Codependency. It’s a word you may have heard, been labeled with, labeled others with, felt shame about or never heard of. In my estimation, ALL relationships have some amount of codependency in them. Just like anything else, the level at which it runs the show determines if it is dysfunctional or not!
I first read about this idea back in the 90’s after my divorce from my first husband. Melody Beattie authored the book “Codependent No More” and after reading it, I was pretty clear that I had a large dose of this element in my romantic relationship life. What’s so interesting to me is that I really couldn’t see it because I thought myself to be super strong, assertive, not afraid to speak my mind, bold, extroverted… in all areas of my life, except in my romantic relationships. It seemed my codependent tendency mostly only surfaced in this one area. At least that's the only area I could see it clearly at play.
When that marriage ended and when another relationship that followed sort of seemed to be going sideways, I dove in (like I always do) reading, researching, learning digging for what I needed to rewire in myself to change this pattern. I had myself convinced that I had conquered it back then, and I sort of did. So I stopped being so diligent about re-programming myself. Slowly but surely, my old pattern crept back in until I was back at a TEN on the codependency meter in my second marriage.
So what exactly is the definition of codependency? From the book “Codependency For Dummies”, there are several who give definitions of what it is, but here is what seems most right on from my perspective: At its core, codependency is a loss of self. In this type of relationship, in order to be acceptable to others and themselves, they hide who they are and even become who they aren’t in the relationship. They put aside what they need and feel and try to control what they can’t – the feelings and thoughts of the other person or people in the relationship. Yup. That sounds like it to me!
There is a huge fear of rejection that is at play in this deal. You end up feeling drained and trapped and it’s all at your own doing. Self-abandonment is what it comes down to. Adapting and reacting to other’s behavior in order to cope instead of tuning into their own internal knowing and feeling their feelings, this is the pattern.
Recovery IS possible! It happens when you begin to practice non-attachment and grasp that you’re powerlessness over others. As your focus shifts away from things outside yourself as being your source of happiness, you no longer have a desperate need to rescue, control, or be a victim.
In non-attachment you love and let go. Giving others the dignity to be responsible for themselves while taking responsibility for yourself. Codependency It isn’t care giving. Care GIVING comes from love & abundance. It more like care TAKING, which comes from need and lack. “Caretakers operate from the belief that "I am responsible for your feelings. When I do it right, you will be happy and then I will receive the approval I need." Caretakers sacrifice their own needs and wants to take care of the needs and wants of others, even when others are capable of doing it themselves. Care takers give to others from fear rather than love - they give to get.”
A big element that is lacking in codependent relationships is boundaries, because boundaries are an expression of self-esteem. Poor emotional boundaries can cause you to feel responsible for other people’s emotions, thoughts and feelings. Codependents spend so much energy trying to manage how others feel, that they sort of lose touch with how THEY feel. Learning to feel your own feelings rather than attempting to manage how others feel - sounds super simple, but for those who have abandoned themselves, it's some heavy lifting.
For me, my go-to ways to side-step my own feelings is to:
a.) Get in my head and try to reason rather than feel. I'll read 250 self-help books, take a class on psychology, go to a relationship seminar, etc...and try to armor up by thinking my way through what's happening. I tend to take my heart out of the process a lot of the time. And additionally get super focused on the other person's feelings and trying to manage them.
And: b.) blame the other person rather than focus on what I'm needing or feeling. I'm so busy pointing out all the short-comings of the other person, I conveniently don't have time to take a look at my OWN part in the equation. Not always - I also spend a good amount of energy kicking my own butt and judging myself harshly. Neither of these tactics is the path of least resistance.
So, what’s the answer? I’m no psychiatrist, but what I’ve noticed works is when I fill myself with love to overflowing and focus on being happy, loving, and finding it within myself, everything seems to fall into place. Instead of NEEDING love, approval, acceptance – I just BE it. Then I take my power back to create my own experience. Taking my foot off the gas of the blame/judgement train and just loving both the other person and myself always feels like peace.
When we are open to learning and taking 100% responsibility for our own side of the street, THEN we can have a healthy relationship. Each person takes responsibility for their own happiness, joy, behavior, thoughts and feelings – YOU OWN YOUR OWN STUFF. No blaming, no being a victim, no believing that others are causing your feelings or your experience. I love this quote from Dr. Margaret Paul… “Your feelings come from how you treat yourself and others, from what you tell yourself and what you believe about yourself and others, rather than from others behavior. Blaming others for your feelings will always lead to major relationship problems.” It’s pretty simple really… Love yourself. Own your s#@t. No blaming.
I know from my own experience, that when I focus on my own lessons, my own responsibility in how I feel, without crossing the line into blaming and judging myself, things unfold beautifully. Instead of judging myself that I should have things figured out by now - being kind to myself and tell myself that "I am right on track. I'm figuring things out. I'm on my path." Once you do this, THEN you actually have something to offer another person in a relationship. You’re not giving to get, you’re giving because it’s what you ARE. You BE what it is you desire in a relationship.
According to the graphic above, some days it feels like I'm not even out of the starting blocks. Then at times when I'm relentlessly kicking my own back-side, it feels like I'm "stuck", I can't seem to see any progress, just the same tired pattern in repeat. Yet I have actually seen glimpses of blaming no one. WOW. What an amazing feeling it is!!! I'm really not sure I can do it justice in an attempt to describe it here. It feels like freedom, peace, joy, ease & love all tied up with a big 'ol bow.
My goal is a favorite quote of mine by Esther/Abraham Hicks goes like this... "Tell everyone you know: "My happiness depends on me, so you're off the hook." And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they're doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. And before you know it, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feel -- and then, you'll love them all. Because the only reason you don't love them, is because you're using them as your excuse to not feel good."
I think I'll make this the mantra of my codependency recovery process!!!
NOTE! Sandy Chat is going to take a short break. I’ll probably see you back here next month sometime. Until then, you can listen to the 3 minute show I do with Spencer Williams on KMA every week Monday through Friday by clicking here. In the next few weeks Spencer and I will have some topics you might find interesting…
Week of April 17th – Deeming Yourself Responsible For Other’s Happiness (a.k.a. codependency!)
Week of April 24th – Boundaries!
Week of May 1st – Is it true?
Week of May 8th - BE what you seek
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!