Codependency in Relationships

I've found that I often tended to describe myself as the "Mother Teresa", I've-got-to-save-the-world, pick-up-poor-little-puppies type, and one day I just got a little fed up with myself and started to question: Why?

Why did I see myself that way, and act that way, and charge hither and thither about in life with that kind of attitude?

Codependency Loneliness

Well, here is my take on that subject.

What really bugs me about codependency in relationships, is that these are relationships where people are giving up their own power, and refusing to assume the responsibility for their own acts and decisions. Or they are encouraging another person to do this, denying that person the opportunity to face the consequences of their own acts and decisions and therefore to learn from their mistakes and grow as people, as human beings.

So, what is codependency in relationships, and how do people end up in these situations?

I can understand why people get trapped in codependency and codependent relationships. I can understand where they are coming from.

However, I don't consider that a strong enough excuse to justify renouncing your power, and refusing to take care of yourself.

I can understand that it takes courage, and maybe a strong external support system, to put your life back together and learn to stand up for yourself and take care of your own interests, without feeling guilty about it.

All Human Beings Deserve Respect – And You Do, Too

It is hard to give up on a person that you love and care about, and acknowledge that as long as that person has no interest in or intention of changing themselves, becoming a better person who treats you with the respect and dignity that you, as a human being, deserve, it isn't possible to share a happy, healthy, fulfilling and beneficial relationship with that person.

But it is necessary to do something about that relationship, and about yourself, who is after all the one who got yourself willingly into this relationship to begin with.

Or do you want to be beaten, trampled upon, battered, subdued, dominated, lorded over, denigrated and subjugated for the rest of your life?

I may sound harsh, but I feel that, if you are in this type of relationship, it is time for you to wake up!

Time to Wake Up

So, what are the signs and symptoms of codependency in relationships that you should be looking out for?

Signs and Symptoms of Codependency in Relationships

Well, obviously, as these are truly unhealthy ways to relate to other people, one of the main signs is that you feel unhappy! You feel tormented, trapped, like you can’t live with this person but you also can’t live without him.

There’s no respect (or not much of it) in a relationship with codependency. It’s more like a hunter-and-needy person sort of thing. You might feel coerced in such a relationship, or as if the other person is taking away or restricting your freedom.

You might find yourself often describing your partner as “bossy”. If other people say negative things about your partner, you might find yourself getting defensive and justifying behaviours that, in reality, are NOT in the least bit JUSTIFIABLE or condonable.

Such behaviours might include things like, as I said before, not letting you have much freedom, counting how much time you spend away from him (or her) or outside your home, investigating into who you see, who you spend time with, who you talk to on the phone, etc.

Your partner might take your money away from you or limit the amount of money that you can have, even if you earn your own income. S/he might try and keep you from having contact with your family and friends. S/he might not want you to do things alone or with other people anymore, and might insist that you spend all your time with him!

Now, although all of these actions are obviously abusive, what makes it a codependent relationship, is the way that you feel about it.

Do you feel like you want to get away, but you can’t, because you feel guilty, or you think no one will ever want to be with you again because you’re not good enough for anyone else?

Are you, maybe, afraid that if you leave your partner, s/he will never ever ever be able to climb out of the deep hole that s/he’s in? Do you think that if you leave, and something bad happens to him, it will be all your fault?

False And Hollow Love

Once I may have felt pity for a person living in an abusive situation or putting up with codependency in his relationships, but I have seen too many unique, valuable and worthy people full of talent and love throw their lives away in the name of a love that is only false and hollow, and isn't real.

Their lives came to nothing, and they made nothing of themselves. They kept all their gifts to themselves, didn't do anything to help the world become a better place and even worse, they refused to heal themselves.

Now, I realize that what we do with our lives is our own choice. And if we want to throw our lives away, that is okay. If you do not accomplish in this lifetime what you had planned on doing, you will come back.

The Creator's patience is infinite (unlike the patience of human beings, like me!) and he will let you return again and again and again, as long and as many times as it takes, for you to learn your lessons and accomplish your goals and purposes.

But why subject yourself to the agony of, say, twenty more lifetimes on earth trying to learn the same lesson over and over and over again, when you can get it TODAY??

The Rescuer Type

Rescuer Types tend to go with codependent relationships like butter with bread. These types of people tend to get themselves intricated into codependency and dysfunctional relationships over and over and over again.

You might see this type referred to in codependency relationships as the “enabler”. The obvious reason, is that this is the partner who is enabling, or making possible, codependency and abuse in the relationship.

