Understanding how twins can become overreliant on each other is easy, given their close bonds along with familial and societal expectations of unswerving attachment. However, what may not be as readily understood is why some singletons follow the same emotional route. Of course, each person in these circumstances has a unique family history; nonetheless, it is interesting to note how this dynamic evolves in nontwins too.
Singletons usually do not initially present with struggles reflective of codependent relationships. Rather, we come to recognize a repetitive pattern of relationships when we delve into their lives together. Often the presenting issues reflect an inability to figure out what they feel or want in regard to a romantic relationship, a deep friendship, or a professional affiliation. Frequently they have a history of seeking out a partner whom they can emotionally take care of so they feel needed and desired. The payoff is an implicit bargain that wards off threats of abandonment and impaired self-confidence.
At the onset of a relationship there is a genuine emotional resonance between the two partners, which often translates into feelings of love, devotion, and loyalty. However, over time—weeks, months, or years—one partner or both partners become dissatisfied with the imbalance of power, lack of autonomy, and blurred boundaries. The sacrificing partner becomes resentful that his needs are not taken into account, while the cared-for partner feels smothered by a seemingly overbearing partner. What initially seems like a perfect fit becomes an ill-fitting dynamic that leaves both parties feeling unfulfilled and exasperated.
Why might a singleton unknowingly gravitate to this attachment style? We cannot say with absolute certainty because family histories are so subjectively variable. However, generally, an inadequate parental connection in conjunction with the child’s personality traits may contribute to this vulnerability. In some cases, a parentified child may be at risk of developing this pattern. In other situations, a child who is consistently praised and not subject to normative criticisms or punishments may seek out another to make him feel good about himself. In this scenario, overaccommodating a partner’s needs is an expression of affection and fidelity.
A partner may wish or hope that attaching himself to a particular person will bestow feelings of confidence, status, or authority. Codependent couples suffer with tremendous anxiety when making decisions because they have little trust or faith in their capacity to figure out what they want or need. Their self-esteem depends upon feeling special and loved, and they require consistent external validation to feel secure.
Fortunately, unlike twin pairs, singletons are spared the additional component of managing intense competition and comparison. Twins often have no recourse other than codependence to maintain their delicate balance of power and connection.