"Stories" from the Collective (YOU)

Co-dependency and Relationships

by Hanson G.
(Washington DC, USA)

Hanson knows a lot about co-dependent relationships (as you'll see). Still, in his relationship question he wants to know how to recognise co-dependent tendencies in relationships (can you help?)...

HANSON'S QUESTION: How do I distinguish co-dependent tendencies/behaviors from "healthy" ones in my diverse relationships?

Yes, confidence, self-esteem, and knowing what you're looking for are assets in a relationship. But they are only "symptoms" - phenomena related to a much bigger picture of who we can potentially be (or are!) as aware, wholesome, loving human beings.

Being a co-dependent in the more "classic" sense has enabled me to see dependencies in a clearer light than most "normal" people. Good, professional research into co-dependency in the last 20, 30 years has provided some real in-depth views into the nature of this phenomenon. Namely, that it primarily results from dysfunctional families, and that its tendencies carry on from generation to generation, without being recognized sufficiently by its members. In other words, particular kinds of conditioning and set patterns of thinking occur, much to the ignorance of the one experiencing them.

Here are a few key factors:
  • denial of one's condition,
  • blaming others,
  • letting others decide for you,
  • letting others set the standards for you,
  • living up to the expectations of others,
  • trying to be "good",
  • nothing being ever enough,
  • living up to unrealistic ideals,
  • believing in others more than in oneself,
  • being too hard on oneself,
  • lack of assertive skills,
  • un manageability of one's life,
  • and, most importantly, powerlessness over others (and oneself!).
It seems to be a lack of connection to (or concentration on) one's "true" Self. Letting the world and its phenomena be a source of constant distraction. Not good for attention-deficit types!

Interestingly, I found in my research how co-dependent tendencies occur within religious, sect, or ideology frameworks. The same patterns evolve within these groups as they do within particular family structures. This involves control, power, prestige, perfectionism. Authoritarian types are enablers for "predisposed" co-dependents, though I don't believe one is necessarily born a co-dependent.

I wish there was another word for self-esteem. Liking oneself should suffice! My goal is to be like a Buddha : unruffled, independent of the phenomenal world. But without proclaiming to be one. Maybe not in this lifetime! Still have to pay the bills and work on my co-dependency.

I guess what I'm also trying to say is, to recognize the "spiritual" elements (wholesomeness, goodness) in "dysfunctionality" (mine and the world's). Realizing my innocence and purity, and sharing it with the world. But ultimately being responsible for myself!


So thanks for letting me "share", Steve. Sorry I haven't directly commented on your, or Paula Renaye's, question "Why are relationships so difficult?". But I think a lot of what I've written corresponds well to it.

You know that song "The Circle Game" from Joni Mitchell? It drives home how illusory life is : the constant repetitions of life's forces and rhythms, and how we're naturally attuned to, and dependent on, them for our (well-) being. But how everything is so fleeting. Whether we know it or not.

But it's also about discovering that which is in us that's independent of all that, as well. Don't you think?

Just writing this has been very inspirational. Thanks to your inspiration, Steve! Let's all be truly EMPOWERED!

Best, Hanson

YOUR ANSWER?... (to Hanson's relationship question about co-dependency) - Please comment below


Overcome Your Insecurities: Here's How!


Comments for Co-dependency and Relationships

Steve's Answer Re Codependency
by: Steve M Nash

These 2 inspirational quotes on the theme of codependency shall come to my aid, to help me with my thoughts on codependency.

"More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying them."
-- Harold J. Smith


"If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people."
-- Virginia Woolf

Firstly, I have to admit that I do not have a full understanding of what the word 'co-dependency' means. A quick look on the web (e.g. WikiPedia and Mental Health America) helps, but still this is not language I am familiar with living in UK.

So I'm going to think of codependency in terms of 'giving up your power'.

As Paula mentions in her answer, the fact of the matter is (and no matter how hard you resist this fact, how many 'stories' you concoct to prove yourself right):


Yes, you are enough! You deserve to receive the best. And you deserve to give of your best, too.

Once you accept your power - the idea that you CAN work out any difficulties you're experiencing, or worrying about experiencing, you will stop projecting your fears onto the other person; you will start to look at yourself and just what it is you fear, instead.

That's why the 2 quotes are included here. Pointing fingers at another is easy, and so is not accepting the truth about yourself.

2 people in relationship - real people with real flaws - can begin to explore the possibilities of their particular relationship, when they begin to accept (and talk about, lovingly) their flaws; AND when they begin to accept their power (and responsibilities) too.


Paula's Answer Re Codependency
by: Paula Renaye

Co-dependency is such a huge can of worms, so I am going to take a global approach and focus on what an unhealthy relationship is to me. It is one is based on fear, plain and simple. Here are a very few fears that apply to relationships of all varieties—partner, child, parent, friend, etc.—to start you thinking:

  • Fear of what might happen if you aren?t monitoring him/her 24/7.

  • Fear that when you are not with the person he/she is doing something that is hurtful to you.

  • Fear that if you say or do the wrong thing, he/she will instantly not want you.

  • Fear that you don?t know what the right thing to say or do is.

  • Fear that he/she will leave you.

  • Fear that he/she will find someone better.

  • Fear that he/she is hiding something that if you knew about would signal your world crumbling

  • Fear, fear and more fear.

These sound pretty pathetic when you read them, but I can assure you, there are plenty of us who have lived with these fears and the strangling variations thereof.

Of course, it all boils down to the very powerful feeling that we are not okay as we are and we need that other person to fill that part of ourselves that feels empty. We feel that we will never be okay unless we get that particular person to do whatever it is we think they need to.

And yes, the bottom line is that in order to have a healthy relationship, you have to be one of the two healthy individuals in it who loves and respects themselves.


Sandy's Answer Re Codependency
by: sandy

I'm not sure if you want other feedback since there is an expert in the house (smile)

But I think co-dependency is quite prevalent in society. In some ways I think it has to do with the "breadwinner" phenomenon (who is in control... whatever that means... in your household).

I do think the ability to economicaly take care of oneself becomes an issue in codependency. It's easy to say "don't foster co-dependency" but it's another thing to have relationships where perhaps one partner makes less money and/or is dependent upon another financially as well as emotionally.

Add then a few kids to the mix and the lines get more blurred.

Return to Your Relationship Q&As.