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.
A glance across a crowded room, a chance encounter, stolen kisses in the night, a wisp of heady cologne, and a stolen rendezvous on a crowded weekend have all climaxed into a committed relationship. It seems as though the fates have been controlling the destiny of women for years and leading them to their men. Unfortunately, some women have discovered their Prince Charming is not quite so charming, but rather is among the select group of controlling men who not only control their own lives, but also, those of women. Controlling men like to be in charge. They like to tell women what to do, what to wear, how to speak, and even when to speak. Most controlling men do not admit to the fact that they are controlling. They just don’t see it. In their minds, men like to have things a certain way. They probably grew up thinking that things should be a certain way, partly because of the manner in which they were raised. Some women grew up thinking that little girls get married wait on their husbands hand and foot, bear children, and raise children. On the other hand, some men grew up looking at it in this manner: “girls grow up to do what their husbands tell them to do. They stay home, clean the house, raise the kids, and worship their men.” It isn’t really that farfetched to see how this mind-set in men might lead to controlling behavior. After all, just because today’s woman is out in the world earning her own slab of bacon, doesn’t mean that the expectation that men are stronger, more dominant and hence more controlling got tossed out the door. From an article by Susan Keenan published at http://www.lifescript.com/life/relationships/marriage/controlling_men.aspx#sthash.yJArt6eB.dpuf
But even when I stop crying, even when
we fall asleep and I’m nestled in his arms,
this will leave another scar. No one will see it.
No one will know. But it will be there.
And eventually all of the scars will have scars,
and that’s all I’ll be – one big scar of a love gone wrong.
From “But I Love Him” by Amanda Grace
If you’re in a relationship with someone with borderline or narcissistic personality disorder, you may be surprised to learn that the relationship may be less intimate than you think it is. It may be intense, time-consuming, long-lasting, and take up most of your mental space. But the most important test of intimacy is to ask yourself the questions, “Is this relationship a safe haven where I feel loved and accepted for being me?” and “Do I trust the other person and vice versa?” If the answers are “no,” read on. Many partners of BPs [borderline personality] and NPs [narcissistic personality] can’t distinguish between intimacy and intensity—the hearts and flowers and all the smitten singers you hear on the radio going tra-la-la about how their heart will burst if they can’t have the person they met two days ago notwithstanding. Many of the big romances onscreen and in novels are about people who barely know each other. Real intimacy has to do with trust, understanding and feeling understood. People who are intimate—and I’m not talking about sex—reveal vulnerabilities without fear that what we share will be used against them. Intimacy relies on safety, patience, mutuality, respect, constancy, and no secrets. Without healthy self-disclosure at the right time, there can be no intimacy. And that takes honesty about who we are and how we feel. The more intimate you are, the safer you feel and the more worthwhile the relationship. Intensity, on the other hand, has to do with secrecy, lack of trust, high drama, fear, lack of boundaries, and disrespect. Most of all, it serves to distract each person from working on their own issues because most of the time is spent in fantasy, the cycle of idealization and devaluation, bitter arguments followed up by apologies and sex. By Randi Kreger, author of “Stop Walking on Eggshells” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stop-walking-eggshells/201202/problems-emotional-intimacy-typical-borderlines-and-narcissists
When the healthy pursuit
of self-interest and self-realization
turns into self-absorption, other people
can lose their intrinsic value in our eyes
and become mere means to the fulfillment
of our needs and desires.
We are codependent because we allow the behavior of another person to effect our behavior so that we become consumed with that person and their problems. This obsession with the issues and problems of others becomes debilitating to us as we exhaust inordinate and inappropriate amounts of mental and emotional energy over them, leaving little, if any, energy for ourselves. Often our childhood was so chaotic and our environments were so out of control, we learned ways to escape to try to find serenity. As we grew into adulthood, we worked hard at trying to control our external environment, believing it was the key to our happiness and inner peace. Our family of origin was frequently dysfunctional. Sometimes we even blamed ourselves for our parent’s problems. If we were terrorized by a volatile alcoholic parent, anger became an unacceptable and unwelcomed guest in our lives. Anger was to be avoided at all costs. As a result, we learned to appease; we learned to rescue. We learned to be aware of others’ feelings in order to protect ourselves and began to lose touch with our own feelings. We made ourselves responsible for the happiness of others, and when they weren’t happy, neither were we. We are extremely loyal but also extremely insecure. Self-doubt is our constant companion, and often self-hatred. Being unacceptable to ourselves, we hide our true selves, convinced that if anyone truly knew us, they would abandon us. This fear of abandonment often fuels our codependent behavior as we seek to do everything in our power to become so valuable that others would not want to leave us. By choice, our lives are not our own and our emotions are the property of whatever crisis the person(s) closest to us is having. http://www.vvcrossroads.org/ministries/recovery/codependency/men
It’s not that you should never love something
so much that it can control you.
