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Do You Have Co-dependent Traits? How That Matters

Do You Have Co-dependent Traits? How That Matters

The level of independence and inter-dependence you have achieved so far may directly affect your happiness and success in the world.

Do we all have co-dependent traits? As children we grow up depending on adult care-takers. Being dependent is what we know best. As we grow up we may become co-dependent. We may fight against dependence by becoming fiercely independent. That can be very lonely. Don’t stop there. The next step in the evolution towards healthy relationships is inter-dependence. My belief is that inter-dependence is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, where healthy and happy relationships exist.

If you struggle with relationships, you are not alone. All humans start out being dependent. In fact other mammals and birds do too. At some point they have to learn to become independent. We even say when our children leave home that the parents are “empty nesters”. There are other living creatures, fish for example, which are born independent and on their own from birth.

Let’s take a look at some traits in each of the dependence categories:

1. DEPENDENCE: one who relies on another
In their books, Dr Cloud and Dr Townsend talk about three types of dependence of adult children on their parents:
• As a source of things they need
• As a guardian to protect them from the world and their own immaturity
• As a manager to oversee that they get everything done responsibly
In this type of relationship individuals cannot function or survive apart from one another. The parent may be fostering the dependence for their own co-dependent needs.
2. CO-DEPENDENCE: a psychologically unhealthy relationship in which one person perpetuates another’s addiction or harmful behavior.
• Need to be needed by people they can rescue
• Will do anything to avoid feeling abandoned
• Avoid asserting themselves
• Poor communication skills (avoid confronting and resolving issues)
• Chronic anger
• Problems with boundaries
• Dishonesty
• Trying to make a relationship work with someone who isn’t interested
• Feeling like they are “the strong one” and superior – to combat their own low self-esteem
These patterns of behavior are often learned and passed on from one generation to the next. A family with an addicted person (alcoholic, dry-drunk, drug addict, workaholic, …) may replicate similar behavior patterns in the next generation.
3. INDEPENDENCE: self governing
• Free from control by others
• Self reliant, not looking for support (financial or other care) from others
• Not looking to others for one’s opinions or guidance on conduct
• Financially independent – not having to work for others for a living
• Freedom of choice
4. INTER-DEPENDENCE: combines independence with devotion to a larger group (like family or community) or cooperation on a common goal.
• A dynamic of being mutually and physically responsible to, and sharing a common set of principles with others.
• All participants are emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally self-reliant while at the same time responsible to each other.
Interdependent relationships are those that depend on two or more cooperative autonomous participants.

Story: From Financial Dependence to Helping Others

“A person who is an under earner is unequivocally co-dependent” says Barbara Stanny in her book “Secrets of Six-Figure Women”. Ms Stanny is the daughter of Richard Bloch, co-founder of H&R Block, a tax preparation and personal finance company. She tells her story of always having plenty of money when she grew up. According to her, she had a large trust fund and her Dad didn’t teach her about money – because she’d never have to worry about it. When Barbara got married she turned the management of her trust fund over to her husband. Only much too late did she find out that her husband had a gambling problem and she found herself penniless and in debt, owing over a million dollars in back taxes.

Her Dad was unwilling to rescue her, so she had to learn how to earn and manage money. She now teaches what she has learned to others.

Why Create Inter-dependent Relationships?

Issues with money are one of the places where your relationship challenges show up. Another is whether you feel safe in your relationships to bring up difficult issues, be heard, and move towards resolution. Secrecy and too much independence, or enmeshment and too little independence are both problematic. Moving towards healthy inter-dependence provides much satisfaction in relationships.

Healthy inter-dependent relationships have as a foundation that each person is ok the way they are and is willing to grow. It involves being honest and kind and addressing and resolving issues that arise.

Finding people with whom you can create healthy inter-dependent relationships requires the ability to be discerning, being able to see self and others clearly, to go into relationships with eyes wide open. As we heal childhood wounds (you don’t have to have had severe childhood difficulties to have wounds), we can see ourselves more and more clearly – without the distortion filter of wounds. “Wound distortion filters” allow ourselves to be victimized by others and therefore limit our ability to trust ourselves. That is because each filter covers something that we can’t reconcile and therefore we have created a blind spot.

In “Family Dynamics of Recovery”, Peggy Ferguson, PhD. states that “Healthy interaction with others involves a change from being responsible for others, to being responsible to them.” Another way of saying that we are accountable to one another.

