Many codependent people find it difficult to be alone. They live in the constant fantasy that they need to be with someone (anyone) to feel ok about themselves. It is in this fantasy that they can best play out their codependent symptoms of trying to fix others.
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Many codependents feel lost after a relationship ends and are very likely to jump into another fairly quickly. As they tend to attract a certain type of partner (emotionally distant, abusive), one would have to speculate that hardly any processing has been done, meaning the baggage from the previous relationship is taken into a new venture. For a codependent, it mirrors their template brought into adulthood from interaction with primary caregivers.
Codependency, while not being officially recognized as a disorder, is clearly a massive problem. It carries no obvious symptoms when looked at from a medical basis and at best can be classed as a behavioral problem. I have advocated many times in posts that developmental trauma and parenting styles play a major role in the development of codependency. We are seeing the results today of generations of a family structure of an aloof, distant breadwinner type father coupled with a homemaker, overwhelmed mother, seen often in decades past. This is without factoring in alcoholism and breakups between the parents. Another factor that I believe has lead to the current situation is the lack of understanding our parents and grandparents had of how a child develops and how a parenting style needs to change as this happens. A “one style fits all” authoritarian household is likely to have been present in most of these cases.
This kind of background leaves a codependent Ill equipped to deal with relationships in the adult world. In effect, they are in child mode and repeating patterns of behavior learnt in childhood and it goes on and on. The main issue is the external point of reference that all codependents have. There is a real need to be validated from outside sources, leading to a chase with people who are not over-willing to give it.
The most crucial time for a codependent is just after a relationship finishes. The trauma that a codependent feels when they are confronted with being alone after being discarded can be considerable and can lead to bad decision-making. In therapy, crucial tools must be learnt and often learnt quickly. One of these tools has to be taking the time to move into the relationship functionally and not in a desperate manner.
One of the key aspects of codependency being played out is how relationships function. Codependents will be affected badly by the “lovebombing” early stages of a relationship and fall quite deeply. This sets them up for the inevitable disappointment that will follow as the relationship becomes more routine and in some cases abusive.
In therapy, it is often essential to promote no contact after a relationship ends. This is done to protect the codependent while they are recovering and avoiding the fact that they might become supply for a self-centered ex. It is also important to teach skills that allow a codependent to slowly move through the early stages of the relationship and recognize so- called “red flags” that might indicate trouble to come. Along side the deep work needed to counter the cause of codependency, it is always useful to define relationship values. That means simply how one wishes to be treated and what is a dealbreaker, which of course is different for everyone.
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Time is essential in any kind of relationship. It is often a shame that it gets used only after a relationship has broken down.
May I also take this opportunity to say: Thank you Dr Jenner for being a “constant” and for you’re loyalty to myself and many others in a very temporary and uncertain world.
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