When you suffer from low self esteem, confidence issues or fear of abandonment – to name a few of the codependency symptoms I describe often, relationships can be one of the most difficult area in your life.
Because of its level of intimacy, both physical and emotional, we feel totally exposed and naked in a relationship. And this is bound to bring out all our fears – from the fear of being left, to the fear of not being good enough.
The other areas of our lives are safer, whether at work or in friendships, most of the time we don’t need to share ourselves at a deep level. But in relationship – if we want meaningful relationships that is – there is no choice. We are seen exactly as we are, with our flaws and in our rawness.
And this is also what is so beautiful about meaningful relationships. That capacity to be seen and known at our deepest. To share our core and be accepted and loved for it. It’s very healing and fulfilling.
But if you suffer from codependency, whether at a mild level or quite strongly, you may find you lose yourself in relationships. You make the relationship at the centre of your life, you grow very big expectations from it, you focus a lot on that part of your life. And then you start to notice an unbalance in the interaction, you may even become more needy, more dissatisfied and more insecure. And inevitably, you end up unhappy in your relationship or it simply breaks down. Again.
If that’s a familiar pattern you find in your life, welcome to the wicked world of codependents around the world. Women are mostly affected, bizarrely more than men – even though there are a few men who will recognise themselves in this description.
I’m often asked the question “can we be happy in a relationship if we suffer from codependency then?”
And fortunately the answer is yes. It takes work, self-awareness, persistence and determination – but it is possible.
I was having a chat with a friend about relationship a while back, and I got a revelation. A light bulb moment. He was describing codependency in a very simple metaphor. “It’s like you’re in a very cold place, in the north pole, sitting down and you’re freezing. And suddenly you see a fire not far away. You are drawn to that fire like if your life depended on it, and you run towards it. And in the meantime, you lose your ground. It was a cold ground, but it was your ground. And you lose it to go and consume yourself in the fire. And the fire warms you at first – but it also burns you and destroys you.”
I loved that metaphor. It really describes well how a codependent person feels in a relationship. It feels at first that the relationship saves you. From yourself, from pain, from loneliness etc. But after a while, it consumes you as you lose yourself in it.
Codependency comes from an inner void. And we seek unconsciously to fill in that void in relationships. But in reality, that void which comes from unmet core needs in our childhood, will never be fully filled by our relationships. They will help, they will soothe and even heal a little bit – but never replace what’s missing.
And my friend asked me “so what is missing that you try to fill in within your relationship? what are the needs that you seek to meet?”
And that’s where the revelation came from. I didn’t know until he asked me that question. I kind of had an idea, but I had never looked at it so clearly. Because when we are codependent and self-aware at the same time, we know we are engaging in unhealthy patterns. We know we are in destructive relationships, we know that person is not good for us. Yet we’re drawn to it and can’t stop ourselves. Like we’re drawn to that fire that we believe will save our lives.
So I looked at those core needs that I unconsciously was trying over and over again to meet through relationships. Now those needs are deeply unconscious, it’s not like I’m walking around trying to meet them as if they were written on a shopping list 😛 But they drive my behaviours and choices in life. So I started to search what the triggers were when I got attracted by someone and started to lose myself ; what that person was doing that strongly drawn me to them in what I’ve learnt to recognise is an unhealthy attraction. And I discovered my “fire”. I discovered the traits I saw in a man that for me were the red flags signalling my codependency was activated. Signalling that the attraction I felt came from those core unmet needs rather than a genuine mature interest in that person.
And I’ve learnt to not act on them. To simply recognise the triggers and practice staying grounded and centred in myself – using a combination of therapeutic tools such as NLP, Hypnotherapy and mindfulness. It’s a daily practice and requires a consistent self-awareness, but it has given me a strength that’s invaluable. It has given me my power back.
However, I must say that getting that awareness is not enough. Codependency doesn’t get solved by simply changing our behaviours ; in order for those changes to last, we need to also work on the core issues behind it. Identifying the limiting beliefs with CBT for example ; and healing the past wounds with hypnotherapy, EMDR and EFT to name a few approaches I’ve used.
So to answer that question – if we can be happy in relationship despite codependency – yes we can ; by healing our past, meeting our core needs from childhood, by getting a good self-esteem, learning to love ourselves and then practice on a daily basis new behaviours – we can indeed be happy in a healthy meaningful relationship.
If you’re interested in working more in depth with codependency, drop me a line or check our healing codependency program! I’d be happy to discuss all this more in depth with you!
Looking forward to hearing from you! 🙂