Dependent people want to be taken care of. Independent people want to do it all themselves. Co-dependent people trust those who are untrustworthy, depend on undependable people, love people who are unavailable; they keep repeating the cycle of being a victim. Inter-dependent people choose their relationships wisely and find themselves developing healthy mutually satisfying relationships. They have a commitment to the relationship and see the need for positive changes to grow and prosper in their relationships. There is respect, intimacy, deep connection, good boundaries, and healthy communication.

Contact me:

If you would like to improve the quality of your relationships and heal some of your challenges, call me to learn how coaching can help. Live the life you choose. Achieve your goals. Be happy. Call Edith at 847.913.3900.

Relationship 202

Relationship 202

There are a million books out there on relationships – every conceivable kind of relationship. Many were probably written by authors about what they think should work. Some books are written by professionals based on the stories from their clients. Fewer still, like Dr John Gottman’s Love Lab, are based on scientific research.

On top of that, everyone has an opinion on what you should do to fix your relationship problems.

So what do you do and where do you turn?

In my experience, the people who have been where you are now and have found what worked for them and what didn’t, often have the most useful suggestions. Experts working in the field have seen a lot and may have lots of ideas to try. They also have insights, which can help you see your contribution to an issue.

Take something that you feel you can try, and with discernment and trial and error, take those suggestions that you find most useful and apply them to your situation. Chances are good that you will mess with the status quo. Something will shift in your relationship – better, worse or just different. Learn from the experience and make adjustments from that new relationship dynamic. Keep trying things until it is clear that the relationship is improving, is not likely to change, or it shouldn’t be continued.

An Inquiry: How was Mother’s Day for you?

Our first relationship is with our mothers. As humans we spend 9 months attached to her and then are traumatically expelled at birth. We know that the mother’s emotions during pregnancy affect us: are you wanted and lovingly conceived or are you the result of a less than loving union? Were you welcomed into this world and cared for, or were your needs not adequately met?

A very young child has a survival instinct. It takes its cues from the world around it. Being self centered the child assumes everything must be its fault. So very quickly it develops a view of the world that helps it survive the dependent years. If you are reading this – you are a survivor! Congratulations!

Now that you are no longer dependent in the same way you were as a small child, the rules have changed, but may be your beliefs about the world haven’t.

Example: As a small child you probably heard, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Well, if that still applied, you couldn’t survive as an adult: couldn’t hold a job, go to the grocery store, go to the bank or get your hair cut. We are surrounded by strangers. What we need instead is a way to discern who to trust with what: don’t trust your banker to give you a good hair cut; don’t trust the panhandler to choose your investment portfolio for you.

Do you trust that your mother loves you? Either she is capable of loving or not. Either she expresses it in a way you find loving or not. The book “Safe People” by Dr. Henry Cloud teaches us to see how our actions are sometimes safe and sometimes not safe for others – and what to do about it. He encourages us to find relationships that are good for us and do our best to make our existing relationships better. There is lots of useful advice in the book.

In the book “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, Randy tells his daughter some useful advice that may apply here. He tells her that when she is dating a guy, carefully observe his actions and his words. If there is a difference, always trust the actions – not the words. But I would take it a step further. Communicate. Ask: “you told me this but I observed that your actions seem to be saying something else”. Give him a chance to explain and tell you the truth, so that the words and the actions match. It is possible he wasn’t aware or you didn’t understand because of your different understanding about the world.

So, if your mother treats you differently than you think she should, watch her actions and her words, try to be open-minded and ask why she does what she does, and ask for changes you can both live with. Be willing to change as well. Above all, communicate, communicate, communicate.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

Take time to reflect on your primary relationships or a relationship you most want to heal. Often we treat those we love most, the worst. They don’t deserve that from you and you don’t deserve that from them. Consider learning the skills to talk about those things that make your relationship less than what it could be. What’s it worth to you to have truly loving relationships in your life? How would life be different if you felt loving and loved, and truly appreciate others and are appreciated by them?

Barbara Brennan, author of “Hands of Light” said during a workshop I attended that healing the relationship with your mother is one of the foundation pieces to healing your life. Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life” devotes a chapter to how she not only healed herself from cancer but also healed the relationship with her mother.

Taking it Farther:

If you really want to change your life for the better, learn how to be a non-blaming communicator and a non-defensive, curious listener. Have boundaries for those who violate your desire for healthy relationships. These skills are not easy to learn. They take know-how, courage, time, and practice. It is best to practice first with people who already have these skills, who are understanding and non-judgmental while you find your way. Over time, the results will amaze you. Know that you deserve to have healthy loving relationships in your life.

Contact me:

Want more help? I’m here for you. Tired of flunking Relationship 101? Get tutored! Call to get coached and learn in a non-judgmental setting how to create healthy relationships. We’ll go at a pace that is right for you. Call Edith at 847.913.3900

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