What Is Codependency?

What Is Codependency?

What Is Codependency?

 

Ok, ok, just what is codependency? It’s a question I hear a lot.

Codependency is essentially defined as an unhealthy attachment to a person. It’s a “dependency” on another in a way that’s not really very healthy.

It is a term that came out from the recovery movement years ago, where counselors began to notice that on the opposite end of an alcoholic or addict was a partner or family member that had certain “characteristics” that weren’t all that healthy. 

And, as such, the addict and the partner were “co” dependent upon each other in an unusually unhealthy dance.

codependency recoveryCodependency is a state of “dis-ease” that many experts believe stem from some sort of childhood abuse or neglect. Or maybe from living in a family where addiction or mental health issues were present in one or both parents.  

The dysfunctional personality traits a codependent person displays as an adult may likely have been formed while growing up in an atmosphere that did not have appropriate emotional boundaries.

For me, that meant growing up in a home with an alcoholic father and a mother suffering from clinical depression and anxiety disorder. 

What is Codependency? The textbook definition:

“Excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction who requires support” or “a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.”

On a broader scale, codependency is something that affects everyone on the planet to a degree.

⇒ It is the programming that’s gone into the subconscious mind over the course of a lifetime. 

⇒ It’s the code that’s been written under the radar.

⇒ Or, for the biblical perspective, it’s that carnal nature gone wild, having lost sight of God’s perspective of us.

Whether it’s Jack and Jill, who live in the suburbs with two kids and careers that rock or Mike and Mary, who are the classic narcissist/victim combo, or Jane and Veronica, the alcoholic and the enabler, codependency characteristics exist in people and relationships across the board. 

Why? Because at the core, codependency is an unhealthy attachment or separation from the true self. 

It’s you disconnected from YOU at your core and God.

It’s an absence or a lack of self-love, which affects the way we interact with ourselves and the world. In other words, it’s you being even just the slightest bit “dependent” upon another person for you level of happiness or peace.

Basically, a codependent person is acting out an addiction. He/she is trying desperately to soothe a deep wound that formed during childhood.  Just as a drug addict tries to fill that void with drugs, a person suffering with codependency tries to fill that void with love and approval. 

They NEEEEEEEEEED love and acceptance from another to feel good about themselves. Their self-worth is found in external dependencies, like people, money, looks, etc. and not the internal.

People pleasers, over-givers, energy vampires. You get the idea.

You can be codependent on a partner, parents, friends, or even you children.   How do I know?  I’ve been right there on the front lines and I assure you it can destroy a relationship quickly or cause a relationship much dysfunction and heartache.

How Codependency Affects People

According to a leading codependency expert, Pia Mellody, a codependent person cannot do five things:

  1. Cannot experience the appropriate levels of self-esteem.
  2. Cannot set appropriate boundaries.
  3. Cannot own their own reality and has lost a sense of self (disassociation)
  4. Cannot deal with adult dependency issues regarding needing and wanting
  5. Cannot experience reality and emotions is moderation or healthy ways. May explode or not feel at all.

codependency recoveryIf you can identify with these characteristics, I want to assure you that there is hope for those struggling with codependency.  As with any “issue” it can be your downfall or it can be a new beginning.  Any problem or addiction can be a doorway to self-discovery and healing.

Codependency causes you to look outside for fulfillment.

If you have codependent characteristics, you have spent much energy trying to use something outside of yourself to fill a deep-seated wound or void. This wound could be shame, guilt, anger, feelings of abandonment, and so much more.

You feel empty, confused, very alone, and afraid.  Over time you have discovered that “people” make you feel better.  Their attention and love soothes your wound.  A codependent mother bases her life around her children in an unhealthy way. She bases her whole identity in being a mother and loses herself in the process.

A codependent lover is addicted to her partner and approval is CRUCIAL or he/she will end up in a downward spiral fast.  One negative look or word can cause so much drama in a codependent relationship. At the same time, a codependent person may not even be happy in the relationship; she may feel trapped in an abusive, controlling relationship, unable to break free.

