Ever have trouble letting go of a relationship? Obsessed with another person? Way too loyal, to the point where it hurts you and possibly others who care about you? Are others who are dependent on you, even your children, getting hurt because you are keeping yourself and them in a destructive, even dangerous relationship? Are your friends offering suggestions that you immediately reject? Or are you avoiding telling anyone what is really going on? Embarrassed by the behavior of the one you love? Embarrassed by your own behavior? Do you find ways to distort what your therapist says and discount his/her knowledge by saying, to him and/or to yourself, "you just don't understand!"
Think you can change someone?
If only you are good enough, he/she would not have that affair. If only you can meet his/her needs, he/she will love you and not need to go elsewhere. Maybe if you lose a few pounds or cook his favorite meal perfectly, he will come home instead of "working late" -- you know he is with another woman. If you bring her flowers more often and take her to the best restaurants in town, maybe THEN she will stop seeing the rich man who comes into town once a month. The pain you feel when you are together in public and he/she is flirting with other men/women has only made your own self-hatred increase.
Some people even think they can make another person stop drinking or abusing drugs! Or lose weight. Or stop gambling. Or stop working 60 hours a week and skiing the rest. Same scenario as above: the "co-dependent" is dependent on the behavior of others for his/her sense of self. He/she continues to get his/her sense of self from the behavior of the person he/she is dependent on. How many people do you know who have tried to help or make someone else stop drinking or drugging? Children and spouses, lovers and friends, all over the world, are known to hide alcohol or pour it out.
They try joining the drinker and hoping he will limit it to two or three drinks. They try threatening to leave the relationship, but always change their minds at the last minute. They try having dinner ready when he walks through the door. They lose themselves in their focus on the alcoholic/addict/dysfunctional person they "love." They are convinced that if they only do the right thing at the right time, if they are only good enough, they will be able to change the other person. Codependents lose themselves; they become oblivious to their own value as separate human beings.
What is this? Sounds like addiction. Yup. Addiction to a PERSON! Addiction to trying to fix someone or fix a relationship. It is NOT your fault that you are obsessed with trying to do this! You are not a bad person. You probably grew up in a chaotic household, or maybe an alcoholic or abusive one, or came from an unprocessed divorce, or even a rigid, dogmatic setting. Any of these childhood scenarios can produce a wonderful human being who has an addiction ... in this case, to a person.There is a solution. Other people recovering from the same thing can help; a therapist knowledgeable about addiction can help. There are LOTS of books on recovery from codependency. There are no absolutes regarding to stay or not to stay in the relationship with the addict, unless there is overt physical or sexual abuse, or child abuse. There IS help in getting a sense of self, some level of self-esteem, and a life not dependent on the behavior of the other person, whether or not he/she gets recovery and whether or not you stay in the relationship.
About the Author:Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs, Colo. She does consultations and referrals anywhere in the country and can be reached at 970-846-8479 or through www.docdawn.com.