Author: Emiliya Tsaneva
Every human being has their own story, which made them the person they are today and has influenced the way they see the world and connect with people. Everything has its reason, its purpose, its advantages and disadvantages. However, some stories make people go through the same hell over and over again, each time more painful and destructive, in the attempt to change the story and have a happy ending. Below you will find a story of this kind.
Some people grow up with the belief that the only way someone would love them is when the other person needs them. And so they start taking care of everything and everyone around them, no matter if it’s their responsibility or not. They take care of others and give away everything they have – time, energy, finances. They often focus on one person and put extreme effort into making them enter the correct path and trying to teach them how to live better. However, the other person keeps on constantly failing and being angry. If only the other person would change, life would be so beautiful…
Does this sound familiar to you? If the answer is “yes”, then it’s time to become acquainted with the term codependency. Codependency manifests in a person’s tendency to choose a partner with problems – he might drink too much, be quite the failure in finding and keeping a job, might have a full-blown eating disorder or might be in another relationship, but is so unhappy with his criticizing witch at home, that he needs to be taken care of and saved. Sometimes people with codependency are extremely attracted to an aggressive and overly controlling partner – he is strong, confident (or so it seems), he knows what he is doing (he could take care of you and save you!). However, all the time he keeps telling you that you don’t do things properly, that something is wrong with you, that you need to read different kinds of books, that you don’t dress well – you simply need to become someone else in order for him to be satisfied with you. And you obey, you try to please him and adjust in order for him to be happy and love you. But he is never happy and the problem is always you – if only you could obey him better, please him better, cook better, get slimmer… You just need to put in some more effort and all will be great, but this never happens – no matter how hard you try, it’s never enough. Of course, this choice of a partner is unconscious, you just somehow sense the people with problems and feel attracted to them, even before you two talk to each other. And when you come closer – oh, what a surprise – the old story plays out again, just with a different person this time.
Both women and men could suffer from codependency, often comorbid with addictions and depression. Sometimes the codependent person sticks to the pattern of constantly choosing a partner with problems, who needs to be saved. Others, on the contrary, have some pattern variations – one time they choose a partner with problems and they need to take care of them, then they choose a partner who is kind, somewhat passive and flexible, but boring. Then comes the choice of a rude and controlling partner, who constantly demands from them to be different in order to please him, otherwise he becomes abusive. The common thread in the scenarios above is the outside focus – the other person is important, his problems, his wishes. And from time to time you become resentful – what about me? When will someone take care of my needs? He must be grateful, he must cherish me for all the things I’ve done for him, he owes me that, but he doesn’t… Pain, sorrow, tears… over and over again. You put up with it, you tolerate everything and at some point you just fly into a rage: “That’s it, I am done with it, I am going away!”. But then, if you have actually gone away, you start feeling so empty and lonely, that although you have told yourself “I will never go back to him!”, you do with a sense of embarrassment and guilt: “I am sorry, I don’t know what got into me, I miss you…”. Well, the fact that you did have a solid reason to leave, simply gets ignored. At first you are euphoric, then everything goes back to the old “normal” – tears, sorrow, you don’t get gratitude for what you’re doing for the other person, he doesn’t pay enough attention to you, he doesn’t cherish you or no matter what you do, he is never pleased with you… And this happens over and over and over again.
It is not obligatory for life to be an endless suffering. You do have a choice different from sitting and waiting for someone else to give you some tenderness, attention and love crumbs, so that you don’t starve. You don’t need to go to great lengths, doing all kinds of heroic acts and ignoring your needs all the time, only to make someone like you… Enough! You didn’t come into the world to be a doormat, so stop lying on the floor, so that the other person could step on you more easily. And no, the other person is not the bad one, responsible for everything, sometimes people just step on you because they didn’t notice you were already lying on the floor. Why were you lying on the floor in the first place? It’s time to get up!
“Okay, fine, I will get up. But what am I supposed to do then? I am an altruist, a good person, it is in my nature to help others. Besides, if I don’t tell him how to make things right, the poor thing won’t be able to manage his life without me”. Your wish to give and help others is something beautiful, altruism and being humane is immensely valuable. However, when it comes to people with codependency, those values are distorted. Altruism is when you give with your heart, because you can and you want. It brings you joy to give and you don’t expect, nor do you demand anything in return. You give what you can, you do what you can and then you go home, without waiting to be repaid. Furthermore, you give to people only when they want your help, not because you’ve decided yourself that they need help, even though they don’t agree with that. “Altruism” in people with codependency is more like: “I give you, in order for you to like me”, “I give you, in order for you to give me afterwards as well”, “I give you, no matter that I am hungry too and now that I’ve sacrificed myself for you, you owe me”. This is a strategy, although unconscious one most of the time, this has nothing to do with altruism. It’s actually easy to recognize it – at the moment you realize you feel resentment towards the person, to whom you’ve just given something, or all of a sudden you start demanding from him (in the sense of “I want it from him now and that’s it, he doesn’t have the right to say no”), this is not altruism, it’s strategy.
If you have been telling yourself the same story of codependency over and over again, then you’ve been settling for crumbs. In order to get them, you’ve constantly begged for them, manipulated, demanded and even threatened. However, do you really deserve crumbs only? I don’t think so. I think it is time to stop focusing on others. The fact that you need to be needed in order to deserve love, actually shows that you have an urgent need to focus inward and to start giving yourself the love, care, attention, support and tenderness you need. Over and over and over again. Until this void in your heart starts filling up and you start feeling warmth and lightness. Then all of a sudden you notice that birds are singing, the moon is so beautiful and the flowers are so gorgeous in their blooming. You are not starving for attention and love anymore, you don’t demand them, because you already have enough. You have taken care of it yourself. And, surprise, surprise, since your aura has become soft and joyful, people around you feel attracted to you and actually enjoy paying attention to you – you don’t need to force them or mend their lives in order to receive it. Most important – this attention is simply the seasoning, the dish itself you have taken care of yourself.