She is powerless to change things up or get out.

What is Codependency in Relationships?

When you fall in love, there really is a chemical high that occurs. It is euphoric.  If this is healthy, it creates a healthy attachment, which is good.  But this high does not last forever as we all know.  Healthy relationships can continue to function well after the high ends, as the attachment is healthy.  For someone with codependency characteristics, when the “high” goes away, the “crazy” comes out.

Codependent people may obsess and pretty much drive their partner away.  Sometimes this occurs quickly and sometimes partners’ last years in this awful cycle.  For the codependent person, there is a serious fear of abandonment, jealousy, the constant need for attention (which if you don’t get can send you into a tailspin), a victim mentality, control, manipulation, stalking, and more.

Codependent people may seem very together on the outside, but on the inside they are most assuredly not.  Over time, as the disease progresses, they will hardly be able to function, their thoughts will be negative, they will typically not have any friends, and their sense of purpose will fade. 

They may isolate and wrap their whole life around one person and as they do, their needs go out the window. They don’t know how to take care of themselves because they are desperately trying to take care of everyone else.

I’ve been there. Lived through it all and now I write and speak about it. My recovery involved a lot of inner work; a journey back to “me” and learning how to really love myself and reconnect with God.  It’s a journey I’m still walking. I still ask myself once in a while, “Ok, what is codependency for me? How is it still affecting me?” And, I take it from there, asking for clarification. 

Wounded souls everywhere

The way I see it, there are a lot of wounded souls walking around and many of them are looking at others to soothe and heal the pain, but the truth is that we must be the ones to recognize our wounds and then take the necessary steps to begin a journey of healing and growth. Others can play a role, but it is NOT their role to “fix” us.

Psychotherapists talk about digging through layers to get to our childhood days and address the root issues there. Priests talk about original sin and encourage people to ask for forgiveness there. Shamans talk about journeying back to find the original prints (even if it’s in a former life) and healing it there.

As you can see, there are various ways to look at the roots of codependency, but most point us in the direction of going back and contending with something from our past in order to get free.

So, moving forward I want you to start thinking about your relationship issues and contemplating how your present issues probably don’t have much to do with your partner or object of dependency.

No. They’re simply a “pawn” in your life that trigger things in you that you have the opportunity to heal or work on. That boyfriend or husband that is driving you crazy or hurting you over and over is in your life for a reason and it’s not necessarily about him; it’s more about you and your life journey. Your spiritual journey.

We’ll get more into the spiritual views regarding codependency in another post. For now I just want you to begin to digest this truth:

“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.”  Brene Brown

I don’t know about you, but hustling for our worthiness gets extremely tiring.

What is Codependency Recovery?

There is codependency recovery help for you if you feel like you have codependency traits.  Many people have found hope and freedom through therapy 12 step recovery groups, support groups, spiritual counseling,and more.

I am a firm advocate of mindfulness meditation, prayer, and a personal relationship with your Higher Power for codependency recovery. There’s no magic pill, dear ones. Healing and recovery takes time, discipline, consistency, an inner journey, and patience. 

Take some time to learn about codependency. Read, watch videos, share, talk with others, etc. This is your recovery journey, and my hope is that you define yourself less by coda characteristics, and more from the TRUTH of who you really are at your core. Here’s a link to a page I’ve devoted to Codependency Recovery Resources. There you’ll find wonderful books, videos, and links to coaches and counselors who can help you.

CODEPENDENCY RECOVERY RESOURCES

 

“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal.” God

We Are Enough: Do You Believe That?

We Are Enough: Do You Believe That?

 

What Are We Here For?

 

Codependency is a popular term, but it’s outdated.  It’s oftentimes misunderstood.  And, some people go throughout life thinking they have this “condition” that will always be a thorn in their side.

I’m a firm believer that we are not “codependent”.  I believe codependency is a style of relating that many people picked up in childhood – an unhealthy style of relating.

This website aims to teach about “co”-dependency, or what I like to call “outer-dependency”.

