Our fights start the same way every time, and they usually end in us sharing a bed, him on one side and me on the other, thinking my desire to speak up has ruined the night. I get confused on whether my opinion matters. I wonder how I’ve hurt his pride and how to mend it. I wake up in the morning feeling exhausted. My heart is heavy and my body is aching. My wounds feel open to the world, but my mind continues to be unsure of my thoughts and opinions. Are they real? Do they matter? Eventually the pain subsides and I subdue the feelings of confusion and misunderstanding with nights out with friends, work, social media, exercise and family. It all works out splendidly, until the next fight comes and then it ends and here I am. This is the relationship I’m in.
This is an example from my own life in dealing with my codependent tendencies. In the following paragraphs, I’ll unfold the definition of codependency, the signs to look out for, how codependency can affect your relationships, why many people have a tendency of becoming codependent now more than ever and a couple day-to-day methods you can use to begin to find recovery from codependency.
You may wonder why someone who has codependent tendencies would be qualified to give such advice. My reasoning is twofold. 1.) I believe the realization of finding out I have codependency issues is the beginning of my journey to greater consciousness and happiness. I recognize this journey will not be short, so what better time to bring awareness to it than now. 2.) I know there are many people, maybe even yourself reading this, that either are living in a codependent relationship, will realize they are codependent or maybe their partner is by reading this article and to me that awareness is positive.
According to Melody Beattie, a famous self-help author on the subject of codependency defines codependency as “A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior”.
Many of these controlling behaviors can stem from family upbringing. Codependency has also been defined as a “love addiction”. This addiction comes into play in any type of relationship, I will specifically focus on romantic relationships here.
Signs of Codependency
People who are codependent will exhibit these common signs. I want to point out these signs are not the only ones, however, these are the overlapping signs I found in my research on this subject. The signs include, but are not limited to:
- Worrying about what other people are thinking.
- Relying on other’s opinions to validate your life.
- Your feeling of worth is determined by those closest to you.
- You commonly feel inadequate.
- Having a hard time going with the flow.
- Over-thinking situations throughout your day.
- Feeling like you’re over-functioning in life whether it’s feeling arrogant or superior to others.
- Having a hard time being assertive or direct when wanting to communicate your needs.
- Difficulty in setting boundaries that are consistent.
- Having a desire to control your own feelings and others around you.
- Feeling a sense of needing to be overly independent while, at the same time, having a strong desire to want to be taken care of.
- Falling for people you think you can change.
- Wanting to please others instead of yourself.
- Not having a good understanding of your own needs.
- Preoccupying your time with other people’s needs so you don’t have to look at your wants/needs.
- Making excuses or denying your own needs and feelings within a relationship.
- Feeling overwhelmed in social situations and not knowing why.
- Having a strong fear of abandonment.
- Feeling like your happiness is completely dependent on your partner’s ability to make you happy.
- Blaming others for how you feel.
- Feeling a need to solve other’s issues.
- Not having confidence that your partner can solve their issues without you.
- Wanting to control outcomes and situations.
- Giving from a place of expecting something in return.
- Playing the victim in your life and waiting for someone outside of yourself to save you.
- A strong desire for true love, without knowing how to give it unconditionally.
- Being indecisive or having a hard time making decisions.
- Lacking trust in yourself and others.
Whether you are shaking your head yes and acknowledging/ relating to one, a couple or all of these signs described above, is a strong indicator of a thinking process that could potentially not be serving you in your life and your relationship.
Codependency in Relationships
From my personal experiences, I find when I’m not understanding myself and my needs and not taking time to feed those needs in a healthy way, I tend to not be as open to new situations, which a relationship will constantly bring. I, obviously have entered into relationships with this mindset and it has caused unnecessary tension.
This tension begins with insecurity. When you enter into a relationship without fully looking at yourself in the mirror to own and understand those insecurities and you’re then willing to do the work on your own, then you better believe those insecurities will rear their ugly heads in ways that are damaging to you and the person you’re dating.
Some therapists have described codependency as “love addiction”. I agree with this on the basis of my own experience. I desire strong, fulfilling love in my life. I want it so bad sometimes I spend hours daydreaming and night dreaming about it. I find myself at times “falling in love” with the fantasy of love. Of two people giving to one another and how that love builds on life. To me, daydreaming about myself or being appreciative of my own being doesn’t happen nearly as often as my “addiction” with love fantasy.
Unfortunately, the fantasy doesn’t fit real life because the people we get into relationships with are real people with faults, quirks, the ability to trigger you and test your confidence. It becomes difficult to enjoy the person you’re with when you’re constantly trying to fit them into a box where they can’t hurt you, trigger you or make you think beyond your own opinions. When you’re in a codependent relationship and you are codependent, you act on fear instead of confidence, which makes it hard to define whether the “love” you share with that other person is coming from a genuine place or a place of a lack of love for yourself. It’s hard to build a relationship from fear and often times that fear tarnishes a relationship till there’s no more trust and then you’re back to you.
Is the Modern Age Making us Codependent?
I feel now, more than ever, we have so many distractions that keep us from getting in contact with our own inner feelings. You could spend a good hour just scrolling through a Facebook feed, wondering what everyone else is doing. You could binge watch your favorite show the whole day on Netflix if you really wanted to. You’ve subscribed to so many email blasts that managing your inbox becomes a full-time job.
We are presented with a numerous amount of ways to escape ourselves. Sitting with our feelings is uncomfortable, and many of us, including myself, have readily available ways to never have to sit with that uncomfortable feeling or to think through our actions and where they come from. We can just keep going with work, friends, flipping back and forth between a movie and our phones. The age of multi-tasking times infinity has stunted our minds from having the patient to sit still, think and be. Our inability to be fully connected and understanding of what brings on anxiety in us or why we really want to give love has made it difficult for us to fully connect and sometimes accept the people we are in relationships with, because we haven’t gotten to that point with ourselves.
Day-to-Day Practices for Codependency Recovery
I will preface this all by saying this work of trying to train your mind to think positively and own your sh** for lack of a better word, is hard work. It’s difficult to unravel your core in order to get to a place where you can fully stand behind your values and not allow other’s opinions or actions to swerve you completely off your moral compass. It’s also work I consciously do daily. Here are some of the practices I’ve acquired to help me come away from codependent thinking.
1.) Writing down the negative thoughts I have about myself helps me to disarm them, acknowledge their presence and let them know that they don’t serve me.
2.) Engaging in activities that I enjoy.
3.) Being a part of a codependent support group.
4.) Educating myself more on codependency.
5.) Doing good in my community and for my friends without expectation.
6.) Going through guided meditations before the beginning of my day.
7.) Consciously trying to stick to one task during my work day.
8.) Forgiving myself and taking my outbursts of insecurity as a learning experience to do better next time.
In the end, who we are in this world and to one another starts with ourselves and who we strive to be. There is no greater love than the love you can give to yourself and awareness of knowing that giving yourself self care daily is not a selfish act, but one of service.
I hope this article will bring awareness to those individuals out there, who are caught in this relationship cycle of blame, discouragement, confusion, lack of self and who are constantly reaching for a love they haven’t given themselves. While I haven’t fully realized the real pleasures of true love, I know when I do it will be because I gave it to myself first.