If you’re wondering “what does codependent mean?” or fear you suffer from codependency you’re in the right place. Even as a recovering codependent, it’s extremely difficult to define what codependency is.
What Does Codependent Mean?
Looking to award-winning author of Beyond Codependency by Melody Beattie, her definition of codependency is as follows:
A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
Looking to Robert Subby’s definition from the book Co-Dependency: An Emerging Issue it’s defined as:
An emotional, psychological and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules — rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal as well as interpersonal problems.
What Caused my Codependency?
Causes of codependency are from a young age. Typically it’s where the child isn’t in the proper family role a child should be in and is instead a martyr or caretaker. This can be from taking care of siblings because a parent is incapacitated, having abusive parents, going through a divorce where parents refuse to co-parent and put the child in the middle, etc. As a child of a rough divorce my father would confide in me the emotional disturbances he was experiencing in regards to my his separation from my mother. As a result, I felt I was my father’s caretaker. This is known as emotional incest and is another common cause of codependency. Because of emotional incest, at a young age I felt I was responsible for other people’s emotions. I believe this was part of the cause, there was also fear of abandonment which triggered borderline personality disorder (BPD). The cause of BPD was my mother leaving at such a young age which affected future relationships. Because codependency was deeply rooted in me at such a young age, it’s harder to recover from than drugs. Not only is it more deeply rooted than drug abuse, but using drugs is a choice where as participating in relationships isn’t. I never have to use a drug again, but platonic or not I will always have to engage in relationships and put my codependent tendencies at bay.
The Symptoms of Codependency I Experienced
For me the fear of abandonment which fuels codependency makes me incredibly controlling within a romantic relationship. Granted, any abuse found in a romantic relationship is progressive. It’s never on the first date you decide to be abusive, over time I would test my boundaries of control with abusive behaviors. I was in a relationship for 8 years and the progression of verbal abuse, rooted in the deep-seated fear that she would leave me, grew out of my control. If my ex would even say another guys attractive I would create conflict with passive aggressive behavior to an extreme. My whole goal in creating this conflict was to make her feel how I felt so I could feel an illusion of security that she wouldn’t leave me. If she felt as bad as I did she needed me as much as I need her, right? As soon as I determined she felt as bad as I did, I would flip the switch and be the most kind and loving boyfriend anyone can ask for. The cycle would repeat, and repeat, and repeat. She was like a doormat for my emotional disturbances.
It’s like any addictive drug out there. You have your manic ups and your detrimental lows. The only difference is that you’re using a person rather than using a drug. The manic ups fit the fairy tale romance demonstrated by Disney movies. Feelings like the “you complete me” as if without you I’m half a person. In the lows I would feel extreme fear and depression that I would be half a person incapable of happiness without my other half. It’s normal to feel really depressed when a long-term relationship ends. However, when she left me I felt incapable of living. I suffered from severe depression, post traumatic stress from trauma triggers that would remind me of her and cause obsessive thoughts that could last hours or days, dreaming about her every night to wake up alone, and plans to commit suicide. That is not normal. This answered to me “what does codependent mean?”
How do I Recover from Codependency?
To this day I’m not sure how to answer this question. I feel confident in knowing “what does codependent mean?” but the recovery is difficult to say the least. As someone who knows they’re codependent my solution has been to only be involved in relationships with friends and family. I refuse to be in a romantic relationship unless I know I’ve recovered to a significant extent. Attempts at being in a romantic relationship in the past 6 years since the relationship ended have failed. I’ve never been in an official relationship, but even in “friends with benefits” relationships I feel the need to control and fear of abandonment creep in forcing me to end the sexual aspect of the relationship.
As a man it’s important to be aware of who we are in a relationship and accept the fact we may not be healthy enough to participate in one currently. Patience yields the best results, once I feel like I’m healthy enough to be in a relationship and have less fear of abandonment I will give it a go. But until I fix myself, I’m not going to expect another person to fix me.
I hope this article answers the question “what does codependent mean?”
Philip Markoff (Associate of Science) is an online influencer and thought leader on addiction education; he is known as his alias “CG Kid” who’s obtained a large audience primarily on YouTube as a vlogger and journalist. His current sobriety date from polysubstance chemical dependency is June 9th, 2013.