Essentially, I mean relying on things “out there” to give us feelings of worth. Of value. Of feeling loved. But it’s not “out there”, dear ones. It’s “in here”.  It’s within, and if you’re struggling with characteristics of codependency, then it’s time to embark on a fresh journey within. 

It’s time to turn to the sacred you – and a holy God- where both of you work toward healing emotionally so you can really get on with your life being fully present, abiding in peace and joy.

What Are We Here For?

Good question, huh?  I still ask myself this question at times. Am I here to work my butt off and make a lot of money? You’d think that’s the goal when you watch people work themselves to an early grave.

Am I here to suffer?  Well, pain is going to come our way on this journey, but we’re not here to just suffer. In fact, Jesus said we will experience trials and tribulation, but be of good cheer, for Jesus came to show us a way to transcend emotional suffering.

And, according to Buddhist philosophy, our purpose in life is to help end suffering.  As humans, we experience suffering at times, largely because we try so hard to hold onto things, people, etc. and let’s face it: those things don’t last and can let us down.

The Buddha taught that attachments (unhealthy attachments, as in codependency) cause suffering, and he dedicated his life teaching people how to free themselves from such attachments, and serve humanity in love and compassion.

So, What Are We Here For?

Well, there are hundreds of answers to that question. Your task is to discover the answer for yourself. Your task is to walk your unique, sacred path taking the time to grow closer to your Creator.

God’s got YOUR answers, so commit to the practice of daily prayer, meditation, sitting in silence, and so on.  This is where the healing begins, for codependency, “outer-dependence”, and suffering in general.

I firmly believe that God’s Presence and Power is greater than we can even fathom. It is this Power that I believe in and look toward to support my life. To support our emotional healing and well-being.

We didn’t come here to solely struggle. We came to learn valuable life lessons and help each other out along the way. 

This website and my work is my contribution to humanity, sharing with others key lessons that I’ve learned along my journey. Take time to dig in and if you need support, simply reach out. 

Whoever goes hunting for what is right and kind
    finds life itself—glorious life! Proverbs 21:21

 

 

 

Unlock The Power of Meditation

Unlock The Power of Meditation

Unlock the Power of Meditation

 

“All I know is that when I can sit in nature, listening to the birds and feeling the wind on my skin, life feels right. I feel right.”

The mind sure can busy itself with thoughts, huh?  Thought after thoughts turning on the wheel, oftentimes causing us to feel anxiety or fear.

Meditation (silence) is a technique that can help you gain more control over your thought life. It’s been quite instrumental in helping me heal at a deep level.

Please consider taking a season to learn about and implement meditation into your life.  It’s not only beneficial for emotional healing, but it’s helpful physically and spiritually. It reduces stress, helps with concentration, gives your self-awareness a boost, helps you feel happier, and more. In fact, there are plenty of scientifically validated reasons that ought to get you motivated to start meditating regularly – starting today.

The hardest thing about meditation is actually taking the time to do it. Most people won’t do it. You’d think that sitting quietly and focusing on your breath for a few minutes would be a piece of cake, but it’s not.  We live in a society where noise is constant, and people are hustling much of the time. And, when they’re not busy, they’ve got their mobile phones or iPad out.

Just look around. Even at a park, people are on their phones rather than sitting quietly taking in the awesomeness of nature.

But sitting for three minutes in silence?

Easier said than done, but it can be done when you commit to it as a discipline.

When I first started meditating, I found guided meditations helpful.

Guided meditations are meditations where a person gently guides you toward relaxation or a particular goal, such as less anxiety or more self-love.

They can really help you shift your focus and grow personally and spiritually.  It’s quite easy to engage with a guided meditation, as all you have to do is sit or lie down, close your eyes, and listen to the meditation with an open mind.

Meditation For Beginners

Meditation is an ancient technique has long been popular in the East and is deemed to be a superb practice for enhancing relaxation, peace, and joy in one’s life.

If you want to learn more about meditation, follow these easy steps to incorporate such a beneficial practice in your life.

