I will risk to say that relationship addiction is very common among people with a tendency to develop relationships based on codependency. Codependency was first used to describe people who enable their partner’s addictive behaviour regarding drugs or alcohol consumption. However, codependency also exists when a partner enables, or passively reinforces, other self-destructive ways of functioning such as overeating, constant display of violence or evident manipulation. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish who is who in the relationship and I deeply believe this is so because both partners somehow personally deal with the same problem – addiction.
When we watch women or men staying with violent alcoholic partners, we can’t avoid but ask ‘Why? Why don’t they leave?’ or ‘How can they tolerate such disrespect?’. In this case, we usually label the violent person as the addict and the victim as the ‘codependent’. The codependent is, nonetheless, also an addict, or otherwise the unhealthy relationship would no longer exist in the same form and shape. However, codependents stay in such abusive conditions because they are addicted to love, and they can’t see how their addiction is the main root cause of the majority of their life problems.
Codependents often come from dysfunctional families. This doesn’t mean they have been physically abused or verbally assaulted. It can simply mean they never really received or learned a healthy way to feel and seek support. In other words, they didn’t have parental figures who could show them how to manage their emotions and thoughts. Hence, they stay in bad situations, because they can’t perceive an alternative way of giving and receiving love and affection. They learned early on that love was meant to be painful, that love meant they had to be and do everything their mom or daddy subjectively required from them. They grew up without a backbone, the confidence and the certainty that relationships are meant to be healthy and that love doesn’t equate inhuman sacrifice.
With no backbone and healthy seeds of love within themselves, enablers frequently develop a strange feeling of emptiness. There is always something missing. They may have a job, a roof above their head, a car to drive around, someone home to return to, but they never feel happy or satisfied. The job is not fulfilling, the house is not what they really wanted, the car breaks down often, and their partner is either emotionally unavailable or too controlling and overprotective. Then they wonder why and how they ended up in such a mess. That’s when they usually start blaming other people and become resentful, when in fact they were the ones making the bad decisions all along.
I know what I’m talking about not because of Psychology but because I experienced and felt it. I grew up with the idea that I had to please everyone and be content with little. I learned that in order to be loved, I had to satisfy this and that condition established by other people. I also said to myself that it was wrong to want more than what life was offering me and it was impossible to attract better partners. Wasn’t I always falling for the same type of guy? The truth is that I failed to reject the bad options for fear and lack of perspective. I stayed in the wrong relationships and I always looked for a new partner after the other because I was afraid that I couldn’t be happy by myself. I let myself believe that I needed someone to make me move through life because I hadn’t a backbone of my own and I didn’t know how to develop one.
To love someone meant I would be willing to forget about myself, my needs and likes, so that I could take care of the other person unconditionally.Tweet
I believed I had to take what I was offering myself and I also let myself believe that I had to tolerate my partners’ emotional unavailability and shortcomings. I thought that was real love. I bought into the idea that love was all about self-sacrifice. To love someone meant I would be willing to forget about myself, my needs and likes, so that I could take care of the other person unconditionally. To love meant I would have to be present and available, even when I wasn’t emotionally or physically able. I would even congratulate myself or be proud of such ‘achievement’ and display the ‘modern woman’ flag.
So how did I break free from this crazy pattern? I got extremely tired and hurt to the point that I became sincerely and authentically intentional about how I want to live my life. I looked at myself and decided I didn’t want to keep being that girl who is always waiting for a shinning knight to come over and save me from my sad life. I didn’t want to be or invest in relationships that didn’t feel right from the start. I didn’t want to keep second guessing my intuition. Instead I chose to believe in my own judgment. I nurtured and I keep watering what most people call ‘self-love’. I took control over my decisions and I established my own golden rules which I’m not willing to compromise anymore in exchange of crumbles.
I no longer reply to text messages, e-mails or invitations that I don’t want to reply to. I no longer look up for that guy who I was once so obsessed about or who I thought to be the one for me. I no longer tolerate disrespect or behaviours that dishonour or threat both my inner child and the adult I want to be. I’m creating my own bubble of love and happiness. I’m dancing, having fun, and laughing as much as I need to feel happy, without waiting for a guy to pick me up from home. I’m filling my cup, and I never felt this full. There has been a great sense of freedom in doing just that. It’s liberating to grab happiness by the hand and build my own backbone from a deep loving intention of giving myself the chance to live my best life.