Codependent

Image credit: Dominik Vanyi @ Unsplash

Codependency was a word that I never fully grasped; it was something I never fully understood and something that – even now – I struggle to spell!

And yet, I was it, I was it to the letter. If anyone wanted an example of what a co-dependant person looked like, they could just bring me forward, with my phone firmly planted within my hand and my attention off elsewhere, and show me off as a good and fine specimen of someone who has fallen into that trap…

I hadn’t become this way intentionally of course, I hadn’t even become this way consciously, but I had become it all the same. It had happened over years, namely with one person, but there are little glimpses and tell-tale signs with others too. However, with this one person it was powerful, it was overwhelming and it was becoming very, very damaging.

This was a person who I had never met and who I had no real intention of meeting. He was a man who I had met online years ago, our conversations had started out regarding a shared interest in mental health and we had formed a friendship of sorts. Sometimes it is easier to talk about the hard stuff with someone if you don’t have to look them in the eye… and so, we gradually opened up to each other. He told me things that he had (allegedly) not told anyone else and I listened and advised the best that I could. When I suffered dips in my mental health, I turned not only to my husband and closest friends, but also to him. He always replied, always acknowledged my feelings… and then always reciprocated with his own.  

This isn’t a writing about how a friendship turned sour though, far from it. We don’t talk now, after a very difficult conversation we decided to have some time apart and whilst I admire him in many ways and still sometimes feel like I have lost a huge pillar of strength within my life, I also know that he has to address his own problems before we could ever hope to build a healthy relationship.

I also know that I need to address mine.

Because co-dependency doesn’t just spring up from nowhere. I became co-dependent because I had a need for something, something that was lacking and something that even now I struggle to identify. My over whelming desire within this friendship, was to fix; I wanted to make everything better, I could see the damage that was being done by my friends behaviours, but I could also see the things that would help him and I could see such potential – if only he would listen!

But he was listening, wasn’t he? We would have these long conversations; we would talk our way round the same situations day, after day, after day. He would ask me ‘What do I do?’ and I would reply with logic and compassion. I harnessed everything that I had learnt in therapy, everything that I had read about mental health and addiction. I would read articles online to try and improve my knowledge of the specific things he was struggling with. I would talk to my best friend – a qualified mental health nurse – and relay information, I would find song lyrics that resonated with his struggles and send him the music so he didn’t feel so alone. I would speak to him first thing in the morning and last thing at night, I would engage in behaviour that was damaging to my own mental health, in order to prevent him from either a) getting what he needed in that moment from someone who was potentially dangerous for his mental health or b) hurting someone else. But this was friendship, right? This was helping him, surely?

No, and no.

I remember very clearly the moment that it all clicked. It was on a day off, so I had been at home by myself all day and, yes, talking to him via text for a good part of it. I was feeling pretty tired – this was at the end of last year, so very much still combating my own medication withdrawal and Fibromyalgia symptoms. I ran a bath, loaded up Insight Timer and I saw a talk on the homepage by Michelle Chalfant about codependency…

I led in the bath and listened to her describe the behaviour I had been exhibiting, for years. Not just ‘oh, that kind of applies’ but every, single, item on that list I could identify and relate back to something I had done. I realised that I was not ok, if he was not ok – and he, was never ok.

It was like my empathy with this man had gone into overdrive, I wanted so desperately to make everything better for him that I had completely neglected myself in the process. He hadn’t specifically asked me to, he hadn’t directly put this stipulation on our friendship that I must behave in this way or he would leave – but I kind of felt that way all the same. I am learning the reasons now why I did that, I am working through my own feelings and my own motives for that behaviour – but it’s not easy.

We carried on talking for a while after that, but something had shifted. Truthfully, I was scared, I was scared to let him go because if I didn’t have him to ‘help’, then what would my purpose be? I was also very scared that actually, he wouldn’t care. That he would just say ‘ok then’ and go and I would end up with the weight of rejection upon my shoulders. I was also scared that all of this, all of these conversations, all of this kindness, this empathy, this care that I had willingly and freely given over months and years would be for nothing.

I was scared that it made me selfish.

Co-dependency is complex. My motives for my behaviour came from a number of different places – from the need to be heard, to my need for validation and also my natural desire to help and to empathise. The times that he would say ‘yes, this makes sense’ were the glimmers of light and the behaviour he continued to exhibit that went against that very same piece of advice, extinguished those sparks. But he would learn from that for next time, right? So I kept on, persevered and tried to be a good friend. In the end it just exacerbated those ingrained feelings and beliefs of being unheard, but to me, that was familiar and so it was ‘safe’. It was known behaviour so it was comforting even though it stung like ripping off a sticking plaster each and every time. I found that I couldn’t trust him, and yet I confided in him still. I found that I got angry with him, but it felt more like being angry at a child. I found that I was sinking into his problems whilst my own screamed at me from the surface…

Letting him go would also mean I didn’t have a distraction from my own problems anymore.