1.  Find a quiet spot. Meditation is simply a practice that involves you sitting in a quiet spot and focusing on your breathing.  The first step is to find a relaxing and quiet spot to practice meditation. You can sit with your legs crossed on the floor if you choose. Keep your back straight, yet relaxed.  If sitting on the floor is difficult, sit in a comfortable chair or lie down.  You simply want to feel relaxed and not have any distractions around.

2.  Concentrate on the breath. The first thing you will do is take three deep breaths. Inhale deeply and focus on the air going into your lungs. Then exhale slowly while concentrating on the breath leaving the lungs and relaxing every muscle in your body.  You want to really focus on letting go of all stress while you focus on the inhale and exhale.  Once you have taken your deep breaths, continue to focus on your inhale and exhale as you breathe naturally.

3.  Let go of thoughts. One of the reasons you are to concentrate on your breathing is because when you do this, by default you are not focusing on thoughts running around your mind. Have you noticed that you seem to be thinking thoughts all the time? You think even when you don’t want to! As you keep your attention on your breathing, your thoughts should decrease greatly. Once in a while you will find yourself thinking a thought and if so, it is quite normal and alright. Simply acknowledge the thought and then let it go. Do not entertain it. Just bid it adieu and get back to focusing on your breath. 

4.  Introduce a mantra. Some people really like introducing a mantra in their meditation time. A mantra is simply a word or phrase and in meditation you can concentrate on and repeat that mantra. Om is a very common mantra that is used, but there are many others.  Om is said to be the sound vibration of the universe. Do a little research to see what kinds of mantras appeal to you.

The time you commit to meditation is completely up to you. Beginners usually start off with five or ten minutes, but go with what you feel comfortable with. The more you meditate, the longer you will be able to sit quietly. Seasoned meditators can meditate for 30 minutes to an hour at a time without a problem, but do what works for you. You might want to attend a meditation class to learn more about the ancient practice.  It will certainly serve you well.

There are many free guided meditations online and I’ve taken advantage of many of them.  If you’re dealing with fear, find one on fear. If you’re having a difficult time loving yourself, find one about self-worth. There are meditations on just about every topic, including decreasing anxiety, fear of abandonment, jealousy, and so on.

I firmly believe that if you will consistently take time to listen to guided meditations, you will experience some positive changes in your life. It’s the CONSISTENCY that many people will not commit to. They’ll do it once or twice (or not at all), and then say “It doesn’t work for me.”

Discipline yourself, dear one, to do small things consistently toward your recovery, and over time, you’ll see favorable results.

Here are some guided meditations to try at your leisure:

Blissful Deep Relaxation

Relaxation, Anxiety, & Depression

 – Healing

 – Inner Child Healing

The CRAFT Method For Surviving Loved One’s Addiction

The CRAFT Method For Surviving Loved One’s Addiction

A CRAFTY Method For Survival

 

“He’s missed his last three doses at the methadone clinic – two because he said he was broke and this morning because he couldn’t get his butt out of bed. We have such a busy day with the kids and I need his help. How can I help him get out of bed and help me?”

This post is geared more toward those who have a loved one who is struggling with an addiction.

I understand that it’s not an easy position to be in. In fact, I know it can be heart-wrenching.

You want to rescue them. Fix them. Or maybe you want to leave them, fed-all-the-way-up!

But rather than talk about them, let’s talk about you. Let’s talk about us.

Now, you might be thinking:

“I know I have some issues, but my biggest concern is my partner (loved one). How can I help them? I’m really concerned about their drinking/ drugging/way they treat me, etc.”

I get it. You wonder how you can help your loved one get help.  What can you do for THEM? And, what can you do for YOU, to keep from going insane with worry or anger?

I wish there was one magical answer I could give that would make you do a happy dance. Like, “Oh, wow, that’s what I need to do? Thanks. I’m on it!”

See, there’s things you CAN do to help your loved one and there’s things you CAN’T do. 

  • You can get yourself a good therapist to process with.
  • You can join a support group like Al-Anon, Nar-anon, or Codependents Anonymous.
  • You can begin educating yourself about addiction in general.  This might not cause your loved one to call up that treatment center you’ve told him about ten times, but it will begin to help you see things in a new perspective.

