Clinically, co-dependency can be defined as “relationship addiction,” and it affects individuals who are in abusive and destructive relationships. These individuals are so desperate to stay in these relationships that they will tolerate extreme behavior.
The problem I have with this perspective is that, on many occasions, it makes the co-dependent the “bad guy” in the situation. This definition highlights their inability to bring change to the behaviors and condemns them for staying in the relationship. Let me be clear: I am by no means excusing behaviors that bring harm to anyone.
That being said, I do understand there are individuals who can perpetuate negative behavior patterns, but I believe it is time for co-dependency to be redefined.
Many people find themselves in less-than-desirable relationships, whether with a friend, spouse or family member. Instead of allowing the flaws of the other individual to be exposed, the “co-dependent” does whatever is necessary to mask the behavior, keep the balance and avoid disruption to their life routines. The problem with this method of behavior is that it allows no room for change. It permits the person who is not responsible to take on the responsibility of the person who is truly accountable. This creates broken systems, broken relationships, broken families and broken generations.
My diplomas and license allow me to be an expert in relationship dynamics, but I don’t have the final say. My opinion is that if more people would stop trying to cover up the behavior of others and allow the truth to be exposed, much more healing, change and restoration would occur.
I can speak of this firsthand.
In college I found myself in a very abusive and destructive relationship. I remember going to the leadership of the church I attended asking for guidance and counsel. I found them unwilling to address the abusive behavior of my boyfriend (for fear of upsetting him and his position, in my opinion), and instead giving me a few books on co-dependency.
I decided to follow their direction and began to read as much as I could about this subject. I learned a great deal about myself, my situation and how I could help others in similar situations. The most important thing I learned was how to allow the negative behaviors of others to speak for themselves.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that a wound was inflicted the same day that I have allowed to be healed. Instead of the church leaders confronting my abusive boyfriend, they confronted me. Instead of getting him help for his abusive tendencies and manipulative behavior, they highlighted my desire to keep it silent. This sent a very mixed message. They allowed me to own something that wasn’t mine to own.
Fast-forward to the present day where I am blessed with the opportunity to allow individuals to “own” their issues daily. I am much more aware when I slip into co-dependent thinking, attempting to conceal the behavior of others.
My question for you is, do you also engage in co-dependent behavior? Is there something that needs to be exposed in your relationships or friendships that you are attempting to conceal?
I encourage you to own only what is yours to own; don’t try to take on the issues of others, because it only prohibits you from experiencing the best life possible.
Originally appeared on Cassie Reid Counseling. Used with permission.