What is Co-dependency?
Have you ever heard people talking about co-dependency and wondered if you are infact co-dependent? Have you ever asked yourself what is co-dependency? I have asked myself, and I have researched, and this is what I have found.
The actual definition from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia states that:
Codependency (or codependence, co-narcissism or inverted narcissism) is unhealthy love and a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. It also often involves placing a lower priority on one's own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including in families, at work, in friendships, and also in romantic, peer or community relationships. Codependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, or control patterns.Narcissists are considered to be natural magnets for the codependent.
When I first looked at this definition I was overwhelmed at the complexity. There are so many facets, which one do you contemplate first? I decided to break the definition into manageable parts, kind of disect it if you will, to help me decide if my personality fits into this definition. Unhealthy love and a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationiships and quality of life. I see the phrase overly passive and I automatically think of a person that lets someone else or maybe even everyone walk all over them. Hmmmm...I have definitely done this in relationships and I also do this with my children. Excessively caretaking, I understand this to mean caring for someone else to the point of neglecting yourself in order to do it. I definitely qualify, but what is really strange is that I am not an overly nurturing person, but I have pushed away my wants and needs to take care of others when I really should have said no and let someone else handle it. Here is an example: My ex-husband's girlfriend's dog. Already the sentence sounds strange and confusing. The setting: It is a cold, almost winter night, with power outages. Instead of the children going to my ex's place like they are supposed to I have them stay with me because I have power and my ex doesn't. My ex and his girlfriend are staying at thier friend's house to keep warm but can't take the girlfriend's dog with them. Guess who is asked to take the dog for the night and says yes? You guessed it - that would be me! I actually think my actions are kind, generous, understanding and I am happy with that. It makes me feel good to help others. The problem? My ex would never do this for me. In fact if I asked him he would probably laugh at me and even if he didn't laugh I really don't think he would go to any lengths for me at all. So...why do I do things like this? Am I just a really great person or am I co-dependent?
Neglecting one's own needs for another
It also often involves placing a lower priority on one's own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Again, neglecting oneself to take care of others needs or wants. Thinking that another person is more important then yourself. I could use the same example as the last story but there are so many more. Let's talk about my children. I have often changed or cancelled my plans when something comes along that my kids would like to do. At least in this instance I am putting the wants of my children who love me unconditionally before my own, however, they will still love me even if I put myself first. It can get very tiring when you don't ever put yourself first. Tired Moms are not very fun or very happy. It is also better for children to not get what they want all the time. It helps them deal with the real world which is not always fair.
Is Co-dependency hurting our society?
As I researched I realized part of my personality make-up is definitely co-dependent. I also realized that many people, family, friends, co-workers, also display co-dependent behaviors. It is slightly scary to see a world made up of such unhealthy behavior and I don't believe this problem is talked about enough. I read a very good article by Dorsi when I was about half way through writing mine called Codependency Treatment and Help For Co-Dependency and some of my article is very similar to hers. I almost stopped writing it but the subject was so important to me I decided to keep going. I also noted a comment by KCC Big Country in that article that spoke about the fact that codependency is highly UNDER- diagnosed. So true! I believe that co-dependecy is helping shape an unhealthy society. Especially with children. Trying to shield your children, putting them first, taking on their pain, is not teaching them about life. Instead parents are creating young adults who do not have manners, are disrespectful, feel entitled, and many times crash and burn once they are out on their own, come back home to mom and dad and stay for way too long. I see it all the time at the college where I work. I say I will never be that helicopter parent, but through my co-dependent behavior I have already started the process that will eventually lead to the above mentioned problems when my children become young adults. I do have to give credit though, to the many college students that I have met that dispell this thought process of mine. I see them and I am amazed at how wonderfully independent they are! But once upon a time this behavior was expected not praised with amazement.
In Simple Terms
Co-dependency is enabling unacceptable behavior in order to pacify the person who is causing disruption. Why? Because we are afraid of rejection, confrontation (something I really don't like), or maybe you are worried that a certain person won't like you anymore. Do you ever feel that you are walking on egg shells around someone to avoid upsetting them? If so, you are experiencing co-dependency. I have heard that once you realize that you suffer from co-dependency then, over time, you can change this learned behavior. I am hoping that this is true.