Two new words have become very popular in studying the Psychology of Relationships. They are codependence and co-commitment, which describe two totally different types of relationships.

CODEPENDENCE

Codependence describes a situation in which two people are dependent or addicted to each other. We lose the ability to be happy within ourselves and become dependent on each other for our feelings of safety and self worth. Both are limited by the relationship rather than helped to grow within it.

Codependence breeds antagonism and games in which one tries to control the other, often through various roles, by intimidating, questioning, criticizing, playing the victim or retreating into oneself and becoming aloof.

Such relationships often result in vicious circles in which no one changes and no one is happy. We might even undermine our own happiness and power because we are afraid to be happy or strong when the other is not. Promises or perhaps even threats that serious changes are going to take place seldom become reality.

We feel responsible for the other’s reality and cannot let him or her feel unhappy. We try to change the other’s mood, and until the other changes, we cannot feel happy ourselves. Our state of mind is dependent upon the other’s behavior and attitude.

In codependence, our fears prevent us from telling the whole truth to the other and sometimes even to ourselves.

Criticism becomes a major form of communication and arguments continuously recycle. Most arguments revolve around the ancient game of "who is right."

When we are dependent on someone, we will often deny our own needs and even our values in order to ensure the other’s acceptance and / or approval. We might find ourselves not only ignoring our needs, but also doing things we do not really want to do.

CO-COMMITMENT

In co-commitment, we feel close to each and want to share our lives without feeling dependent or that we cannot be happy alone or with someone else. We want the other to be happy and we do whatever we can in order to help him or her be happy, but do not believe we are responsible if he or she is not.

We can continue being happy even when the other is not.

We see the relationship as a growth process and know that essential to that growth is being able to be truthful with ourselves and each other. We learn to be truthful about needs, thoughts and feelings.

We love the other and want him or her to blossom and succeed in whatever he or she chooses to pursue. There is no antagonism, but rather mutual support and encouragement. We feel joy rather than jealousy when the other succeeds.

In co-commitment, we take 100% responsibility for our reality and allow the other to do the same. We do not expect the other to solve our problems or make us happy. That is our responsibility. Also we realize that we cannot make the other happy. We can help and support each other, but cannot create the other’s reality.

MOVING FROM CO-DEPENDENCY TO CO-COMMITMENT

In co-commitment, we learn to confront our fears of becoming intimate. This is not always easy at first as we may have fears about getting very close to someone. Some of those fears might be:

a. I am not worthy, and if the other knows me well, he or she will not want to be with me.

b. I might be hurt, rejected or betrayed.

c. The other might abandon me and I will not be able to cope.

d. I will lose my freedom.

e. I will not be able to be myself.

A part of the co-commitment relationship is to be able to be intimate while simultaneously independent. Few have managed to find this balance. Some have mastered the ability to be close, but find it difficult to be happy alone. Others may find it easier to be okay alone, but are not able to be intimate.

Some of the behaviors that possibly exhibit a fear of being very close with someone might be:

a. We withdraw into ourselves and avoid deep or meaningful contact with the other.

b. We mentally manufacture faults in the other so that we are justified in not getting closer.

c. We become emotionally numb and lose contact with our feelings.

d. We start arguments in order to create a distance from the other.

e. We subconsciously create an illness that prevents us from getting closer.

f. We tend to live in the past and avoid the present, and thus contact with the other.

g. We become absorbed in our work, hobby or any activity in order to avoid the other.

The above reactions are unconscious self-protective mechanisms, which unfortunately seldom protect us and always imprison us in lives without love or growth. Such reactions will be even more prevalent when the others are playing roles such as intimidator or interrogator and in some cases even victim and aloof.

But just as we have the fear getting close to the other, we also fear being too far away. There is a Greek saying, "We cannot be happy together and cannot be happy apart." When then can we be happy? This is the nature of codependence - fear of being close and fear of being apart.

PERSONAL SPACE AND TIME

Our movement toward co-commitment means overcoming the fear of being apart. This does not mean separating, but rather being able to feel comfortable when the other may need his or her "space" or personal time in which he or she can do things without us. One of us might want to walk alone, or listen to music, or pray, or attend a lecture, or a series of classes, go out with old friends or spend the evening out with old classmates.

