Is it Time to End Your Love Affair with Drama and Chaos?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply the same advice and insight to ourselves that seems to come all to easily when dissecting the lives and decisions of those closest to us.

As with most things emotional health comes in varying shades of grey. One universal indicator of emotional health is “feeling” healthy…feeling happy and feeling fulfilled. That doesn’t mean you feel on top of the world everyday (Wouldn’t that be nice) but that you generally see yourself as a deserving, lovable person.
Codependency is a term that gets a lot of attention but is not necessarily easy to understand. Let’s first dispel a couple of myths about codependency:

Myth 1: Codependency is a mental illness.

Codependency is neither a mental illness, nor indicative of a risk for developing one. Codependency is a pattern of learned behaviors that serve to protect oneself from the feeling of being out of control.

Myth 2: Only “weak” people become codependent.

They are many very accomplished, high achieving individuals who find themselves in one codependent relationship after another. If it was merely a matter of intellect or personal strength codependents would never come close to being able to manage the myriad of responsibilities they put on their plates.

Myth 3: Codependency only occurs in those who are in relationships with people who abuse substances.

Yes. Codependency is a coping pattern that often manifests itself in response to the unpredictability associated with addiction. However, the need to invest in others in order to calm the “chaos” one feels inside doesn’t have to be because of exposure to alcoholism or drug addiction.

Myth 4: Codependency only affects women.

Nothing could be further from accurate. Although changing we continue to live in a society that remains relatively intolerant of men in “caretaker” roles, particularly those that involve. This contributes to the belief system that it is only women who are subject to sacrificing their own emotional wellbeing in what in an effort to comfort others. Men who identify with codependency are NOT “Whipped.” They are human!

5 Signs That Codependency Might Be Impacting Your Life:

1. You find yourself in relationships with individuals who are “troubled” or “needy”.

No sense looking around. We all have our beasts to tame, yes even you. For the purpose of this message a “troubled” person being someone whose social, emotional, financial, vocational functioning negates their ability to attain or sustain stability. This lack of stability then translates into the “troubled” person’s inability to remotely come close to meeting your social, emotional, financial needs. Codependents find themselves attracted to people with high needs and find that those with high needs are drawn to them. “I just don’t understand why all of the men in my life are unable to keep a job.” It is by no accident that those in need and those who need to be needed are able to find one another almost as if they had placed an advertisement.

2. You find yourself obsessed with taking care of other people.

Nope you are not the martyr you so long to be. After all, that would mean that the endless giving, responsibilities, taking care of and managing was part of a higher calling.

Codependents feel a debilitating responsibility for others. They may take on responsibility for the feelings actions and choices of those around you. They find themselves constantly offering advice, help (solicited or not) in an effort to “fix.” “If I just keep the house cleaner and keep the kids quiet and he/she will stop drinking”. This tends to lend to feelings of resentment as the codependent person feels unappreciated and used. These feelings of resentment may eventually be communicated (In a rage no less) do not interrupt the compulsion to control the behavior of those in their lives.

3. You have a hard time with self-acceptance and feeling understood by others.

Codependents often describe feeling different from everyone else. “It’s like being on the outside, watching others live the life I want so desperately.” Many codependents try to combat self-esteem issues through perfectionism. Often times this perfectionism can be traced back to childhood but was seen as an indication of being driven or responsible. It then gets reinforced by the adults in the codependent’s life who, with good intentions thought they were fostering a healthy trait.

4. You settle for being “needed” with little to no value placed on the legitimacy of having your own needs met.

Codependents obsess over others. They suffer from insomnia and chronic anxiety subsequent to the dysfunction that is so typical in the lives of those with whom the codependent finds him/herself involved. This obsession is just as frequently behavioral as it is emotional. Codependents constantly check on and keep tabs on others. The need to catch people in the “act” and force a confession is, almost, universal with codependents. “I know you were drinking. I found the empty bottle. Why won’t you just admit it.” Unfortunately, the relief never comes and the pattern continues.

5. You find yourself constantly redefining your personal boundaries and limits.

Codependents are infamous for saying they won’t tolerate certain behavior only to find themselves bending their own “rules”: they give in, say yes when they really want to say no and promise themselves that everything will get better if they just help one last time. “I know I said I would never pay his phone bill again, but there is no way he will ever get a job if he doesn’t have a phone.” The immediate relief from the worry is almost always replaced by a repetition of the same emotional or behavioral patterns it was meant to mitigate. …and the cycle continues.

You know the saying “It’s like putting lipstick on a pig?” (No offense to our cute swine friends) If your relationship is fraught with constant drama frustration, and resentment it’s not healthy ….period. You can attempt to mask it anyway you like. Perhaps it’s time to put your lipstick away and own your fear. You ARE deserving of closeness and love. You CAN make changes that truly bring genuine happiness to your life.

Let Me Be Me: Healthy Separateness and Togetherness in Marriage

Being authentic in our relationships is challenging work. In a new relationship, it is common (and even necessary) to desire sameness, to desire the acceptance and approval of the other to the degree that you may minimize differences and adjust what you say, think, and do to please the other.

But as a relationship progresses, differences inevitably arise that create tension. Many couples wish to return to their early relationship when things were “easy” or “fun,” but, while the early stage of a relationship allows for necessary connection and bonding, it is not sustainable long-term if both people are to hold on to their sense of self.

Holding on to your autonomy

Holding on to your autonomy (separation) while working toward connection (togetherness) is known as the process of differentiation. It can create anxiety and conflict in a relationship as your differences begin to emerge. We tend to respond to this anxiety in a variety of ways.

  • We pressure the other person to conform to our way of perceiving, acting, or feeling through a variety of tactics. Emotional manipulation is one common way. We may try to show how passionately we want our partner to come over to our side by talking about it loudly and intensely, crying, using guilt trips, using insults, or giving the silent treatment. These methods can easily result in arguments or in our partner giving in while harboring resentment.
  • We minimize differences by adopting our partner’s way of perceiving, acting, or feeling as if it is our own. This avoids conflict and tension. In fact, many couples boast of never having conflict. Likely, these are couples where one or both partners are uncomfortable with differences so they tend to fuse with their spouse and, as a result, lose their sense of self. There is a lack of personal autonomy in this situation.
  • We recognize that differences are inevitable and find effective ways of dealing with the tension we experience. Partners are aware of their own thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires and are committed to sharing these with their partner. In turn, when differences arise spouses are committed to seeking to understand one another and thus grow in intimacy. Differences are acknowledged and respected.

Still want more about codependency? In this video webcast, Dr. Anthony Centore speaks with Licensed Professional Counselors Kathleen Leroy about Codependency in Relationships: Why is Feels So Good…and So Terrible. If you only want audio, visit our Soundcloud page!

If you’d rather listen to the audio version, see below:

Co-Authors: Christie Blaylock and Angie Sumrall

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Anthony Centore

Anthony Centore Ph.D. is Founder and CEO at Thriveworks--a counseling practice, focused on premium client care, with 240+ locations across the USA. He is Private Practice Consultant for the American Counseling Association, columnist for Counseling Today magazine, and Author of How to Thrive in Counseling Private Practice. Anthony is a multistate Licensed Professional Counselor and has been quoted in national media sources including The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and CBS Sunday Morning.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."