Being in a Codependent Relationship Means Being Out of Balance

5898568315_71cbc3634a_zI believe the main problem in all relationships is sharing the power in the relationship. When I am with someone I trust and adore, there is no conflict. No boss—no struggle—no control. I am including here some ideas about this from other writers.

1.  From Darlene Lancer: “Codependency or Interpendency? What’s the Difference?”:

Codependent couples are usually out-of-balance. Frequently, there are struggles for power and control. There may be an imbalance of power or one partner has taken on responsibilities for the other. They’re often anxious and resentful and feel guilty and responsible for their partner’s feelings and moods. Then they try to control one another to feel okay and get their needs met. Rather than respect each other’s separateness and individuality, they can’t tolerate disagreement and blame one another for causing their problems without taking responsibility for themselves. Sometimes, what they dislike in their partner is the very thing they can’t accept in themselves. Despite their pain, they can feel trapped in the relationship because they fear that they can function on their own. Their mutual codependency and insecurity also make intimacy threatening, since being honest and known risks rejection or dissolution of their fragile self.

Like the Aspen trees, on the surface each may appear to be physically, and even mentally and emotionally, independent, yet, at an unconscious level, they’re two insecure adults dependent upon each other to express a whole. For instance, a woman who has trouble expressing anger marries an angry man who expresses it for her. Or a man who is extremely closed and shy marries a woman who’s emotionally open and gregarious. They need each other to express their full humanity. In other cases, it’s more obvious that one partner needs the other for emotional stability, as in the case of alcoholic relationships. Financial dependence doesn’t necessarily create codependence, where the dependent partner has good self-esteem and emotional support outside the marriage.  Even spouses who appear more capable and stronger may be equally dependent on the relationship. They need someone to care for in order to feel needed, worthwhile, and not alone, while their other partner feels valued by receiving.

2.  From Steve Hauptman: “The Split-level relationship”:

Most came from families — alcoholic, abusive or otherwise dysfunctional — unable to teach them to balance connection with freedom.

What they learned instead was that having one meant losing the other.  That winning love and approval from parents, for example, meant sacrificing important parts of themselves, like the freedom to express feelings or take care of their own needs.

The family that raised us is where each of us learned our own personal answer to the two questions. And the answer we learned grew into a crucial (though mostly unconscious) part of our basic view of life and relationships, what I call our Plan A. 

Some of us decide, “Since I can’t have both, I’ll have me, and to hell with you.”  Shrinks call this the narcissistic answer.

Others decide, “Since I can’t have both, I’ll have you, and to hell with me.” This is the infamous codependent answer.

So the narcissistic partner says “Me first,” and the codependent replies, “Yes, dear.”

And the two personality types end up together with stunning regularity.  (Remember Archie and Edith Bunker?)

Watching such couples interact, one is struck by their predictability.  In every situation the narcissist finds some way to say “Me first,” and the codependent to reply “Yes, dear.”  It’s as if long ago they sat down and signed a contract.

Which in a way they did.

Their complementary answers to the two questions probably account, in large part, for why they felt attracted to each other.

In any case, the vast majority of couples I see for couples counseling follow this pattern — so many that I felt the need to give them their own name.

I call them split-level relationships.

3.  From Christina Parodi: ”I’ve changed, yet I still relapse”:

I had a date yesterday with a very nice, good looking, successful, spiritual man. An all around super sweet, good person. But there was no chemistry. There might have been, and maybe there will become, but for yesterday his behavior was utterly frustrating to me. He was uncommunicative, hardly speaking, timid, shy, introverted and apologized more than once, making me feel he had no self anything. It was painful for me. It was unlike the nice conversation we had the day before on the phone. So that leads me to believe that perhaps he is inexperienced with dating after a long marriage, or just intensely shy with women and needs times to feel secure. Whatever the reason, the outcome was very uncomfortable and disappointing.

As I was driving home I come literally feel a depression coming on. It grew through the evening and this morning it has totally taken me over. This date has tripped that button within me that sets off a 5 alarm fire of insecurity, codependent neediness and feelings of intense dependency. The typical nasty thoughts of how I hate dating, I will never fall in love with a good man, I will be alone and I CAN’T be alone…blah blah blah. The tapes of my childhood dysfunction.

I “know” this is not fact, I “know” this isn’t real but when it FEELS real, the mind will convince me that it IS real. I started thinking about *him*. The most recent person who I loved. And how I should call *him*. We can just substitute the word *him* for the word *alcohol* and you can see it’s my addiction talking. I want to go back to the sense of ease and comfort. But, intellectually I know *he* stopped giving me that sense of ease and comfort a long time ago. So I made the intellectual choice to not contact him. But the thought is/was still there. Relapse thinking at it’s worse.

So, I’ve thrown into action all my tools to gee through this. I’ve reached out, prayed, meditated, read my spiritual teachings, reminding myself that this is my pain body” from my youth speaking and I must shine the light of awareness on it to expose it for the fraud that it is. It’s disease thinking, it will pass and I am free. I AM free.

Photo credit.


4 thoughts on “Being in a Codependent Relationship Means Being Out of Balance

  1. Pingback: The best of ‘what I see’ for 12/17/2012 « What I see, what I feel, what I'd like to see…

  2. Being in a codependent relationship means there’s always some third thing keeping you from confronting each other. I guess sometimes that third thing is the relationship itself.

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