Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Let's Have A Conversation About Codependency:Day 1 - What Is It?

This week, I was going to write about Relapse and Codependency as it applies to partners in a relationship. However, because it is a complicated topic, I thought it  might be helpful to do a series of blogs on it and have a more in-depth conversation! There is a ton of really good information on codependency which I will reference in our discussion, but I want to give you some basic principles that I believe will  help you to understand codependency and will assist you if you are a codependent person and/or are in a codependent relationship with someone.  Let's get started!

First, what is codependency? When we love or care about someone, we invest ourselves and our resources into that person. This is natural. How do we know when this becomes unhealthy? This is important. Let's take a look at this explanation of codependency.
Over- Investment

Codependency is when we over-invest into someone. Read that again. Codependency is when we over-invest into someone - all in an attempt to rescue, control, or change that person and his/her behavior.

The three words that differentiate healthy caring and loving from codependency are the motivations behind our over- investment - to rescue, to control, or to change another person. The following example illustrates this. (The name has been changed to protect confidentiality).

Rick was an extremely nice man, quite successful, and very codependent. In his third marriage. Rick spoiled his wife, giving her anything she wanted and spending large amounts of money on her and his step-children. Even after Rick found out that his wife was stealing money from his business account, he continued to forgive her, justifying it because his wife had some serious health issues. Over time, Rick tried desperately to control and change his wife's addictive behaviors and take charge of her chronic health issues.  He thought he could save her - rescue her - and keep the marriage in tact.

As you are thinking about this example, it is important to note that codependency is not a one time occurrence. It is a pattern of behavior that continues to repeat itself. There may be respites or reprieves in between situations or crises, but because of the dynamics of the relationship between the unhealthy individual and the codependent, it will continue. And as the pattern of behavior continues, the outcome is threefold:

1.  The codependent is drained and depleted (emotionally, psychologically, physically, 
2.  The unhealthy partner or individual in relapse is unchanged as behaviors continue or worsen.
3.  Both individuals or partners are angry and resentful. The codependent is angry because all the resources spent trying to control, rescue, or change the unhealthy person are not working. The unhealthy person is angry because he/she does not like being controlled!  

Fear of the Future

Rick fell into this pattern. The  more he attempted to change his wife and control the situation, the more resentful she became. And because Rick felt used and unappreciated, he too felt resentful. However, Rick remained overly-invested into the relationship, fearing that if he stopped rescuing or care-taking for his wife, she might not get better and/or the relationship might end.  

In closing for today, I want to say that healthy relationships do involve a give and take.  And, there are situations and circumstances in marriages, partnerships, and in other relationships where one individual does more of the care-taking, one carries more responsibility, or one takes charge much more significantly than the other for a period of time or for extended periods.This is normal and to be expected.

However, when one person continues to forfeit his/her well-being, identity, and worth at the expense of another's lack of responsibility for their own well-being - this is codependency.

Next time, we will discuss Am I Codependent?And Why?  Until then, think about our explanation of codependency. Does it resonate with you or does it sound like someone you know?  Remember, recognizing and understanding what is going on with us is the first step in moving forward!

Understanding Brings Healing

* Note - an excellent resource is Codependent No More- by Melodie Beattie!

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