Valentine’s Day Episode: Shifting from Codependence to Healthy Relationships
Hello Everyone and Happy Valentine’s Day!! I planned to talk about self-care as an entry point to self-love this week and realized this episode was dropping on Valentine’s Day and had to do a special Valentine’s Day episode.
Naturally it being Valentine’s Day relationships – specifically romantic ones are heavy on the hearts and minds of many.
Today I am going to talk about one of the key issues related to healing our feminine and cultivating self-esteem when it comes to relationships — co-dependency.
Co-dependency is something that can manifest in any type of relationship and naturally can feel amplified when romance is involved.
Psychology Today defines codependency as a dysfunctional relationship dynamic where one person assumes the role of “the giver,” sacrificing their own needs and well-being for the sake of the other, “the taker.” The bond in question doesn’t have to be romantic; it can occur just as easily between parent and child, friends, and family members.
To be clear co-dependency is not a clinical diagnosis or a personality disorder – the term stems from addiction recovery circles to describe a lopsided relationship that has been consumed and controlled by one person’s addiction.
I first learned of Co-Dependency through Pia Mellody’s work. She identifies co-dependency through five key symptoms. She expands on this in her seminal book Facing Codependence.
I am going to discuss three of the key five symptoms today. I will also leave a link to the book in the show notes and one of the first presentations I watched by her.
The first symptom I will discuss is related to honoring yourself. It is the third symptom, chronologically in the the order Pia Mellody lists it.
Before we dig in, I want to remind you — if you are in a difficult moment whether you are single or not, you get to have a great life. You get to have all your needs, wants, and desires met.
For some that may feel like a radical or entitled position – it isn’t.
Your desires were placed in your heart as guidance not as lofty goals. Learning to listen and honor them may quite be the greatest gift you can give yourself and this planet.
The first symptom Pia Mellody lists in Facing Codependence is:
Difficulty acknowledging and meeting our own needs and wants and being interdependent with others.
Many of us have struggled to:
a. Discern what our true needs and want are, this can be especially difficult if you’ve tried to communicate them in the past and have been gaslit into thinking your wants and needs are invalid
b. Even with one level of discernment, have opted to ignore them and/or self-sacrifice in the name of people-pleasing or upholding optics, out of fear of what others would think
One of the major outcomes of healing from codependence is releasing a victim mentality and reclaiming your personal power.
Acknowledging your wants and desires, knowing fully in your body that no one can stand in the way of them, or take them away from you is a powerful place to live.
Going a step further, you get to have people in your life that support you in having your wants, needs, and desires as you also support them in having theirs.
This quite honestly could be a simple definition of true love, it also models interdependence.
Relationships don’t have to be about giving and giving and ignoring your own needs and wants or performing for love – hoping that one day you may be seen or validated.
That over-giving and over-performing hoping to one day be seen or validated piece is a hot topic for me. That dynamic is one that fuels so much of what I believe is wrong with society.
In my opinion *isms – sexism racism, classism, you name it – are macrocosms of the codependent relationship playing out on a larger scale.
Historically oppressed groups have been the givers inside of this dynamic and colonizers in various forms have been the takers.
There is no mistake that codependence along with addiction is rampant in our society.
I am not going to get too deep into this today I just wanted to acknowledge this, in case it was in the space for you. Honestly, this is one of the primary reasons, I do what I do.
I believe that when we all learn to love ourselves enough, we can reach a tipping point in society and shift towards a love-based culture.
This begins with people like you and I reclaiming our power from the dysfunction of relationships, family dynamics, and society.
Reclaiming power from personal relationships and societal dysfunctions can feel all-consuming and is not always easy.
And you get to, you deserve it — it is your birthright, simply because you exist.
This leads into the second symptom, outlined by Pia Mellody.
The second symptom is Difficulty experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem.
A key part of the way co-dependence in relationships and society creates a hold is through the concept of other-esteem.
Other esteem is the concept of deriving your worth and esteem from things outside of you – a job, a degree, a relationship, even being a mom.
This dynamic can seemingly start out innocently and feel really good. You feel validated and worthy of having reached a new goal or milestone.
First, let me say, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, at all. I encourage you to enjoy and celebrate every milestone.
The key is to not wrap your worth up in it.
The challenge comes from when this achievement, relationship, or title in your life changes, and it will because the only thing that is constant is change.
If you have your worth wrapped, as it shifts in ways that may feel uncomfortable, your need to feel safe and validated will create a need to control.
This is exhausting. I am willing to bet the number one cause for burnout and stress is the need to control.
