Co-dependency refers to an obsessive need for affection, attention and affirmation.
Co-dependent people get easily drawn into the pain and problems of others, feel responsible to help people solve their problems while ignoring their own, look outside themselves for meaning, identity and value, say yes when they mean no and tend to blame others for their own unhappiness, failures and frustrations.
Co-dependency is as much a cultural as a personal phenomenon.
Through childhood and adolescence, movies and hit parades feed us co-dependent relationship ideals as romantic love, Christian ideals as service and care for others, cultural ideals as being a good mother, a caring wife or just a “good” person that cares for other people's needs more than for one’s own.
If you as a woman wonder about the difference between being 'good' or co-dependent check the degree of involvement and the amount of pain you feel.
• Do I always "have to do something" to help my partner?
• Do I feel burdened by the problems of my partner? Would I like to leave him and yet I do not dare to?
• Am I holding on to my partner even if he has repeated affairs or abandons me while "working at the office"?
Most people fall into a continuum of co-dependency. If you are still wondering, keep checking:
* Do I feel responsible to help people solve their problems while ignoring my own?
* Do I look outside myself for meaning, identity and value?
* Do I say yes when I mean no?
* Do I tend to blame others for my unhappiness, failures and frustrations?
If you answer 'yes' to most of those questions, co-dependency is an issue.
Co-dependency happens in relationships
Codependent relationships are predominantly the domain of women who are engaging in personal relationships with someone who needs help and support. They offer themselves as 'helpers' and 'saviours' and turn into angry persecutors if their attempt to save the 'other' fails, which is usually the case.
This dynamic in co-dependent relationships has been described as the drama triangle being played by two people who change the roles of victim, saviour and persecutor.
The term co-dependent relationship was traditionally used for an alcoholic and his or her partner but has lately been applied to a broad range of people who need help such as drug users, criminals, sex addicts, mentally ill, physically ill, and even workaholics who need someone to support them while they "do their thing."
Co-dependency is the result of frustrated needs in childhood
Basic needs like being nurtured, protected and appreciated were neglected, boundaries invaded through abuse, self-expression discouraged or punished. This neglect of primal needs then become the obsession of the adult who longs for their fulfilment in every close relationship.
The deep need to be saved from the inner loneliness and emptiness is projected on to another person, usually an addict in an attempt to save 'him'. Needless to say, that her attempt to save the 'helpless him' or to endlessly support the 'busy important ones' is prone to fail which then increases her frustration, anger, disappointment, guilt and low self worth.
Do you recognise any of this? Do you feel a deep need to be saved from inner loneliness and emptiness?
This deep need can turn into a desperate, needy search for a romance that makes you vulnerable for being used by people. This neediness will draw partners into your life that want to have their needs fulfilled and will have little concern for your feelings or needs.
You may also find yourself projecting this need on to another person, usually an addict in an attempt to save 'him'. Saving 'him' will not solve your problem. In the opposite: If you stay long enough in an unfulfilling relationship you become accustomed to unhappy situations, which then again will make you an easy target for being used.
How can you break this vicious cycle and overcome codependency?
First, make your needs and interests your priority. What do you need to do to be good to yourself, to love yourself, to appreciate the good things in you and in your life?
Start to take stock in the people you have surrounded yourself with. Are they as concerned with your needs and feelings as you are with theirs? You may need to detach yourself from some of these people, maybe even your partnership at least until you have taken time to start taking care of yourself.
Learn to say No when you mean No. Practice setting up boundaries that are firm and flexible. Saying No can be as easy as just not answering the phone.
Romance, alcohol, drugs and sex are not appropriate tools for overcoming co-dependency or filling your inner emptiness. Instead, focus on enjoying the single life, as you develop a wide variety of interests and activities, meet people, and make new friends. With interests, activities and a good network of friends and acquaintances, the inner emptiness and the painful longing will cease.
Dr. Ulla Sebastian is a well-known author, trainer and psychotherapist. Her work spans a wide range of themes for professional and personal growth and is the result of forty years of research, work with thousands of people from all over the world and a lifelong experience of selfgrowth and transformation. Visit her website www.visioform.com for free courses, distance courses, ebooks, books and articles.