Imagine deciding to walk from one town to another while carrying a two hundred pound weight? Then, when you finally shed the weight, someone comes along with something even heavier or more difficult to carry or you give up completely and decide to go home? You would be left with a choice where neither scenario is really what you truly want but the alternative would be to stand in the middle of the road, stuck and not knowing what to do.
This rather sad scenario can be applied to the constant quest that many codependents venture on in search of true love and connection with another person. Specifically, they will end up carrying the weight of a dysfunctional relationship, putting in all the effort and often getting very little in return or they will become stuck not knowing how to move forward or in some cases, not willing. Often, after a taste of such an experience, many of them shun relationships all together and avoid situations where they are likely to find them, including sometimes abusing their bodies to make themselves less appealing to the opposite sex. (This is irrational thinking as it takes for granted that men prefer a certain body shape).
This type of thinking can be seen quite often with codependents. They are either giving everything or giving nothing. As they generally find it difficult to be alone, both scenarios are difficult for them. For this reason, one can imagine that it is easier for many to stay and not face the reality of the relationship, hoping that one day their self-centred partner will change enough for them to enjoy a normal relationship. Something that doesn’t happen too often and the usual result is that they either get discarded (most likely) or they stay in a relationship that defines their sacrifice and giving, in effect being abused.
Codependents, generally are not rational people and they spend a lot of time in therapy either justifying their relationship (very often with a narcissist type partner) or hating themselves because they feel duped and stuck. They often cannot believe that they fell for the adulation stage (anyone can) and I find them when the ‘mask’ has slipped and they are aware that they have been tricked. They are often in the stage of being criticised or short before the stage of being discarded.
Many who are not codependent will rightly state that it is difficult to believe that anyone would put themselves through this torment. However, unless you are codependent, it is difficult to understand the compulsive feelings that go with the search for connection. A connection that they have been truly searching for and have never found. Their idea of connection is that they have to do more and more to get it and maintain it.
This is a scenario that has played out since childhood when the connection with their caregivers defined their idea of relationships that was eventually taken into adulthood. This could have been from being a caregiver for a parent who was sick or or dealing with substance/alcohol issues or that parents were distant emotionally. In some cases, abuse from caregivers in various forms will also ignite feelings of codependency.
The world without codependency is a scary one for anyone who has been used to being one. This is why many find recovery a difficult process. They are being asked for the first time, ever in most cases, to think of themselves and turn the attention inward to find validation rather than the constant external reference they normally focus on. This generally takes a process of cognitive restructuring about the way they see themselves and the world, reframing and grieving childhood issues and dealing directly with the guilt and shame that is a result of childhood interaction with caregivers.
Difficult, yes. Impossible? Absolutely not and the rewards are great.