It’s that you need to love something
that much so you can never be controlled.
It’s not a weakness. It’s your best strength.
In order to avoid her fears of being alone the woman may make efforts to keep her man close. It might be a criticism for going out with the boys for an evening. By discouraging him to do other things she is increasing their time together. If a woman engages in such efforts and is successful in controlling her man she will have influenced his behavior by her emotional reactions. With influence over his emotions she will have influence over what he does with his time. He will learn to avoid the activities that bring emotional reactions and criticism and do the things that she approves of. They will spend more time together which will help her to feel solid in the relationship. It also distracts herself from the fear of being alone. In one part of her mind she has helped their relationship, but she has unknowingly created a separate feeling of not being safe. When a woman sees that she can modify her man’s behavior she might perceive him as not being as strong. She will see him as someone that gives up his interests, runs around trying to make her happy. He has stopped being his authentic self and started being what she wants him to be. At some level she perceives him as no longer being his own man. She could perceive him as having weak character and could lose respect for him. More importantly she will not feel safe with a man she sees as having a weak character. Some women will conclude that if they can influence or control their man then other women will also be able to control and influence him as well. All of this adds up to losing respect and trust in the man. One assumption sometimes deep in the mind is that the stronger person controls the weaker person. If she can direct him then he must be weaker than her. This image of weakness is amplified if the woman already considers her self as weak to begin with. The loss of trust in her man’s strength may not be conscious to her, but at some level it affects her feeling of safety with him. From “Emotional Security” http://www.pathwaytohappiness.com/relationship_safety.htm
Consider how hard it is to change yourself
and you’ll understand what little chance
you have in trying to change others.
Some people act as though they believe that there is not enough love in the world to go around. They act as though they need to make sure that they are getting all your love and no one else is getting any of it as though if you love anyone else these controlling people will “miss out” on some of your love. In the past I put a lot of effort into trying to make these people feel like my love for them would never run out because I mistakenly believed that my love for them, could save them and if I could save them, they would love me back and that would save me. And at the same time it seems as though these controlling and manipulative people also believe and go to great length to communicate, that if you love yourself, you will be spending your love allowance on yourself instead of on them. Heaven forbid that happens! This “don’t love yourself” concept is taught in tons of ways always with the threat of becoming a horrible selfish person if you do anything to nurture or acknowledge your own value. They picked on the way that I dressed. They picked at the way I did my hair. They picked at me all the time to make sure that I was feeling bad about myself. To make sure that I was trying harder. To make sure that my self-esteem was kept low. To make sure that I was always questioning myself and not questioning them. And all of it was presented as thought their judgement was “for my own good”. That this “picking at me” and criticizing me was going to make me a better person. This grooming started young. I was ready to listen to all new controllers and manipulators that came into my life when I entered my adult years. Darlene Ouimet
Just because something isn’t a lie
does not mean that it isn’t deceptive.
A liar knows that he is a liar,
but one who speaks mere portions
of truth in order to deceive
is a craftsman of destruction.
Five tips for overcoming your own passive-aggressive behaviors:
1- Become aware of the underlying feelings causing your behavior
2- Become aware of the impacts of your behavior and how your desire to defeat others, get back at them or annoy them creates yet further uncomfortable feelings for yourself
3- Take responsibility for your actions and reactions
4- Try to not feel attacked when faced with a problem but instead take an overall objective view of the situation
5- Learn to be assertive in expressing yourself. You have a right to your thoughts and feelings so communicate them with honesty and truth and strengthen your relationships
Five tips for coping with the passive-aggressive behavior of others:
1- Become aware of how passive aggression operates and try to be understanding towards your partner
2- Explain to your partner how their behavior towards you is affecting you. Communicate calmly without blaming – i.e. talk about how you feel and what you think without using language that will inflame the situation more. For example you might say “I feel upset by your behavior” rather than “you’ve done this or that”.
3- Be aware of your responses to others and yourself– do not blame yourself for the behavior and reaction of others
4- Be honest about your part in the situation
5- If the aggressive behavior of others continues to affect you in a negative way, set clear boundaries around yourself – rules for what you will and won’t accept. Stay strong and focused and get on with your life in a positive way.
Andrea Harrn, http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/what-is-passive-aggressive-behaviour
If you are carrying strong feelings
about something that happened in your past,
they may hinder your ability to live in the present.