The Ongoing Battle for Healthy Relationships
Since the late Eighties, we have become familiar with the concept of codependence. Of course, this idea was born from generation X’ers in viewing our giving, doing and putting-others-first-natures in comparison to the self-centered, I want to make millions, I’m number one decade of the “me” generation. The pendulum swings both ways. If you are unfamiliar, codependence is more than simply being overly dependent on someone else. It is an abandonment of the self in favor of fixing someone else’s problems.
Children observe their parents and make choices about what ways of being they will adopt or reject. Much of this is done on an unconscious level, which is why it can be so difficult to change our habits and beliefs. My father was an alcoholic. As teenagers, my brother and I once had a conversation during which he adamantly stated he was NOT going to be like Dad. Many years later, my brother and his wife struggled with his alcoholism and drug addiction. In this same conversation, I expressed a desire to NOT be like Mom. One day at home with my two young daughters I was horrified to hear my mother come out of my mouth when I yelled at them for coloring on the living room wall. I am also a recovering alcoholic.
I’ve spent many years in therapy, self-help, and twelve-step groups. I know a lot about codependence and what NOT to do. Yet I found myself recently devastated by a marriage that had become toxic and my own behaviors that had contributed to the downward spiral.
Ross Rosenberg, Author of The Human Magnet Syndrome, describes codependence this way: “Codependency is a problematic relationship orientation that involves the relinquishing of power and control to individuals who are either addicted or who are pathologically narcissistic. Codependents are habitually attracted to people who neither seem interested nor motivated to participate in mutual or reciprocal relationships. Hence, the partners of codependents are often egotistical, self-centered, and/or selfish. Typically, codependents feel unfulfilled, disrespected, and undervalued by their relationship partner. As much as they resent and complain about the inequity in their relationships, codependents feel powerless to change them.”