Do you know that a majority of folks who abuse alcohol and drugs end up stopping their drug use on their own? 

In fact, some say around 87 percent.

Yes, that statistic was shocking to me at first, but then I started thinking about some of my friends who used to party like a boss, but at some point, they just stopped.  Maybe they’d just had enough or found themselves suffering negative consequences that caused them to call it quits.  Or maybe they had an “aha” moment, realizing that late nights and hangovers weren’t all that fun anymore.

The Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT)

Now I’m going to introduce you to a WONDERFUL approach to addiction recovery and codependency.  It’s called CRAFT for short, and it stands for “Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Therapy”.

The biggest reason CRAFT has my attention is that it’s been shown to have EXCEPTIONAL success at getting addicted loved ones to reduce their drug use AND increases their motivation to actually reach out for help via treatment.

Did you get that?

  • It helps loved one’s drink/drug less.
  • It gives them initiative to get treatment.

But that’s not all.

It brings the whole family into the picture, helping family members learn how to better communicate with the addicted person, foster positive change in their loved one, and practice better self-care. It’s based on kindness and compassion, rather than nagging and confrontation.

It’s a win-win approach for everyone!

CRAFT has proven to be effective. In fact, the founders reported that when loved ones of addicts attended several therapy sessions with a professional that used the CRAFT method, 2/3 of the treatment resistant loved ones ended up agreeing to go to treatment.

Read that again: 2 out of 3 who did NOT want to attend treatment before ended up agreeing to go when their loved one went to several sessions utilizing the CRAFT strategy.

Also, the majority of loved ones reported being more emotionally stable, less anxious, and less depressed, whether their loved one went to treatment or not.

That’s pretty powerful!

It works so well because it focuses on the “why” of substance abuse and introduces motivation for change.

Now, I’m not going to get into the depth of the CRAFT Method here. I encourage you to take some time to check out the following resources associated with this:

EXCELLENT BOOK ALERT: 

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change

Also, check out this online 20-minute guide for partners of loved ones with addiction:

The 20-Minute Guide

Really, check that 20-minute guide out and get the book.  Live out what they teach you. Yes, it’s going to take time and effort on your part, but the outcome is better than the emotional hell you’re living in now, right?  And even if your partner doesn’t reach out for help or gets worse, you’ll have learned a bunch of tools that will help you stay sane and maybe even feel some peace and joy!

Understanding addiction

I understand that you want to know how to help your loved one. That’s awesome.

Your mission to learn more about addiction can be valuable. 

I know your loved one is not a bad person, though their behavior may be sketchy or downright awful at times.  Drugs have a way of causing someone to act in ways that they wouldn’t normally act.

But understand that your loved one is drinking or taking drugs because they get something out of it.  It’s somehow rewarding for them or there’s some sort of payoff.

Think of a time when you did something you didn’t really want to do because you got something good out of it. 

I can think of a time where I lied about how much money I made to someone I was dating, because the “payoff” was that I figured this person would think more highly of me. Their perceived approval of me reinforced my lie and it motivated me to continue on with lying, until my conscience caused me to stop such behavior.

I know a person who smokes pot because she feels less anxious when she does. That’s her motivator for doing it, as well as her reward.  I know another person who works out every day at the gym. It’s become a habit because she’s motivated to repeat that action because her payoff is feeling better about herself when she exercises.

Your loved one is on the same type of track.  They are getting something out of repeatedly drinking or drugging, such as:

  • Feeling less anxiety
  • Not feeling emotional pain (temporarily numbing)
  • Not having to feel withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling a part of a group
  • Feeling funnier, and thus, more liked
  • Being more productive
  • Feeling more relaxed

This is helpful for you to understand, because when you can learn the “whys” of your loved one’s addiction, you can relax a little more.  You’re not freaking out as much over the behavior, because you get it. You might not agree with it, but you’re putting yourself in their shoes for a moment, and this can help reduce YOUR anxiety.

This understanding is a great step toward learning techniques where you can become a major influencer in their life in constructive ways.

