Recently in a class I was attending someone asked “just what does being codependent mean”. I decided to write a bit about it and share some ideas that may lead to a little better understanding of this issue as I see it.
First of all codependency is often involved in what some might call a “toxic relationship”. The interesting thing is if you are in a codependent relationship and move out of that relationship, chances are you will find another relationship to be codependent in unless you change your behavior, heal and continue to make good choices in your life.
Ok, so everyone is a little codependent and that is healthy. For example, when we are born we are dependent upon our mother or caregiver for everything… literally our life depends on them, we develop a close bond. However as we begin to grow in a healthy progression, that dependence becomes less and less, until we can totally function on our own - we become independent. Then we move on to healthy interdependent relationships with friends, family members, mates, where it’s a give-and-take healthy, supportive relationship. But sometimes we get jammed up in the process, stuck so to speak in a certain areas and relationships do not develop in a proper healthy way.
In a codependent relationship one person may become resentful, feelings of being trapped yet afraid to be independent. You have one person needing to be needed and another person needing that feeling of control. One will do anything to please the other, bend over backwards to please, setting aside their own feelings and needs to do whatever it takes to keep the other person happy, sometimes even to the point to sacrifice their own physical health. And that is exactly what the other person wants and needs to be taking place. The “I can’t live without you” feelings are always on the back burner of the thoughts and emotions. The fear of being alone, the fear of not being able to survive without the other is a major part of their life and what drives the unhealthy behavior (mind you I think some of those thoughts feelings are normal to an extent in a healthy relationship, however in a codependent relationship those feelings become debilitating).
So what do we do? The first step is to realize and honestly admit there is a problem, then to reach out and ask for help. Changing the old tapes in our head of “I can’t survive without you” to “I can survive, I can become independent in a healthy way.” The wounds can be healed, the changes can be made and if both partners involved work together their relationship can become healthy and productive. However the fact is, often times BOTH partners will not take these steps together and the relationship may not survive. Once a codependent person makes these changes and begins to develop healthy choices for their self, and moves toward being independent in a healthy way… the other person does not deal with this change well, and sometimes “moves on” to find someone else who will enable their addictions, behavior, bad choices and need to control.
This is when the codependent person has to take a stand and choose to continue to develop a healthy life… it can be extremely scary to walk this path, but in the long run it will be for the best. Find a friend, loved one, or group of supporters to help you through these difficult times… and take it one little baby step at a time… don’t give up on yourself…