There are so many articles out there that teach us about “codependency.”
We look for validation in self-help books and articles, and we read about the signs of an abusive relationship and the detrimental impact it can have on our lives.
Just knowing that what we feel is real, that we aren’t crazy, and our relationship is unhealthy, makes us feel better in the moment. We then seek to find a solution.
As a counseling professional, I am knowledgeable of the common factors in so many unhealthy relationships, referred to as “codependence.” I am quick to educate my clients and guide them toward recognizing when one partner depends so much on the other that it causes anxiety, exhaustion, and results in confusion and unhappiness. But, how often do we read about what a healthy relationship feels like?
I want to write from my heart, and not as a professional.
Until now, I have been in codependent relationships my whole life, including a decade in a marriage that was mutually codependent. After finally recognizing I had a choice, becoming disentangled from the relationship was like climbing a huge mountain without oxygen.
But, being an analyst by nature, I spent so much time trying to understand how I reached that point, and how my subsequent relationships were indicators that I kept repeating the same relationship mistakes that I started as a teenager.
However, in my adult life, it doesn’t matter how it all happened. It matters that I recognize the difference, and I feel the difference between a healthy versus an unhealthy relationship. And I am never going back to that awful, lingering desperation where my partner’s happiness was more important than mine.
I always said my children come first. In actuality, my patterns did not represent this and instead consisted of ensuring my relationship was intact before I could move forward or focus on anything else. I say “intact,” because in simplistic terms, that is all it was. As long as I wasn’t fighting, or intertwined in some nature of drama in my relationship then I could relax, feel complete and finally put my time and effort on something else. It is embarrassing to admit this. Hence, the reason I am sharing. I finally get it; and now I am not only physically present with my children, but I am emotionally there, and they really do come first!
Reaching this place of comfort and contentment has not been an easy journey, but it has been worth all the bumps and unexpected detours. When my codependent marriage ended, I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning. Later on, I found myself staying in unhealthy relationships because I didn’t want to hurt the other person. I would then feel trapped and sabotage the relationship—and then I would hate myself. A vicious cycle. All of this meant that I didn’t value my own emotions or happiness. I would ignore what I felt and focus on the other person. Perhaps some of these patterns sound familiar?
There is so much truth to how we attract the unhealthy, when in fact we are unhealthy ourselves. I unintentionally met someone who falls into the “healthy” category and having him in my life feels refreshing. It is liberating to be in a relationship where worrying about the reactions of your partner are non-existent. I can actually worry about myself now, a foreign, yet exhilarating experience. I am a happier person with virtually no frivolous worry in my life.
I had been notorious for obsessing about where I stood in my past partners’ lives. As soon as I claimed my independence and accepted that I couldn’t lean on anyone, but myself, I started to feel stronger, healthier, wiser, and happier. I do not feel that aching loneliness without him, instead I feel appreciative of the time I have alone time to engage in my personal passions for writing and meditation.
I do not feel yearning to receive a text or call from him, instead I am confident enough to reach out to him on my own and without any urgency to hear back from him. My mind is no longer pre-occupied with his whereabouts and with whom he is with, instead I am focused on my own whereabouts and with whom I am! I thought it would take a challenging and conscious effort to do this, yet it feels easy. Another foreign concept to me.
I have heard people say that a healthy relationship should feel effortless, and I have heard people say that a healthy relationship involves efforts of both partners to make it work. I can say with certainty that whatever people say doesn’t matter. What matters is the personal balance we feel on our own. Once we feel steady, we won’t let anyone tip that scale. But, we can welcome our partner to add to it!
I welcome his positivity, his family values, his ambition, and his courage and strength. And I also welcome his need for independence, the need for his personal passions, or the pressure and stressors from the good and bad times. We can manage any of these things separately and on our own, but knowing that we are there to balance the other builds deeper happiness and further empowerment.
I wonder if what I am feeling is love, since I am hesitant to use this word again without feeling its true omnipresence. But, I do know for sure that I have been introduced to a relationship that enhances who I am as an individual. And I am both capable and deserving of feeling true happiness in the presence of my partner, yet I also feel happiness without his presence.
Codependency feels like prison, and I am never committing that crime again.
I am worth so much more.
Author: Kristin Devaney
Apprectice Editor: Sarah Snedaker; Editor: Travis May
Image: Flickr/Hernan Pinera