Co-dependency can take us down a long path of unhappiness and lead to a lot regret and disappointment. But how far do we let it take us and when do we say enough is enough? How difficult is it for us to come back from it?
Co-dependency can be described as having a lack of healthy personal boundaries by not standing up for yourself or letting others walk all over you. Trying to regain and maintain this lack of healthy personal boundaries is a step in the right direction towards regaining your independence and this is possible but as you may have assumed it isn’t easy. Both women and men suffer from co-dependency but women seem to fall into it more naturally because of our conditioning from society in the role of caretaker.
Co-dependency was originally linked to the partners of alcoholics but research has since shown that it can be linked to a broader proportion of society. Although a dysfunctional relationship can tend to be an easy breeding ground for co-dependency, so can being raised in that situation or having a sick loved one who relies on you. Being able to identify the traits of co-dependency in yourself can be difficult as looking at your own situation objectively can be tough. Some of the main traits are low self-esteem, people pleasing, caretaking (a need to care for others and putting their needs ahead of your own), control issues, dysfunctional communication, denial, problems with intimacy and difficulty dealing with painful emotions. Obsessions can become an issue too, often thinking about your relationships or other people which is caused by dependency and the anxiety and fears it creates. The “fear” is associated with worry of making a mistake which will create friction or make the person you are dependent on displeased. Obsessing and fantasising about how you would like things to be can often be a way of staying in denial. There is also a direct link between depression and co-dependency which has been proven in studies. It is estimated that around 40 million (primarily women) Americans are considered to be co-dependent and approximately 7 million American women are depressed. In a study which used co-dependency subscales low self-worth correlated strongly with depression sufferers.
This video from New Directions for women explains it brilliantly.
Co-dependent women often end up cleaning up the messes created by their partner’s/loved ones. They also suffer in the sense that what they want or need isn’t a priority to either them or their loved one; this is due to the narcissistic characteristics of addiction. Although an addict may love their partner, their number one focus in life when deep in addiction simply is not their relationships. In fact it’s rarely any of the things we usually hold dear or important. Work, bills, health, love life, friends and family are never the priority.
It can be an extremely difficult situation to be in and also to get out of but it is possible and the effects of co-dependency are reversible. It’s hard to overcome the effects on your own though and seeking help from others is the best way forward. There are many ways to do this like going to group sessions such as Co-Dependents Anonymous or by getting counselling. Coda is a 12 step program and like all 12 step programs is a spiritual program of recovery where we used the steps to clean up the past and rely on God to practice new healthy behaviors.
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