There are times when we might not want to do anything special, but would simply like to be alone. We need this occasionally in order to relax more deeply and renew our energy body. When we are with others, we frequently feel the need to be in a state of alertness. Perhaps we feel the need to communicate with them or serve them in some way. Many of us cannot be ourselves in front of others. Thus, most of us need some time alone when we can simply be ourselves.

Unfortunately, many relationship partners do not feel comfortable taking this time for themselves or giving it to the other. Some reasons for this are:

a. We feel abandoned by the other or fear the other will feel abandoned by us.

b. We are afraid the other cannot take care of himself, or we have not learned to care for ourselves.

c. We think, "If the other really loved me, he or she would always want to be with me. He or she would always prefer me to his or her friends. Couples must be always together."

d. In some countries, such as the Mediterranean and Arab countries, it is inconceivable to some men that their wives could possibly leave the house and have interests other than the family. Thus, these men feel hurt and even demeaned by the fact that their wives might enjoy a series of lectures or a small excursion only with the ladies. They might fear losing control, something that is important to their sense of security and male self-image.

e. Some of us are unable to entertain ourselves while alone. We have no interests with which to occupy ourselves. All our energy is locked into others, and when they are not there, we do not know what to do, how to pass the time. We have not learned to be by ourselves or how to occupy ourselves. This is why many people, when they are alone for some period of time, immediately get on the telephone or turn on the TV.

Working from codependence to co-commitment means facing these fears and being able to be happy and fulfilled even without our loved one, at least for short periods of time.

SENSITIVE ISSUES

Another problem of co-dependence is that we tend to function unconsciously or mechanically relative to certain issues, often getting sucked into the roles of the intimidator, interrogator, victim and aloof. Some of those issues that trigger those roles are:

a. Whether we can trust the other or not. "She might abandon me." " He might cheat on me." " She might hurt me." " He might try to suppress me." As a result we get locked into control games, functioning unconsciously without love or real communication.

b. The question of authority, power and control. Who will decide what will happen? Who will get his or her way? Whose will is going to prevail? We unconsciously engage in games for power and control so we can satisfy our needs.

c. Our feelings of self-worth are always very fragile and easily shaken by rejection or other’s behaviors. We then become defensive in our attempt to protect our self-image.

d. We have feelings that have been repressed in us for many years. Some may be from this relationship and others from those much earlier in our lives. These feelings are unpleasant and we often seek to conceal them. All of these unconscious reactions dampen our vitality and obstruct honest communication.

e. Sexual issues are often difficult to deal with because we have an inherent feeling of shame about our sexual needs, and also because much of our self-image as men or women is tied up in being sexually desired by our partner.

These issues are seldom discussed in a mature and honest manner so they can be solved. We often try to get what we want by accusing, threatening, criticizing, avoiding, playing the victim, etc.

We need to be able to discuss these needs and issues openly and maturely so that each can get what he or she needs from this conscious love relationship. We need to communicate about our fears of being hurt, the games we see we are playing for control, our doubts about our self worth, our deeper suppressed feelings and our sexual needs or lack thereof.

Thus, we have a choice to make. We can allow these and other issues to silently destroy our happiness, our relationship and often our health, or we can begin to face them directly in the following way:

a. Discover what we really feel, need and think.

b. Examine, analyze and seek to understand exactly why we feel, need and think what we have discovered.

c. Take responsibility for our needs, feelings and our life situation. The other is not responsible for what we are feeling or creating in our lives.

d. Share what we have discovered with our loved one without criticism or blame.

d. Work internally on getting free from anything we feel is obstructing our happiness or love.

e. Work with the other on finding solutions that satisfy both of us.

Author's Bio: 

Robert Elias Najemy, a life coach with 30 years of experience, has trained over 300 Life coaches and now does so over the Internet. Info at: 216.155.71.125 http://www.HolisticHarmony.com/introholisticcoach.asp
He is the author of over 20 books, 600 articles and 400 lecture cassettes on Human Harmony. Download FREE 100's of articles, find wonderful ebooks, guidance, mp3 audio lectures and teleclasses at http://www.HolisticHarmony.com .
His books The Psychology of Happiness, Remove Pain with Energy Psychology and six others are available at http://www.amazon.com