Codependency is an insidious personality disorder. While it SEEMS benign, it means a person is DEPENDENT on another's need and reliance on 'em. At the root of this disorder is poor self-worth.
One who lacks a sense of value and worth tries to GAIN people's approval and affection by DOING for them. There's always a people-pleasing aspect to these individuals, and they have no inner sense, as to when they've "given enough."
Typically, the over-giver has a hard time receiving compliments, love, kind gestures, gifts, and reciprocation of affection from others. When he or she gets these things, their internal experience of that event is discomfort.
You would think that someone who derives pleasure from GIVING would never consider depriving another of that same pleasure~ but you'd be wrong. The Codependent personality literally cannot RECEIVE, because he/she grew up feeling unworthy of having their needs and desires met.
Here's what happens when you try to give-back to a Super-Giver: They experience a subtle but disturbing obligation to return your care, which feels overwhelming to them. Hell, just receiving (anything) from you, emotionally overwhelms em! They can't feel deserving of it, because they have no real sense of what they've given~ no conscious memory of it, no taking stock of what they've already supplied you, and no boundaries.
No matter HOW much they've given, it's never "enough" to secure your approval, devotion and love. Just as the Borderline personality is like an empty well with a huge fracture at the bottom and can't be filled up . . . no matter HOW much the Codependent gives to someone, he/she cannot stop compulsively pouring water into that empty well for fear he/she has NOT QUITE GIVEN ENOUGH TO FILL IT!
There are always profound control issues among Codependents, due to their narcissistic need to manage the nature and pacing of their relationships! In truth, the one who NEEDS THE LEAST in any relationship, is always the one in power. They like being in the driver's seat, and predictably choose impaired partners (who can only receive, but not give back) over and over again, in order to maintain a one-up position in all their relationship dynamics.
Codependents typically think of themselves as caring, generous, altruistic, kind people~ never once considering the DARK side of this equation which resides within, due to their Hidden Agenda to assuage abandonment concerns: "If you NEED me, you'll never be able to LEAVE me."
Both Borderline and Narcissistic individuals have profound, unmet emotional needs from infancy onward. This sameness magnetizes them to one another (out of shared core pain and shame), but their respective pathologies simply act themselves out, differently.
My upcoming book, HAVEN'T WE MET BEFORE? describes in acute detail, the inner workings of both the Borderline and Narcissist partner in relationship, as well as delineating how profoundly they can't help but trigger each other's episodes of reactivity and retreat.
Look for it before the end of this year (God willing, and the creek don't rise).