Now I didn’t say you’ll “change” them. I said you’ll become an influencer, helping them feel more motivated to change, because it’s them that’s going to have to do the changing themselves; you’re not their savior.

This also helps you take things less personal. When your husband comes home from the softball game pretty drunk (again), you’re less likely to feel angry and disappointed when you understand why he drinks to excess while playing ball with his buddies.  Maybe he’s insecure, anxious, and depressed, and alcohol is his liquid courage to play ball with a group of guys where he desperately wants to feel like he fits in.  Sure, it’s not a great solution, and you don’t necessarily have to keep putting up with it, but to him, his payoff is “fun with the guys feeling like I fit”.

It’s not personal. He’s not “over-drinking” because of you. Understanding his underlying issues can help you begin to address those things, rather than screaming “I’m so sick and tired of you coming home drunk!”

Again, if your loved one is struggling with alcoholism or addiction, you don’t have to continue struggling.  Please check the book out that I mentioned earlier, as that can help you further.

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change

Prayer:

“God, I’m trusting that You will continue to help me understand better this thing called addiction. I know it’s not of You and I know my partner’s been hijacked by it, so I’m calling on You to help them get out from under it.  Sound Your alarm and wake them up! I’m calling on the universe to cause a major shift in their life and help me to learn how to best support them in a loving and compassionate way. Lead me in what I should say and do moment by moment, day by day, even if that means taking some time apart.”

 

Madly In Love Or Just Mad?

Madly In Love Or Just Mad?

Madly In Love or Just Mad?

 

“We used to be madly in love, but now we’re just mad all the time. Crazy, right?”

Falling in love is beautiful, isn’t it?  I can say for myself the process of falling in love makes me feel like I can do anything!

There are reasons why falling in love can be so amazing. See, when you fall in love, there really is a chemical high that occurs. It is euphoric. There are chemicals that get released in your brain that cause you to feel “love drunk”, like dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine, and adrenaline.

For a great video that goes more into detail on this, see “The Science of Love”.

Researchers conclude that falling in love is much like the sensation of feeling addicted to drugs with the release of such brain chemicals. This falling in love can create a healthy attachment, which is great!

But this “high” does not last forever.  Healthy relationships can continue to function well after the “high” ends, as the attachment is healthy.  However, for a codependent or love addict, when the “high” goes away, the “crazy” tends to come out. 

When you fall in love with someone, the two of you spend so much time together and it’s so wonderful! You constantly think about one another and are floating through your days on Cloud 9.

But eventually, you both need to eat, sleep, work, and so on, so you take the “hyper-focus” off of yourselves and get back to reality, so-to-speak.

But for the codependent, this can be very challenging. So, when George wants to stop after work to see his buddy, Mark, Codependent Camelia can go a little cray-cray and take it personal.

You’re going to see Mark? But what about me? How dare you skip time with me?

Someone with codependent characteristics can be quite busy obsessing and can very well drive their partner away. They can also drive them to drink or drug.  There may be constant texting or calling, or perhaps even showing up at the partner’s work or home, quite often without notice.

Someone who attracts the alcoholic or drug addict is privy to not noticing the addictive behavior at first, or making excuses for the person, or (and this is a big one) he or she thinks down the road, “Oh, I’ll be able to change them.” 

For the person struggling with codependency, there is a serious fear of abandonment, jealousy, the constant need for attention (which if you don’t get can send you into a tailspin), a victim mentality, control, manipulation, stalking, and more.

They may seem to have it together on the outside, but on the inside, they are most assuredly not. They may be anxious, scared, resentful, depressed, and more. Their mind is racing. Their energy is scattered. Spiritually, they’ll usually be pretty empty. There’s a void inside that causes pathological loneliness.

They’ve lost connection with their true self.

They’ve lost connection with God.

Over time, as codependency progresses, they will hardly be able to function, their thoughts will become more negative, they will typically not have any friends, and their sense of purpose will fade.  They will isolate and wrap their whole life around one person and as they do, their needs go out the window. Their dreams go out the window. They don’t know how to take care of themselves because they are desperately trying to take care of everyone else.

