Co-Dependency: I’ll Scratch Your Back If You’ll Scratch Mine

Co-dependent: I’m quick to use the term. It’s not so easy to define, though. I’ve been trying for better than a decade to find just the right words. It seems most psychology publications are in the same boat as me.

PsychCentral defines it as “a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior.” So really, they provided two definitions, not just one.

GoodTherapy.org breaks it down with a good ol’ list (because we love bullets) and explains that the “old” way of thinking was that everyone’s feelings were centered on one person’s addictive behaviors. Now co-dependence is recognized in much broader terms to include the role of caregiving, denial of personal problems, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt when offered help or attention from others, sensitivity to criticism, perfectionism and fear of failure, a projection of competence and a need to control others.

But the definition from GoodTherapy.org doesn’t make clear that there has to be at least two people in the relationship to make it co-dependent. At least one of the parties has to have low self-esteem and be sensitive to criticism and project a false sense of competence, and have support and attention from another party to continue carrying on with those behaviors. And let’s be clear, here: both or all parties can be co-dependent upon each other. Mothers and daughters, friends, teachers and students, lovers. Of course, some relationships are much more intimate and lasting than others.

Here is a comprehensive list from CoDA.org (Co-Dependents Anonymous.org):

Patterns and Characteristics of Co-Dependence; Co-dependents often:
• have difficulty identifying what they are feeling.
• minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel.
• perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others.
• lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
• label others with their negative traits.
• think they can take care of themselves without any help from others.
• mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
• express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
• do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom they are attracted.

Low self-esteem patterns; Co-dependents often:
• are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
• compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
• put aside their own interests in order to do what others want.
• are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings.
• are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
• accept sexual attention when they want love.
• make decisions without regard to the consequences.
• give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

Control patterns; Co-dependents often:
• believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
• attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
• freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
• become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.
• lavish gifts and favors on those they want to influence.
• use sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance.
• have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others.
• demand that their needs be met by others.
• use charm and charisma to convince others of their capacity to be caring and compassionate.
• use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally.
• refuse to cooperate, compromise, or negotiate.
• adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
• use recovery jargon in an attempt to control the behavior of others.
• pretend to agree with others to get what they want.

Avoidance patterns; Co-dependents often:
• act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them.
• judge harshly what others think, say, or do.
• avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance.
• allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships.
• use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation.
• diminish their capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use the tools of recovery.
• suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable.
• pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away.
• refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves.
• believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness.
• withhold expressions of appreciation.

As I revisit the definitions, I evaluate first my own behavior, but also a few specific relationships near me (that I have to be careful not to become too invested in, though I tend to become protective and outraged when I spot misbehavior). I think that the actual name “co-dependency” will be adjusted within the next 5-10 years, though what it will morph into will be a great mystery.

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Chelsea Handler Is My Soul Mate

I just finished watching season 1, episode 1 of the series “Chelsea Does” titled “Chelsea Does Marriage.”

Okay, there are a few ways in which we are not so similar. First, she’s a well-known star. Me, I’m lucky if my sister’s dogs remember me. Second, she can drink like a fish. I can’t because I have all of these crazy diseases (but just for the record, Chelsea, in my 20s and early 30s, I could have kept up swimmingly). Third, she’s not a fan of “fatties.” Since I’m stuck in bed, I’m the opposite of skinny, and I am severely limited on physical activity.

But here is how we are so similar: First, we share the same first name (and it’s spelled correctly). Second, we are very close in age; I’m actually 9 months older than her. Third, we both are very outspoken. Fourth, our father figures have told us and the men we have dated – if we like the men enough to bring them around, which rarely happens – that we are very strong women, and require a strong man.

Getting into the particulars, Chelsea and I feel the same way about the wedding dress, the wedding ceremony, and what comes before and after the big day – we just don’t get it. I never imagined a wedding day or what I would wear as a dress or even what it would be like to want to be hitched to someone for the rest of my life. I was lucky enough to be asked to be a part of the wedding party when two good friends got married, but it was very non-traditional. She wore a black dress, we went shopping for her black knee-high boots, and her wedding march music included “Flash’s Theme” by Queen. He wore a nice button-down shirt and even got a haircut for the big day. I think how my friends treated their special day was about the same level as I would want mine.

Chelsea and I have done a lot of dating and have had a lot of sex. In fact, I felt a little sorry for her because by my calculations of when the show was being taped, I was actually getting more ass than she was. That just goes to show that men have no standards – I mean, c’mon, I’m a bald woman who is confined to bed for about 22 of every 24 hours, and guys still wanna slip me the mickey.

But we’re kind of getting to the point in our lives (and Jesus H., don’t say it’s because we’ve hit 40) that we want to see how different our lives would be if we actually had someone in our corner. And we also want to be the type of people to say, “Yes, I love ______ deeply and he is my best friend.” We need strong men who aren’t going to act all butt hurt about everything that makes us us. We don’t want to be life coaches. We want men to be comfortable in their own skin and to look around and say, “Oh, I’m going to take care of this” instead of us having to beg, plead and bully someone to put on his big boy pants and do it, and do it right the first time.

Chelsea, I totally get it on Eric Bana. He is very masculine and he loves his wife deeply, and he doesn’t let anyone cross the line or share that space he saves for his wife. I think that when spouses are that loving, we see a certain relaxation in their faces. I’m not saying that I imagine their lives are perfect or they have no struggles. I’m saying that they know that if shit goes down, they have this life partner who is going to go through the shit with them instead of making a run for the life boats. Ultimately, we want someone to have that same look with us, and we want to see it on our own faces for a change.

By contrast, we are turned off by men who are overeager. We smell insincerity as if it’s a noxious blend of Avon perfume and cigarettes. We know when men are rubbernecking to make sure there isn’t somebody better than us lurking around that they might rather hook up with, and we simply don’t have time for that. We also don’t deserve to be abandoned.

The love we give to the men who truly deserve it is hard-earned. Chelsea and I have sharp tongues and a very thin filter. Fellow humans give us our best material, so men, if you fail us, your fall will be very painful. If you live up to the task, it will be like seeing the sun for the first time.

I don’t know about Chelsea, but I’m still taking applications.

Lastly, <sigh>, here is an article where the reporter tried to put Chelsea in a box. “Is this reality television or a documentary?” I would choose neither. Just let it be.

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/01/chelsea-does-netflix-review/426951/