Choice is the exploration of desire and then the selection of action. In every moment, you are choosing either to align yourself with your own true path or to veer away from it. There are no neutral actions. Even the smallest gesture has a direction to it, leading you closer to your path or farther away from it, whether you realize it or not.*
While that paragraph feels true it has not been factual in all of what appear on the surface to have been my choices made in free will. In relationships I have been compulsive and driven, often by a force I did not understand if I was even able to notice it. The force has been with me for so long I do not remember life without it. Learning and acknowledging that my compulsions even existed was the biggest step yet in understanding my self.
There is a certain flavor to a codependent relationship that might be described as ‘driven’ or ‘intense.’ There is a compulsive nature to it. The members are tied to each other almost as with an invisible rope. The slightest move in one causes a reaction in the other. The positions are rigid. Every word or thought is guarded, weighed against the other’s imagined response.**
And there it is; that word codependent. I have come to know it well as my primary dysfunction has come into focus in recent years. In a broad sense, a codependent can be defined as one having an addiction to people, behaviors, or things. My codependency has been an unconscious fallacy that caused me to attempt to manage my interior feelings by maintaining power over people, things, and events on the outside, sometimes through control and at others through compliance. By its very definition, being a codependent means I have a tendency to make relationships more important to me than I am to myself.
In codependency, control or lack of it is central to every aspect of life. There is emptiness within that originates in childhood from parental neglect, abandonment and abuse. Emotionally a child does not mature and exhibits child-like and immature emotional behavior when grown up, but can not see it themselves. As an adult each codependent struggles relentlessly to fill a great emotional vacuum within themselves.
While a full list of codependent tendencies is quite long, here is a short list:
1. Lacking appropriate levels of self-esteem.
2. Inability to set realistic, functioning, boundaries.
3. Difficulty knowing who you are.
4. Having trouble defining needs and wants and meeting them.
5. Difficulty in expressing ourselves moderately and knowing what “normal” is.
What about healthy relationships? How different is the closeness of an interdependent relationship! The desire is there but not the intense need. Love, whether for a spouse, a child, a parent, or a friend, is a matter of choice. **
People in healthy, interdependent relationships do whatever is best for both partners. They make sincere, reliable agreements with each other, based on their separate wants and needs, and they generally stick to them. There is no happily-ever-after on this plane of existence. I may find a princess but she will have issues to deal with. We all do. Relationships are something that needs to be worked on – not some magic wand that makes everybody happy.
Codependence and interdependence are two very different dynamics. Codependence is about giving away power over my self-esteem. Interdependence is about making allies, forming partnerships. It is about forming connections with other beings. Interdependence means that I give someone else some power over our welfare and our feelings.
It is impossible to love without giving away some power. When I choose to love someone (or thing – a pet, a car, anything) I am giving them the power to make me happy. However, I cannot do that without also giving them the power to hurt me or cause me to feel angry or scared. That is “normal”.
Much progress has been made, but there is much yet to make. Writing here today is a sort of ‘homework’ assignment that helps me maintain clarity and growth and one I hope may help others. I am grateful to have knowledge now about my part in past relationship problems and to have new hope future relations will be far improved by what I have learned and am learning. Class dismissed…..
Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. Dinah Craik 1859
* From “If Life is a Game, These Are the Rules” by Cherie Carter-Scott, Ph.D.
**Love is a Choice” byHemfelt, Minirth, and Meier