Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Co-dependent? Or just in a crappy relationship?

I started thinking about this again for a few reasons involving a few friends of mine. One of them will know who she is. The other doesn't read the blog.

Anyway, all three of us have been married to addicts. All of us have been angry and hurt and felt helpless and confused and frustrated. But I would think twice before I called any of us co-dependents.

I can't speak for my friends, but they are the reason I'm writing this today.

I went to a few co-dependent meetings, and I tried to read the book, but I found it all very frustrating and it made me defensive. Of course, being on the defense means you're "in denial."

I was reminded of this when I watched Changeling. After Jolie's character gets locked up in the insane asylum, a fellow inmate explains to her how everything Jolie will try to do to prove her sanity will only have the opposite effect. This is how I felt whenever someone called me a co-dependent.

Because I lived with an addict, I must be a co-dependent. I must seek these wounded characters out, right?

I don't buy it.

Now, I fully support the idea of finding a community for people like me and my friends, for those of us who have been there, done that to be able to support each other and relate to each other. My IRL friend seemed to find hope and solace in the fact that I no longer worry about my X, and she visibly relaxed when I told her so. She has pretty much clung to everything I've said, as I'm quite a few years ahead of her in the whole process, and feels better about all her concerns and frustrations when she hears me voice the same back to her.

I know that's a huge part of what has connected Kori and I. And in that relationship, she's the comforter to me.

So, yeah, I totally get the need to find others who understand the experience. Someone who won't ask, "why did you stay so long?"

Yet, in co-dependent meetings, I still felt I was being judged. I still felt that I was being told what I should be doing or how I should be feeling about the situation. The only thing I really needed was the strength and self-confidence to leave, as I wrote about here.

I refuse to believe that attempting to help others is a defect. I tried to be the good wife, I tried to stand by my man. I don't think trying was wrong. I simply couldn't leave until I was ready.

Now, of course, the experience changed me, but it didn't make me want to stop being a friend. It's my desire to be a good friend that has led me to find Kori, FF, JC, and so many others. I don't try to control them - I just try to be there for them, and allow them to be there for me.

I joke that I'm a control freak, but I refuse to believe that's bad, either. My desire to control my destiny is what made me go back to college, and led to my promotion and my ability to care for my children.

I'm not saying the concept of co-dependents is wrong, per se. I'm sure that many have found solace and strength in being a part of the co-dependents' community. I wouldn't knock anyone for trying something and sticking with it if it works for them.

I just have a problem with the world deciding for me that I'm a co-dependent because of one bad relationship. I will not let that one relationship define me.


FreedomFirst said...

Thanks for posting this. Psychologists/iatrists are no different from any other doctors; they often forget that they do not, in fact, know EVERYTHING. And if they miss something, or don't understand something, why then of course it must be YOUR fault, because after all they ARE the experts. Right?

I hate how the mental health industry thrives and operates on cliches. If they can't pigeonhole you, they lose interest. I know that's one of the major problems Mark has had with counseling. I keep trying to tell him that he will just have to accept that it isn't perfect, and keep trying until he finds someone who really DOES get it.

Natalie said...

If you hadn't have at least tried to stand by your man, then you would have been hearing about how you didn't try hard enough, because somebody is always going to find something to judge. You already realize that the "experts" don't define you, and I think that's very important.

Kristine said...

Melody Beattie's Co-Dependency books confuzzled me a bit, but her Language of Letting Go books are amazing.

I grew up in an alcoholic environment, and carry a lot of the "-isms." I don't care what it's named, but I do know that I am prone to suffering, and suffering in bad relationships (esp. the one with my son's father).

I go to Al-Anon as often as I can (at least weekly) and I find the support there is crucial. I learn a lot from people who have been in recovery for a long time. I can now find moments of peace and serenity, which is something I never thought possible.

Mark said...

Labels such as co-dependent are very limiting, they tend to box you in. I believe this is what you are reacting to when someone tells you that you are co-dependent of a control freak. When you label me you negate me, is a quote that I live by. Don't like labels, don't like being put in a box. Trust in yourself and continue to develop your awareness and all will be well.

MindyMom said...

I completely agree. Many of us find ourselves with a history of bad relationships and all for different reasons. Eventually we learn how NOT to pick these people anymore and make better choices. It doesn't erase the mistakes of our past (or the people unfortunately) but we do hopefully grow from it. I don't like labels either, and I don't think a bad relationship makes one codependant.

Nice post.

Kori said...

I just love you. And want everyone to know that whatever comfort I might be to you, you are more so a comfprt to me.

Suzie said...

You shouldnt let it define you./ People love their terms and slogans. You know who you are.

Shiona said...

You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. No matter what you decide to do (or not do) there is some opposition who has some problem with whatever road you take. You tried and it didn't work.

"I refuse to believe that attempting to help others is a defect."

That says it all for me.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the greatest strength one gets in getting out of an abusive relationship is learning not to listen to what anyone has to say to you or decide for you or determine for you. People told me that I must have had an abusive childhood to put up with the abuse. Really? Theories are dangerous because people don't have to think of individuals and their lives, but the theories.

Tara R. said...

There will always be someone who doesn't 'get it' and want to label people they don't understand.

Anonymous said...

I was in a co-dependent relationship that didn't involve drugs or alcohol. No one told me I was in one, but once I figured it out, the entire relationship made sense to me. I suddenly could predict how things would play out between that girlfriend and me.

The book I read was Melody Beattie's "Codependent No More". It really resonated with me, wrt that particular girlfriend. I blogged about the book here:

I agree with you - don't let others label you and categorize you.

Native American Momma said...

I think there is a difference in being co-dependent and really loving someone in spite of an addiction or other major flaw.
If you are able to fully love someone then you'll try to wait out or fix the flaw until you realize your being hurt too much.
At that point to have to deal with living without someone you love, and who isn't dead. It is more then agreeing to disagree. It is saying I love you, but I have to love myself more.