Today on Ask Cahlen I will be answering the question, “What is a Codependent Relationship?”
I have a lot of personal experience with Codependency, and I’ve mostly come out of my tendency to fall into it, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on how to notice it in your relationships and what to do about it.
If you’re going out there into the wider world and asking, “What is Codependency?” you’re going to get a number of different answers. I’ve simplified the definition to consist of the theme which appears to be common to them all:
“A codependent relationship occurs when a person is dishonest about who they are and what they want in order to preserve the “health” of that relationship because they believe it provides them something they need.”
An extreme example of this is a child with an abusive parent who unfortunately is their only source of food, shelter and relative safety. The child will feel compelled to act in ways which reduce the aggressiveness of their parent despite the fact those behaviors are not how the child would naturally behave in a truly safe environment.
Some common examples more in the center of the scale would be a man pretending to be someone he is not in order to get into and stay in the pants of a woman, or a woman sleeping with a wealthy man she’s unattracted to because it provides her offspring security. An example on the more subtle end of the scale would be an empathic person getting stuck in a relationship with someone they do not admire because they wanted to help that person out of a difficult time in their life.
If you believe, like me, that healthy relationships are the point of life and not simple a means to pleasure or survival, you’ll understand why codependent relationships are such a serious problem.
So how can you know if you’re in a codependent relationship? Naturally we must all make some sacrifices in order to interact with others, but if you find yourself lying to others (and even yourself) about what you want and believe, I feel you’ve crossed way over into the toxic realm.
So what can you do about it? I believe the most important thing is to get your physical health order. Yes there is more to the problem, but these are deeply entrenched patterns and they take a lot of energy to change. If you don’t have energy you will struggle to make that change. I’ll be talking more about this subject in the future, so head on over to http://subscribe.cahlen.org if you want to be notified of my future posts.
What’s something more immediately practical you can do? Start saying no. If you don’t want to do something that someone wants you to do, tell them you don’t want to do it. When they whine about it because they’re so used to you always saying ‘yes’, just explain why you’re doing this and ask them to understand and support you. If they refuse to understand, well… I’d say they’re not someone whose goal is to see you reach your full potential. Is that someone you want to give your limited time and energy to?