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Codependency Is Not Love

"If you're okay, I'm okay." Or, "If you're not okay, I'm not okay."

Sounds like a line from a Hollywood romcom, doesn't it? Sometimes we glorify codependency as a way to show others how much we care about them, that we're their ride or die. To some of us, codependency feels duty, or loyalty, or love.

But codependency isn't love. It's not actually even a way of taking care of another person. Not really. It's true that if we love someone we don't want to see them suffer. But codependency makes us unable to bear to see someone we love suffer, not because of them, but because deep down it makes us feel unsafe. Or guilty. Or anxious. You can fill in the blank with any other negative emotion that you want to avoid.

Codependency at its core is a way to manage your own negative feelings by manipulating the circumstances of another person's life. For example, rather than deal with the anxiety you feel about losing a friend, you bend over backward to make sure your friends never leave you--saying yes to everything, avoiding conflict, even adapting your personality to what you think they'd like. The end result is often internal bitterness and resentment because you've trespassed your own boundaries repeatedly.

Most of us become codependent because of factors we can't control: growing up with an alcoholic or drug abusing parent, an enmeshed family, explosive anger or unpredictability in our caretaker. As children we learned to adapt ourselves, keep our heads down, and scan for threats. Any threat to the harmony of home is a threat to a child's internal security, so often children learn to comfort parents or make peace at home to keep their own worlds together. It's something a child should never have to do but it happens all too often.

Many of us don't even know we're codependent because we're praised for our "maturity" or peacekeeping abilities by the very adults that should have been protecting us. It's not until later when we deal with resentment, guilt, and an inability to say no that we realize something might be off.

If this sounds like you, you're not alone. Let's work together to learn healthy boundaries and live free from codependency.

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