If you listen to the radio and flip through the stations, you’ll start to notice a pattern in the lyrics of the songs. Similarly, if you were to read any number of romance novels or watch movies that involve a love story, you will also potentially notice the same pattern. The media we consume on a daily basis is riddled with patterns of codependency. It’s no wonder this toxic dynamic is so widely accepted and prevalent in relationships.
How many songs croon on about how the singer can’t breathe, live or go on without another? How many movies have stories where one love interest “needs” another to “complete” them (hello, Jerry Maguire!)? How many story plots are about how one person makes another feel like someone else or that they’ve become “someone else” during or after the relationship leaving them lost, not remembering who they were “before” the relationship began (or even more dramatically, how they existed before they met!?)?
These narratives normalize what could be very toxic tendencies or behaviors and make them widely accepted. The media teaches us that finding what is missing within us in another person is entirely reasonable, even admirable.
It is almost expected that another person can fill the gaps and holes in our hearts. That it’s “romantic” to find a soulmate who “completes” us and that our happiness relies and depends upon either someone else’s ability to “make us happy” or upon how happy we make others.
I’ve talked about this before, but it bears reminding – when we seek happiness outside of ourselves instead of within us, it leads to disappointing results. To be joyful, we must first “complete” ourselves. We must find wholeness within and resolve any trauma, wounds, or pain that may have eroded our self-worth or sense of lovability.
When we pin our happiness upon someone or something outside of us, that someone or something hijacks our opportunity to love ourselves fully and completely because we depend on someone else to do it for us rather than taking responsibility. Until they no longer “love us”, and then we find ourselves crying into a never-ending glass of red wine or chocolate cake.
When someone loves us, we feel unstoppable; we feel beautiful; we feel desired, sexy, wanted, needed, and recognized for how incredibly awesome we are. When our self-worth is at risk, or we don’t maintain a healthy sense of self-worth, everything comes into question the minute we get dumped, rejected, or our relationship goes south.
We begin to question who we are, whether we are pretty, thin, intelligent, good enough, etc. We wonder what’s wrong with us and whether or not we are lovable. That is, if you were not “whole” when you entered the relationship, or if your sense of self-worth and lovability hinged upon your attachment to someone else who no longer accepts or loves you “completely.”
Simply put, codependency exists when your self-worth becomes dependent upon someone or something else. You remain in this dynamic because you don’t feel worthy or good enough to choose something better.
This may cause you to find attention or recognition (often misconstrued as love in a codependent relationship) in an unhealthy way to avoid your pain and hurt because, deep down, you no longer feel lovable, worthy, beautiful, desired, etc.
When you begin to build your identity around another person or a relationship, you tend to give up your own needs and wants for those of your partner (or parent, boss, friend, etc.). Eventually, you begin to de-prioritize your own needs and de-emphasize your importance within the relationship. You become a doormat aka “victim,” a “rescuer,” a “fixer,” or a “martyr.”
However, you are here to BE YOU unapologetically – not compromise who you are for someone else. You are meant to have your OWN wants and needs. You are NOT meant to fill the holes in someone else, nor are they here to fill the gaps within you. You are NOT meant to be the source of everyone’s happiness while forsaking your own, nor are other people here to provide you with joy at their own risk.
If you find yourself in a codependent relationship or recognize this pattern in your past relationships, ask yourself what you are or were getting out of this dynamic? Is it power – by getting your attention needs met when you overextend yourself and receive recognition for it, or feeling powerful when you’re able to control someone else’s need for you because their happiness hinges upon yours? Is it avoidance – by avoiding your unhappiness and pinning it on someone else rather than doing the healing work you need to do? Is it to prove your worth and boost your self-esteem? Is it to prove that you are lovable?
How do you break this pattern? Well, the first step, as always, is acknowledging it! Become aware and notice the patterns. Allow others to be responsible for their actions and take accountability for your role within the pattern.
Second, learn to release control and let go of being the victim, fixer, rescuer, or martyr. Stop playing or feeding into victimhood, stop trying to “be all” to everyone around you to prove your worthiness, and stop trying to control your “outside” environment in order to control your “inner” environment.
Third, focus on your needs and wants. Learning to say “no” is an integral step, and then give yourself permission to prioritize your needs and wants first.
Fourth, uncover what needs to be healed within you so you can rebuild your self-worth and lovability to “complete” yourself and become whole so you can fully break the pattern. Self-discovery and self-awareness are essential ingredients for any self-healing journey. Be sure to have a healthy dose of both!
Fifth, release the fear you may have about being rejected. This last step will fall into place as you learn to value who you are and recognize that you are worthy of being accepted and loved just as you are, not for whom others expect or need you to be.
Most importantly, be patient and compassionate with yourself as you work to break the patterns and re-write the beautiful narrative of who you truly are!
Are you currently in an unhealthy relationship? Do you need help breaking the patterns and rewriting the script? Are you ready to dive deep and self-heal but need a hand to hold? If so, reach out to see how I can help guide you. Also, I’m putting together a Relationship Reboot program and looking for beta testers. Let me know if this interests you!