Evelyn and Jason dated for 4 years, lived together for last 2.5, and were recently engaged to be married. For the last several years, anytime Jason went out of town (as he often did for work), Evelyn had the tendency to become incredibly anxious and worry that Jason is cheating on her. Evelyn “requires” Jason to check-in with her every hour by text or a phone call so that she can trust that he isn’t “getting into any trouble.” Jason is agitated about this request and feels like he’s being controlled, but he refuses to talk to Evelyn about any of it directly. He had a history of being a bit of a “bad” boy and would verbally lash out about other things instead. Why couldn’t the two of them talk about this?
Rhonda and James have been married for 16 years and their relationship resembles more of a parent-child dynamic than one of being partners. Rhonda does everything for James from cooking, cleaning, being the primary bread-winner, and also making sure he is on time for all of this meetings and appointments. Rhonda is frustrated and says she wants things to change, but never does anything about it. James says that he doesn’t see a problem and thinks that everything is fine. James was diagnosed with a chronic illness 12 years ago and believes he is doing all that he can. When Rhonda’s friends have confronted her about the relationship with James she becomes very angry and cuts them off.
Patrick has never had a long-term relationship and tends to only date women he isn’t really interested in. He was told by a past therapist that he has “attachment issues” so he stopped going for fear he’d have to talk about his childhood. Growing up Patrick’s mom would ridicule him for how short he was and was very passive aggressive when he would go play with his friends down the street. She told him that he was abandoning her and wasn’t a good son. She’d then turn around and wait on him left and right.
Mike has been abusing alcohol for the past 3 years, but refuses to seek any help. Anytime he gets into trouble his best friend, Jane, always bails him out. Jane has been in love with Mike for years, but never made her attraction known. Instead she enables his alcohol abuse hoping that it will keep him safe and that someday he’ll realize how much he needs her because of all she’s done for him.
What is Co-Dependence?
People looking for Co-dependence counseling in Nashville have a number of common characteristics, and co-dependence can take on many forms. The essence of a co-dependent relationship is one that is based on the enabling of negative behaviors and/or a pattern of emotional abuse that is normalized. In the examples above there are several ways co-dependency may manifest including a severe lack of trust and controlling behaviors, extreme caretaking, fear of intimacy, and enabling from low self-esteem.
Where does Co-Dependence come from?
Being co-dependent doesn’t make someone a bad person, it just means that the person is engaged in destructive patterns they actually believe to be helpful or necessary — and that’s why it can be so tricky. Our understanding of relationships and how we form attachments comes from our families and what was modeled for us from an early age. Each family has a set of “unspoken rules” that are learned and taught regarding how to act, show love, and how to care for yourself and other people. That is why co-dependency is often passed down from one generation to the next, unless professional help is utilized to break the cycle.
There are 4 qualities that often characterize a co-dependent individual or family.
- Ailment – This is when a family member has an incurable illness or chronic physical impairment such as bi-polar disorder, kidney transplant, or cognitive disability
- Absence – When someone important in the family, say the father or mother, has not been present during certain periods of time or has been absent all together
- Addiction – Someone in the family struggles with alcohol or drug abuse
- Abuse – Someone in the family has been abusive and/or other family members have experienced abuse. The abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional, or mental.
Am I in a Co-Dependent Relationship?
Every relationship has its ups and downs. Just because there are moments where you are passive aggressive or avoiding a discussion doesn’t necessarily mean you are co-dependent. Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to some of these then you might want to consider seeking professional help to support you toward developing healthier, more stable relationships with people.
- Do you try to avoid arguments at all costs?
- Are you living with someone who has a drug or alcohol problem?
- Are you living with someone who is physically abusive?
- Are you belittled or made fun of regularly in the relationship?
- Do you feel rejected or abandoned with your significant other spends time with other people?
- Do you have uncontrollable jealousy around your significant other?
- Would someone in your life “go downhill” if you weren’t there to care-take for them?
- Do you struggle to say no when asked to do something and/or struggle to ask for help yourself?
If you answered yes to several of these and if you are feeling dissatisfied with your relationships then you might consider seeking the support of a skilled therapist Co-Dependence counseling in Nashville.
I think I’m Co-Dependent. Now What?
- Know the pain is real – If you identify as someone who is co-dependent then you probably also identify as someone who has experienced a great deal of emotional pain. Know that even if your partner, family members, or friends don’t agree that you’ve been mistreated doesn’t mean your pain or victimization isn’t true. Many times in co-dependent relationships the pain that the co-dependency is causing is denied, but this doesn’t make it any less real.
- It’s complicated, but not untreatable – All relationships come with some level of complexity, but co-dependent relationships have added challenges. Know that if you’ve been victimized you are not at fault and that there is help for you. Working with a skilled therapist can help you to understand and make better sense of your experience.
- Stop trying to figure it out in your head – As we said above, one of the most vexing parts of co-dependent relationship is the nearly obsessive levels co-dependent persons go to make sense out of chaos, to the extent that everything seems totally normal and totally chaotic all at once. If you think you’re in a co-dependent relationship, the likelihood of figuring things out on your own is very, very slim.
- Don’t try to convince your partner – Because of how complex and intertwined your problems are, the first mistake of most persons struggling with co-dependence once they realize it is that they immediately do something co-dependent — like trying to convince the partner they’re co-dependent with that they should get help. Just focus on you.
- Get professional support – People who struggle with co-dependent tendencies usually have challenges stemming from their childhood. Exploring your earliest relationships, building your self-esteem, and learning how to set healthy boundaries are all effective forms of treating co-dependency. At Change, Inc. Nashville Co-Dependence Counseling, our therapists are highly trained at helping you first understand your co-dependent tendencies and then develop the skills you need to address this in order to experience more fulfilling relationships. At minimum, consider attending a Co-dependents Anonymous (CoDa) meeting in your area — click here to find out more.
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