to develop as a higher functioning adult while boosting the self-esteem of the helper who takes an increased sense of self from the experience. All of which reduces either parties’ interest and motivation for change.
This type of maladaptive and dysfunctional codependency is complex, and it will probably have a complex history which needs to be carefully acknowledged.
Something is needed to break this pattern of maladaptive functioning and relating. It may require each party to sit down independently with an impartial person who can help them gain a sense of perspective on what is going on in the relationship. Somehow the person has to find a way of breaking the pattern, of taking responsibility for their situation and instead of using it as a route into dependency, see it as a spur to action, to start to take responsibility for the problems they find themselves facing. This is a route into more mature functioning and ways of relating.