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.
“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.”