Eventually, it was my decision to end contact with him. It wasn’t pre-meditated, it wasn’t a thought out ‘I am going to have this conversation and it will be resolved by X, Y and Z’. It was a row – it was an insensitive comment made by him about my husband on a day when I was feeling depressed and in pain and having to brave it out at work. It was the argument that ensued and this voice that bubbled up inside me and screamed ‘this is not ok!’.  I had been ignoring this voice, my own voice that said repeatedly, for months, ‘I am done…’ but I should have listened to her; my inner child may be small and gentle but I was doing her no favours by not hearing her – eventually she screamed, a scream of pain, a scream of frustration and a scream so powerful that my decision was made in that instant. I was done.

Afterwards, it felt worse than any romantic break up that I had ever endured. I spoke to friends about it; I spoke to my husband and my therapist about it. I meditated on it, I questioned what I had done, and I checked his social media profiles to see if he was ok… but I didn’t go back.

One thing I noticed in those first couple of weeks was how much time I had! I wasn’t tied to my phone anymore. I also noticed that my confidence improved – I wasn’t hiding behind someone else’s problems. Yeah, sure, this meant all of my problems came to the surface but I could own them now. I tried to turn some of that care and affection back onto myself – and some days I manage it, some days I don’t, but at least I am trying. It’s something that will take months, if not years because it isn’t straightforward and this type of behaviour has roots that are buried deep.

I still miss him. I still wonder how he is, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I am learning the importance of boundaries and the importance of true friendship. I am learning to listen to the voice of my inner child because she knew what was up before I had even registered it. I am learning to forgive – both him and myself and I am learning that we cannot, ever fix someone else.

We can love them, we can support them, we can validate their feelings and we can send them all the articles and song lyrics in the world.

But we cannot fix them, for that is a path they must walk alone.

15 thoughts on “Codependent”

  1. This is a really interesting post (I’m probably going to re-read it to digest it) but it struck me reading it that a) yes, this clearly sounds like it was an unhealthy relationship but b) it sounds kind of appealing. I feel like this kind of relationship (whether friendship or romance) is sort of touted as the ideal, and that’s quite a worrying thing. Also I hope you don’t mind me saying, but I’m in awe of how frequently you manage to post such long, thought-provoking posts, it’s great!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you lovely 🙂 Yes… I can understand that, I think its very easy within relationships like this to feel like it wonderful because its so intense. If someone – whether it be a friend or a romantic partner – tells you that they need you (even if their actions don’t always correspond with that) it can give you that sense of being wanted and in some cases desired. But then it can also become quite toxic with the whole ‘push me away, pull me closer’ behaviour and for the person within that coupling who is the empath, its very confusing.

    I doubt this will be the last writing of this ilk :p

    Haha thank you for that last bit ❤ I have a lot of thoughts and have a tendency to ramble away on one topic for a little while xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I live this, this was such a good read!! You hava a wonderful talent. I can definitely relate to this post. I used to always want to fix people and became codependent. I broke free from that! Thanks for sharing xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you ☺️ Yes, sometimes it is very hard to resist that desire to fix and to take a step back. I’m hoping that this relationship has taught me to look for the own signs within myself that I need to address my behaviour and the motives behind it.

      Thank you for reading x

      Like

    2. Thank you  Yes, sometimes it is very hard to resist that desire to fix and to take a step back. I’m hoping that this relationship has taught me to look for the own signs within myself that I need to address my behaviour and the motives behind it.

      Thank you for reading x

      Like

  4. I can see myself so much in this post at certain occasions in my life. It certainly sounds like what you had going on there was unhealthy, no doubt about it. But I know so many people, including myself, who have fallen into this trap! We are often taught and shown that if a relationship is not full throttle all the time, then it’s not good? If you aren’t wanting to be with your partner or talk to your partner all the time then it’s a crap relationship.

    Yet, we are also told not to be too clingy?

    Mixed messages much!?

    It can be so damaging.

    I will say I am glad that you are in a better place now and out of that toxic environment.

    – Nyxie

    http://www.nyxiesnook.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, it can be so confusing – for a long time I saw no issue at all. I was just being a good friend and doing what a good friend should be doing, right?

      Sadly some people will take, they will take all you have and then they will come back and take a bit more and then a little more and then some more and sometimes they will take it in amounts so small that you don’t notice – until one day you wake up and you realise, there’s nothing left for you. All that compassion and time and energy has gone elsewhere.

      Relationships – friendships, romantic, familial – all of them, have to be give and take. If one person is always giving and the other is always taking, that’s when it becomes very unhealthy, very quickly.

      Thank you for reading and commenting lovely Xx

      Like

  5. What a wonderful post. Written beautifully and I could really connect with you.
    Thank you for being so honest and sharing this with us. Very interesting!
    Alyssa
    THESACREDSPACEAP.COM

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment and for reading 🧡 When I first started learning about codepenedency I found some really confusing articles so I wanted to write something that kind of explained what it looked like from the inside – and also try and get the message across that it’s not a terrible or self serving behaviour, it’s just something that has got a little out of control x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a lovely post! I really connected with you and it was intriguing to see someone else dealing with the same thing. I’m so proud of you for sticking up for yourself and getting out of that messy relationship. A lot of people aren’t able to do that, which is really sad. I really appreciate how honest you were in this post, I think you’ll be able to help a lot of people 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much ❤ (Sorry, I have been having a bit of a breather recently) I'm sorry that it sounds as though you are going through something similar – it is so very hard to walk away, even when we know its for the best x

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s