A codependent relationship is one in which someone else’s needs are met before your own. Everything becomes about looking after the other person, at your expense. The term arose from situations of living with an addict, typically a substance abuser, but over time it has come to encompass a much broader population. It means chronically seeing in someone else the need to be “helped.” And helping develops into control – control of someone’s choices, behavior, even feelings. It tends to be learned behavior, starting either as a coping mechanism to survive painful experiences in a severely dysfunctional family, or in imitation of other family members in your generation or the one above you, who are caught in the same trap. It is a coping mechanism gone to an illogical extreme and has become maladaptive. It’s carried through to your own relationships, making them difficult and unsatisfying. The “co” in codependent implies that each person is dependent on the other. The one being taken care of obviously depends on the caretaker for exactly that. But the one doing the caretaking is also dependent. Implied here is not basic needs like those of a child or a sick person, but just about anything you can imagine from being the exclusive scheduler of your mutual social events and vacation plans to choosing the other’s clothing to deciding what “we” ought to do about… This person doesn’t do well alone. Self-esteem is evaluated by how well you’re pleasing the other. Often neither person sees a problem, at least not initially. It feels very “giving.” You’re working so hard to please the other that whoever you are gets lost. The one being catered to is so well taken care of that the self of that person gets lost as well. In accommodating someone else (or being accommodated to) you ignore your own wants and needs. Eventually, resentment develops on both sides, and problems arise. From an on-line article by Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA http://www.therapycanwork.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=49&Itemid=99
...worrying about people
and problems doesn’t help.
It doesn’t solve problems,
it doesn’t help other people,
and it doesn’t help us.
It is wasted energy.
Even when codependents recognize the problem for what it is, they often make the mistake of trying to control their partner’s consumption — the amount an alcoholic drinks or a user uses — while fighting desperately to keep the bottom from falling out from under the family. They may count drinks or water whiskey. They may hide a stash or flush pills down the toilet. All that usually succeeds in doing is to drive the drinking or drug use underground. Then they can only guess about the extent of actual use. And since chemical dependency tends toward increasing levels of use, a dependent person’s behavior often becomes less predictable and more unreliable. The result? The web of stress and unhappiness their partners live inside gets tighter all the time. If you need proof, try juggling a dysfunctional partner’s moods and demands with one hand, while balancing an overdrawn checkbook, bewildered friends and angry family, and their own anxiety and depression with the other. Perhaps the worst feeling of all is the gnawing guilty feeling that maybe the dependent partner wouldn’t drink or use so much if he or she were a better partner, better lover, better person. Of course, that’s crazy. But that’s often the way it is. Gayle Rosellini http://www.doitnow.org/pages/804.html
If you’re going to be crazy,
you have to get paid for it
or else you’re going to be locked up.
Hunter S. Thompson
Addiction is recognized as a treatable disease. That doesn’t mean it’s something you catch; like the flu. It’s a disease you develop over time, like diabetes or high-blood pressure. Still, many people attach a shameful stigma to the addicted person and his or her family. This stigma is based on stereotypes that do more harm than good: of drunken louts and no-good dopers, weak-willed, irresponsible characters who are both selfish and hopeless. The truth is that of an estimated 13 million American alcoholics in 1997 (and 5.5 million addicts in need of treatment), probably fewer than 10 percent fit the description of the hopeless drunk or brain-addled junkie. Most are responsible, hard-working people — when they’re straight or sober. The ranks of recovering people include successful athletes, entertainers, business people, even members of Congress and former First Ladies. Nevertheless, a codependent will deny to family, friends, and anyone else who’ll listen (or demands an explanation) that their partner’s drinking or drug use is abnormal, even if he or she displays signs of blatant alcoholism or addiction. But even though codependents ignore the symptoms, the symptoms don’t go away. Where they often go, instead is from bad to worse.
Gayle Rosellini http://www.doitnow.org/pages/804.html
An intelligent person can
a wise person doesn’t try.
People who grow up in a dysfunctional family may fail to learn the difference between love and sympathy. Children growing up in these conditions may learn to have sympathy for the emotional crippling in their parents lives and feel that the only time they get attention is when they show compassion for the parent. They feel that when they forgive, they are showing love. Actually, they are rescuing the parent and enabling abusive behavior to continue. They learn to give up their own protective boundaries in order to take care of the dysfunctioning parent, becoming a surrogate co-dependent spouse. In adulthood, they carry these learned behaviors into their own relationships. If they can rescue their partner from the consequences of their behavior, they feel that they are showing love. They get a warm, caring, sharing feeling from helping their partner, a feeling they call love. But this may actually encourage their partner to become needy and helpless enabling the negative behavior to continue. An imbalance can then occur in the relationship in which one partner becomes the rescuer or enabler and the other plays the role of the helpless victim. In this case, healthy boundaries which allow both partners to live complete lives are absent. Mature love requires the presence of healthy, flexible boundaries. Sympathy and compassion are worthy qualities, but they can be confused with love, especially when boundaries have become distorted or are virtually non-existent. Healthy boundaries lead to respect for the other and equality in a relationship, an appreciation for the aliveness and strength of the other person, and a mutual flow of feelings between the two partners, all features of mature love. When one partner is in control and the other is needy and helpless, there is no room for the give-and-take of a healthy relationship. John Stibbs http://www.hiddenhurt.co.uk/emotional_boundaries.html
I would cling to unhappiness
because it was a known, familiar state.
When I was happier, it was because
I knew I was on my way back to misery.
Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity. They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior. The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/codependency
When one is in love,
one always begins
by deceiving one’s self,
and one always ends
by deceiving others.