One of the realities of being codependent is the inability to see how codependency is impacting your own life. In my book, “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie,”I talk about my own issues with codependency and how my inability to see how events in my past, including my relationship with my mother, contributed to the challenges I experienced in my early adult years.
For myself, as well as anyone with codependency issues, the default position in any relationship was to throw myself in completely. This meant creating a relationship persona that wasn’t me, giving into the relationship, and fully sacrificing myself. For anyone with codependency issues, this sense of giving into the relationship, of becoming the relationship, is really a way to avoid dealing with an empty feeling in your personal life.
Not Comfortable as Me
There’s a difference between loving someone completely and being able to give yourself freely. When you give yourself freely you’re in a healthy relationship, with both people ready to give and be supportive of each other. You support and give to your partner with the trust that they will be there to give to you when you need support and emotional strength.
The challenge is that most people who are codependents have never experienced this type of relationship. From their earliest interactions with their family, they were expected to be givers and not receivers. Often, with addiction and trauma as a key defining point in the parental relationship, there is a parental pattern of codependency. Kids in these families learn to accommodate for the abuser or narcissistic parent, and they often strive to become the “perfect” child simply to get recognition from parents who are caught up in their own dysfunctional relationships.
According to “6 Signs of a Codependent Relationship”, a recent online article at Psychology Today, one of the six listed signs of a codependent relationship is having a sense of purpose, or a sense of being, that is directly focused on satisfying the needs of the partner. Of course, the partner is never satisfied, regardless of the sacrifice, which creates a vicious cycle of self-hatred and blame.
Codependents lack a sense of autonomy, or the ability to see themselves as individuals. They become the relationship, and their sole goal becomes to turn the relationship into the fairy tale dream they have of the ideal situation. At the same time, there is a fear of intimacy, as intimacy at a deep and meaningful level means vulnerability, and from past experiences, vulnerability is seen a damaging and hurtful place to be.
Correcting the Problem
It’s possible to recognize the signs of codependency and make changes, even at a very deep level. However, it’s not an easy path, and it does require patience, self-care, and a willingness to start seeing yourself as a valuable, autonomous, and worthy individual.
It starts with taking back yourself. This may sound like a strange concept, but it is essential for all of the work you need to do. There are some specific steps you can take to make this journey effective and positive. Each person will progress at a pace that’s comfortable for them, so don’t feel any pressure to rush through these steps.
1. Start reading.
There are some amazing blogs, articles, and books on codependency. I recommend reading The Marriage and Relationship Junkie as a great starting point in understanding how devastating codependency can be.
2. Seek counseling.
Working with a counselor or therapist with a background in codependency is also important. These professionals can provide a different perspective or lens you can begin to see yourself through. They can also help you trace the roots of the issue and address long-held thoughts and beliefs about relationships that may be influencing your current actions.
3. Learn to be yourself.
Developing self-esteem and self-worth, learning to set boundaries in relationships and becoming comfortable and content with yourself as an individual is essential if you want to move forward through codependency to healing.
Any time you have a pattern of behavior that starts in your childhood and follows you to your adult life and relationships, it can be hard to break out of. But, remember, it’s not impossible. Educate yourself about your codependent issues, seek out the help you need, and know that you’re a worthy individual.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Certified Transformation and Recovery Coach and the leading Psychotherapist on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and Sex Addiction. She helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. Take her quiz to find out if you’re a love addict, sign up for a 30-minute strategy session, or learn more about how to get over a break up. She’s also the author of “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking your Obsession”. Sherry maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, and is a sought after online dating and relationship coach. For more information visit www.sherrygaba.com.