I have thought about the topic of dependency quite a lot during the recent days, both in relation to my mother and my boyfriend. This post hence is somewhat a follow up to my previous post on martyrs.
I think it is fair to say that I and my boyfriend once formed a co-dependent relationship. He was the care-taker and I was the dependent. Today I am going to comment on the whole tango from my perspective.
See, I grew up with the knowledge that I was helpless. After all, my mother had built a solid ground for that in the hopes of keeping me dependent on her forever. In return for favors and occasional care-taking, she wanted the obedience and admiration.
I would say that very similar pattern existed between me and my boyfriend during the first years of our relationship (no there was no addiction there). He made it clear to me that he does not depend on me in any way and could leave at any point in time. This naturally pushed me towards more people-pleasing behaviors as I was desperately trying to keep him at my side. The knowledge that I am so dependent on him and he is so independent (at least so I thought) made me loath myself more. I knew I was dependent and I hated myself for this. He knew as well that I was dependent and that this gives him the freedom to dictate the terms of the relationship.
Not only was my boyfriend setting the terms of the relationship, he also had little respect for me. I was the needy one, the child, the dependent, who needed to be taken care of. This was a hassle, but had its benefits, because all kinds of problems in the relationship could be put on me. So I wallowed deeper in my dependency role thinking that with so many flaws and being so helpless, he was the only person who would ever going to want to be with me anyways.
If anybody has viewed a show named Californication then there we have a perfect example of co-dependent relationship. Many people might wonder why Karen keeps going back to Hank, but the answer is the same – she gets the sense of power from being the parent, being in control, being admired and dictating the terms. She takes pride in her role as a martyr. Hank and Karen are equally messed up, even though for the viewer, Hank might seem the dysfunctional one.
Why am I saying this – because there is a lot of empathy for co-dependents in our society. However, the dependents are seen as the seed of evil. Having been in this role myself, I would say that such an attitude sfurther reinforces the sense of shame which the dependent feels. From my own perspective, I can say that coming out of the role of dependent can be really difficult and often times your co-dependent partner is trying hard to keep you in this role through criticism, relentless offers of favors and by underlining their superior role.