For as they say, no one can kick you around if you don’t let them first.

So now, the solution?

Well, it's not all that easy. But Rescuer Type behaviours, beliefs and attitudes are like addictions and just like addictions, they need to be overcome slowly and with a great deal of professional help.

The first step, as happens with any addiction, is that the Rescuer Type must recognize that s/he IS a rescuer type at all, and that rescuing tendencies are not healthy and need to be healed!

This isn’t easy, but think of the rewards: no more codependency in your life and loving relationships that nourish you instead, and help you to become the best person that you can be. Greater freedom, greater strength in yourself and, of course, the wonderful, empowering feeling of being able to say: I AM FREE TO BE AND DO WHATEVER I WANT!

Remember when you were a toddler and you learnt how to do something for yourself, like dress yourself or stack up the blocks all by yourself? Remember how great that felt?

“Look, Mama, I can do this all by myself!”

Once the Rescuer accomplishes this, this is already half the battle won – the easy half!

Afterwards comes the long and arduous process of becoming aware of the different kinds of thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that comprise rescuing behaviour, and trying to change these attitudes.

This isn't easy to do, but a habit of spiritual journaling is certain to help along the way, by bringing automatic, self-sabotaging thoughts out into the forefront and into awareness. After all, if you aren't aware that you are thinking or doing something, you won't be able to change it!

And isn’t it worth it, to be able to kick the codependency habit to the curb – forever?

Is It My Fault I'm A Rescuer?

The whole process is usually quite long and beyond the scope of this website. It requires the help of a trained professional. Someone who can be there with you, by your side, supporting you and advising you along the way as you bump into difficulties, or meet up with things about yourself that you don't understand.

Many counsellors specialize in codependency or in treating people who find themselves in abusive situations, and it could be well worth the bother to at least look into the possibility of working with such a counsellor.

However, it might be helpful to note that, rescuers are made, not born!

In other words, you were not born a rescuer type.

The typical scenario is usually that of...... you guessed it! Rescuer Types, like most other types, are usually formed in childhood.

And I guess you would be quite safe to suppose that Rescuer Types were probably required or obligated to "rescue" someone when they were young, usually a dysfunctional loved one.

Now, when I say that a person is "dysfunctional", I don't mean that the person is a villain, a "bad" person, low life, sadistic or any other such terms that might spring to mind. Dysfunctional people are usually themselves the victims of some other dysfunctional person. And they learnt to survive the only way that they could. But more on that later.

Of course, if it just so happens that the Rescuer Type is also a psychic empath, that can really make life a mess!

Because then we would be dealing with someone who not only was required to "rescue" someone beloved, but in addition, the rescuer could probably feel all the pain of the “rescuee”. Which would only augment the sensation of feeling like you really HAD TO do something to help said rescuee get out of pain.

The Accusing Type, Accusing in Order to Survive

The Accuser Type is usually the other half of a codependent relationship. (Of course, I would recommend the caveat that you take everything that I say here with a grain of salt. There are probably a million different types of unique relationships in the world, so we can't really over-generalize about them all. So I am merely talking about the majority, and the ones that I have observed the most for myself.)

Just as you can’t have codependency without a “willing victim”, so you also can’t have a relationship plagued with codependency if there isn’t another person around with strong desires to prey upon the willing “victim”, to twist that victim around his finger, manipulate them and exploit their weaknesses.

These people also tend to be masters at emotional blackmail. Thus, you shouldn’t be surprised if you find the Accuser trying to make the Rescuer feel like the Accuser is the victim! And in truth, most Accusers really do believe that they are victims, and that the Rescuer is the one who is really using them.

But if someone stole your wallet or purse, would you then call yourself the thief? Just who stole from who, exactly? Did you steal from the thief?

So then, why would you let your Accuser make you believe that YOU are the one doing all the abusing, when it is obvious that it is S/HE who is actually pushing YOU around?

Accuser Types might seem like aggressive, belligerent bullies, and we won't deny that in their character, there is probably a tendency towards aggressive behaviour, or an instinct to lash out when under pressure, rather than to fold inwards, hide and protect oneself.

But once again, we are usually talking about someone who was bred, not born.

How Are Accusers Made?

Of course we may take two children and subject both of them to the same, dysfunctional childhood, and perhaps only one of them will end up as the Accusing Type. And it is true that a part of this is probably due to natural characters and inborn tendencies.

However, if we took a child with a naturally aggressive character and raised him in a loving and supportive home where a proper and moderate amount of discipline is also practised, chances are, this aggressive child would find productive, beneficial ways to channel all that energy as he grows up.