Secondly when you feel the need to control something you give your power to it, in one of two ways:
1. Trying to over-dominate a person or situation. Which can stifle and suffocate a relationship before it even has a chance to truly get its legs
2. Appease and placate a person or situation. Which can put you in a place of the other person not getting to know the real you – a major blocker in intimacy and true connection.
In either situation the goal is the same, to control the person or situation.
Fear is leading, not love.
With proper self-esteem, when challenges arise, it can still be difficult yet responding in a way that still honors yourself and others is available to you.
Many of the women I work with are high achieving and have a great life in many ways – and come to me because they are tired, secretly unhappy, or at least feeling an inner void and ache.
They are ready to live more fully in alignment with their authentic selves.
They want to create a life they love from the inside out. Not one they are holding together out of fear of it falling apart.
Cultivating self-esteem and self-worth gives you the courage to let go and trust what is unfolding.
Your relationship to yourself changes, which completely changes the way you relate to the world.
One of the primary ways we relate in this world, spoken or unspoken are through boundaries.
The third symptom we will discuss today from Pia Mellody’s definition of co-dependence is a difficulty setting functional boundaries.
Whether you are allowing others to infringe on your boundaries or you are infringing on others, or even your own – it is harmful to creating healthy interdependent relationships.
Setting boundaries is a skill that can be cultivated. This was and still is something I work to refine in my life.
In creating functional boundaries it is important to know your needs and wants (the first symptom we discussed).
Being able to listen to your body, and know when your physical, emotional, and energetic needs and wants have been trespassed is paramount here.
This is where somatic work can be very powerful.
Many people that struggle with codependence have become used to ignoring their own wants and needs.
In the beginning, it may be helpful to write them down as they become clear. Then identify boundaries that will help you meet them.
It can be easy to forget in triggered or emotional moments. Be gentle and show yourself compassion.
Learning to discern your boundaries and communicate them effectively is a journey and it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Think of it as a practice, that is part of your self-care and self-love routine.
Don’t make yourself wrong when boundaries are violated or you find new ones that you have not honored in the past – give yourself love and grace as you learn to take better care of yourself and cultivate healthy relationships.
The Miracle Elixir that alchemizes all pain – Forgiveness
This leads me to, what I call the miracle elixir that alchemizes all pain – can you guess what it is?
A course of miracles defines a miracle as a return to love. Forgiving is a deep spiritual practice that frees up energy held in painful moments and has a way of allowing you to let in and vibrate with a little more love each time.
I personally have learned to cultivate a daily forgiveness practice in addition to a daily gratitude practice.
Whenever I am feeling frustrated or angry or any angst, I ask myself what is there for me to let go of and what can I forgive.
I encourage you to try this.
We are human and as we go throughout the day the subtlest things can happen that create an undesirable thought, feeling, or vibe that you can hold on to.
Taking a few moments to check in, forgive where necessary (including yourself), and release that energy helps develop the practice of aligning with the healing and magnetic vibration of love.
While this is often mistaken with the need to be happy all of the time – it is actually the opposite.
Feeling your feelings is the most direct access to love and healing. It can be tempting to skip over the ones that don’t feel so good and suppress them.
However, feeling them and learning to communicate them in functional ways helps cultivate healthy relationships.
The more you feel your feelings, honor them, and communicate them with yourself and your partner — the more trust and open lines of communication can be cultivated.
Inside of this communication you get to set and refine your boundaries with yourself and your partner.
This loop of checking in, feeling your feelings, honoring them, forgiving where necessary, and communicating allows for deeper and deeper levels of intimacy.
This may feel risky for some of you, some of you may be like bring it on!!
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.
And this is where the gold of the inner work begins to shine.
When operating from healthy self-esteem you know you are worthy and if the other person can’t meet your wants and needs in the moment, you know you can support yourself emotionally.
However, things work out, when you cultivate the ability to care and support yourself emotionally, opening up to allow others to do the same begins to feel safer and safer.
You don’t need the other person to respond a certain way to be ok.
You also get to respond from a place of love in choosing how to cultivate the relationship or when necessary release it.
This creates the space for healthy interdependence.
Cultivate Healthy Relationships
Learning to cultivate healthy relationships is one of the most fulfilling things we can do in this lifetime. And it begins with creating that relationship with yourself.
As you begin to heal your relationship with yourself, the way you love, honor, and treat yourself will be a guide for how you are loved, honored, and treated in your relationships.
However, you choose to spend the day with loved ones or loving on yourself – Happy Valentine’s Day from the bottom of my heart.
This is Tiffany Crawford, signing off with love, until next time.