I’m Codependent? What the heck does that mean?

One of the most impactful things about myself I learned during my journey of an unwanted divorce is that I was “codependent.” It is shocking what it is and how rampant it is in our society. It is essential that you are aware of what it is and how it works because codependency is one of the main problems that contribute to creating a false reality. And seeing a clear reality is necessary to heal.

I am not a mental health expert or even a counselor or therapist. I read about four books on the subject and my therapist, Kelly, worked with me to understand it and develop healthy habits to overcome my codependency.

It has taken a long time (months) to get better at not being codependent. Also, codependency is not a phycological diagnosis. In my own layman’s terms, it is an interpersonal communications framework that hurts anyone involved. I will be using my own words because it took me a while to learn what it was.

To me, codependency is the need to control others’ feelings to manage your emotions. The saying “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is a glimpse of how codependency works. From what I can tell, there are two types of codependent people, people pleasers and shamers. People pleasers need others to be happy for them to be happy. Shamers shame others so that they cannot attack or shame them back, which would make them unhappy.

Codependency emerges as a result of low self-esteem. To define true self-esteem, again in my own words;

True Self-Esteem is the ability to value one’s self-based on the act of identifying one’s belief system of right and wrong and living up to those standards. True self-esteem does not depend on achievements, relationships, status, or wealth. It depends entirely on your ability to live up to your definition of right and wrong.

The way codependency happens is through manipulation. People pleasers will do things to manipulate their loved ones into being happy, thus making themselves happy. This is not to be confused with acts of kindness or expressing love. The difference between manipulation and expressing love is, if the recipient of the act does not appreciate or like the act, a manipulator will take offense and feel bad. The person expressing their love will note and find a new way to express their feelings without feeling bad. Sure, the effusive participant may be disappointed, but they do not see the reaction as a selfish or vindictive response. Manipulation is so easy to participate in, whether you are manipulating or being manipulated, that it is difficult to remove from how we relate and communicate with each other.

Boundaries are a large part of fighting codependency.

Setting and supporting, and honoring other’s boundaries is critical to a healthy relationship. Setting boundaries, especially with those you have never set boundaries for, is an abrasive process, and as you learn how to do it, people around you may fight you. That means they do not respect your boundaries and need to be “re-trained” to have a relationship with you. This sounds tough, and it is! But it is so necessary to live well and have a happy life.

Here is the list of books I read on the subject that supplemented my work with my therapist.

Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse

By: Jackson MacKenzie, Shannon Thomas – foreword

Boundaries After a Pathological Relationship

By: Adelyn Birch

Beyond Codependency – And Getting Better All the Time

By: Melody Beattie

When I learned about codependency, I got excited because I had something to work on to get better. But I also realized that most people around me, including myself, are manipulative and codependent. So I had plenty of work to do.

Investigate this subject. It was one of the most impactful components that led to the failure of my marriage. I have to own that. The great news is, I do not have to be codependent any longer! It’s a struggle sometimes, but completely worth it!

Ben Marshall



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