In my series on independence, I’ve covered what it means to be independent, are we really independent, now I address a more complex subject that is relevant but difficult in many points. At what point does dependency become co=dependency? Let’s try and define co-dependency, by it’s nature it’s tricky, simply put it’s when dependency has gone too far. Now before I go any further I want to say that co-dependency is necessary for some, but I’ll elaborate on that further later.
Co-dependency is mostly seen in abusive relationships or when someone has an addiction. The persons needs become damaging to the relationship, either way both sides of that relationship there are benefits. The roles of victim and saviour come to mind, the person playing the victim needs rescuing a saviour comes along to save them, the victim needs a saviour and the saviour needs someone to rescue, the saviour is drawn to people who are needy who they can help the victim simply suck the very life of the individual making demands, becoming manipulative, intimidating and controlling. The rescuer or saviour has a deep need to be needed and relishes helping that person but unfortunately does not help them become independent, they continue to allow them to need them. This link has a great blog post on the 10 signs of a Codependent relationship, she has put it in a much better way than I could have done. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17039/10-signs-youre-in-a-codependent-relationship.html
One thing she brings out though which is very valid is the role of fear in a relationship, if the relationship is based on fear or your needs are fear based that’s a strong warning sign all is not well. One thing worth pointing out is the rescuer is often afraid of letting go of the victim, they are afraid of what would happen if they “abandoned” the victim in their apparent neediness, this is particularly apparent where there is an addiction involved. I’ve heard different people talk about what they do to assist their relative who had a drug/alcohol dependency, they are often scared of letting go because they think that person will hurt/kill themselves, but never consider that actually that person may come to their senses in those circumstances, or someone else may come along who may not become their next rescuer, but be able to have the strength to say no to their co-dependency, which is often hard. Let me say I’ve been on both sides of the fence, thankfully the victim side a long time ago, I now don’t need anyone in a sense, and I don’t need to be needed either. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having needs as long as they don’t become demands or they breach healthy boundaries.
Now I come to the more tricky issue of those who are sick or disabled. By very nature they will be more dependent than the average person and may even become co-dependent because that sickness or disability has not happened to them by choice and coping mechanisms are not easy to learn. First to the person that has a sick or disabled family member or partner, don’t be afraid to ask for help when it all becomes overwhelming. If your starting to feel resentful that may be a sign you are either doing too much or examine why your doing something. I know from personal experience that a disabled person doesn’t want to deal with someone who feels resentful for helping you. But neither should the disabled person go without support if needed, here communication is necessary, if you feel you are doing too much for that person, tell them but don’t be brutal about it. For instance, If your constantly taking that person everywhere by car leaving little time for yourself just tell that person that your willing to help them but do they know anyone else who can help too, or even suggest someone you know who would be willing to help, most disabled people do not want to be a burden so sensitivity is crucial in these issues, equally to the person with a disability or sickness, be sensitive to people who help you, encourage the person assisting you the most to let you know if things are getting on top of them, and try and find others who can support you, don’t try and rely just on one person. be fair, be reasonable but above all respect that persons need for their own time. In this situation It would be rare that a sick/disabled person is deliberately taking advantage of your help, just communicate when you sense things are starting to get out of hand. Obviously bear in mind if someone has very severe sickness or disability they will be co-dependent for instance if they have Alzheimers, in those circumstances do not be afraid at getting professional help.
If you are in a relationship that is suffocating, give yourself some space and think about what is happening. Are you happier when your not in it? Are you the one squeezing the life out of the other person or is someone doing the same to you. If either is happening give yourself a break from that relationship or end it if you are in a position to do so, and get counselling or support.
In summary I would say
1 Have healthy boundaries in your relationships
2 Communicate when things are getting on top of you either way.
3 Seek help and counsel if things get difficult
4 Take a break if things are getting on top of you
5 Learn to say No to unreasonable expectations or demands
6 Recognise where there’s fear in your relationship
7 Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been on either side of the equation it’s possible to change.
In Part 4 of this series I will be covering the topic of Interdependence