Codependent No More

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    I’ve been reading Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More book and have been pondering the question of balance. To an extent, any relationship will have a level of dependency on once another, but to what degree? My ex expected me to wash his back in the shower, expected me to dance with him, never alone, expected me to cut his nails, and pick up the phone when he called no matter what. He didn’t trust me so the negative side was me having to dress and act a certain way. I wasn’t being me, yet I stood by him out of guilt. I felt like I needed to prove myself to him, when all along I know deep down I meant what I was saying and knew I was a good person even though he was treating me like I wasn’t. Looking back some of these requests seem a bit absurd, however at the same time how can you do the little things your partner likes and to show them you care without being the caretaker and becoming dependent on that?

    It’s an interesting read and I’m learning a lot… I highly recommend it to those healing from a bad break up.


    I read that same book years ago after a breakup which showed me the truth about the kinds of relationships that I was pursuing at the time. I remember telling someone that I read it every day and that I hated doing it. This is something that I still struggle with and I think most people do to one extent or another. Another way of thinking about this is by considering boundaries. Everything has a boundary, trees have a physical boundary, cells have a boundary, animals have a skin boundary. Boundaries say “this is where I begin”. But there are also emotional boundaries that delineate where you end and another person begins. It is important that these boundaries remain in tact otherwise the people in the relationships wind up feeling unhealthy and stretched thin due to the stress of overstepping other people’s boundaries and having your boundaries crossed.

    I went through a breakup a few months ago and in the wake of it I realized that both me and my partner were dependent on our need to feel needed by the other person. This, I think, was fed by a deep seeded sense of inadequacy and desire to feel useful. Instead of taking care of ourselves, we let the other person take care of some aspect of our life and that kept us joined, glued, and inseparable. This was done on purpose to ensure that we would never be alone because we both needed each other so much we couldn’t think of life without the other person. For me, this left me feeling exhausted and so I ended the relationship. But the underlining fear for me was loneliness. Since a union based on mutual freedom, and autonomy seemed risky given my level of underlying loneliness – I relied on a union based on codependency, enmeshment, clinging, and fear. For me, that felt more safe – and perhaps more familiar. As the adage says, “if you love something let it go” – we must remember that what is most important in this life is freedom. And among those freedoms is freedom from negative mental states – such as loneliness. But if we rely on another person to remove our loneliness then what we have done is enslaved ourselves to the feeling that we are connected. Here there is clinging and that is not freedom. I would rather experience loneliness than be addicted to feeling feelings of companionship. You can still experience loneliness and be free but you can’t be free at the same time as being codependent. I hope this makes sense – I am still working it out myself in my own head.

    I disagree that any relationship will have a level of dependency on one another. Dependency implies addiction. In our society relationships are depicted as such. But I don’t think it necessarily needs to be that way. How that balance is struck – you got me?? Having similar goals perhaps? I know that I don’t have the best track record on healthy relationships so coming up with something helpful to say to you has proven to be very difficult. Most all of my relationships were based on codependency and fraught with boundary issues. Perhaps that is a book that I ought to pick up and read again! But I am so disillusioned by intimate relationships right now I would rather focus on non-intimate relationships until I can find this balance that you are asking about.

    May we experience a greater sense of freedom from our relationships,




    In my opinion, the balance is through mutual nurturing. For instance, I wash her back, she washes mine. If her shoulders are sore, I rub them. If mine are sore, she rubs them. I put the toilet seat down for her and she turns off lights for me. I cook, she washes dishes. Etc etc. Compromise. The main aspect to keep watch on is that neither partner feels obligated or repressed in doing nice things for one another, and the actions do not arise as self sacrifice.

    With warmth,

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