Are You Codependent or Connected to Each Other?

Is it normal for one person’s happiness to be dependent on another person? Isn’t that co-dependent? In my last two blog posts I addressed codependency. I explained that a key to understanding co-dependency is that while one person does something destructive, the other person benefits in some way. Another key point is that the other person may be acting out of fear rather than love, and I gave some examples of what it would look like to cater to another person out of love or even patience. In these latter cases, I wouldn’t call the situation one of co-dependency. Finally, I wondered whether consistently putting oneself last is a sign that you are out of touch with yourself. If you are, then it is just easier to cater to someone else then to figure out what you want yourself. There’s another aspect to this question. Suppose two people are so dedicated to one another that they wouldn’t dream of making a plan to go to the movies or out to lunch without discussing it with the other person. Suppose this couple is so tied to one another that after they have grown old and one passes away, the other person’s world falls apart. Is that co-dependency? No. That is healthy. That is just as it should be. See, there’s something to love that goes beyond feeling for one another. It’s about wanting to give to one another. It’s about feeling connected and wanting to maintain that connection. It’s about caring for the well-being of another to the same degree as you care for yourself. And it’s also about balancing...

How To Get Your Needs Met When Someone’s Not Listening

In my last post, I defined co-dependency. The key ingredient in it is that the supposed “victim” gets something out of the spouse’s bad behavior. Today I want to look at it from a different angle. Above all, a marriage is meant to be a friendship. It cannot be a one-way street. If one person is indulging in something harmful and the other person either tries patiently to get the spouse to change, or allows the indulgence because of some reasonable reason (such as illness), I came to the conclusion that this does not constitute co-dependency. However, there is a catch. If the life of the couple centers around the person who is being indulged and the other person’s life has no quality and his or her needs are not being met, then there is cause for concern and cause to want to investigate further. Let’s take the case of Sally and Al that I brought up in the last post. She is not co-dependent as she is getting nothing out of Al’s drinking binges on weekends. She hates it and has been unsuccessfully trying to get him to change. She doesn’t want to leave the marriage because she loves him. She does not appear to be enabling him yet she is not putting strong enough obstacles in his way either. Her needs for love, attention, care, and friendship in the marriage are not met. It is at this point that a person whose needs are not being met must take a second look at how she is dealing with the problem. She has tried nagging and of course,...

Are You Codependent?

It’s always bad to put labels on people—especially yourself—just by looking at the outer behavior. For example, a person with a tremor could have a brain dysfunction, a motor problem, delirium from a life of drinking, or plain old fear. How can you know which it is by just looking at his hands shaking? Labeling oneself as “co-dependent” could be the same mistake. Let’s take a case and see how it plays out: Al has been an alcoholic and has managed for decades to hold down a job—and do a good job at it—in spite of his bingeing on weekends. Sally has repeatedly told him that he needs to quit because the bingeing has created a terrible cost in their marriage. When he’s drinking, he is not her friend because he’s simply not mentally “there” to talk to. He can’t watch the children or help them with their projects or drive them to their sports events. On the other hand, Al is a good person; he is supportive of his wife; he gets well paid. And Sally loves him. Is Sally co-dependent? What do you think Sally should do differently? To answer this question, what we really need to know is this: Is Sally’s behavior motivated by fear, love, or patience? And a second question is: What is Sally getting out of catering to her husband? It seems to me that Sally should not have to quit the marriage. She is trying to bring pressure on her husband to stop drinking but so far has been unsuccessful. Does her lack of success mean that she is co-dependent? I don’t...
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