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Can a co-dependent relationship become healthy again? How?

Updated on February 16, 2008


Co-dependence is an equal opportunity disease. Individuals, couples, and families are affected. Even large and small organizations can be drawn into a codependent situation. It is found in Churches, hospitals, schools, and for-profit business, such as car dealerships and banks.Counselors and social workers are over-represented in the helping professions. Almost 80% came from families that were undifferentiated, alcoholic,fundamental in some way, or anti-intellectual. Rules were arbitrarily applied and sanctions often far out of proportion to the miscreant behavior. Families report constant jockeying for power among members. They seem unsuccessful gaining attention from mom and dad, except that slaps and blows are applied to selected family members and shouting replaces normal conversation.

Couples seem to experience these kinds of things, except where kids assume roles in the family such as clown( youngest child), scapegoat(middle-child),and family arbiter or take charge kid(eldest). A couple may insert their family of origin into the situation to maintain the family homeostasis . If the LET ME HAVE EVERYONES ATTENTION person quits the role through therapeutic intervention, it will cause the family dynamics to shift so that the original family dynamic is retrieved(one of the middle kids gets drunk, steals from the company and gambles,someone will be the scapegoat, the enabler, clown or the quiet one. It seems to depend on birth position in the family but members can change roles and the family not be out of balance. Each member takes on a role to keep everything looking normal.

What is missing is a sense of hope or enthusiasm that things can and will change. Couples may go to church every Sunday and miss the point entirely. There is no sense of what is normal. Boundaries blur. There is little in the way of the family pulling together, So it is that secrets, though unspoken, become the central focus. Everyone knows but no one talks, thus giving the secret even more power. Another unspoken rule is perfection, whatever else is happening, all must appear perfect. Perfect grades, appearances, perfect on the job, all to make everything appear normal.

If anyone in the system changes for an extended period, the remaining members who do not experience some intervention, such as counseling, the prognosis is extremely guarded. A couple, for example, is under a lot of pressure. One partner is addicted to gambling , while the other is addicted to "helping" the other. Covering up shortages from the checking account and not showing up for work. They fight for hours and were supposed to be married but keep putting it off for lack of money; The gambler, John has hit Sarah,but she covers up for him and blames herself.

Finally,Sarah discovered the house would be lot in foreclosure. John had not made the payments though Sarah gave him half her wages to cover the mortgage. Crushed, she took a friend's advise from work and went with her to a gamblers anonymous meeting. There she discovered her codependency and from that point on decided to change her behavior no matter what John did with himself.

Sarah changed,discovered a higher power, and became active in the meetings. She discovered many who are just like her. She enjoyed working on problems with others experiencing similar codependency dysfunction. John resisted and moved away but after an arrest for stealing from employers,, he reluctantly agreed to attend GA,Gamblers anonymous. He made several unsuccessful attempts to get Sarah back, insisting he was "cured."

Sarah resisted, securing the help of other GA members to expose John. He finally realized he was caught and became dedicated to helping others. He became a spiritual signpost in the community, though he never tried to get Sarah back, they did become good friends and were looked up to by others experiencing codependency issues.


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