Hey guys, welcome back to another episode of Partnership Aligned Podcast!
Today I want to talk about overcoming co-dependency. I actually can’t believe I’m seventy episodes in and haven’t hit this topic. It’s pretty mainstream.
But what happens when a psychological topic becomes mainstream, it gets beat to death and also gets misconstrued. Because you have a bunch of social media creators who are not trained in mental health or relationships just throwing their experiences and opinions out there and then the masses take it as fact.
This is something that has happened with the concept of co-dependency. And side note this is something that has happened severely with the concept of narcissism. But don’t get me started on that one.
I am trained in both mental health and relationship plus I’ve got quite a few years of experience counseling and coaching on this topic. Now that doesn’t mean that I won’t also incorporate my own personal experience with co-dependency, because I definitely will, but it does mean that I’m not pulling anything out of my ass.
So let’s start with the definition of co-dependency because there are like a zillion out there. But mine is pretty simple. Co-dependency means you are addicted to a person. More specifically, you are addicted to someone else’s emotional state. Another way to say it is, “I need you to be ok in order for me to be ok.”
Now co-dependency is definitely not restricted to just romantic relationships, it can happen in friendships and with a child/parent as well. But this is a podcast about marriage so let’s just stick to the dynamic of a romantic relationship.
My co-dependency in my marriage kinda slapped me in the face. I definitely did not view myself as co-dependent. I saw myself as a loving, devoted wife who was willing to make sacrifices and take care of her man.
That sounds nice, right? It even sounds like a healthy marriage. So, what’s the difference between that and co-dependency. The difference is the inner emotional state I would be in depending on his emotional state. So, if he was upset, I felt anxious. If he seemed content or satisfied, I was able to relax. In short, I was not in control of my own emotional state.
If this resonates with you, I understand how powerless and stuck you might feel. The entire mission of my coaching program is to help women take back their own emotional state, get in control of their inner experience, and then show up fully and authentically in their marriage.
Because if everything you say and do is just to make your partner ok, then you have no time or energy to explore what makes you ok.
So, what does co-dependency look like in terms of actions? Well, some of the symptoms are difficulty making decisions, feeling like you can’t live without them while simultaneously resenting them, and hiding your real thoughts or feelings to make sure your partner likes you or approves of you.
That last one really hits home for me. I would just agree, either actively or passively, with whatever he said, even if deep down I felt it was wrong. To me, nothing was worth disrupting what I thought made me happy – which was him being happy. And since my husband was an addict, there was added levels of not wanting to trigger him to “take a step back.” I now know that there is nothing anyone can do or not do to make or keep someone from relapsing.
What I love about my story is that even though the marriage did not last, I did A LOT of my inner work, growth and healing, while still in the chaotic marriage. If you want to know more about my story, you can check out ep 25 – How My Failed Marriage Turned Me Into a Badass Coach.
I remember the end of our marriage took place while the Black Lives Matter movement was emerging. We had very different views on this topic. By this point, I had gone through so much coaching, similar to what I facilitate now, that I was no longer willing to agree with opinions that didn’t resonate for me. I also didn’t feel like I needed to convince anyone else of my opinions. My relationship with me was SOLID.
Anyway, we were in the car one day towards the end and were listening to the radio which had the latest story about all of the politics that were going on at the time. He voiced his opinion. I calmly stated that I disagreed and gave my opinion. He got irate and I stayed calm. His emotional state no longer dictated how I acted. I’ll never remember how free I felt in that moment. Like I was finally just unapologetically me within the marriage.
Ok so by now you get the gist of what co-dependency might look like. So, what the hell do you do about it? Well, there are some co-dependent relationships that are unsafe. I’m not going to speak to that too much. If you are in an unsafe relationship, you obviously should seek help and consider leaving. Signs you are in an unsafe co-dependent relationship are abuse, addiction, and isolation from your friends and family.
I’m going to speak to the woman who is not in an unsafe relationship per say, but just really feels a pull to put herself aside to make sure that her partner is always happy and content. Because this is fixable.
So, the first step is to get honest with yourself. It’s hard to put into words what that feels like. But it’s the opposite of denial. Stop telling yourself that you’re a good, loving wife. Start telling yourself the truth. That you are afraid of what might happen if you stop stifling yourself to be agreeable.
When you feel that little nudge in your belly that you don’t agree with your partner, don’t’ stifle it. Honor it. This can be something political or philosophical – like your actual thoughts and opinions about deeper issues. Or it could be something as simple as stating that you dislike the restaurant your partner wants to go to.
Just like everything else in relationships, authenticity is the key. But it is so hard to all of a sudden just become authentic when you’re so used to being agreeable and people pleasing. So getting real and honest with yourself about this dynamic and how you’re contributing to it is ALWAYS going to be step one. If we are not aware or not willing to admit to a problem, then we have nowhere to go.
Then once you get honest, you need to make a decision. Is this how you’re going to continue to show up in this relationship? Or are you going to decide to start the journey to emotional freedom and quite frankly real love.
If you do decide that you’re ready for this journey, that’s when you reach out for help. Go to a therapist if it’s severe or includes some kind of emotional abuse. Go to a coach if it’s more moderate and not an unsafe marriage. Either way, allow someone else to guide you on this journey.
I would love to be that person for you. I’ve been told that I have a way of being direct and honest with my clients while also providing a lot of love and support. So if today’s episode resonated with you and you’re ready to make some changes – scroll down to the show notes and book that free consultation. On that call, I’ll get to know you and your relationship enough that I’ll be able to tell you whether you’re a good fit for my program.