Watch Those Codependent Urges And Take It Slow

Many codependents that I deal with like to talk about narcissism because it generally plays a big role in their lives. As people who will generally attract the odious, they generally have had to cope with the worst excesses of this type of behavior. Many stay in relationships with this personality type for many years before “realising” and becoming aware. Then there is usually a mad scramble fueled by friends, therapists and social media to get away as soon as possible and enforce “no contact”, the unwritten rule for dealing with such people.  A quick search on the internet will give you thousands of pages written by people who have been in such relationships and are advising others. Good. While I would fully agree with this concept for abuse cases, it is not always as clear-cut as it might seem and a lot of this advice is based on the writers own autobiography and so, individual to them alone. Codependency is a lot about losing an identity in another person and controlling the environment to feel secure. It is easy to say…”he or she is a narcissist” as a cure for all ills.

When going “no contact”, the danger could be that we use this time to essentially point fingers and blame. We are saying to ourselves “I am a victim”, ” He or she did this to me”. By doing this and placing the emphasis on this or that relationship, we are missing the main point. That codependents need to take responsibility for their own set of behavioral problems. Now, hopefully that should and will come during no contact but I wonder how many are just using this time to swap one incompatible partner for the next one? Being a codependent myself and having worked through the issues, I can manage the occasional setback I have. I did the work (hard as it was) and learnt by painful doing. I realized that the biggest factor in codependency was not the self-centered people i got involved with but my own issues that attracted them and left me bereft of making the right choices. Of course, much of this was rescuing, fixing and controlling on my part and not until I really worked on what I could do to stop that did I really move on. I realized that these people were a symptom, not the cause.

Codependency is not about others it is about YOU, yes you, taking responsibility for aspects of your behavior that leave you exposed to being taken advantage of. Realise it, become aware, work on it and change it. Simple. The cause is obvious. Your codependency started in childhood when you couldn’t reason or control the powerful critical and protective voices that became part of your personality as an adult. That is a reason but no excuse for not changing it as an aware, self-conscious adult. In my experience the following are factors that need to be worked on in effective treatment. I am sure codependents here will recognize this.

  1. Self care. An alien concept for codependents. Why do you need to look after yourself when you are looking after the world and it feels good? Except it won’t when it all comes crashing down and you are left alone.
  2. Care-taking.  Martyrdom, sacrifice may make you look an angel in front of your friends and family but what about those feelings of anger, victimhood and resentment when you don’t get the return you want or expect?
  3. Lack of Boundary Setting. Yes, you were never taught but you can learn. Yes, it is easier to keep quiet and say “yes” instead of “no”. To convince yourself that you cannot do it but any loving relationship needs boundaries. Period.
  4. Enabling/controlling. How many times do you complain about others behavior and do nothing about it but enable that behavior at the next possible point? How often do you and your friends sit and talk about how bad you have it but then you all go back to the same? How often do you lie to your therapist that you TRULY want change when the truth is that you are actually quite happy on the path of fixing, rescuing and enabling? Until, of course, you get left alone, as inevitably happens.

So let’s forget about the odious and concentrate on what really matters. The only place that you can influence. Your thoughts, behavior and what you need to do to move forward!

I deal with many clients who have real problems understanding how relationships work. Even with experience, they often make the same mistakes over and over again.

Being involved romantically with another human being is to use a famous quote “the best and worst of times”. We proclaim our love, often far too quickly, and make irrational decisions “in the name of love” that we probably would not in any other area of our lives. Being and falling in love (There is a difference) is one of the best feelings one can experience. We believe we can take on the world and our own world is in order. Though when it goes wrong, things swing quickly in the other direction. Such is this thing called love.

We would all love to stay in that heady world that we experience in the dawn of a new relationship. That time when there is full attention emotionally and physically on and from the other person, creating an image and projecting this out as if the two people involved are the only couple in the world! There is no gauge as to how long this lasts but eventually it will change and the relationship will become more routine in nature. This is the time when many people have difficulty adjusting to the realistic image of the person they are now confronted with. It does not need to be negative but it is different. Maybe for the first time, flaws and imperfections are noticed and the initial romance takes on a more realistic nature.

How we deal with this new image will generally determine how long the relationship will last or if it will indeed last. But to be able to move forward with someone with all their faults and imperfections and to have your own accepted is the greatest feeling of all.

I have always liked the following in terms of love: “Love isn’t a noun or a feeling, it is a verb and an action. It’s a constant choice”. It takes hard work and full commitment with the realisation that things will change as the relationship develops. If love truly is a verb, there is no “too late” to start doing what you have to. Although feelings will accompany love, and although sex will be a part of that, a lasting, healthy relationship cannot be based on these things. Although real love is often accompanied by strong feelings, love does not equate with the sense of floating on clouds. Unlike the type of love that movies, television, and songs portray, people in love do not always feel gooey or comfortable around each other, and in fact, sometimes dislike each other.

A relationship would not last long on emotions. As a good example, Stephen Covey cites an encounter with a client in his excellent book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. A client asks him what he should do about his marriage. He says that he has tried everything and that there is no love left between him and his wife. The client asked Covey what he should do about his wife and kids. “Have you tried loving her?” asks Covey. “I’ve told you, there’s no love anymore,” says the client. Covey reiterates, “But have you tried loving her?” The client begins to get slightly angry before Covey goes on to explain: “Love is a verb, it is an action. You must do things for her, listen to her, be there for her. It’s not about what happens in return but what you do to love her.” In fact, knowledge is the basis of a healthy relationship and can be seen as the basis of true love. Knowing about the person’s personality and character is very important. This gives us an idea how they will tick in given situations. How many of us take the time to gather this? This knowledge, of course, can only be gained over a period of time and with the experience of being with that person in different situations, good and bad. Love is a choice. It is a commitment. In the world we live in, it is very easy to throw “love” away, thinking that the next partner is just around the corner. It is easy to throw away something seemingly substantial based on assumption and lack of communication.

True love transcends this… People who truly love each other will see the relationship as something long-lasting and will see difficulties as a way of making the union stronger. The following quote sums it up perfectly:
“Love is a verb. It’s an action requiring your involvement and your active participation. You cannot sit back and expect the world will serve it to you. You cannot expect that your relationship will continue to provide love while you’re not putting in any effort. Love has to be earned and must be continually fought for.” Stephen Covey.

No-one else can tell you the signs of true love. When someone says “I want true love”, only they can know precisely what that means to them. It will be different for each and every one of us but the basics are the same: it is not about dominating, taking and demanding; it is about caring, sharing, nurturing and giving. I always relate to my clients that the basis of a relationship is based on four pillars: Trust, Honesty, Respect but above all Mutual Benefit.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.

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