It should have been a normal friendship. 

I met Roman our junior year of high school. He was a new student at the fine arts school where I had already attended for three years. We hit it off pretty well with similar interests. We were both nerds who loved Tolkien, music, and talking about both.

Yet we were also different enough that we could teach each other. I introduced Roman to more classical music to increase his appreciation of it; meanwhile, he introduced me to progressive metal, so as to increase my acceptance of it. 

We were good friends. Not too close — but close enough. 

When I left for college hours away, I went into major depression — an extremely dark time of depression as my bipolar (then unbeknownst to me) had just been triggered.

Roman stepped up, having wrestled with depression himself. He walked with me through that time, helping in ways no one else could.

And this is where our friendship began to crumble.

We didn’t know anything was wrong; in truth, we believed the opposite. Roman and I chatted for hours on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), me downloading about my struggles and him encouraging me to keep pushing forward.

We talked on AIM almost every night, staying up late till 2 or 3. 

We started texting throughout the day, too. Whenever I struggled, I sent him a message and he encouraged me.

By all accounts, I started doing better with my depression. But that’s how codependency can look at the start — a “healthy” accountability relationship.

Soon, talking with Roman for half my day wasn’t enough. I struggled in the hours we didn’t communicate. I even started struggling in between the texts we sent each other. Our communication became constant, the only break occurring when we went to sleep. 

I took breaks from school just to go see him. I ignored my own family to see Roman instead. Even details about me changed to match him. 

My taste in music, my clothes, my language, my beliefs, my opinions, even my computer password — all of it became like Roman. My identity was gone.

I had attempted to turn myself into Roman. And I was actually starting to succeed.

A couple of years into this change, it came crashing down. All of it burned to the ground.

All because of one e-mail . . .

Have you struggled with codependency? How did you fall into emotional dependency with another person, and how did you escape it?

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  • Great Article.
    I do have a tendency to romanticize and try to desperately “Cling on” to a new person who I believe will be my forever perfect friend. Im sure if I met another guy who tended to do this, I would spiral into a codependent relationship. Makes me wary and nervous about how dedicated too dedicated is. Still great stuff none the less

    • Thank you, APLT! I definitely know what you mean any romanticizing a new relationship. I’ve done that more than I care to count. But realizing I can have that tendency has helped me combat it. If I know I can look at a friend in “rose colored glasses”, then I will challenge my perspective regularly to ensure I am keeping an objective view. Praying you continue to find victory in your relationships!

  • Years ago, I developed a codependent relationship with my exboyfriend. If only I could be like him more; maybe then we could have a personal relationship outside of sex. It turns out that sex was all he wanted. The rest of the time he never called me (at the time cellphones were only for the rich (I’m old)). He would only come around when he figured he could get some, and me being starved for male attention, willingly submitted to whatever whim crossed his mind. I even changed the kind of underwear to what he wore, just to impress him. All he wanted was sex.
    Years later, after I came back to the Lord, I was getting dressed for work and saw that I was wearing the same kind of underwear he had worn. I was doing it out of habit. Disgusted with myself, I took it off and went to work commando. After I went to Walmart and bought new underwear, in a completely different style. I chose what I wanted, rather than trying to please someone who wasn’t even in my life (and only wanted one thing, not caring about what I wore).
    As I look back, many of the things I did were in a futile effort to please him, but all he wanted was to please himself. Who really cared what I wanted?

    • Ah, yes, my clothing options also extended to trying to match underwear. It’s amazing how far one can go without realizing how far it is.
      Thank you for sharing your story, Bradley. Looking back, it’s easy to ask ourselves that question, “Who really cared what I wanted?” and see how far off we were. My friend Roman wanted what was best for me, I believe — but he lost control over being able to help me when I stopped wanting anything other than what he wanted. Then it’s just a feedback loop.

  • In hindsight, I had a codependent relationship with a friend of mine, I’ll just refer to as D. We were polar opposites in temperament (I’m introverted & he’s the most extroverted person I know) and in theology (I’m a confessional & conservative Presbyterian, whereas he’s a die-hard Charismatic), yet, we happened to click. I’m going to be honest and say that I can be quite clingy, owing to some circumstances of my childhood and that’s what happened with D, but, it definitely went beyond that, as he would be really the only person I’d talk with, and, I often sided with him over my mother when she brought up some concerns about mine and his relationship, and, I reckon that part of reason I had become so close to him was that he had given me lots of physical affection, even though he had no issues with ssa as I have. I also was willing to look the other way when some obvious red flags came up, including some issues that ended up hurting me greatly.
    Ultimately, let’s just say that there were some growing rifts between me & him, especially due to personality differences, but, the final straw was on my end, when I moved from Illinois, where I spent almost 30 years of my life, to California, this past summer, and in light of that move, we kinda ended up going our seperate ways, even though, we occasionally talk every once in a while.
    I’m going to be honest, though, and say that my co-dependency with D, now that I recognize the relationsnip for what it was, has made me somewhat reluctant to form any type of close friendship out here in CA, for fear of the same thing that happened with D happening with someone else.

    • Thank you Caleb for sharing some of your story…I pray that your the new chapter in CA will be blessed with some good friends who will support and care for you as a person made in His image.

    • Thank you for sharing, Caleb. Codependency is so difficult to recognize at times and, unfortunately, just as hard to move past. I’m sorry you and D had such a great rift both emotionally and geographically. There could be some “after shocks” in other relationships, but they won’t necessarily ruin them.
      I would encourage you to look at your relationship with D and take an honest assessment of what should have happened. This will help you view future relationships with a more informed perspective that can catch early red flags.
      I will say — fear of repeating codependency will not prevent it from happening. It will only help it catch you off guard again. We were made for relationships. Embrace that and welcome the friends that God brings to you in your new home.

  • I’ve never gotten to the point you describe, but not for lack of trying (lol). I’ve certainly let myself get emotionally attached to a few people in an unhealthy way, but (with the rare exception of when it turned healthy) it always seemed to blow up or fall apart instead of them reciprocating it.
    Now I gotta know what was in the email!!!!

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