Tuesday, 25 November 2008


Co-dependent relationships are crucifying the western world; relationships whose basis is a psychological need for the other person, unlike real marriage whose basis is the gift of self to the other person. Co-dependent relationships are found today both inside and outside marriage as well as with homosexual people. They are relationships which do not give life to the partners or to society, but rather enclose both partners in coccoon and prevent them from growing in themselves and from being a life-giving part of society.
Co-dependency forms the very first stage of all our lives in the relationship which a child, boy or girl, has with its mother. What normally happens is that the father is instrumental in breaking this bond which the child has with its mother at about the age of 2 - 3, enabling the child to discover him/herself as an independent person.

Co-dependency is not new to society but it has only been recognised in recent times; the word itself having sprung from the work of psychologists. Co-dependency is so apparent in our age when marriage, as a life-style, is diminishing in western societies, and when the overriding message of today's media is that a relationship is a necessary accessory to life.
As co-dependent relationships develop rationale is replaced by inane arguments rooted in self doubt and fear. Believing that nothing else can make them happy or that no one else can understand them they way their lover does, they become dependant on the companionship and comfort of each other. Trust is a foreign concept, for every time a phone call goes unanswered or a text message goes unreturned, lying, cheating and arguments become the illogical habits of co-dependant lovers. Friendships are used as crutches, rather than mutual enjoyment of one another's company. Rather than keeping in touch consistently, you will only speak to your other friends when you need them, and not be there for them in return. When your friends begin to sense a pattern in your actions and realize your fair-weathered friendship has no purpose they will leave you to rely even more on your significant other.
Beattie and Korski's comparison of real love with co-dependency is quite thorough:
1. Love - development of self is first priority. Co-dependency - Obsession with relationship.
2. Love - Room to grow, expand; desire for other to grow. Co-dep - Security, comfort in sameness; intensity of need seen as proof of love (may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)
3. Love - Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships. Co-dep - Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests.
4. Love - Encouragement of each other secure in own worth. Co-dep - Preoccupation with other's behavior; fear of other changing.
5. Love - Trust. Co-dep - Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition.
6. Love - Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem solving together. Co-dep - Power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive manipulation.
7. Love - Relationship deals with all aspects of reality. Co-dep - Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant.
8. Love - emotional state not dependent on other's mood. Co-dep - Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other.
9. Love - Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go.) Co-dep - Fusion (being obsessed with each other's problems and feelings.)
10. Love - Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship. Co-dep - Pressure about sex due to insecurity, fear & need for immediate gratification.
12. Love - Ability to enjoy being alone. Co-dep - Unable to endure separation; clinging.
13. Love - Cycle of comfort and contentment. Co-dep - Cycle of pain and despair.
Now, whilst we may be able, with the help of psychologists to analyse this phenomenon, it is important that we should be able to get over this phenomenon and make progress in life - for the sake of the person and for the sake of marriage. Psychology doesn't offer much help here, and indeed, some pyschologists see no problem at all with co-dependency. But if we are looking at life with God, then the capacity of the person to be open to God and to grow in virtue and holiness, and for that matter, for young people to be able to have real friendships for friendships sake - ones which are not emotionally burdened, and for the freedom which is necessary for a person to respond to a vocation - for instance, marriage, then yes, we do need to be able to see the way forward in a culture in which co-dependency is so widespread. And helping young people to respond to the call to marry and to be able to enter into the truth about married love is an urgent task today for all parents and agents of Christian formation.
This 5 step process is, I think, a reasonable way of looking at one's own life:
Step1. Examine your behaviour. When you have a problem you feel you cannot face is your first reaction to call your significant other to solve it for you? Do you feel that you need to feel needed and end up being taken advantage of most of the time? These are all signs of codependency. Accepting you have a problem is the first step towards healing the relationship.
Step2. Give yourself time away from this person. Tell them that you need to work on yourself, and you need time to discover who you are without him or her. This might cause a negative reaction but this is only normal. Do not stay in the relationship out of fear of abandonment.
Step3. Seek help with someone you trust and who can help you resolve your issues. This will not take overnight but it will help you become aware of the problems you are facing.
Step4. Try do different activities which you would not have done otherwise when you were in the relationship. Discover who you are and your own self-worth. Try to develop a relationship with yourself before you develop a relationship with anyone else.
Step5. Once you replace " I need you" with " I want to be around you," you are on your way towards healing the relationship. However, some relationships cannot be repaired and it is best for both parties to part ways.

This process is obviously a secular programme to which I would add two important elements:

1. Keep up your conversation with Christ through prayer and the Sacraments; for to grow in grace is your essential vocation.

2. Develop your appreciation of what Christian marriage actually is, through reading and through encountering married people and marriage preparation resources; this will widen your vision about the nature and meaning of relationships and help you to reflect on your own.

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