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  • Michaela Patel


Updated: Apr 1

couple sitting on the beach
unhealthy closeness

A co-dependent relationship is a relationship of two addicts where one or both are unable to leave.

How dangerous is your relationship? Why do we enable toxicity and prolong self-denial?

Below is a list of co-dependent behaviours. A healthy NO is not amongst them. Our unhealthy YES, on the other hand, sounds repeatedly until our silent resentment roars aloud. When we agree to things just to be accepted by others, we haven't yet accepted ourselves, to our own detriment, in our entirety. We might like harmony on the outside, but keeping momentary peace by rejecting ourselves is the fastest way to start a war...

The stuff we do to fix things short term to keep our relationship going are:

1. Agreeing to take on our partner’s responsibilities.

We say to others 'I am here to take on everything that it’s thrown at you, even if it means I will suffer.'

We say to ourselves 'I neglect me to see you happy.'

2. Ignoring our own needs and feelings.

We say to others 'Your needs and feelings come first because I don't know how to put me first.'

We say to ourselves 'I don't matter, please take control over me.'

3. Pleasing our partner to get praise and love.

We say to others 'My validation of me depends on your validation of me.'

We say to ourselves 'I feel worthless and unimportant.'

4. Saying yes to abuse.

We say to others 'I am not enough to find a better partner then you because I have an unhealthy view on love'

We say to ourselves 'I am comfortable with pain, I deserve to be punished.'

5. Saying yes to our partner’s choices.

We say to others 'Your hobbies are my hobbies; I don’t trust me enough to make decisions.'

We say to ourselves 'I am dependent on the survival of our relationship - if it doesn’t survive I will fail and feel the pain of being a failure, which is why I hide in this dysfunctional relationship anyway.'

A partner raised in a dysfunctional family has a damaged view of the Self. Only similarly damaged partners are then 'compatible' with him or her to co-create an unhealthy relating which lasts.

Co-dependency in our primary relationships at home leads to co-dependency in our future relationships with our partners. We become attracted to partners who are comfortable with similar patterns because our carers had consistently demonstrated:

a/ the lack of mental-emotional awareness

c/ lack of self-care

d/ abuse towards one another, or themselves.

If your parents exhibited narcissism or addiction, if they weren’t nurturing and openly loving, you are highly likely to seek partners who resemble them in an attempt to re-create ‘love’.

The condition for our growth beyond our co-dependency issues is to withdraw the pedestal our carers stand on. Which is how we are able to see those same faults in others, and the day we stop making excuses for their behaviour.

Unhealthy upbringing grows the unhealthy part of our Self, the weak yet highly critical and reactive ‘me’ - the unhealthy part of our Ego. We suffer low self-esteem, coupled with somewhat high expectations. We don’t feel good about ourselves on the inside, seeking ways to feel better on the outside, only sliding into addiction. We then expect others to be there for us to pick up the crap because 'we had to pick up theirs'. We don’t accept the responsibility for our happiness but ask others to be a certain way so we can feel happier. We ask others to make decisions for us because we don’t trust ourselves enough. We don’t understand ourselves but ask our partners to be understanding. We don’t consider ourselves (our thoughts and emotions) but ask our partners to be considerate...

co-dependency diagram
recipe for co-dependency

Anger, lack of trust, sex issues, poor communication, are the palpable symptoms of a deeply unaware relationship pulsating with pain.

The nature of a co-dependant relationship is that, although both partners are unhealthy, one partner usually exerts more control - be it mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, because the other is willing to give up his/hers.

Our cultural and societal conditioning has defined our roles - the boxes we should fit in if we are to find a fitting partner. As a result, women tend to be better off emotionally because they are allowed to process their feelings, men are more skilled financially because they are encouraged to pursue their careers. (Luckily the roles are becoming less defined with awareness rising, with every new generation.) An example is a woman, financially dependent on a man, in a relationship where such man is physically (practically) and emotionally dependent on the woman. Or, a man is emotionally and financially dependent on a woman, in a relationship where such woman is physically (practically) dependent on the man. Generally speaking, the less we learn to be responsible in a certain area, the more we believe it is OK for others to take over - giving up our authentic power, and growth, in that area.

Remaining small, you are bound to be treated as such...

The relating in a co-dependent relationship is deformed due to our distorted perception of what love is, and how we believe others should love us. For example: An emotionally immature mother, who is financially dependent on a controlling, abusive, emotionally unavailable father, will bring up daughters who will seek controlling relationships, willing to accept abuse for the financial 'safety' provided. Love for these women means someone caring for them financially. Unless they awaken to their distorted ideals, they will be drawn into superficial relationships with rich, emotionally unavailable (narcissictic) men.

Just how many relationships are unhealthy, and where do we draw the line?

There is a certain give and take in every relationship. It all depends on how far are we willing to go whilst preserving our sense of self. We can never find a partner for whom we don't have to compromise a bit here and there. If however, you have to repeatedly change you to suit your partner (becoming resentful towards them and yourself!), it may be better to leave in search of a more compatible partner.

It really depends on how much we know ourselves and our fears...

Is your fear of not being able to make it without your partner keeping you stuck in a dead end relationship? Yes there is the fear of walking it alone, but that isn't your worst one, is it?

When you have no sense of Self (when you cannot love and validate you on your own, without others' input), you will fear to leave your partner as no matter how destructive your relationship, it represents who you are. Its end then equals your own death...

A co-dependent relationship knows no boundaries. The healthy ‘I’ doesn’t exist and is enmeshed with ‘you’ or ‘us’ instead. Its survival is then treated with more urgency than the survival of its participants.

When the lines between you and the other blur, you are drawn into a destructive relating of a co-dependent partnership, where neither of you have yet found your true identity. You tend to overshare your energies, which is why you lose yourself in such relationship. Fearing it’s break up the most because 'you have invested way too much into it already'.

We cannot relate to others in healthy ways if we haven’t yet learned to relate in healthy ways towards ourselves. Unless we stop abusing ourselves, we will be happily accepting the abuse coming from others, camouflaging their poor choices with our excuses. Having a solid knowledge of who we are, trusting ourselves, is an absolute must if we are to trust our partner. When our false identity falls we finally get that the failure of our relationship is not that personal but an end to one of maybe many stories that had changed us for the better.

Thank you for reading. If my article contributed to understanding yourself, please be generous and share it with others.

Copyright © 2020 Michaela Patel


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