Maybe this is where you find yourself or perhaps you know a loved one who struggles.  It’s actually quite a common occurrence to some degree in many relationships. After all, everyone is on this journey to learn valuable lessons about themselves and life in general and it’s through relationships that we have the opportunity to learn the most valuable lessons.

From codependency to toxicity

A healthy relationship is one in which two independent people team up and grow both individually and as a couple. Notice the word, INDEPENDENT. It means that even though they’re in a relationship, the two partners will still express their individuality.

This goes for parent/children relationships too.  Mother (or father) and child are two independent people, each growing independently, expressing themselves independently – or so it should be.

As stated earlier, codependent relationships tend to look pretty good from the outside. We see two individuals who seem to have good chemistry, but the foundation of their relationship might not be what we think it is.

Sometimes, they are completely unaware of the fact that their relationship relies on a set of needs that are satisfied in a dysfunctional manner. Since they’re clueless, they can’t do anything to change their relationship because, as I said before, everything looks alright from the outside. You can’t change something or work on an issue that you’re not aware of.

I want some “Me” Time

The mirage disappears when one of the partners starts to feel the adverse effects of codependency. Maybe she feels the need to have some “me time,” but can’t because her partner is right there next to her. Or maybe he will get upset if such a request is made.

Perhaps one partner decides to start a new project, but can’t because that might make his soul mate feel upset, frustrated, angry, disappointed, etc.

For me, it was the emotional pain that just kept growing. Sure, my lover was my drug, but as with any drug, the feelings of intoxication are only temporary. Then, the crash comes, and you need more of that drug. Then, your tolerance increases, so your neediness grows, and bet and believe the other person is feeling it too (and probably retreating). I call this the “Pursue and Retreat” cycle.

It’s a maddening cycle.

Not only did I feel the adverse effects of this codependency, but it affected others. Namely, my partner and my children, as I was not as emotionally available for them as I could have been. It got to the point that I knew I had to leave the relationship to begin my healing journey, because my emotional mayhem was hurting both of us and I just couldn’t get it together.

What do you get out of being codependent?

Leaving aside the obvious negative effects of codependency, another problem is that most people don’t even realize that their relationship is toxic. That’s because there are so many benefits that result from putting so many responsibilities onto your partner’s shoulders.

For example, you don’t have to wake up in the morning and go to work if your partner takes care of all your material needs. Or you don’t have to invest in personal projects because your partner provides you with all the validation that you need, and the list goes on.

Since each person is different in his own way, no one knows for sure why some choose to invest in codependent relationships. There are hundreds of reasons and benefits that can convince an individual to form a dysfunctional bond with his/her partner.

However, from a purely rational and functional perspective, no one should trade freedom in exchange for emotional, material, or social benefits. There’s simply too much to lose and too little to gain.

Like all psychological issues, codependent relationships involve some benefits which perpetuate the same dysfunctional patterns. But what happens if, for some reason, the two partners decide to break up? 

Usually, that’s the moment when all emotional hell breaks loose. That’s when they realize how much they needed each other, and this newly gained insight is a harsh wake-up call that can lead to all sorts of problems. Keep in mind that most breakups involve pain, but for the codependent, it’s an excruciating pain and withdrawal that goes outside of the normal pain associated with a break up.

Some end up feeling quite depressed and hauntingly alone and may try to numb their feelings with alcohol, drugs or other dysfunctional coping strategies. Others feel worried and anxious about their future – a future in which they’ll have to fend for themselves. Some threaten suicide (and some try). Some beg their partners to come back, even if those partners were abusive. Some just live in pure misery with pathological loneliness eating away at their soul. 

Because they haven’t developed a set of skills that allow them to handle certain situations, they might encounter all sorts of difficulties regarding emotional, financial or social needs. But instead of figuring out healthy strategies to cope with these new problems that life throws down their path, many rush to start a new relationship so that they won’t have to face their problems alone.

