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Codependence is Not Love in Relationships

Codependence, Codependency, Relationships, People Pleasing, Anxiety

 

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Codependence is not love. Lots of people think they are in love & the ugly truth is, it’s really a codependent relationship.So what is Codependence all about in relationships?

Codependence means that one partner has catered so much to the other that they have lost track of who they are. They have forgotten they are different from the other person often because they are so anxious to please. It’s important to understand that catering so completely to someone else makes a lot of sense because it is easier. Instead of the struggle of two individuals making decisions it’s the easier path of one person driving the show.

I’ve had several couples where one person pushed “swinging” & the other went along with it & then discovered they didn’t like it at all & were too afraid to rock the boat by speaking their truth.

The codependent person who caters rarely even quarrels about where to go out to eat or what to do, they smile & go along while silent resentments start to build within. They want to be liked, they want to be seen as easy going but end up very unhappy. I can’t begin to tell you how many times this problem arises in my office.

In 2006 there was a gem of a movie, that not enough people saw called Dreamland. Watch it & you will see codependence play out. You will see an 18-year old giving up her future to care for her alcoholic father and best friend who has MS. Her father discovers what she is doing & recognizes he is an obstacle in her life & valiently interrupts her enabling & codependence.

Codependence is stifling your own life for others & in the process losing track of who you are.

The term Codependence was developed out of relationships that enable the partner who is addicted. So codependence means people have gotten too mushy in a relationship by enabling addiction instead of dealing with it. Mush is not the same as love.

“I couldn’t live with out you” is not really a sign of love, it’s the cattle call of lost souls. Things are really pretty boring when one person is running the show. Two people with their own identities willing to disagree is more work but it offers the terrific pay off of being far more interesting.

We live in a very anxiety provoking world. I see codependence often when one or both partners have anxiety. Codependence offers anxiety relief. There is far more certainty catering to one person, it avoids the messiness of two people sharing power in a relationship.

So everything is fine as long as one partner cooperates with most of the needs & wants of the other. One example of control struggles might be when one person makes twice as much money but still demands the other person pay half the bills. Their security in having enough money is more important than fairness. So the codependent people pleaser goes along with an unfair situation to keep the peace.

Often codependence occurs because one person may be very people pleasing because they are nervous about being liked. So they say things are ok that really are not. They go along with things that bother them & don’t speak up enough about their true experience. So codependence means there is a lopsidedness. Relationships are a balancing act & lopsidedness doesn’t work very well over the long haul.

Most relationships start out with codependence, especially in the 20’s, because It’s just easier to meet only one person’s needs. Growing up is partly about embracing the complexity of a relationship with two individuals & balancing 2 sets of needs.

There are different degrees of codependence; extreme manipulative codependence is the worst & always involves Drama.
Here is one example:
Imagine a couple where the woman was too anxious to leave the house & she would snoop through her husbands phone & grill him with questions which he became very weary of. He was overly loyal & resented her obsessiveness because there was no reality to her suspicions. She felt self righteous instead of recognizing in all the times she had looked, she had never found any evidence. It was a powder keg just waiting to explode. She had a very boring life watching tv in bed & was good at creating drama instead of working at change to be a healthier individual.

Drama obscures the real issues & feeds the codependence. Drama is more comfortable than the effort of growing up by honestly facing difficult situations. People stay too long & create codependent relationships out of fear. Drama demands “Do what I want you to do”, agree with me & don’t think for yourself. Disagreement that is not ugly is a part of every healthy relationship.

Bonds that last have to evolve out of the lopsidedness that is usually the beginning of all relationships.. When couples don’t evolve, then they stop being interesting.

Relationships that last, take on the work of being more complicated. They work at negotiating to meet both individuals needs or to align two points of view. Both people grow to be the best they can be as individuals. The purpose of spending most of a lifetime together is to grow, evolve and change.
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Challenge:
So ask yourself: Is your relationship too lopsided? Do you cater too much? or are you indulged too much? and does that work? Do you do things independently from your partner?

Thankyou for listening, this is Rhoda sharing what I’ve learned from working with couples over 35 years.

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