My name is Michelle, and I'm a recovering codependent.
If you would have asked me a year ago, "Do you have codependency issues?", I would've scoffed and immediately said no. No no no, I'm far too independent to be codependent. I'm not needy or smothering. I'm actually quite well-adjusted, it's the other people in my life that have the issues.
(The fact that I always seemed to have a steady stream of "other people with issues" in my life? Clue #1 to my codependency.)
Turns out I had no idea what codependency actually is, or how deeply it's affected my life. And yet researching "codependency" and seeking out therapy has been the most profound turning point in my life.
In the next few weeks, I want to dive a little deeper into what exactly codependency is and how it's affecting our relationships, our parenting, and our well-being. Codependency is something that we learn from one or both of our parents, which was learned from their parents, which was learned...(you get it). Codependency is the root of so much family and personal dysfunction, and it's often masked as "love" or "selflessness" or "being a good wife."
What it really means is that we have issues with boundaries, control, self-esteem, and knowing how we feel/think. We're often people-pleasers with a severe inability to love and care for ourselves. But other people? Wheewwww, we're the BEST at taking care of other people. We take care of people without ever being asked to; we take care of people at the expense of ourselves. The problem: Caretaking doesn't actually help anyone.
Codependents are also famous for absorbing and reacting to other people's thoughts and feelings. Does your husband or boyfriend's mood dictate your day or mood? Do you have a hard time detaching from your loved one's problems without feeling responsible to "help" or "fix" or "rescue"? Do you blame other people for making you feel a certain way? Do you ever offer your help and then feel angry or resentful because LOOK HOW MUCH YOU DO FOR EVERYONE?!
If you answered "yes" to any of these things, then you might be a codependent.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you have issues with shame, guilt, or saying "no" to people? Do you chronically put your needs and wants at the bottom of your to-do list, in the name of being a good wife and mother? Do you attract and allow damaged, dysfunctional people into your lives? Are you married to someone with an addiction?
Then you might be a codependent.
I'm working on several posts about codependency — including how to recognize it in your relationship and parenting style — but I wrote a basic overview for Babble.com to better illustrate what codependency is, where it comes from, and what we can do to prevent our children from being sucked into the cycle.
Whether you think codependency applies to you or not, it's rampantly common in the most subtle, unconscious ways. If you want to know more about the subject immediately, I suggest getting into your car, driving to your nearest library, and checking out any and all books by Melody Beattie. I've read everything she's written on the subject, but her latest book — The New Codependency — is the most eye-opening and helpful self-help book I've ever read.
Also, if you're struggling with this issue and/or you're dealing with addiction in your marriage, please feel free to reach out to me. I'm not an expert — I'm still dealing with these issues on a day-by-day basis — but there's nothing more powerful than support.
The one thing I've learned through all of this is that the most important thing we can do for our relationship and our children is to be our healthiest self. We have to love ourselves, be kind to ourselves, and make ourselves a priority — starting with our own recovery.