So, in the end, what I said before. That Accusing Types usually became that way as the best means that they could find in order to deal with a bewildering, precarious, dangerous and incomprehensible home or school (or other place where the child spent a lot of time) environment.

Sometimes, Accusing Types become that way because an abusive loved one would enlist the complicity of the child. Perhaps the child felt under the gun: either I support and encourage loved one as s/he abuses other family members, or I become the abused one.

Well, what would you do, if faced with this dilemma?

A more empathic type would probably prefer to suffer and receive pain rather than cause pain (and thus turn into a Rescuer Type). However, not all people are born with psychic empathy. This is not something that you can control.

So, the majority of people, not being psychic empaths, would probably choose to join forces with the abusive loved one and abuse others, rather than receive all that pain themselves. A pure question of survival.

And then there is also that shot of feel-good adrenalin that bursts through us, when our abusive loved one smiles benignly down at us and tells us how well we are doing, and that we are finally learning our lesson, or in general in some way demonstrates his proud approval of us, when we join him in the abuse.

So there you have it, Rescuer Type and Accuser Type, the explosive cocktail, the heads and tails that make up codependency in a relationship.

That Major "S" Word Once Again: Self-Esteem

The Rescuer Type was probably never taught to value himself and raise his self-esteem, while the Accuser Type is just a scared child inside, still needing to be rescued from some tragic past. So he looks to the Rescuer for that salvation. And when the Rescuer disappoints, as will inevitably happen someday, because no one is perfect and because Accuser Type usually has unreasonable and perhaps unachievable demands and expectations, then Accuser explodes, and takes it out on Rescuer, the same way s/he had learnt to deal with these frustrating situations as a child.

So, is there no hope for a codependent relationship? To live a wonderful life where codependency is no more?

Well, as I mentioned before, that is a task for the professionally qualified.

However, in general, although it may be very painful, difficult and extenuating, generally Rescuer Types are more open to seeking a cure and a way out. They want the pain to stop, after all. There is only so much pain that you can suffer before you say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Accusers are less likely to seek help or admit that there is any problem, because they tend to be more oblivious to their pain. They feel no obvious pain and therefore lack the incentive to seek help or healing.

Of course, it is true, when they are arguing and fighting with their partner, they feel pain. But that pain is short-lived, since Accuser usually wins the battle.

And if Rescuer actually succeeds in arming himself with valour someday and walking out on the relationship, well, sure, Accuser feels some pain. But s/he will usually sublimate that pain by venting his rage on his ex-partner. And that will make the pain go away and make Accuser feel better.

A simplistic view of the dynamics of a codependency pattern? Perhaps. But then, this is actually a very complex subject, and whole tomes have been written about it and even so chances are not all aspects of this theme would be covered in an entire book.

Dry Withered Sere

So here on this website, the only thing I can offer is a brief summary and overview.

End This Cycle Now!

If you feel or suspect that you are involved in such a dynamic (ie. you are in a codependent relationship, or you recognize strong codependency tendencies in yourself, or you find yourself addicted to codependency in your relationships and you’d like to get out but you feel like you can’t), if you see yourself or identify with one or the other type described here, then I very strongly urge you to get professional help.

Make an appointment with a psychologist. Or go to a counselling session, even if it is a group session. Get yourself into some form of therapy with a qualified professional. Or find a 12-step program aimed at abusive, dysfunctional or codependent relationships in your part of the world, if they exist.

Once I met the most wonderful professional, a really profound psychologist and counsellor, and he described for me in great depth the dynamics of the cycle of abuse, in a way that made it most clear even to someone like me who was most in love with an abusive person at that time, and therefore didn't really see him with objective eyes. Perhaps one day I will share this magnificent person's knowledge with you here on this website, as it is really life-changing and something that everyone living in an abusive relationship, or who suspects that they have codependency behaviour, ought to know about.

It's Time to Rescue Someone: Yourself!

Okay, codependent Rescuer Type. Do you still need someone to rescue? A lost cause, a mission, to make your life feel worthwhile and appease your sense of guilt and your need to be needed? Well, then, it's time you rescued someone else, the most important person in your life: YOU!

Leave your Accuser Type partner there, it's high time s/he picked up after himself and looked after himself. Yes, s/he needs help, just like you do, but it's not YOUR duty to rescue him. At some point in his evolution, he has to learn how to rescue himself, too.

Just as YOU also have to learn how to rescue – YOURSELF!

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