I remember multiple times my partner and I breaking up and I’d be in complete emotional upheaval. I was in withdrawal, feeling excruciatingly alone and terrified. It was absolutely insane looking back, but that’s what was going on.

We would break up, be in agony, and within a day or two we’d be rationalizing everything, promising we’d both change, and get back together. The problem is that neither one of us really got down and dirty and did the inner work that needed to be done. We weren’t “awake” so-to-speak. We simply swept things under the rug and put a Band-Aid on some pretty big wounds.

Understand that those that will not take time in between relationships to work on themselves tend to have a nose for partners who are just as dysfunctional as them in some fashion.

Maybe this new partner feels lonely, and he will do anything to be with someone.

Like be a doormat.

Or perhaps she is a controlling person who’s willing to offer certain “benefits” (emotional, financial, social, etc.) in exchange for obedience.

Or maybe he’s an addict, full of anger and unresolved issues, and unconsciously just wants someone to take care of him.

Keep in mind that these are just a few examples. We can’t know for sure why two people choose to be in a codependent relationship, unless we get a clear picture of the dynamics between them.

Think about a time when you fell in love. Can you see where perhaps you became dependent on your partner to meet your emotional needs? Or vice versa? Are you always trying to re-create that feeling of falling in love with new people? 

Are you seeing yourself struggling with some codependent characteristics?

Ross Rosenberg talks about a relationship scale. Think of a scale when it comes to codependency and relationships in general. It may look something like this:

           Codependent                                 Healthy                                        Narcissist

           -5         -4        -3         -2         -1         0         1           2          3          4          5

Now 0 represents a really healthy relationship.

That’s what we are all wanting to move towards.  The negatives represent the codependency side of the scale and the positives represent the more selfish or narcissistic side. Learning this from Rosenburg helped me a lot when I was really trying to understand my issues.

When I was really an emotional mess after my divorce and jumping right into a relationship, I was probably at -5. Completely addicted to my partner and not even a little bit aware of what was going on under the surface. However, as time went on and I began to learn about codependency and get some help, I started to grow. I started moving toward the right –toward a healthier relationship with myself, and as a result, God and others.

Let me point out that many people attract someone on the opposite side of the scale. When I was at that -5, I attracted someone who was probably at +4; a recovering addict who still had quite a bit of inner work and healing to do. We both had individual work to do to attempt to take a toxic relationship and make it healthy.

Turns out the relationship didn’t go as planned. Speaking for myself, I could not do the work I needed to do for my own healing and growth while in that relationship. I had to be single.

Thankfully, after a period of “doing the work”, I was far more emotionally mature when I decided to start dating again. Was I cured? No, but I was closer to that “0” on the scale and committed to keep growing. Due to the work I’d done, my next relationship I attracted someone much healthier and committed to “doing the work”.

What a difference it makes when you partner up with someone who is closer to that 0….the healthy relationship center!

Does that mean we don’t have issues or arguments? Not at all. We do, but we are committed to looking at our own “stuff”, rather than just project, point fingers, or operate solely from a wounded place.

Now, take a few minutes and answer these questions:

  • Where do you think you are on Ross Rosenberg’s scale?
  • If you’re in a relationship, where do you think your partner is?
  • What are you doing consistently that you feel is helping you move closer to that “O” mark?
  • What CAN you do to increase momentum or get going toward such a goal?

Attention or approval can become like a drug

Someone struggling with drug addiction craves that next “hit” to feel that euphoric feeling they’ve come to love.

In the case of codependency, attention or approval can become that “hit” that you NEED in order to feel good about yourself. But hitting that “approval bong” gets old….fast.

Essentially, attention seeking is you focusing on the “outer” things (people) in order to feel worthy. It’s you valuing the opinion or approval of others over your own.  It’s you having a meltdown when others don’t approve of you or give you attention. It’s you basing your decisions on what others think, oftentimes sacrificing your own views, ambitions, and dreams.

If you can relate to any of these, know that there’s hope for making change.

Prayer:

“God, give me the strength and humility to see and own my “stuff”.  Then, help me box it all up and give it to You, because I know that You know what to do with it.”